Local leaders share solutions, Northam lays out vision for future at Roanoke conference

ROANOKE, Va. – Local leaders from across Virginia finished a conference on Tuesday that focused on finding solutions to what they consider to be the biggest problems facing their communities.

The Virginia Municipal League annual conference is designed to help local governments communicate and share ideas.

Gov. Ralph Northam spoke to the attendees on Tuesday, saying his main message is that Virginia’s economy is doing well, but there’s still work to do.

“There is still a prosperity divide that is felt in many of our communities,” Northam said at the podium.

Inside Hotel Roanoke, he laid out his goals for the future, focusing on improving education and workforce training.

“What we’re really trying to do is focus on workforce development, bringing skills to jobs and then encouraging business to come to some of the underserved or more distressed areas of Virginia,” he said.

The three-day conference helps connect leaders from the farthest ends of Virginia.

“I come from such a rural locality from far southwest Virginia and historically it’s been a challenge to stay connected to the rest of the state,” said Jill Carson, vice mayor of Pennington Gap, which in Lee County.

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea and others put their heads together and decided what they want to push lawmakers to change come the next legislative session, which begins in January.

“There’s some disagreement because different cities have different issues, but overall we try to come together,” Lea said.

Roanoke last hosted the conference in 2014, according to Lea, who said it’s been great to show off the Star City to the commonwealth.