HARRISONBURG — It’s Faye Ritchie and Renea Harlow’s turn to co-star in the role of nervous mothers sending a child off to school.
But the education their teenage sons are about to receive will be as pages for the House of Delegates in the General Assembly.
House Speaker William Howell appointed Addison Ritchie, 13, of Broadway, and Bailey Harlow, 14, of Weyers Cave, as pages this year. They will start training in Richmond on Sunday for their work, which begins when the 2013 lawmaking session kicks off Wednesday.
The central Shenandoah Valley sent three teens to the House and Senate last year for similar duties.
Each year, 13- and 14-year-olds from around the commonwealth are chosen to serve as pages — basically, assistants — to legislators in both chambers. The Senate also has messengers, who have the same responsibilities as pages but are assigned by the Senate clerk, and not legislators.
No area teens were selected as Senate pages or messengers this year.
House pages work 40 hours a week delivering documents around the Capitol and performing other tasks that delegates need done. They live in a nearby hotel and must attend a study hall from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
They arrange their own weekend travel schedules if they plan to leave or have visitors.
Pages receive $135 in salary a week, plus $125 for expenses, through the end of the regular session, which is scheduled to conclude Feb. 23 this year.
And, it is hoped, they will gain invaluable experience that cautious mothers from rural Virginia have to accept.
“It’s a great opportunity for him, but as a mom, you’re sending your 13-year-old off to the big city,” Faye Ritchie said of Addison. “Hopefully, it will continue [his] love of history and government and politics.”
Renea Harlow said of Bailey: “I’m a little nervous. I’ll miss him, but he’s ready to go. … He’s kind of been a presidential history buff.”
Addison, whose father is Greg Ritchie, says his interest in politics can be traced to Matt Lohr, his uncle and a former delegate from Broadway. Lohr, who served in the House from 2005 to 2010, is now commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Addison said that when Lohr invited his family — Faye Ritchie is Lohr’s sister — to Richmond to see government at work, he noticed the pages working at the Capitol.
“I thought it was really cool how they got to be in the actual room as the legislative process was going on,” said the J. Frank Hillyard Middle School eighth-grader.
The one lifestyle adjustment he says he’s trying to prepare for is dressing up every day and going to work.
Grandma Knows Best
Bailey, whose father is Duane Harlow, links his roots in partaking in political discourse to his grandmother, Carolyn Ritchie.
“Listening to it and thinking about it, I’ve always sort of wanted to be involved in government and making decisions,” said Bailey, a freshman at Fort Defiance High School. “Hopefully, this will help me decide if this is what I want to do [in the future].”
Based on what a friend who was a page told him, his immediate future involves making copies, running errands and more.
“It could be anything,” he said.
Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or firstname.lastname@example.org