Jenn McClellan is always on the cusp of something — and the hectic pace that’s become her default setting is not always on purpose, the Virginia lawmaker admitted to OZY in a recent interview. “I volunteer and, next thing I know, I’m officer,” she says, laughing. “Once I’m interested in something, I just throw myself into it.”
Her latest role? A brand-new state senator, following a special election last month. As the state representative for Virginia’s political core, Richmond, for more than a decade, McClellan has led on issues of criminal justice and education reform, with a particular interest in ending the catchphrase “school-to-prison pipeline.” For example: She’s pushed for laws limiting school suspension lengths and restricting the ability of teachers to call the police on schoolchildren, who in the past could be handcuffed for behaviors like interrupting in class or truancy. Along the way, the Democrat earned a reputation for garnering bipartisan support — and upon leaving the lower chamber, the wonky African-American received a standing ovation from her colleagues, who raved about her accountability and “level of goodwill and decorum,” as one Republican told reporters.