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Meet the Candidates: A Conversation with Kristen Pence – Candidate for South River District School Board



Dr. Kristen Pence Aims to Propel Warren County Schools Forward in Re-Election Bid

In this “Meet the Candidates” segment, our publisher Mike McCool, sits down for a conversation with Kristen Pence.  Kristen Pence, the current chairperson of the Warren County School Board, discusses her ongoing commitment to enhancing the community’s public education system and her plans for future improvements.  Pence is currently in the race for re-election after holding the position for the past three and a half years.

Pence firmly believes that the success of a community is directly linked to the quality of its public education system. “The success of a school division drives the success of a community,” she stated in the interview. She acknowledged the difficulties that COVID brought in her first years but is now confident that she’s hit her stride and is eager to continue her work.

Pence pointed out several key focus areas that are vital to the school system’s progress. A major accomplishment has been the removal of the 50% grading policy, a move that she believes is integral to encouraging students to strive for academic excellence. Attendance is another area she is eager to improve. “If students aren’t in their seats learning, that’s a missed learning opportunity,” she explained.

Regarding the board’s dynamics, Dr. Pence appreciates the diversity of opinions among the board members, believing that healthy debates often lead to compromises that benefit students and the community.

Pence shared her plans for the next four years, stating her continued commitment to boosting overall scores, pushing for full accreditation for all schools, and continuing to learn from novel models like Skyline Middle School’s new seven-period day, which allows students more time to focus on core subjects.

Pence is also deeply engaged with the community, particularly valuing her conversations with teachers and parents. She appreciates initiatives that encourage students to take responsibility and pride in their community.

She also addressed the recent controversy around new model policies and misconceptions about the school board’s influence. While new model policies were released on July 18th, she assured that they were primarily focused on parental involvement and consent and that all changes would be implemented with the aim of making the school a more inclusive and safe environment.

Pence concluded by expressing her commitment to continue having open discussions with the community about contentious topics, such as the use of cameras in schools. She also encouraged parents and other community members to participate in meetings, make their voices heard, and become active contributors to the school community.

The election is November 7, 2023, with early voting starting on September 22, 2023.

Follow Kristen Pence on her Facebook page.


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Amber Mabie: A Write-In Candidate with a Deep Commitment to Community



School Board Elections Heat Up in Shenandoah District.

In a recent interview with Mike McCool in the Royal Examiner’s studio, Amber Mabie, a write-in candidate for the Shenandoah District school board, voiced her concerns, goals, and aspirations for the local educational system.

Mabie highlighted her connection with the community, recalling her time spent meeting residents during her campaign. From concerned parents to grandparents, many voiced their apprehensions about the current state of their schools and the yearning for genuine representation. Mabie’s emphasis on her personal stake in the education system, being a mother who stands shoulder to shoulder with other parents at school events, underscores her commitment. This hands-on experience, she believes, offers her insights that those without children in the system might lack.

But what sets Mabie apart from her opponent? According to her, it’s the understanding and “skin in the game.” As a parent with children in the public school system and with over 17 years of engagement, she brings a valuable perspective. Her experience ranges from volunteering to serving as a substitute teacher. This deep involvement has given her a window into the problems schools face, from disruptions in the classroom to bullying, especially on social media platforms.

Mabie’s priorities for her potential term are clear. She aims for a conducive environment where teachers can teach, and students can learn without disruptions. Addressing bullying is high on her list, emphasizing the importance of setting firm boundaries and teaching children the consequences of their actions. However, she also points out that the pressures of social media, which offer a false sense of anonymity, have exacerbated these issues.

Furthermore, Mabie touched upon the undermining of the public education system, hinting at a larger agenda that threatens its very foundation. She urges the community to stay informed, asserting that public education is crucial not just for parents like her but for society at large.

As the elections loom closer, the urgency is palpable. Mabie, while recognizing the challenges of being a write-in candidate, remains optimistic. She champions community involvement, emphasizing the importance of casting one’s vote, even for those without children in the system. After all, the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow.


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Unraveling the Role of Warren County Treasurer



Behind the Desk: What Really Goes into the Job.

When most of us think of the role of a treasurer, images of tax bills, checks, and budgets come to mind. But as Allison Ross, a seasoned Warren County deputy treasurer and current candidate for the top job, reveals, there’s much more to it than what meets the eye.

The Heart of the Matter

Starting with the Board of Supervisors setting tax rates, it’s a sequence of cascading responsibilities. Contrary to public perception, the treasurer’s role isn’t about sending out tax bills but collecting the payments. This seemingly simple task becomes a complex operation involving state budgets, late tax bill dispatches, and constantly appeasing taxpayers who face the repercussions of decisions made higher up the chain.

Ross elaborates on the various intricacies of the job, pointing out the common misconceptions. For example, the treasurer and the finance department, despite being closely associated with monetary matters, have distinct roles. The treasurer manages their own budget, while the finance department oversees everyone else’s. This clarifies the confusion that they’re responsible for the entire county’s financial operations.

Experience Matters

Counting money, managing it, ensuring it’s directed to the right places – all these tasks require precision, meticulousness, and experience. The responsibility to maintain and reconcile the revenues and expenditures with the bank can’t be taken lightly. With technology evolving, there’s a general perception that “it’s in the computer” and everything should automatically be correct. However, human judgment remains paramount.

Ross emphasizes this, citing her progressive journey from being a Deputy Treasurer I, a part-time position, to eventually becoming a Chief Deputy. The journey through these ranks not only signifies a climb in the hierarchical ladder but also acquiring a breadth of skills and expertise crucial for the treasurer’s role.

A Constitutional Office

The office of the treasurer isn’t merely a local designation. It’s a constitutional office mandated by the state, underscoring the significance and gravity of the position. It’s no “local yokel thing” but a serious responsibility that demands both competence and experience. Ross’s observations highlight how, often, experienced treasurers like Doris Miller, Wanda Bryant, and Jamie Spiker have roots within the office, emphasizing the importance of internal growth and understanding.

Stepping into Big Shoes

With Jamie Spiker’s upcoming departure, there’s a sense of trepidation and respect for her dedication to the role. Ross, being her potential successor, is no stranger to the hard work ahead. As she sums it up, understanding the role of the treasurer is all about recognizing the interplay between numbers, systems, and community trust.

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South River School Board Elections: Leslie Mathews Speaks Out on Key Issues



Mathews Highlights Education, Drug Concerns, and Student Behavior Ahead of Election.

Leslie Mathews, a candidate for the South River School Board, recently sat down with Mike McCool to shed light on her campaign’s developments and the core issues she aims to address. The interview came just ahead of the final voting day, signaling a close to an election season marked by active engagement and community feedback.

From the early days of her campaign, Mathews has prioritized meeting constituents face-to-face, hearing their concerns, and sharing her perspective on the challenges facing Warren County Schools. This grassroots approach of “door knocking” has allowed her to grasp the most pressing issues in the district, namely academic achievement, drug overdoses, and student behavior.

One standout concern is the district’s academic levels. Mathews, herself a Warren County graduate, recognizes the struggles post-pandemic. Recent studies by Governor Youngkin reveal that over half of third through eighth graders across Virginia failed their reading State of Learning (SOL) exams, with a similarly alarming number failing in math. The newly launched All-In Tutoring Plan aims to address this by encouraging community involvement in tutoring, with a particular emphasis on math and reading.

While academic struggles are pressing, so are the real-life stories of students and their encounters with drugs. Mathews shared a harrowing account of a student who witnessed another overdose in a school restroom. Recent executive orders from Governor Youngkin now mandate school superintendents to notify all parents within a 24-hour timeframe of such incidents. Mathews lauds this as a step towards accountability and a more informed parent community.

Behavioral issues also top the list of concerns. Warren County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Ballinger, with whom Mathews recently spoke, acknowledged the concerns and outlined new measures being tested in middle schools. Mathews expressed hope that increased transparency and proactive steps will drive tangible improvements in student behavior.

But Mathews isn’t all about challenges; she also brings hope and inspiration. Reflecting on her time at Warren County High School, she emphasized the motto “the best we can be” given to her by a cherished teacher, Mr. Robert Mason. This sentiment resonates with her campaign, suggesting a vision of pushing past limits and achieving new heights.

As the election draws near, Mathews will be present at the precincts in South River, ready to meet voters and make a final push for their trust and support. McCool, in wrapping up, urged all eligible citizens to exercise their voting rights – a cornerstone of democracy.


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Homegrown Hope: Nicole Wanzer’s Candidacy Reflects Warren County’s Heart



Warren County Opens Its Arms to One of Their Own.

From the winding roads of Warren County to the front doors of its many warm-hearted residents, write-in candidate Nicole Wanzer recounts her journey of running for the Board of Supervisors in the North River District. The journey has been one of revelations and challenges but mostly reaffirming the deep-rooted bonds that tie her to her community.

It’s easy to run a campaign from behind a desk or via social media, but Wanzer took to the streets a grassroots approach that led her to understand the people she aims to serve intimately. Through door-knocking and face-to-face conversations, she discovered the true essence of Warren County. It’s the little moments, like receiving a hug from a grateful citizen, Sharon, that have solidified her purpose in this election.

Wanzer’s conversations painted a vivid picture of the community’s pulse. From the elderly couple mourning the loss of their grandson to opioids, highlighting a devastating issue plaguing hundreds of families, to the challenges of affordable housing, she felt their pain. With rising interest rates pushing homeownership further out of reach for young families and the pressing need for workforce housing, Wanzer feels an urgent call to action.

Her passion for the community stems from her deep-rooted history with Warren County. Her childhood memories, marked by streets she still recognizes, have informed her mission. Unlike her opponent, she emphasizes her genuine connection with the people, having grown up among them. Her vision transcends political rhetoric; it’s about restoring hope and trust for her ‘people’.

But it’s not just about identifying problems. Wanzer is solution-focused, emphasizing the need for national builders to invest in the community by contributing to workforce housing and supporting local businesses.

She recalls her experiences working in local factories, understanding firsthand the sweat and toil residents put into their daily lives. It’s this work ethic she wishes to represent and champion in her role, ensuring those who’ve given so much to the county are acknowledged and supported.

Host Mike McCool of the Royal Examiner recognized the enormity of what Wanzer has taken on, especially for a first-time candidate. Yet, there’s a universal sentiment that often, the most passionate advocates emerge from genuine concern rather than political ambition.

As the conversation wrapped up, Wanzer didn’t miss the opportunity to thank the community for their unwavering support, emphasizing the weight of every vote. She believes in the power of representation, especially from someone who has walked the same streets, faced the same challenges, and shared the same dreams for Warren County.



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Glenn Wood’s Vision for Front Royal: Passion, Persistence, and Progress



Eager Voters and An Engaged Candidate: Here’s Why Glen Wood Might Just Be What Front Royal Needs.

The bustling Front Royal electoral race sees candidate Glenn Wood, who has made his mark by connecting directly with the community. As citizens prepare for a decisive moment at the polls, Wood expresses his unwavering commitment to address real issues and drive impactful changes.

Glenn Wood, one of the four contenders vying for the two available Front Royal Town Council seats, has been tirelessly meeting constituents. He noted, “When I get in front of people, they like what I have to say.” Evidently, his grassroots approach – knocking on doors, leaving information, and ensuring his message reaches even those not at home – has struck a chord. Remarkably, some voters have expressed gratitude towards Wood as the only candidate to reach out personally.

His campaign doesn’t merely bank on promises. Glen has showcased his dedication through his actions. Even when his wife, a steady presence at the polls, fell ill, Glen took over to ensure their mission didn’t lose momentum. In addition to his manifesto, the current discussions in town, from ordinances for chicken-keeping to addressing the looming water crisis, are top on his agenda.

Interestingly, the library, amidst its own share of controversies, has actively participated in the electoral process this year, showcasing its endorsed candidates. Wood, having earned their endorsement, commented on the significant number of voters potentially being influenced by such endorsements.

The current race has its quirks. The elected will serve for just a year, a term left over from previous transitions in the council. Wood sees this as an opportunity – a year to demonstrate capability and perhaps aim for a full four-year term if re-elected. His experience in the planning commission, he believes, will be an added advantage, giving him insights into the actual needs and workings of the town.

But Wood’s ambitions aren’t just limited to the short term. He expressed excitement about a proposed plan for neighborhood development (PND), which could usher in new types of development within the town, emphasizing green spaces and fostering community-centric designs. Furthermore, he’s passionate about addressing the long-standing blighted building issue and ensuring the town’s water sustainability amidst increasing demands.

Glenn also spoke about fostering cooperation between the town and the county, stressing the importance of joint endeavors. Discussions with county representatives like Walt Mabe and Cheryl Cullers about workforce housing show collaboration is underway. For Wood, the future of Front Royal lies in working together, revising outdated ordinances, and thinking outside the box.

Front Royal is at a pivotal juncture, with the upcoming election having the potential to reshape its future. Glenn Wood, with his hands-on approach, evident passion, and clear vision, is making a strong case for being the change the town needs. As the voting day of November 7th approaches, the town waits with bated breath to decide its fate.



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Skip Rogers Pitches Vision for Town’s Transformation



Council Hopeful Spotlights Town Revamp and Youth Engagement.

In a recent conversation at the Royal Examiner studio, Mike McCool spoke with Skip Rogers, a current council member now vying for re-election to the town council in an upcoming special election. Rogers shed light on his motivations for serving, his vision for the town, and the primary concerns he hears from the community.

Having been appointed to the council around a year ago, Rogers seeks to take the role on for a more extended period, driven by his dedication to addressing town issues. One of his core concerns lies with the town’s aging infrastructure, particularly dilapidated buildings that, in his opinion, have been sorely neglected since he set up his company on Chester Street in 2009. Beyond the apparent aesthetic problems, Rogers draws attention to the deeper issues tied to these decaying structures, such as drug activities, deplorable living conditions, and issues concerning the youth.

Speaking of the younger generation, Rogers passionately advocates for a youth center, highlighting its pivotal role in past community life. He points out the significance of partnerships – both with private industry and the county – to ensure the fruition of projects like these. In his view, the town’s commitment of $75,000, spread over two years for the youth center, is a small price to pay for the community’s future.

The relationship with county partners, he believes, is essential and has room for improvement. Besides this, Rogers also speaks of the town’s infrastructure, citing the ongoing water issues that need a comprehensive solution, encompassing a realistic one, three, and five-year plan. Furthermore, he believes that the town needs not just a comprehensive plan but a business plan, drawing from his 40 years of business experience.

Overall, the sentiment from Rogers is clear: the town needs vision. By focusing on fundamental issues, like infrastructure, youth, and partnerships, Rogers believes the town can embark on a transformation journey. The upcoming elections, in his eyes, offer a unique opportunity to usher in fresh perspectives and ideas, bringing about much-needed change.

The forthcoming Tuesday election is a crucial moment for the town’s future. Rogers’s commitment to building better infrastructure, supporting youth, and fostering stronger partnerships echoes the sentiments of many townsfolk. As early voting concludes, the community waits in anticipation to cast their ballots, hoping for a brighter tomorrow.


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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Mountain Creative Consulting

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Jamboree LLC

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal, VA
7:10 am4:51 pm EST
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Wind: 2mph ESE
Humidity: 55%
Pressure: 30.11"Hg
UV index: 0
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Upcoming Events

10:00 am A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 2 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
A Tree-mendous Hike @ Sky Meadows State Park
Sensory Explorers’ Trail. Explore the rich natural history of trees guided by a Virginia Master Naturalist. Discover the tips and tricks of basic tree identification and the tree-mendous roles that trees play in our environment.[...]
10:00 am Kris Kringle Market @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Kris Kringle Market @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Dec 2 @ 10:00 am – 7:00 pm
Kris Kringle Market @ Trinity Lutheran Church
The Trinity Lutheran Church Kringle Market will take place on Saturday, December 2, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  The Kringle Market is centrally located in the Newtown–Stephensburg Historic District in the Trinity Lutheran[...]
10:00 am SPCA Thrift Shop Grand Reopening @ WASPCA Thrift Shop
SPCA Thrift Shop Grand Reopening @ WASPCA Thrift Shop
Dec 2 @ 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
SPCA Thrift Shop Grand Reopening @ WASPCA Thrift Shop
After months of renovations and hard work, the Winchester Area SPCA is thrilled to welcome you back to its thrift store, where every purchase supports the mission of caring for and finding loving homes for[...]
1:00 pm Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
Dec 2 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Front Royal Bluegrass Music Jam @ The Body Shop
New Bluegrass and traditional music jam the first Saturday of each month starting Feb. 4th, from 1pm till 4pm. All levels of playing invited to attend.
3:00 pm Valley Chorale “Once Upon a Chri... @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Valley Chorale “Once Upon a Chri... @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Dec 3 @ 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Valley Chorale "Once Upon a Christmas" Concert @ Calvary Episcopal Church
Join The Valley Chorale for a family-friendly concert featuring favorite carols, hymns and songs of the Christmas season!
5:30 pm Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Dec 6 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
If one has read the Surgeon General’s 2023 report on America’s epidemic of loneliness and crisis of disconnection, one can then understand the significance that a Holiday Meal can have on the community at large. [...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 6 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]