Anne Holton isn’t shy when it comes to talking about Richmond.

“It’s a lifelong love affair,” she said this fall in her office in the Patrick Henry Building.

Her post as Virginia’s secretary of education could allow some professional separation between work and home, but she won’t have it.

She played a central role early this year when Richmond’s popular superintendent, Dana Bedden, was in pursuit of the top school job in Boston. She did something state leaders have rarely done: She stepped forward as a vocal advocate for keeping a local official in place.

“I’m glad I was able to help him make the decision he did,” she said.

Later in the year, Holton gave a TEDxRVA Talk that was an open love letter to the city school system. (See it at youtube.com/watch?v=d5iEL9gADWA)

“I got a great education in the city, and I’ve always been an advocate for it,” said Holton, who with husband Tim Kaine, a U.S. senator and former governor and lieutenant governor, raised three children on public education in Richmond. Part of that came at the elementary school named for Holton’s father, former Gov. A. Linwood Holton Jr.

She said it made sense for state leaders to stay involved in education because of the impact it has on all else.

“It’s one of the most important things we can do,” she said.

Her love affair with Richmond dates to 1970, when her father was sworn in as governor and she moved here from Roanoke.

She left for college, met Kaine and brought him back here. They have lived on the North Side of Richmond for years and have long been involved in the city. She was a judge and he was a city councilman and mayor before they entered state office.

And after all those years, their hometown has become hip.

“That’s what my kids tell me,” she said. “They say it’s the Portland of the East. When young people say they want to be here, I think that’s pretty high praise.”

And if she can help improve the lot of the young people already here, all the better.

“It’s the moral imperative of our time,” she said.

IN HER WORDS

Role model

My parents. They have lived life fully for all of their 90-plus years, faithfully following my dad's motto: "Opportunity Time" (a phrase he also used to wake us up in the morning when we were kids).

A small moment in life with a big impact

When I was a 12-year-old, my family and I had the opportunity to help integrate the Richmond city schools. My dad was the governor of Virginia at the time, and when the courts ordered the schools integrated in 1970, my family saw it as the ultimate “Opportunity Time.” That fall, my mother escorted my brother, Woody, and me to Mosby Middle, a previously all African-American school. I played in the band and helped start a cheerleading squad. We did all the things normal middle-schoolers do, but it was my first chance to get to know students whose lives were pretty different from mine, and that was invaluable. The chance I was given to make a difference in the larger movement toward racial reconciliation in the South left its mark on me, starting me on my path toward a career in public service.

Alternate profession or course of study

I would like to study anthropology. I am fascinated by other cultures and what we can learn about ourselves through them. Or maybe I could try my hand at being a sous-chef in an amazing restaurant.

Something that might surprise others

I love to dance, especially square dancing and clogging.

Favorite book 

One of my recent favorites is “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” It’s a story told from the internal perspective of a 15-year-old boy with autism who has to push himself to confront a major challenge.

Something you’d like to do

I’d love to travel more, especially to countries with customs and cultures vastly different from our own.

Proudest accomplishment 

I am probably most proud of the work I was able to do in reforming Virginia’s foster care system during my husband’s time as governor. My team and I were able to do great work in just a few short years. Every child deserves a real family, and we were able to make this a reality for more children all across Virginia. I am also extremely proud of the things we've been able to accomplish on behalf of Virginia's students during my time as secretary of education.

Favorite thing about Richmond region

So many to choose from! Certainly one of my favorite aspects of the River City is the many wonderful neighborhoods and communities that come together to make Richmond the diverse and interesting place that it is.

ANNE HOLTON

Position: Virginia secretary of education

Born/hometown: Feb. 1, 1958; Roanoke

College: Princeton University, Harvard Law School

Family: husband Tim Kaine; children Nat, Woody and Annella

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