March 7, 2005
Two years ago Governor Mark Warner got word that Democratic Delegate Mitch Van Yahres was considering retirement. Warner begged Van Yahres for just "one more time."
Van Yahres agreed, but now that time is up.
"It's been almost half my life and it's been more than half my adult life if you start at 18," explained Van Yahres.
In 1968, Van Yahres entered the world of politics with a seat on Charlottesville City Council. Eight years later he joined the General Assembly.
In the past thirty-seven years, Van Yahres has seen a lot. Most recently he's witnessed a great conservative shift in the legislature.
"The right wing has taken us too far," said Van Yahres.
Since 2000, Assembly sessions have been riddled with partisan bickering. Van Yahres attributed this to technical advances in the 2000 redistricting which gave the right the majority.
"In this age of computers, they were able to refine their redistricting to a real fine point where they created a lot of Republican-sympathetic districts. That is one reason why they were able to take over the legislature," explained Van Yahres.
Van Yahres said one reason why he is retiring is to give younger Democrats a chance to turn this (Republican-slanted) political tide.
"I hope we will be the majority party in the next four or five years and the next time we redistrict again we will do a better job."
In the meantime, Van Yahres doesn't know what's he's going to do next. "I don't know what my fifth career will be. As my wife pointed out, I could always be a greeter at Wal-Mart," he laughed.
What is known is that he will be missed.
"It's been a real pleasure working for him. I'll miss him," said his legislative assistant Connie Jorgensen.
Three Democrats have already expressed interest in replacing Van Yahres's seat, including former mayor David Toscano, former city councilor Meredith Richards, and UVA professor Jeffrey Rossman.