Daniel L. Plaugher, 30 

Executive Director of Virginians for High Speed Rail

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST

In the current political environment, high-speed rail admittedly seems more fantasy than reality. Luckily, Daniel Plaugher knows a thing or two about paddling against the current.

The executive director of Virginians for High Speed Rail got his start working as a political campaign fundraiser after graduating from high school in Manassas. Something about taking on the dirty work appealed to Plaugher. He worked in construction with his father, installing windows and doors for Lowe’s, and eventually decided to pursue a career in politics.

Intrigued by the prospect of attending classes taught by former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Plaugher moved to Richmond to attend Virginia Commonwealth University. Wilder never quite fit into Plaugher’s schedule, but he found his place in politics, namely as a fundraiser for the Democratic Party.

“It’s just one of the things that I really enjoy,” he says.

He’s now raising the money for high-speed rail, his most recent coup coming two weeks ago when the state received $44.3 million in federal funds for rail improvements between Richmond and Washington. Richmond still has a ways to go — about $600 million is needed to make the region high-speed rail ready — but Plaugher sees the big picture in little chunks.

“You have to do little pieces, sadly,” he says, but “we can see the smaller steps needed to get where we are going.”

Speedy trains aside, Plaugher has taken his money-raising magic to the William Byrd Community House, where he’s helped raise $15,000 since 2009. He’s also president-elect of the Rotary Club of Richmond, where he’s served as a bell ringer for the Salvation Army, and delivered food to the hungry for Meals on Wheels. And that construction background has come in handy: Plaugher has put it to use for Richmond’s Rebuilding Together.

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