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Gravely gets the nod
Ziglar defeated for commonwealth’s attorney
Above, Clay Gravely and his wife Jennifer pose during a private gathering after Gravely defeated veteran Martinsville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joan Ziglar in Tuesday’s election. Gravely, who worked under Ziglar from 2008 to 2010, defeated her by 134 votes. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Martinsville voters on Tuesday elected a new commonwealth’s attorney for the city — a private practice lawyer who used to be an assistant to the four-term incumbent whom he defeated.
Unofficial election results show Clay Gravely defeated incumbent Joan Ziglar by 134 votes. Gravely received 1,760 votes while Ziglar received 1,626.
Those tallies will not be declared official until after the Martinsville Electoral Board conducts a canvass of all of Tuesday’s city election results today.
“I’m very gracious and humbled by the support I received,” Gravely said after his apparent victory.
He celebrated his win with family members.
About 70 of Ziglar’s supporters gathered with her at The Sportsmen’s Club. She received a standing ovation shortly after entering the club.
“I will survive,” Ziglar said. “When God closes a door on one thing, he opens a window or a door to something else.”
She indicated that she might consider setting up a private law practice.
“I’m at peace” with her defeat, she said, adding that she knows she has “served the citizens of Martinsville the best that I can.”
Gravely, 36, has been practicing law for about 10 years. He earned a law degree from the T.C. Williams School of Law at the University of Richmond and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.
He was an assistant commonwealth’s attorney under Ziglar from 2008 to 2010 before entering private practice.
Tuesday night, Ziglar called Gravely to congratulate him on his victory.
“I love Clay. I wish him the best,” Ziglar said.
But they have different opinions on how the city’s chief prosecutor’s job should be done. For example, Gravely has indicated that he might be more willing to use plea bargains in trying to prosecute difficult cases.
“I’m hoping,” Ziglar said, “the city of Martinsville will be blessed with these new policies (of Gravely’s) going into place, and I hope Clay will fight for the citizens of Martinsville.”
Gravely said he knocked on doors and talked one-on-one with city voters, listening to their concerns and telling them he believes there is “room for improvement” in how the commonwealth’s attorney’s office operates.
His message apparently resonated with them, he said.
Ziglar thanked her husband, family and volunteers for their support. She also expressed concern for the future employment of her assistant attorneys and other employees in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office.
“I’d hate to see them lose their jobs just because I lost mine,” Ziglar said, adding that her staff is “absolutely the best” at what they do.
In their phone conversation Tuesday night, Gravely said “I told Joan that I will take care of that office.”
Gravely has pledged to do a “top-down review” of how the office operates to find efficiencies or ways to improve how it functions.
He said he is certain that after he takes office in January, he eventually will make some changes, but he wants to “surround myself with the best people possible.”
“I’m not someone coming in with a vendetta or bad blood,” he said, or a “desire to clean house.”
Before he assumes office, Gravely said he aims to see as many of his clients’ legal cases through to their disposition as possible, but he might have to ask other lawyers to take some of the cases or recommend lawyers to clients.
He will meet with his clients individually to discuss their cases’ statuses, he said.