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Newly elected congressman will apply his VCU education to national decision-making

Virginia Commonwealth University alumnus Rob Wittman expected his life to change after being elected to represent voters in Virginia’s First Congressional District. But it didn’t occur to him how quickly those changes would come.

Wittman, a Republican from Montross, was on his cell phone talking to his wife the morning after winning the Dec. 11 special election when a call came in from an unlisted number.

“I said, ‘Sweetheart, I’d better take this call,’ and when I picked up, the woman at the other end of the line said, ‘This is the Oval Office – stand by for a call from the president,’” Wittman said. “He was very cordial and very down-to-earth and he congratulated me on my win.”

Less than a week later, the newly elected congressman and the president shared a brief conversation when President George W. Bush visited the district to address a Rotary Club.

“It was even more exciting to talk to him in person,” Wittman said.

While representing voters at the national level is a new challenge for Wittman, he’s no stranger to public service. He won his first campaign for office in 1986 when he was elected to Montross Town Council. He served there for 10 years, including four years as mayor.

Wittman was then elected to the Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors in 1995 and elected chairman of that body in 2003. Two years later, voters elected him to the Virginia House of Delegates, representing the 99th legislative district. He was re-elected in November.

Wittman never dreamed he’d be running for Congress. But on Oct. 6, Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis lost a long battle with cancer. Wittman received the Republican party’s nomination for the position on Nov. 10 and won the special election a month later by more than 60 percent of the vote.

“Jo Ann Davis was a tremendous lady. I can’t think of a more dedicated public servant, and I hope I can accomplish a fraction of what she did, and if I do, I will consider myself widely successful,” Wittman said.  

Wittman, 48, received a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration from VCU in 2002. He said lessons learned here will serve him well in Washington.

“My whole experience at VCU helped me to learn how to really distinguish between public policy and politics,” Wittman said. “And now every time a question comes up at the federal level, I’ll be taking what I learned into consideration in my decision making.” The days I spent there and my experiences in the classroom with Dr. (Dean Robert) Holsworth, Dr. (Ralph) Hambrick and other faculty will be very valuable in Congress.”

Wittman is a marine scientist, who works as an environmental health specialist for local health departments in Virginia’s Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula areas. He most recently served as field director for the Virginia Health Department’s Division of Shellfish Sanitation.

Wittman’s wife, Kathryn, is an elementary school teacher. The couple has a daughter and a son.