Riggleman visits fire and rescue squad

By Ruthann Carr, correspondent

As Hurricane Michael brought winds and torrential rain to Fluvanna Thursday (Oct. 11), 5th District Republican candidate Denver Riggleman stopped to visit Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire and Rescue.

The candidate, whose father lived in Lake Monticello and Palmyra, talked with Fire Chief Richie Constantino and a few other volunteers.

Riggleman and his wife, Christine, own a distillery in Nelson County, so much of the initial talk was the men asking to visit the business and taste the product.

But it soon settled into a discussion of running an all-volunteer fire and rescue squad.

Constantino went right to the heart of the problem. “The biggest thing is money…the tax base doesn’t cover the whole budget,” the chief said.

Riggleman said he’s amazed at how such departments survive.

“It stuns me how they’re able to afford millions of dollars of equipment and what they have to do to keep it,” he said.

Len Bozza listened as he tried to decide whether to cancel the Thursday night bingo game that funds the squad.

Bozza did cancel because of the rain.

Constantino appreciates the financial support from the community and said the department couldn’t operate without it.

The chief is from Westchester County, N.Y., and ran a well-funded fire department there. “There is a stark difference between here and Westchester County,” he said.

Constantino told Riggleman about selling their old fire truck. A volunteer squad from Greenwood, W.V., came to look at it.

“They were interested but the guy said, ‘I have to sell my tractor to buy it,’” Constantino said. “Do you believe that? He couldn’t buy it until he sold his own tractor. Needless to say we did the right thing.”

That kindness sparked a friendship between the two departments. Not too long after, Constantino and his squad went through their equipment and hauled everything they weren’t using over to Greenwood.

“I came back here with a new appreciation for what we have here,” he said.

Constantino plopped onto the table in front of Riggleman a three-inch thick book of Standard Operating Guidelines fire departments must keep updated and follow. If they don’t, they run the risk of lawsuits, Constantino said.

“That makes me angry,“ Riggleman said. “If you don’t follow the standard operating procedure you don’t get covered?”

One of the volunteers asked Riggleman how he differs from his Democratic opponent Leslie Cockburn.

Riggleman rattled off a list of what his opponent believes in:
• Repeal the tax cuts;
• Open borders;
• Single-payer health system;
• Free community college; and
• Pro-choice.

“She’s just an interesting person,” Riggleman said. “You know her daughter is Olivia Wilde, an actress. I’m an independent conservative who wants to err on the side of liberty and she’s someone who wants to err on the side of the government taking over your life.”

The election is Nov. 6.

They talked about farmers and their reliance on the H-2A workers. An H-2A visa allows a foreign national to come to the United States for temporary or seasonal agricultural work.

The consensus around the table was it would be better for the Agriculture Department to run the program rather than the Department of Labor.

Riggleman listened.

Andrew Pullen, chief of the Kents Store Volunteer Fire Department and Columbia representative on the School Board, accompanied Riggleman on his visit to Fluvanna.

The group went on a tour of the department.

They came to the workout room, which is dedicated to Dakota Rigsby, the LMVFD volunteer who served in the U.S. Navy and was killed on the USS Fitzgerald.

Pullen and Constantino told the candidate about that day in June 2017 when they found out he was missing in the wreckage off the coast of Japan.

Dakota’s stepmother, who also volunteers with the department, wanted to go to Japan, Constantino said. Between Constantino, Pullen, Congressman Tom Garrett and aides to President Donald Trump, they got Shawn Rigsby a passport. But when the Navy announced her son was found dead, she didn’t go, Pullen said.

“A lot of time people think you’ll never need your congressman, but when something like that happens, you do,” Pullen said.

Riggleman answered questions from the Fluvanna Review. Answering how he is different from the stereotype of the middle-aged white man in power, he said there wasn’t anything he could do to change that fact.

“I think it’s interesting when people who are so interested in getting rid of stereotypes believe things about me,” he said. “Just because I’m a 48-year-old white guy doesn’t mean a hill of beans. People need to know what I am, what I believe in and how I act.”

Following up on his comment during the Piedmont Virginia Community College debate about needing to educate women to cut down on incidences of rape, he said what men can do to minimize rape.

“We need to make sure every single person who says they’ve been assaulted is believed,” Riggleman said, choking up. “It’s very emotional for me. I have three daughters. But we also have to follow the rule of law and constitutional rights. We need to make sure the criminal is punished for these types of crimes – that laws are enforced with utmost prejudice.”

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