By Holly South
Bladen Finch, director of the Senate of Virginia’s page program, was named by Richmond's Style Weekly magazine as one of 40 Richmond residents under 40 who are credited as “inspiring young leaders” doing interesting things to make Richmond a better place.
The honorees, selected from the magazine's largest-ever pool of nominees, were cited for their work in the arts, politics, education, advocacy and small businesses—and the state legislature.
A Virginia native and former page himself, Finch led a 2016 restructuring of the program to focus on leadership development. Two former pages worked with him on the redesign of what is now known as the Senate Page Leadership Program.
“We reworked everything—from the way we schedule assignments to the social events they attend to the off-site tours to the professional development,” he says. Finch adds that he's proud of how the program has evolved, and that pages leave the program understanding “that there is value in public service and all of the negativity they hear about government dysfunction is not the whole story about what goes on in their state capitol. They get a different perspective.”
After receiving a call from the magazine, Finch was asked to keep it a secret for several weeks, until the magazine arrived on stands and awardees were honored at a reception.
“It really was an honor,” he says, adding that it felt good knowing his nominations came from both colleagues and former pages. His boss, Senate clerk Susan Clark Schaar, agrees: “It is great that Bladen’s hard work and dedication in converting our page program to a leadership training program has been recognized. He has taken a good program to an outstanding program.”
But even better than the personal honor for Finch was the recognition for the page program—as well as for its community service project partner, the Central Virginia Food Bank. Its Feed More hunger relief effort serves 31 counties and Metro Richmond. Finch credits the organization for their important work and for the successful partnership that involves the Senate pages in community outreach, and “was very happy to see them get the recognition.”
Holly South is a policy specialist and NCSL liaison to the American Society of Legislative Clerks & Secretaries.