- The Washington Times - Monday, January 7, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Lisa Collis, wife of Gov.-elect Mark R. Warner, is busy planning her family's move from Alexandria to the Executive Mansion in Richmond, and she is pondering what projects she might advocate as first lady.
It's a role Mrs. Collis, 46, never envisioned in the 1980s when she worked to improve public health for migrant workers, spent time in Guatemala studying nutrition and worked for the World Bank crafting AIDS policy for Third World nations.
"I don't know how much of a bully pulpit I'll have as first lady, but maybe people out there will at least invite me to lunch to talk," she said.
Mr. Warner, a Democrat, will be inaugurated as Virginia's 69th governor on Saturday.
Since Mr. Warner's victory, his wife's life has been a swirl of choosing mattresses and paint colors for the Executive Mansion, hiring a personal staff and deciding when to move the children Madison, 11; Gillian, 10; and Eliza, 7 from Alexandria.
Mrs. Collis and Mr. Warner hadn't seen the mansion's second-floor living quarters until recently.
"It will be nice," she said. "It would be nicer if the house was in a real neighborhood where it had a real yard."
The children won't be moving to Richmond until June, when school ends. Mrs. Collis' parents are coming in from Oregon to stay with the girls in the interim. Mrs. Collis, herself, plans to do a lot of commuting.
"The girls are excited about moving to a certain extent, but it will be different," she said. "The thought of leaving their friends makes them sad. I mean, they've been to only one school. I keep telling them that one day they'll look back on this fondly."
The children attend Burgundy Farms School in Fairfax County, which in 1950 was the first school in Virginia to integrate. It is a small academy that doesn't give grades and stresses hands-on learning.
It has not been decided whether the girls will attend public or private school in Richmond.
Mrs. Collis, the third of four children, was born in Pensacola, Fla., and grew up in Norfolk, California, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico. The family settled in Falls Church in 1967 when her father, a helicopter pilot, retired from the Navy after 23 years.
Her social conscience developed in high school from an older brother who joined the Peace Corps. She also joined the Peace Corps after earning a degree in biology from the University of Virginia.
She was set to ship out to Upper Volta when the mission was canceled, so she went on to the University of Texas for a master's degree in public health.
She said she moved to New Jersey after that and worked on a project to set up medical care for migrants. Then it was on to Central America and the World Bank in a quest to help the needy.
Mr. Warner was on a much different mission at the time. He was brokering deals for cellular telephone franchises an effort that eventually would reap a $200 million personal fortune.
The couple married in 1989.
"It wasn't one of those real romantic proposals," Mrs. Collis said. "It was more along the line of, 'You know, we've been talking about this, and yeah, I love you, we get along, what the heck?'"
A dozen years of marriage haven't blunted Mrs. Collis and Mr. Warner's differences. He has been on the road most weeknights closing business deals or pursuing political dreams. She gave up her career to raise the couple's three daughters.
Mrs. Collis is considering advocating a variety of causes she and her husband have promoted through private foundations they have set up and endowed: combating child abuse, improving access to health care and teaching computer skills to the elderly and poor.
She concedes she and her husband have had a few political disagreements.
"Oh gosh, I'm much more liberal than he is, particularly on the social issues," she said. "I remember with the flag-burning amendment years ago, I was not in favor of that and he was. We had lots of discussion about that. He supports the death penalty, and I'm morally opposed to it."
Not that she expects to change her husband's views.
"We've been married long enough to know that I'm never going to change his mind on certain things, and he's not going to change mine.
"He does seek out my advice on people," she added. "It's more along the lines of how I feel about people and not their points of view."
Mrs. Collis will be the first governor's wife in Virginia to go by her maiden name.
"I always envisioned that I would keep my birth name, and Mark is fine with that," she said.
"I have a lot of pride in my family heritage."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide