Former journalist, Page County native deals with health issues. Nuckols appointed by Governor McAuliffe; helps explain healthcare issues for state’s Secretary of Health.
Page County native Christina Nuckols, 47, translates health care initiatives to Virginians. Working alongside Governor Terry McAuliffe, the communications advisor focuses on health policy.
After 24 years as a journalist working from Roanoke to Richmond, Nuckols became an immediate asset to the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Dr. William Hazel Jr., in April.
Her father, P. Hudson Nuckols Jr. is pastor of Shenandoah Baptist Church. Her mother, Peggy Hudson was a school teacher. Since elementary school in Shenandoah, Nuckols has loved to write.
Nuckols is the product of a small town. She admits that as a preacher’s kid, one lives under a certain level of scrutiny. For her, community engagement began at the county level, where she began to make a difference. She explained how participating at the small community level- became the inspiration to be where the people making the decisions intersected with those affected.
While attending Page County High School, her first assignment as a summer intern was with The Valley Banner. She graduated from Randolph Macon College in 1989.
As a young journalist in 1990, Nuckols covered the Supreme Court federal flag burning decision. Her journalism career spanned the leading newspapers of Virginia in; Lynchburg, Staunton, Roanoke and Norfolk, before The Roanoke Times sent her to Richmond to cover state politics.
After more than two decades as a leading journalist, her decision to leave the press corps was a difficult one. In a time of declining newsrooms, Nuckols became concerned with how communities across the state receive policy information out of Richmond. Her new role in media relations is to disseminate how that information flows from a health and human services perspective.
When Secretary Hazel was looking for a communications advisor who could manage large amounts of information from the 12 agencies with hundreds of employees- Nuckols was chosen.
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor Suzett Denslow, said that Nuckols was selected for the position for having the distinct ability to translate health related issues to other journalists succinctly.
“Christina has done an incredible job. Her work ethic, she meets deadlines, has good understanding of the health and human services issues, so useful to the governor and the secretary,” said Denslow. “She writes in a way that you will understand what she is saying – a lot of government writers do the opposite.”
A typical day is not typical in the Patrick henry Building on Capitol Square, where Nuckols works with the governor and cabinet secretaries. She could write a press release, prepare talking points, or tweet for Dr. Hazel.
The former journalist recalls the tangible production of meeting deadlines. Now in government, there are less concrete ways to measure her output.
“In newspapers it is a grind, in government its more of a frenzy,” Nuckols said. “Then it will slow down- it’s more of a roller coaster.”
David Poole has been a close observer of Virginia politics for 30 years, first as a newspaper reporter and most recently as executive director of a Richmond based nonprofit that brings transparency to campaign contributions.
“I’ve been fortunate to have known a number of talented, dedicated journalists, but none of them was smarter or had more integrity than Christina,” said Poole. “If there were such thing as a Virginia fantasy newspaper league, Christina would be a first round pick.”
Nuckols serves at the pleasure of the governor. The appointment lasts for four years. Two lasting points drive Nuckols; engagement in the community and to lead a life of purpose.
“I’m shy, but I like being part of a larger endeavor. That is why I’m such a policy wonk,” Nuckols said. “I still believe that it is not as important to win, but to accomplish something, to make the lives of others better- to be part of a group effort.”
Editorial writer Margaret Eads of The Virginia Pilot, worked with Nuckols for nearly a decade, viewing her transition as state government’s gain and journalism’s loss. Eads rates Nuckols as principled and tireless – probably the most respected member of the capital press corps.
“Her transition reflects the state of journalism- I regret that journalism wasn’t able to keep Christina,” said Eads. “In that sense, it is a natural evolution; from observer to advocate, writer to editorial writer, to policy writer. She will be an asset explaining to Virginians what Obama is trying to accomplish with the Affordable Care Act.”
Written by J.F. McMillan in the Thursday, August 7th 2014 edition of the Page News and Courier.
Governor McAuliffe Announces Administration Appointments
Office of the Governor, 18 Apr 2014
Christina Nuckols, Communications Advisor
Christina Nuckols has spent 23 years in journalism, including 14 years covering state government with a particular focus on health care issues. She has worked for newspapers across Virginia, most recently as editorial page editor for The Roanoke Times. Christina will work in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources. Her responsibilities will include media relations as well as internal and external communications. She is a graduate of Randolph-Macon College and holds a master's degree in communication from Ohio University. She grew up in the town of Shenandoah.