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VCU alumnus is youngest ever to serve on Danville City Council

Lee Vogler, who won his first election in 2012 at age 24, was re-elected this spring.

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Lee Vogler, fourth from left, was sworn in to a second term on Danville's City Council on Friday. Photo by Von Wellington Photography.

At the age of 24, Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus Lee Vogler became the youngest person in history to be elected to Danville’s City Council.

Vogler, who graduated in 2010 and won his first election to City Council in 2012, was inspired to run for office in his hometown while studying political science at VCU.

“Like many young people growing up, I always thought the grass was greener on the other side and couldn’t wait to get away from my hometown,” he said. “It was during my time away from home, at VCU, that I began to see Danville in a different light. I realized that there were many great things Danville had to offer, but we weren’t quite reaching our full potential.”

During his time in Richmond, Vogler saw how old warehouses in Shockoe Bottom were being put to new use, whereas Danville’s old tobacco warehouses were sitting vacant.

“So, while I was still at VCU, I began thinking of moving back home after graduating and getting involved in the community,” he said.

In 2010, to generate new ideas about helping Danville grow, Vogler formed a group called Moving Danville Forward. He also began attending City Council meetings and, soon enough, was being encouraged to run for a seat himself.

“Our city had just come through a tough decade at the beginning of the 21st century and was really looking for a fresh face and new ideas,” he said. “I really wanted to make a difference in my hometown and felt the best way I could achieve this was by running for City Council.”

Vogler won his first election on May 1, 2012. He was re-elected to a second term this spring, receiving the highest number of votes out of 11 at-large candidates who were seeking the council’s five seats. Vogler received 12.3 percent of all ballots cast.

“During the past four years, we’ve seen a lot of progress in Danville,” he said. “Our unemployment rate today is roughly half of what it was in 2012. Our population downtown, now called the River District, grew from 200 residents to over 2,000 in just four years. And, while I’m proud of what we’ve been able to achieve, I truly believe that we’re just scratching the surface on what we can accomplish in the years ahead.”

Vogler, who has a young son with his wife, Blair, says his goal as a public servant has been to position Danville to succeed in the 21st century.

Vogler's son, Kingston, attended the swearing-in ceremony. Photo by Von Wellington Photography.
Vogler's son, Kingston, attended the swearing-in ceremony. Photo by Von Wellington Photography.

One of his proudest accomplishments has been to propose and implement Open Data Danville, an online platform that makes the city’s government more transparent.

He also led an effort to begin transitioning Danville’s city transit and public works vehicles to propane fuel, a move that is better for the environment and saves taxpayer money.

And, this past year, he worked with the Virginia Housing Commission and Delegate Danny Marshall to draft “Land Bank” legislation to help Danville and other Virginia localities deal with blight in their communities. The legislation passed the General Assembly and was signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

“Even before I was first elected to City Council, people were asking me when I’d be running for higher office,” Vogler said. “The truth is, I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to serve the people of my hometown. I didn’t run for office to obtain a title or notoriety. I ran because I wanted to do something. I wanted to help people and get things done.”

While not working on City Council business, Vogler works as a marketing consultant for Andrew Brooks Media Group, a full-service marketing firm that also publishes several magazines in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.

“Not only do I get to work with local businesses on a regular basis, but I get to do some writing for our publications as well,” said Vogler, who started out at VCU as a mass communications major in what is now the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

None of these experiences would have happened had I not gone to VCU.

Vogler’s time at VCU had a significant impact on both his work as an elected official and as a marketing professional, he said.

While at VCU, he interned and then worked for then-Gov. Bob McDonnell, and also interned for then-state Sen. Robert Hurt during the 2010 General Assembly session.

“And I was incredibly fortunate to have former Gov. Doug Wilder as a professor my final semester,” he said. “Gov. Wilder and I formed a friendship that still carries on today. I was honored to receive his endorsement both times I have run for office.”

“None of these experiences would have happened had I not gone to VCU,” he added. “The knowledge I gained in the classroom and the connections I was able to make during my time there, has been pivotal for me in the years since.”

 

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