Elizabeth Haskell dies at 71

From the Martinsville Bulletin

Elizabeth Heim Haskell, a former state Secretary of Natural Resources and Martinsville City Council member who was named the 2005 Outstanding Virginian, died Tuesday at the Hock Family Pavilion hospice facility at Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C.

Haskell, 71, built a career out of her concern for the environment and her community.

She served on the Martinsville City Council from 1996 to 2000 and focused on the issues of jobs and economic growth, environment, safety and education.

Haskell’s priority on a better-educated workforce was evident in her long involvement with the New College Institute. She served on the New College Planning Commission, the predecessor to NCI’s board, in 2005 and 2006, and was its vice chairman.

When NCI officially was established on July 1, 2006, then-Gov. Tim Kaine appointed her as one of the first members of its board of directors. She served as vice chairman of the board until her term ended in 2010.

Haskell also served on the New College Foundation board since its inception in 2006 and as its chairman from 2006 through 2011.

Bassett Furniture President/CEO Robert H. “Rob” Spilman worked with Haskell on the New College Planning Commission and the NCI board afterward. On Tuesday, he called her a “real driving force” in the effort to create the institute.

“She was a good friend whom I respected greatly. I thought she was obviously bright, (and) was insightful. ... We worked closely together in the early days of NCI and I valued her opinion as much as anyone. She was a confidante in those early days, and a sounding board,” he said.

Spilman counted on Haskell to tell him the truth.

“She would prop me up when things were not going well. She also was tough and would tell you things you didn’t want to hear and needed to hear. I admired and respected her,” he said.

Still, “she was a Democrat and I’m a Republican, so we didn’t agree on everything, but that was OK,” Spilman said. “I’m glad I got to know her.”

Outside Martinsville, Haskell was best known for serving as state Secretary of Natural Resources in then-Gov. L. Douglas Wilder’s cabinet from 1990 to 1994.

Upon learning of her death Tuesday, Wilder called her “stellar, as it relates to perception and vision and what we needed.

“She was very helpful in terms of securing additional park land for the state. ... She was visionary and rock solid, I would say,” he added.

Haskell dies at 71

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