Mention the name Annie B. to nearly anyone in Southwest Virginia, and you most likely will get a smile in return, and a darn good story.
Pardon my salty words, as the lady herself might say.
Virginia Delegate Anne B. Crockett-Stark '69, M.S. '79, has spent a great portion of her life working to make life better for others. After graduating from Radford College in 1968, she spent 32 years educating schoolchildren in Wythe County. During that time, she worked to earn her master's degree from RU.
Annie B., as she is affectionately known to almost everyone, has devoted much of her leadership talent to her hometown of Wytheville and Wythe County. And, for the past eight years, she has blazed a purple streak across Richmond, serving as a member of Virginia's House of Delegates for the 6th District.
Earlier this year, Annie B. decided that, at age 71, it was time for her to step down from politics. She will retire in January when her term expires, but the decision didn't come easily.
A lifetime of service
Anne B. Crockett-Stark began her political career in 1978 when she became the first woman elected to the Wytheville Town Council. She ran because she wanted to get wheelchair ramps installed at schools in the town, including her school, Scott Memorial Elementary. There was a young girl there who suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta tarda, a congenital bone disorder, and Annie B. wanted to help her.
Annie B. said being the only woman on the town council was an uphill struggle at times—"they didn't know what to do with me"—but she overcame obstacles by putting forth extra effort.
Later, she had entertained the idea of running for mayor of Wytheville, but "I married him instead," she said, laughing again while referring to her late husband Carl Stark.
She resigned from town council in 1982 when the two were married, continuing to work as an educator and guidance counselor, raising her two daughters from her first marriage and earning a master's degree in community college counseling.
Annie B. remained active in the community. She's proud of being one of the co-founders of Wytheville's Chautauqua Festival, now in its 29th year. She's also a charter member of a women's community service organization, now called the Links Club, and she began work on a doctoral degree in industrial psychology. She also has served as liturgist for Lutheran Mountain Ministry.
However, Annie B. could not stay out of politics. In 1999, folks asked her to run for the Wythe County Board of Supervisors.
"I ran and I won," she said. In 2003, she became the first female county chair in Wythe County.
"I think women can have a different perspective on issues sometimes," Annie B. said, recalling her days on the board of supervisors. She told of the time she questioned how housing appraisals were carried out in her county. "After I asked for and never received an invitation to follow them for a day to see how they do things, they finally told me the houses were picked at random," she said.
Born to run… for office
One reason Annie B. ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates was to follow a childhood dream.
That dream is understandable considering she grew up in a family of politicians, and her grandfather, Samuel R. Crockett, served in the House of Delegates in 1936-37 and 1940-41.
"I always wanted to follow in his footsteps," Annie B. noted with pride.
Her father, James E. Crockett, also was a politician, serving as Wythe County's clerk of the court for 26 years and on the county's board of supervisors. He also was a magistrate.
Her brother, Sam, is the Wythe County treasurer, and her sister Susan was the county clerk in Wichita, Kan., for four years.
Her other brother, James E. Crockett Jr., known as "Sonny," was a dentist and an at-large member of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors.
"Politics is in our blood," Annie B. said of her family's public service tradition. As usually is the case, she followed with a joke. "There's been a Crockett in politics here since Wythe County was formed in 1790, reprobates, most of them, I'm sure."
A strong family work ethic
Annie B. credits her work ethic to her mother and father, who made their two girls and two boys work around the house and at her grandmother's farm.
Annie B. applied the same family work ethic when it came to her education. She dropped out of high school, but later completed her studies and graduated seventh in her class. While living in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with her first husband, Annie B. worked as a waitress and saved her tips in a sock. "I didn't believe in banks," she said.
Her mother had her ways of helping, babysitting the kids while Annie B. concentrated on her studies and occasionally "accidentally" cooking one too many pot roasts and sharing it with Annie B. and her daughters.
Working 8 days a week
During her eight years in Richmond, Annie B. has served her constituents on the Counties, Cities and Towns Committee, where she chairs a subcommittee; and the committees of Science and Technology, and Health, Welfare and Institutions. Her district includes all of Wythe and Carroll counties, parts of Smyth County and the towns of Saltville and Marion. During her first six years in office, she represented all of Bland and parts of Tazewell, Giles, Pulaski and Wythe counties.
Annie B. is well known through a YouTube video in which she tells a story about one of her constituents, an 82 year-old woman who encountered an intruder in her home. The video displays Annie B.'s passion for the Castle Doctrine. Look it up, and listen for the line, "Do you want to eat breakfast with the devil?"
Annie B. said she is most proud of introducing a bill that established a crisis and emergency management plan for higher education institutions across the Commonwealth.
She has also introduced bills involving eminent domain, absentee voting for people 65 and older, and the Virginia Retirement System.
"I like this job because of all the interesting things I've learned and all the people I've met," she said. "There are things I never realized the state does for its people. In the House, you don't have the luxury of just concentrating on education or on just health and welfare. You have to be involved in it all."
Danny Gordon, a longtime radio personality in Wytheville, has known Annie B. since she was a middle school guidance counselor.
"Nobody will work as long and hard as she did in the House of Delegates, and we've had some great ones," Gordon said. "Because she took the time and had the passion, every day she was doing something for her constituents."
The right time
"In my heart, I knew it was time for me to quit. I'm not sure what God has in mind for me," she said. "I think some people don't step aside soon enough."