The political climate is one of change, and sometimes in blows a strong new wind. Major Tom Willis is poised to be the next of a burgeoning class of private sector and industry leaders who feel they can change politics from the outside in. He is learned. He is fervent. He is not a lifelong politician. In short, he is distinct.
Willis announced in January that he is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in the mid-term elections in May. He comes to the race with varied life experiences, all of which have prepared him for the calling he is now answering.
Willis has traveled a unique path to this U.S. Senate race. Born in Appalachia, Willis is originally from Martinsville, VA, known best for its NASCAR® speedway. While his father worked at the local DuPont® plant, Willis recounts an idyllic childhood building forts in the forest and damming up the creek for a communal swimming hole. He went on to attend the University of Virginia and then graduated with honors from Georgetown University Law School. After clerking for a federal judge at the U.S. Tax Court, he worked as an international tax attorney at the world’s largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie. He left the practice of law to start his own business, using his legal and general contracting knowledge to build a thriving commercial real estate enterprise. Eventually he and his partners purchased the historic Glenn Ferris Inn on the picturesque Kanawha River, overlooking Kanawha Falls in Fayette County, WV.
Willis first arrived in WV in 2000 when he raised his hand to serve in the WV National Guard. Soon he had achieved his childhood dream to serve as a Special Forces Green Beret. As a WV Guardsman, he was called into service shortly after enlisting, as part of the 9/11 response team. Since then, Willis has served WV and the Nation all over the world including tours in the Middle East, Europe, and South America. Most recently, he has been stationed at the armory in Martinsburg, WV, since 2013 and served as the second in command of the U.S. Army Special Forces Battalion. Willis is still a proud member of the West Virginia National Guard today. He and his family live in Hedgesville, WV, where he sings in the choir at the Independent Bible Church, and, as a former Eagle Scout, enjoys supporting the Boy Scouts.
When asked why a new approach to representation is needed in West Virginia, Willis says, “I want our kids to have a successful future. Each generation has to steward our freedoms and pass the torch to the next.”
Willis believes that his real-world experience in the military and in business will make the difference in the way that future is crafted for West Virginians. His platform is focused on the wellbeing and growth of West Virginians, honing in on the concerns that mean the most to the people he hopes to serve.
Topping the list is economic prosperity. He believes that the government should keep itself responsibly small and reduce the tax burden as much as possible. Further, Willis’ plan to create good jobs in WV calls for curtailing wasteful spending, cutting through the red tape that strangles business owners, and creating a stable regulatory environment in which investors will feel confident to deploy capital, especially in the energy and manufacturing sectors. Willis believes these tenets of economic freedom will make it easier for the private sector to thrive and will bring higher paying jobs to WV.
Willis feels he will best serve WV interests in the U.S. Senate because he is the veteran candidate and a WV business leader. While WV has the highest percentage population of veterans, no member of the current WV Congressional Delegation is a veteran. Willis feels that the demographic is underrepresented in the Senate. He believes that, with his boots on the ground experience and knowledge about the challenges we face as a nation, he is uniquely positioned among the competition to address the complex domestic and international security challenges the U.S. faces today.
He also feels that, because he is acquainted with the struggles and concerns that veterans face after they complete their service, he is the best person to advocate for the needs of those who served this nation in uniform. “I have come up with a lot of friends who have served our Country with honor and were either wounded or disabled during service. As a nation, we need to keep our promises to our veterans,” he says. Willis is also passionate about serving on the Board of Directors of the Rick Herrema Foundation, a nonprofit organization, which strengthens military families enduring the pressures of multiple deployments through fun and bonding activities.
Willis wants to provide a fresh voice in Washington, one that can bring positive change. “We need someone from outside the system to come in to change the system,” Willis says. He also believes, “If we really want to drain the swamp, WV can’t send another politician who is a creature of the swamp to the U.S. Senate.” Speaking of the current political class, Willis states in the opening video on his website, “This country is governed by the rule of law, not the rule of the privileged few.”
He believes he can impact that dynamic and return respectful discourse to the forefront. He wants to change the culture back to one of kindness, respect, and diplomacy. “As a father of three, I believe we must remember our children are watching our example of how we communicate with each other, especially as leaders,” he observes. “We must speak the truth in love while respecting that others have a right to disagree,” Willis says.
Willis says his unique life experiences make him a conservative with a heart. Willis lost his first wife to cancer after a 16-month battle, which left him a single father of two toddlers for a few years before he remarried. Of his current wife Sara, Willis says, “she was a blessing from the Lord – I was a wreck as a single dad changing diapers and working hard all day.” A few years later they shepherded their son through four years of bone cancer treatments. Willis says these experiences have enabled him to relate at a deeper level to people in WV who are suffering.
Willis is pro-life, and promises to protect the First Amendment freedom of religion and Second Amendment right to bear arms. He says he also is a big fan of the Tenth Amendment’s reservation for the States of those powers not expressly granted to the Federal Government in the Constitution.
Willis believes in nurturing and supporting family and is motivated by the desire to create a better place for our children. He wants to create jobs so that more young people choose to stay in West Virginia or to start their families here, rather than choosing to leave. “My dream is for my sons and daughter to work with me in the family business, side by side, right here in WV,” he says. “To accomplish that for all of us, we need to make the WV economy work,” Willis adds.
Willis feels he brings the most tangible knowledge to the table in this U.S. Senate race. Where his opponents will require research to answer questions about business concerns, he will be able to draw upon his personal experiences, as both a business owner and a WV general contractor. Where his opponents will discuss security strategy in theoretical terms, his military experience gives him a decided advantage. “We need to send someone to Washington that West Virginia can be proud of,” he says.
Willis feels positioned well to serve West Virginia, the state he is proud to call home. He is eager to fight for this seat just as he has fought for this nation. If you are interested in learning more about Willis, visit his website at www.willisforwv.com.