Mike Dillender is the Republican candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates District 76. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.

Candidate: Mike Dillender

Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 76

Party: Republican

Website: mikedillenderva.com

Biography: Mike Dillender grew up in a blue collar family in a town of less than 1,000 people in rural southeastern Missouri. He attended a predominantly minority school system and is a first generation college graduate in his family. Dillender graduated from Charleston High School and attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and his commission in the U.S. Navy in 1994.

Following terrorist attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998, Dillender was personally presented with the Meritorious Service Medal by then Secretary of Defense William Cohen for his role in planning, coordinating and executing the U.S. response during National Command Authority contingency operations. Dillender served in Washington D.C. during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and was then handpicked by Navy leadership to serve on a newly formed think-tank to develop and brief the Chief of Naval Operations on new strategies and initiatives for the Navy in the post Sept. 11 environment. In 2002, Dillender earned his M.B.A. from George Washington University. He is also a 2006 graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. 

In 2013, during Dillender’s command leadership tours, he led the largest Navy commander command, Coastal Riverine Squadron Four, which deployed over 550 personnel to simultaneously conduct security operations over four continents. Following that assignment, Dillender served as an advanced level strategic planner for the Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC) where he traveled throughout the world to ensure all geographical military command headquarters were functioning with optimal organizational effectiveness. 

In 2019, Dillender retired as a captain from the Navy and transitioned into his second career as a financial advisor. He started a small business in Chesapeake where he works as a financial planner, coaching active duty service members, retired military, federal employees, and others in their pursuit of lifelong financial security. Didllender is also a very active member at Grace Presbyterian (PCA) Church serving in key church leadership positions including Deacon and Ruling Elder since 2014.

Dillender resides in Suffolk with his wife Susannah, who is a neonatologist, and their two school-aged children, Michael Jr. and Mary Ruth.

Why should Virginians elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?

I have the senior executive experience and skill sets in order to represent our district very well. I am a 25-year military veteran, a small business owner, and a church leader. In the Virginia House of Delegates, I will bring people together to solve problems and get things done for a better Virginia. I’m a man of my word and will represent our district with the honor, courage, and commitment that the Navy instilled within me for more than a quarter of a century. I will be very responsive to my constituents’ concerns and issues. Everyone will know and understand that I represent the entire district rather than special interest groups or the select few.

What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?

Our district (Suffolk and Western Branch) is experiencing exponential growth and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I am focused on economic, educational, transportation, infrastructure, and health care improvements and solutions that will improve the quality of life of our current residents. My focal points account for the population growth that we will continue to experience in our area for many years to come. 

 What is the most important issue facing your district, and what is your position on it?

Unfortunately, the crime rate has been rapidly increasing in Suffolk. Suffolk ranks in the bottom 15% of safest cities across the country. We have now reached 272 violent crimes and 2,270 property crimes annually in Suffolk, which is significantly higher than the average across the state. Richmond has been making it much harder for law enforcement officers to do their jobs. I will ensure that all 911 responders have the appropriate equipment, training, and laws in place so that Suffolk can become a much safer city again.

What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?

Overall, I give Virginia mixed reviews on its handling of the pandemic. Virginia is a very diverse state, and far too much control was exercised by Richmond when the decision-making should have been pushed down to cities and school boards. Virginia was generally too restrictive and kept things closed longer than they needed to be. Along the way, we certainly witnessed some overreach with the governor’s emergency powers.

What are the top three issues created by the coronavirus pandemic in your district, and how would you plan to address them?

Everyone of us has been impacted in some way by the pandemic. First, I will take appropriate actions to ensure a balanced approach with regards to economic recovery and growth of small businesses in our area. Second, we have also experienced a gap in educational performances of underprivileged students as a direct result of the COVID lockdowns, so I will work very hard to close this gap as part of the recovery. Finally, there are many who are struggling with health issues which were exacerbated by the pandemic. Many of these issues are related to stress, within the realm of mental health, or from having to “hit the pause button” on routine doctor visits during the pandemic lockdowns. My wife is a physician, and I will make health care and health recovery a top priority moving forward.