Jamaican-born woman Winsome Earle-Sears is now Virginia’s lieutenant governor, making her the state’s first woman to serve as lieutenant governor and the first Black woman to hold statewide office.
The lieutenant governor officially serves as president of the Senate and presides over it while also serving as a member of several state boards, commissions and councils. The Senate is made up of 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans and one Independent, and her role will also involve casting tie-breaking votes in the chamber narrowly controlled by Democrats, 13NewsNow reported.
Earle-Sears was sworn in on the steps of the State Capitol building in Richmond, Virginia on Saturday by retired judge of the 13th Judicial Circuit of Virginia Richard D. Taylor, Jr.
A businesswoman and Marine veteran, Earle-Sears immigrated to the U.S. from Jamaica at age six. The last time she held office was two decades ago when she served one term in the House of Delegates from 2002 to 2004. She run for a U.S. House seat in 2004 but wasn’t successful.
She was also the vice president of the Virginia State Board of Education and received presidential appointments to the US Census Bureau, where she co-chaired the African American Committee and the Advisory Committee on Women Veterans to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, according to 13NewsNow. She also leads a men’s prison ministry and directs a women’s homeless shelter for The Salvation Army.
A trained electrician, Earle-Sears has said that she will focus on education as she is positive that education will help lift kids out of poverty. “The only barrier that I really care about is the education of children,” Sears told WUSA9 in November. “Because education is what lifted my father out of poverty when he came from Jamaica in 1963 with only $1.75. It’s what lifted me, and it’s what will lift everyone. That’s what I really want because then you can dictate your own future.”
She said in another interview that she hopes to bring school choice to Virginia, through vouchers that would enable parents to pick where they want to send their kids to school amid COVID.
“We need competition in education, competition lifts all boats, so if the public schools aren’t going to be open, give parents the opportunity to choose,” Earle-Sears said.
Mental health care is also one of her major concerns. Her daughter died in a car crash in 2012 after struggling with mental health issues.
“My daughter when she would have her episodes, we wouldn’t know where she was, and there was one time she was in jail because there was no hospital for her, and this happens all the time,” Earle-Sears said. “We have the money now that we can finally put you know forward to take care of that.”
Back home in Jamaica, people are proud of Earle-Sears’ new role. The Gleaner reports that she has collaborated with the Jamaican Embassy in the U.S. to improve education, trade, and tourism.
“You have done so with uncommon grace and have in the process drawn renewed, decidedly positive attention as an exemplar of Jamaicans here, representing respected models of responsible citizenship and as able, contributing members of the American society,” Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, said of Earle-Sears.