Sitting at his desk inside the law office off Newman Avenue, Bill Helsley didn’t talk about the numerous achievements and degrees hanging on the wall, but of the people who helped him get there.
The same people who inspired him to seek a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates.
Helsley, 60, of McGaheysville, has practiced law in Harrisonburg for the last 36 years and has learned firsthand the problems faced by people living in the 26th House of Delegates District, he said.
“I understand the everyday concerns of working-class people,” he said.
It is because of this Helsley has decided to challenge Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, and will seek the Democratic nomination for the 26th House District against Patrick Fritz.
Wilt has represented the district, which includes Harrisonburg and parts of Rockingham County, since 2010 and faces re-election in November.
Fritz, who served 15 years in the U.S. Navy and currently resides in Broadway, announced his intent to challenge Wilt in January.
The decision for Helsley to transition from representing clients in the courtroom to sponsoring bills on the House floor came from his desire to give back to the community that aided him his entire life.
“I am looking to give back to my community,” he said. “I grew up in Elkton, and the locals gave me a career I never could have imagined.”
Helsley said he has lived in the area his entire life, with the exception of his time spent attending the College of William and Mary and the University of Richmond.
After graduating from law school in 1985, Helsley said he returned to the Shenandoah Valley because he “wanted to work for and serve the people I grew up with,” he said.
“I’ve always felt it was important to give back to the community,” he said.
Helsely said he is looking to “lower the temperature of politics,” adding that more people need to be elected that understand compromise and civility aren’t “dirty words.”
He also said he didn’t believe in making a career out of politics and would support term limits.
“It’s important we don’t have people who plan to be in office for a long time,” he said.
Working across the aisle with his Republican colleagues is something Helsley said he is open to doing and will be vital when serving alongside Rockingham County’s two Republican senators if elected in November.
If Helsley wins the 26th House District, he said there will be one test he conducts when voting on legislation.
“Whatever bill comes before me, I’ll ask does it make the lives of the 26th House of Delegates District better?” he said.
Helsley said with his background, he can better represent the people of the district, adding that he was born into a family long on love but short on finances.
At age 9, Helsley held his first part-time job catching fishing worms and selling them to a local gas station. He also spent many summers working on farms and started Helsley Farms in 1992, raising Angus influenced cattle and operating a poultry house.
Helsley said his agriculture background has helped him prepare for taking on an elective office and is looking forward to serving the district if elected.
“We need to get back to the times where politicians worked for the people’s lives,” he said.
A date or method for the Democratic nomination process had not been determined as of Wednesday.