MARY JO SHEELEY
has always worked to make the world a better place around her, whether as a lawyer, a social worker, a mom, or a neighbor. She has lived in the Richmond area for more than thirty years and was a single mother for eight of those years. Her legal practice has ranged from public service to private representation, allowing her to understand issues from many different sides. Mary Jo also has a Master of Social Work. Before law school, she worked with ex-offenders, helping them develop daily life skills and find employment as they transitioned back into their communities.
Her Roots in Hard-Working America
Mary Jo was raised in a small town in Ohio, one of five children. Her dad’s dreams of pursuing higher education to study medicine had been dashed when his own father was injured, and he had to leave high school to support his family. He later served his country in World War II and came home afterwards to work in a Goodyear factory, often holding two jobs. Mary Jo’s mom worked as a nurse’s aide and sewed most of her children’s clothes herself, since money was not plentiful. Mary Jo’s parents modeled their strong work ethic and commitment to family every day. They made sure Mary Jo and her siblings were well-fed, well-dressed and well-educated, proudly sending all five to college. When they became adults, Mary Jo and her siblings chose to serve their communities and their country in jobs to include teachers, police officers and members of the armed forces.
Mary Jo’s Service
Mary Jo started her law career at the Richmond-based firm Hunton & Williams. Later, Attorney General Mary Sue Terry hired her as an assistant attorney general, where Mary Jo focused her environmental practice on air and waste compliance, reviewing environmental legislation and regulation, and litigating environmental cases. She went on to serve as enforcement director with the Department of Environmental Quality, where she advised the agency on enforcement issues, including criminal matters, and conducted administrative hearings.
“I believe the scientists who are the experts. Climate change is real and humankind contributes to it. The only part that we can control is our contribution, and we must act for the good of the Earth and future generations.”
– Mary Jo Sheeley
For the 13 years prior to retiring last year, Mary Jo worked for Dominion Energy, giving legal advice on all environmental matters involving the company. A few years into her career there she became the managing lawyer for the environmental legal team, and ultimately worked on a team focused on acquiring solar energy facilities. She is proud to have help Dominion Energy do the right thing for the environment.
While Mary Jo’s professional focus has largely been on protecting the environment, her personal focus encompasses diverse populations, including the LGBTQ community, women, minority groups, and those who live in poverty. Upon adopting her daughter from China in 1996 as a single parent, Mary Jo co-founded a group called Families of the China Moon which provides connections and support for families who have adopted from China or who are in the process of doing so. For over eight years she coordinated regular gatherings of the group and edited its newsletter. Through this group, fast friendships were developed among the parents and especially among the children who share this unique heritage.
“What we all want for ourselves and our children is to know that we are safe and secure, that we can make a good wage so we can care for our children so they prosper, and that we can provide our children with a quality education that will open up opportunities for rewarding employment and advanced education if that is what they desire.”
– Mary Jo Sheeley
After she retired last year, Mary Jo volunteered on the Hillary for America campaign. She ran a weekly phone-banking operation in her home and worked with several organizers out of the Southside Office on canvassing and getting out the vote. More recently Mary Jo marched with her daughter at the Women’s March on Washington in January and afterwards formed the Cherokee Huddle, whose members seek to fight the Trump agenda and change the balance of power in the General Assembly. Mary Jo participated with Planned Parenthood in opposing the General Assembly’s attempt to defund that organization, and Mary Jo twice spoke before a House of Delegates subcommittee and full committee to voice her support for Planned Parenthood. She also participated in Equality Virginia’s Day of Action at the General Assembly.
Mary Jo’s Call to Serve
Mary Jo now seeks the nomination of the Democratic Party for the 68th District of Virginia to run for the district seat in the House of Delegates. She is motivated to serve by her sense of duty and commitment to make Virginia a better place for all of us. Mary Jo is passionate about ensuring that everyone has the best opportunity to succeed no matter who they are. She believes that everyone deserves a quality education and the opportunity to develop a trade or pursue an apprenticeship or a college education. She believes a living wage is a must and will support, not harm, our economy.
“We in Virginia can have an equal opportunity economy that works for everyone. First we must believe and then we make it happen because our Commonwealth is strong and we know the value and promise of each of its citizens no matter who they are.”
– Mary Jo Sheeley
Mary Jo also believes no one should have to worry about being able to get affordable health care for themselves or their families and she fully supports clinics like Planned Parenthood that provide vital health care to so many women who would not get it otherwise. Mary Jo’s many years of working to protect the environment has only strengthened her belief that we must be ever vigilant and fight against the threatened rollback of environmental laws and regulations. She has been on both sides of many of these issues, and she can bring folks together to find solutions and prevent gridlock. Mary Jo also believes that we must work for safe communities for everyone, and give our law enforcement the tools they need, including community outreach to bring communities and law enforcement together.
When Mary Jo was a single mother, she depended on the support of her family, friends, and her colleagues to care for her daughter. That community was what allowed Mary Jo to be successful and it is that sense of community that Mary Jo wants to bring back to the 68th district. When we invest in our support systems we make our community stronger for everyone.