When he took the oath in historic Williamsburg four years ago, Tim Kaine could not have imagined the two historic events just ahead that would define his term as governor -- Barack Obama's presidential candidacy and the deep recession that put many campaign promises in jeopardy.
"John Lennon said life is what happens when plans fall through," Kaine said. "It's been my lot to be governor during the worst economic downtown in 70 years."
As a result, working with lawmakers to cut the budget while preserving Virginia's reputation as a top state for business became the governor's primary focus.
"My greatest achievement is to have positioned Virginia as the leading state in the nation economically, educationally, from a governance standpoint and politically and to have done that in the toughest time that we've faced in the last 70 years," he said.
The governor points to other victories, too: the expansion of early childhood education, the restaurant smoking ban, the preservation of 400,000 acres of open space and the start of Metrorail to Dulles. His greatest disappointment: the failure to win much needed new funding for roads.
Kaine said his brightest moment came on election night 2008.
As Obama's national campaign co-chair, the governor played a key role as Virginia picked a Democrat for the first time in 44 years, and the nation picked its first African-American president.
"That day I would rate next to my wedding day and the birth of my kids as the greatest day of my life," Kaine said.
That support led to his high-profile part-time role as Democratic National Committee chairman, a job he'll now dive in to full-time when he leaves office Saturday.
"The mission of the DNC is a simple one. I just tell people presidential success. It's a two-word mission statement," Kaine said. "My job is to go out and promote this president, defend this president. The nation and the world need a successful American presidency right now, and President Obama is uniquely qualified and has the talents to be that transformative leader that we need and the world needs today."
But Kaine will keep his home in Richmond. He said he can give the president better advice living well outside the Beltway.