Mar 7, 2023
Passing the Baton, but Still Keep’n On
by Maggie Sacra
Over fifteen years ago a group of LGBT+ Central Committee members joined together to form an organization and start the process of having it approved as the official LGBT+ Caucus of the Democratic Party of Virginia. This group came primarily from members of the Virginia Partisans, which I had the honor of joining some years before when I lived in Hampton Roads. I was one of that founding group, and through the process, and even after, we weathered many issues and tribulations. With a lot of help from friends such as Congressman Donald McEachin (then Virginia State Senator and Vice Chair of Outreach for the Democratic Party of Virginia), his right-hand Abbi Easter, and many others involved in the party, we became an official caucus in 2009.
For the last fifteen years I have served on the Board of the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia as an elected member, first as a Treasurer (2009-2011), part of the time acting as Chair, and then as the Chairperson (2012-2023). We have grown a great deal during this time, and we’ve weathered lots of changes. Ones that probably would have resulted in the demise of a less resilient and strong organization, COVID being a recent example. I could not be prouder of the amazing group of Board members that I’ve shared this ride with for the past fifteen plus years. A group of folks of all ages, teens to their eighties, and from across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum and allies have contributed to our Board. There have been people of various religious backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, and races. We’ve had people from varied professions and experiences as well. This diversity has made us the strong organization that we have become in this last fifteen years. It has been so incredible to have every one of these amazing people by my side through thick and thin for so many years, and an incredible honor to have been elected to be their chairperson and yours for over a decade.
Now you might ask why I bring this up. Well last fall when we geared up to do our Board election process again, I was talking to one of those amazing Board members who has served on the Nominating Committee many times. We talked about how people have come and gone and sometimes, in his case, have come back to the Board, how things have changed over the years, and some important folks that we’ve lost along the way. I mentioned that I couldn’t believe that I had been serving so long, especially in a position like chairperson. It had never been my plan to stay on this long as I had thought many times that someone would step forward that would show an interest in the position. I had definitely made sure to bring people to the table for important events and discussions, hoping that they would grow in the organization and aspire to higher positions and eventually chairperson, but each time life had pulled them in a different direction. They may have moved, or started a family, or had work commitments, or a myriad of other things, but each time they had stepped back or completely moved off the Board. I actually told the person I was speaking with that day that he was one of those folks that I thought might step forward one day, and encouraged him to think about it.
A couple months had passed and we were down to the last 24 hours to place nominations for Board positions. I was reaching out to current Board members to remind them to submit their nomination if they wanted to continue in their current position. I had even pulled up the nomination form and was moments from completing it myself for another term as chairperson, when the person I had spoken to just a couple months before reached out and said to me that he wanted to run for chairperson. He had told me before that he had been wanting to get more involved in the Democratic Party again and was trying to decide how to do that. After thinking long and hard he had made a decision. I have to say it was a lot of emotions for me. I was so incredibly proud to have someone that I’ve known for so long and seen grow and change in lots of different positions over the years step forward, but of course it was difficult at the same time. I couldn’t have been more excited and prouder, but also sad and untethered all at the same time! I have to say, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I faced in that last day before the deadline passed, but now that it has and some time has been put between the deadline and today, I can unequivocally say that I am incredibly happy to be able to hand over the reins of this amazing organization to a great leader. One that I’ve seen develop over the last fifteen years.
I want to welcome Joel McDonald as the next chairperson of the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia. Joel started on the Board of our great caucus almost from the beginning as a very young twenty something. I’ve seen him move professionally from working as a tech person at a school in Virginia Beach, to having tech businesses of his own, to now being the Director of Operations for a non-profit creating and sustaining communities of support for the LGBTQIA+ community intersecting with a conservative, high-demand religion. A position that he performs while also still doing web design, development, hosting, and consulting services through his business, McDonald Web Works. Along the way, Joel also was elected and re-elected as a member of the School Board in Virginia Beach, becoming the first LGBT+ member of the School Board to serve that city.
As a member of the Democratic Party and Board of the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia, Joel has held a bunch of positions, including serving as:
- Finance Director and Vice President of Hampton Roads Young Democrats,
- Treasurer, and Precincts and Elections Director of the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee,
- Member of the 2nd Congressional District Democratic Committee,
- Vice-Chair of Communications and Technology for the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia, and after our bylaws changes that split the position,
- Vice-Chair of Technology for the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia.
This is just the short list of the positions he’s held over the years and with his varied experience and perspective, he is poised to be an amazing chairperson for this great organization. I couldn’t be more excited for him and for the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia! You can meet the rest of the Executive Board here.
Now don’t think that I won’t be around! I still plan to be involved and look forward to being able to do new and different things to help the LGBT+ Democrats of Virginia grow and adapt to new dynamics in the future. As Immediate Past Chair, I will be a part of the Board and serve in a position much like an At-Large Board seat. I also have asked to be appointed as an Assistant Treasurer (right up my alley as a CPA) so that I can help input data and assist the Treasurer in any job that she needs done to make sure we continue to report accurate data timely to the State Board of Elections. And, I don’t want to forget to mention that I still plan to be available to run the Democratic Party of Virginia booth at the State Fair. I’ll start working on that again very soon as the paperwork and planning with the State Fair usually starts in March. I’ve been heading this project for the Democratic Party of Virginia all but one year since the State Fair moved to the Meadow Event Park in Doswell, VA in 2009. Most years I’ve been at the fair for most of the ten days it is open every year, as well as all the planning and volunteer coordination before, the set-up, and tear down. I wouldn’t miss the chance to register voters, spread the word about our great Democratic candidates, and provide a progressive respite for fair goers that often feel like they are in a sea of red. Also, I am sure that I’ll run into many of you at one of the many Pride events that we will be at around the Commonwealth!
Take care until I see you again! We are poised for a great future! Thank you! Thank you!
Immediate Past Chairperson
LGBT Democrats of Virginia