The Roanoker - January/February 2017 - 14
Empowering the People
WHEN SAM RASOUL AND I take our
seats at The Quarter and order lunch (him
with the black and blue chicken salad, me
with the adult grilled cheese because cheese
and bacon is everything), I'm most surprised
by his quiet, unassuming demeanor.
Until, that is, he gets started on a topic
near and dear to his heart. No, it's not politics (as I'd first expected, given he's the Virginia House of Delegates 11th district representative), but rather, his love for Roanoke
and the people in it.
Rasoul's parents brought the family from
Ohio when Sam was only three; Roanoke is
his hometown, as he attended Glen Cove
Elementary, Greenvale School, Lord Botetourt High School, and graduated from Roanoke College. He's the oldest of four and
the child of immigrants. His parents ran a
corner store in the '80s, while the family
lived in a one-bedroom apartment in what's
now the Old Southwest neighborhood.
Now married with three small children of
his own (two girls, ages 6 and 5, and a boy,
age 3), he feels he's really come full circle,
and wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
"I am just not a big city, traffic kind of
guy," he says, laughing. "Roanoke is a great
place to raise a family. I like to tell everybody we have one of almost everything; we
just don't have 50 of everything! The quality
of life has really come into balance with the
developments of our city."
Sam Rasoul ran for Congress in 2008,
losing twice before finally winning his seat
in the House. He admits that he wouldn't
have won without social media.
"[Social media] allows citizens to get
ahold of our office. It gives them empowerment," he says. "You're experiencing frustration at some level, and so the point is to be
able to alleviate that pain. Even when you
can't solve their problem, it's empowering
for them to have someone to respond. I'm
saying that because it's what I want, for my
14 | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017
Why Sam Rasoul believes even just one person can make a difference in our city.
"Roanoke is just small enough that I believe one person can make a difference."
elected officials to be responsive, and that
makes me feel good about being a citizen."
He also takes pride in his transparency,
believing it allows for better relationships
with citizens. Not a day goes by that he
doesn't get tagged in a Facebook post, or
responds to a message received through his
"The best thing I could ever give back
to the people is just being an advocate for
them, a voice for them," he says. "It's not
about left and right, it's about people caring. If I say I'm going to do it, I'm going
to do it. Your concern is my concern, all
the time...I take a lot of pride in trying to
make sure they feel as though there's someone fighting for them all the time."
In addition, to honor a campaign
promise, Rasoul created "Our Valley, Our
Pledge." He contributes campaign funds
back to charities around the Roanoke Valley.
When he's not working, Sam and wife
Layaly spend quality time with their children at "whatever places are kid-friendly."
Rasoul also loves sports, playing basketball
two to three times a week at Green Ridge
Recreation Center. He loves to get outdoors,
too, recently taking his kids to Tinker Creek
for a hike (replicating childhood memories
of hikes there with his father).
To those who want to make an impact
on the local levels, whether it be for government, education or another path, Rasoul encourages them to contact him directly. Rather than a generic suggestion, he
believes in personal conversation that gets
to the root of what your goals are for your
cause and how you can achieve them.
"You don't invite, you include," he says.
"It takes open minds, on-the-ground hard
work and lots of teamwork. It's a good example of how we create an ecosystem to ensure
we're synergistic, that we can open minds in
all corners of our city. Roanoke is just big
enough that there are big challenges and just
small enough that I believe one person can
make a difference."