Jerry Kilgore: From Gate City to the Capital City
Jerry Kilgore is always on his way somewhere else: to a meeting, to a speech in Charlottesville or Roanoke, to becoming governor of Virginia.
Ask the attorney general about the latter, and he'll demur. "It's no secret that I'm interested in the job, but that decision will come in due time," he replies to that frequent inquiry.
Besides, he likes being Virginia's 42nd attorney general. And since taking office with more of the popular vote than the governor garnered, Kilgore's made a big splash for a boy from the far corner of southwest Virginia, taking on Governor Mark Warner– over redistricting– or his own Republican party, when the Edmund Matricardi eavesdropping scandal broke last year.
Kilgore claims no hard feelings with Warner. "We have a good relationship," he says, "and 99.9 percent of the time we're on the same page. There are just a few high-profile issues where we have more political or philosophical differences."
The 2001 election was his first run for elected office, although he's worked on plenty of other elections and served as secretary of public safety for mid-1990s governor George Allen. Kilgore got his first taste of politics when his dad became the local Republican Party chair in the '70s. From a tender age, he's been a party stalwart. "I have worked the polls since I was 10 years old," he says.
And he's found it's a different ball game being the one elected rather than the campaign manager or policy advisor. "You're always on, whether you're giving a speech or out having dinner with your family," he explains. Even at a restaurant, people want to come up and talk to the photogenic AG they've seen on TV. "That's what's most shocking to my children," he says.
Still, Kilgore seems to have taken to the demands of public office and to being on the forefront of state issues in stride. "You don't know what's coming across your desk," he says. "A year ago, who'd have thought the Atlantic Coast Conference would have been an issue, or that we'd be obsessed with trying to catch a sniper?"
Kilgore, by the way, successfully argued that Virginia should try the sniper suspects first.
Being AG is not without its perks: "You do get a cool state police radio," he says.
Kilgore still has that soft, southwestern Virginia accent, despite being a long way from Gate City, just up the road from Slabtown in Scott County. Of course, southwestern Virginia is so far from everything that the western tip of Virginia is directly south of Detroit, according to Kilgore.
Living there, you had to travel 30 minutes to do anything, he says, adding that he appreciates the convenience of Richmond. "You always had to make a list. Now I live a list-free life."
The AG's twin brother, Terry, is a delegate representing their hometown district. "He's the big picture guy, I'm the policy wonk," says Kilgore.
So who's the evil twin? Kilgore laughs. "That would be a split decision," he says, before confessing, "That's his nickname for me."
What do you like best about Charlottesville? The Corner
What do you like least about Charlottesville? One-way streets
Favorite hangout? Any UVA sporting event
Most overrated virtue? No virtue is overrated.
What would people be surprised to know about you? I used to play the piano at church.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would have more patience.
What accomplishment are you proudest of? Seeing my twin brother Terry win his first election
What do people find most annoying about you? I'm a perfectionist.
Whom do you admire? Our men and women in uniform
Favorite book? The Great Gatsby
What subject causes you to rant? Too many to list
What thrills you about life in the 21st century? Blackberry Wireless technology
What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? Identity theft
What do you drive? Tahoe
What's in your car CD player right now? Toby Keith's Unleashed
What's your next journey? Home to Gate City for Thanksgiving
What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? In the second grade I got in trouble for talking in class– but my twin brother, Terry, was the one who got punished for it.
What do you regret? Not learning a second language
Favorite comfort food? Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard
What's always in your refrigerator? Diet Coke
Must-see TV? CSI
Favorite cartoon? Spongebob Square Pants– which I watch with my daughter Kelsey.
Describe a perfect day. A day I get to spend with my children
Walter Mitty fantasy? Winning the U.S. Open (tennis)
Who'd play you in the movie? Keanu Reeves
Most embarrassing moment? When I swallowed a bee during a speech
Best advice you ever got? Work hard. Be prepared. Do your homework.
Favorite bumper sticker? If you can read this, thank a teacher.
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO