Melody A. “Mel” Cartwright is seeking the Virginia House of Delegates 48th District seat in the January 9 special election against GOP nominee Eric Phillips.
Cartwright, 66, of Henry County, is listed as a Democrat but is not formally designated as the party’s nominee. She said she was endorsed by the National Organization of Women (NOW), VA, and the National Women’s Political Caucus, Virginia Chapter.
She decided to seek the position after the son of Dr. William Ferguson Reid, the first African American to be elected to the Virginia General Assembly in 1968, called her on December 15 and said that somebody needed to step up.
“I had no plans or aspirations” to run. “I got a call and was recruited, and the position was somebody needs to step up because Democrats haven’t won in so long,” Cartwright said. “I think as people step up and we renew our energy, our stats are going to increase, but it might take more than one try to get back up in it to win it.”
Cartwright said one issue facing the district is the need to pull more jobs to the area.
For example, she said Gov. Glenn Youngkin “dropped the ball on the Berry Hill project,” an industrial site in Pittsylvania County.
“That was devastating for us. Even though it was not Martinsville, it’s still in the district area, or just outside of it, which would have provided a lot of jobs to the entire area,” she said. “Because people don’t mind driving 30 to 40 miles if they have a good paying job, and that would have been a good paying job.”
It is early in her candidacy, and Cartwright said she’s not going to pretend like she knows everything, “but I am doing a lot of research and I’ve lived here almost all my whole life, so I see what’s going on. I see the good things that are happening.”
While she knows there are efforts to upgrade Uptown Martinsville, Cartwright knows the district needs to do a lot more to get upgrades for the entire district. She added there also are problems with crime and drugs in the area.
To help address these challenges, Cartwright said representatives need to be aware and look into President Biden’s recent infrastructure plan “and ask for large portions of that to help out our area.”
She also questions why the Berry Hill project was blocked.
“That would have paid for a lot. It would have paid for people’s cost of living. Apparently, I just read, the area has slightly improved on jobs, having a little bit higher level of job opportunities. I don’t know how much those job opportunities pay though, so that Berry Hill project would have paid well,” she said.
A supporter of public involvement in political office, Cartwright said if elected she would keep constituents apprised of everything going on during the session and likely would use weekly or monthly emails to constituents and allow newspaper and television stations access to the information she’s garnered, and ask citizens for their opinions.
Cartwright also plans to be transparent and have an open-door policy, if elected.
“If I can hire or garner, get together, a staff that I trust, I would expect them to understand that transparency is a priority. Of course, I would have an open-door policy to any citizen in the district, and would be more than willing to set up a time to discuss any matters with them,” she said.
In addition to the area lacking proper jobs that provide salaries for residents to support their families, Cartwright said healthcare is another issue the 48th district is facing.
“Data came out of this area, which is my district, that the average age that people die here is 67.2,” she said. “We really need help. If our average age of people dying is 67.2 and in Northern Virginia, the average age is like 80, that’s a huge difference and that’s a huge problem.”
Cartwright said the SOVAH Hospital in Martinsville no longer has a maternity ward. “That to me, if I was going to have a baby now, I’d be very concerned,” she said.
While she believes some progress is being made, in part because of the national policies, Cartwright thinks Virginia needs to be more aggressive on state policies, “and to really seek out things that will make us excel, that will help us excel. Of course, part of that does include the local people being willing and approving of the policies we attempt to set forth.”
A graduate of Martinsville High School, Cartwright received credits from Patrick & Henry Community College (P&HCC) and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).
Cartwright began her career as a staff member at a private club in Richmond before she worked as an advertising manager with Miller and Rhoads Department Store until it closed in 1990.
She then worked for a newspaper in the South Boston area and the Virginia Museum of Natural History for more than 25 years as a graphic and exhibit designer before retiring.
Cartwright is one of six children. She has a daughter and is raising her deceased sister’s son.
In her free time, she likes to garden and be an activist.