As one Smyth County native announced his retirement from Virginia’s senate, another announced his intention to seek the legislative seat.

Early Tuesday, State Sen. Bill Carrico, a Seven Mile Ford native and Chilhowie High School graduate, announced that he planned to retire from his senate seat, which serves the 40th District that includes all of Grayson, Lee, Scott and Washington counties; the City of Bristol; and part of Smyth, Wise and Wythe counties.

This afternoon, Marion native Ken Heath announced his candidacy for the seat as did Del. Todd Pillion (R-4th District).

In a written statement, Carrico expressed his thanks to residents for their years of support. "For the last 34 years I have had the privilege to serve as a public servant for the Commonwealth of Virginia, first as a Virginia State Trooper, then as a representative for the 5th House district and now for the 40th Senate district," Carrico wrote. "I have served selflessly for the people who elected me to both of these historic bodies in order to honor their trust in me to uphold their values which I have fought for tirelessly."

Carrico wrote that he believed he'd accomplished his goals.

"With much thought and prayer, I am announcing that I do not plan to seek re-election to the Virginia Senate in 2019," Carrico wrote.

"It is my understanding that our founders intended for service to be a sacrifice and for that sacrifice to not exceed the season in which a man may become complacent in serving his own agendas and not those of the people. I feel that this is my season to leave and begin the next chapter of my life with the assurance as I go, that the citizens of the 40th District will elect the person who will best represent their values as their new senator," he continued.

Heath, who has served two terms on the Marion Town Council and currently serves as the town’s director of community and economic development, expressed “my sincere appreciation to Sen. Carrico for his years of service to our commonwealth, from his days as a state trooper to the House of Delegates to his tenure in the Senate. He is a fine man, and a strong role model. He leaves large footprints -- actually cowboy boot prints -- for anyone to step into, and I welcome the opportunity to earn the confidence of my neighbors to be able to serve them as their senator. I certainly wish Bill and Paula well, and look forward to finding ways to work with them as they begin a new chapter in their lives. And I certainly look forward to the next chapter in mine as well!"

Heath said, "I am honored to have any opportunity to listen to our neighbors across Southwest Virginia, to serve our region and our Great Commonwealth, and this is another way for me to do just that. I have long enjoyed finding creative ways to find solutions to hard problems and to celebrate our great successes, and this is another pathway for us to join together to lift Virginia's 40th and make our voices heard in Richmond and beyond."

When he served on the town council, Heath said he was one of the first to become a "Certified Elected Local Government Official" by the Virginia Municipal League in 2004. He is a 2018 graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership's Political Leaders Program, spending a year traveling across Virginia to learn. Heath also touted his "Pop Up Marion Entrepreneur Bootcamp," which has won multiple awards for job development and has served as a revitalization model in communities across Virginia and nationally. 

Heath’s tenure in local government began in November 1994, when he was hired as the first director of the Marion Downtown Revitalization Association. Previously, he worked as a DJ and promotions director at WMEV radio.

A 1980 graduate of Marion Senior High School, a 1984 graduate of Wytheville Community College, and a 1986 graduate of East Tennessee State University, Heath lives in Marion with his wife, Pamela, and their two dogs, Miss Reagan and Scottie. Heath also serves as public information officer for Smyth County Emergency Management and for the Marion Police/Fire/EMS, and served nearly a decade as a volunteer firefighter. 

Pillion was elected to the House of Delegates in a special election in December 2014 to represent the 4th District, which includes all of Dickenson County and parts of Wise, Russell and Washington counties. 

He is a member of the committees on Appropriations, Transportation, Science and Technology. Pillion also serves as a member of the Military and Veterans caucus. A veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Pillion practices pediatric dentistry in Bristol, Johnson City and Knoxville. He was raised on a small farm in Ewing.

His announcement featured endorsement from Carrico, who said, "Having served with Todd, I have seen firsthand his passion for Southwest Virginia and his ability to get results for our region and the entire commonwealth. From his time in the National Guard to the House of Delegates, Todd has always put service above self. As I prepare to move on, I can't think of a better person to run for this seat than Todd Pillion and I look forward to supporting him wholeheartedly."

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