By Callie Hietala
Bridgette Craighead has lived through struggle and hardship, and she wants to help ease the stressors and pressures of the people of the 9th District should voters elect her as their delegate on November 2. She is running against Republican nominee Wren Williams for the post.
Through her own experiences, Craighead said she has seen first-hand how some of the district’s biggest challenges — housing, childcare, access to transportation, and lack of broadband (particularly during the pandemic) — can affect families like hers.
As a single mother and small business owner in Franklin County, “I am in the heart of the struggle,” she said. “At one time I didn’t have a car. I either had to walk or rely on other people.”
While on the campaign trail, Craighead, 31, said she has spoken with others in the district who are facing or have faced similar issues. She does not want those individual stories lumped together into a single statistic. Rather, “I’m thinking about each individual person’s struggle. I want to get to know each individual person and see what they need” and how she can help.
Broadly, Craighead has heard from voters that taxation is an issue they would like to see addressed. She shared a story she heard from one voter who told the candidate she must pay taxes on a car that is broken down on her property, an expense that she cannot afford as she is already struggling to make ends meet.
Craighead wants to ease pressures like these, things that make life in the district more difficult, particularly for those who are already struggling financially. If she can relieve some of the pressures of everyday life, Craighead believes those living in the district can realize their full potential.
Though she has big plans if elected, Craighead is the first to admit she will have a great deal to learn about the inner workings of government to begin to enact any of the changes she envisions.
“I don’t know what I can do once I get this job. I’m going to learn that. I’m going to do whatever I need to do to help people, and I know I’m going to learn all those things,” she said.
That includes learning where funding might come from to help pay for some of her initiatives.
“I know there’s funding out there, we’ve just got to find out where it is and that’s my job, to find out,” Craighead said.
If she can’t find the money to solve the problems she wants solved in the budget, Craighead said she and her team will work to raise funds.
“As long as we have a willing attitude to do something about changing peoples’ lives, I really feel like money shouldn’t be an obstacle,” she said.
Just because she will be working to help make life a little bit easier for her district doesn’t mean Craighead is promising a life of leisure.
“By no means do I want to make Virginians lazy. I want people to get up, get out, get a job, get a hobby, get a business if they want to . . . because if you work and set goals, you get motivated, you get healthy, and that’s what the region needs,” she said.
She also believes the region needs more inclusivity. Growing up in the area, Craighead said she never felt like she had a voice or equal access to opportunities. If elected, she would work to expand those opportunities in all sectors – from jobs to entertainment, to ensure there truly is something for everyone.
Part of that plan includes ensuring that everyone who wants to be heard has an opportunity to do so. “Transparency and truthfulness have been some of the major platforms of my campaign since the beginning,” she said.
Craighead wants to hold COVID-friendly town halls, virtual meetings, and other gatherings as well as send out questionnaires to her constituents, all with the goal of giving everyone an opportunity to be heard.
“Usually, when I have talked to a politician, it’s never seemed truthful or genuine,” Craighead said, adding that she would like to change the tone of those dialogues.
She also promises to be accessible and responsive to the residents of her district.
“I want to include you,” she said. “I’m here for you.”
An open mind is what sets Craighead apart in the race for delegate, she said.
“I’m coming from a place of wanting to create unity and operate out of love. I don’t care about anybody’s political views, race, or gender, I am coming from an open heart and an open mind,” Craighead said.
She emphasized that she wants to hear from individuals and see what she can do to help make life just a little easier.
“I’m not going to sit here and tell you what I’m going to do, I need to know what you need me to do,” Craighead said, adding that she hopes her positivity will resonate with voters when they cast a ballot. “We have to have an open and positive mind and lead out of love, being selfless, being considerate of each other’s feelings, showing compassion and empathy, and sympathy too,” she said.
If elected, “as delegate, I promise to be accessible, accountable, and responsive,” Craighead said. “Being the voice you can depend on and using my voice to speak up when something is wrong.”
Craighead is the owner of El3ven11 Beauty Lounge in Rocky Mount. She attended Franklin County Public Schools and high school in Roanoke. She also has some training in trade school.
She has a 5-year-old son named Bronsyn, and lists painting, crystals and cheetah print among her hobbies.