With just a few months before the general election, Republican John Barsa has thrown his hat in the ring for the 44th District seat currently held by Democrat Scott Surovell.
Barsa says his experience in both the public and private sectors brokering relationships among those holding opposing viewpoints is his key asset for effectively serving in the Virginia General Assembly.
“When you work across party lines you can really get things done for your community,” he says.
This is Barsa’s first run for public office. A Miami native, Barsa moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 1992. He served as a legislative assistant for Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, working in areas such as defense and national security.
It was while working in Congress that Barsa says he learned the importance of bipartisan cooperation—putting practicality before ideology.
“I have a record on Capitol Hill, in the executive branch and the private sector of getting things done. I would like to bring that outlook to Richmond.”
Barsa went on to work for NASA, where he was involved with the private sector on issues related to the technology industry and was a member of the Legislative Affairs team; the Aerospace Industries Association on export controls and other concerns; and created the Public Liaison Office of the Department of Homeland Security, becoming the office’s first director.
He also started his own consulting firm before joining General Dynamics Information Technology where he now works in business development. He was recently appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell to the Virginia Board for Professional and Occupational Regulation.
As he continues his door-to-door campaign, Barsa says it’s not the hot-button issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage that voters are talking to him about. Instead, he says, local residents want their elected officials to focus on bread-and-butter concerns such as the economy, jobs and transportation problems.
“I think people want a truce on social issues. You can always find things that divide a community, but we should focus on what we agree on. Everyone wants to have the ability to have a job and focus on their loved ones.”
Among some of his goals for the 44th district, is to see a community college campus established in the region to help residents with education and further job training to improve their livelihoods.
“I’m in the IT sector and we are constantly looking for highly skilled technical people, and there are not enough to go around,” he said. “In the long-term, we need to educate people in the technical sector.”
He supports “innovative education techniques,” that emphasize math and science education for children.
Barsa also says traffic congestion along the Route 1 corridor and in other areas of his district needs to be improved quickly.
But, he said, these agendas are “being held hostage by partisan policies and procedures.”
His friend and professional colleague Rich Cooper says the 44th district would benefit from Barsa’s ability to bridge the gap between those who have differing political positions. After working together at NASA, it was Cooper who recommended Barsa for his public liaison role at the Department of Homeland Security.
“John was willing to build relationships and with different groups. I think John would be a stellar addition in Richmond,” Cooper says.
“We need someone with practical problem solving skills to address public needs. He has the experience, skill set and temperament to be that voice and experience in Richmond.”
Barsa served nearly a decade in the U.S. Army Reserves. He spent about seven of those with the 11th Special Forces Group and the rest with the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion.
He has a B.A. in international relations from Florida International University.
His mother arrived in the U.S. from Cuba in the early 1960s. His father’s family arrived in the U.S. in the 1700s. Barsa speaks Spanish as well.
He and his wife Lisa have two daughters, Camille and Olivia. Barsa has lived in Mount Vernon for 15 years. Barsa is a member of the Mount Vernon Chamber of Commerce.