State News
Governor Northam announces launch of 2018 Governor’s Fellows Program
February 15, 2018

RICHMOND – Governor Ralph Northam announced today the launch of the 2018 Governor’s Fellows Program. The Governor’s Fellows Program offers graduate students, rising college seniors, and graduating college seniors the opportunity to experience firsthand the administration of state government in the Commonwealth. These outstanding and highly motivated students will have the opportunity to learn directly under Cabinet secretaries in the Office of the Governor.

“The Governor’s Fellows program is a phenomenal opportunity for young people to learn about the workings of state government and make a contribution to their Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Bringing young, energetic Virginians into the office during the summer challenges us to develop more intentional, stronger proposals that create a Virginia that works for everyone. Ours Fellows represent the best of Virginia: students willing to give up their summer in the name of public service for their fellow citizens.”

“The Governor’s Fellows Program introduces young Virginians to state government with a desire to serve. Their energy is palpable, and their perspective is needed.” added Chief of Staff Clark Mercer, speaking to the importance of the Fellows Program

Governor Chuck Robb created this prestigious program in 1982. Since then, it has offered college students a hands-on opportunity to learn about state government at the top level. Previous members have gone on to pursue careers in various levels of state and federal government, each using their skills acquired during their Fellows experience.

“Being a Governor’s Fellow is a transformative professional experience,” said Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, a 2004 Governor’s Fellow under the Warner administration and former Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia under Governor Terry McAuliffe. “It’s a unique opportunity to see your government at work from the inside out and to learn from the best and brightest public servants in our Commonwealth. The relationships and experience gained from my time as a Governor’s Fellow were invaluable to my professional growth, and the program will continue to prepare the leaders of tomorrow.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my start in the Governor’s Fellows Program,” said Anna James, Director of Business Development for Sentara Healthcare. “From the life-long friendships I have built, to the mentors I met, I thank the Fellows Program for giving me the needed skills and relationships to be so successful today.”

Fellows are given the opportunity to cultivate and sharpen leadership skills by taking on various tasks and projects. The Fellows also learn from special guest speakers from the administration and take field trips across the Commonwealth.

Qualified applicants must be:

  • Rising college seniors, graduating college seniors, or enrolled as degree candidates in a graduate/professional school;
  • Enrolled in a Virginia college/university, or a Virginia resident enrolled in an out-of-state institution;
  • Able to demonstrate leadership ability and academic excellence;
  • Involved in extracurricular activities; and
  • Active in community service.

The selection of Fellows will be based solely on merit. The Fellows Program does not discriminate based on race, sex, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, political affiliation, disability, or veteran status.

The deadline to apply for the Governor’s Fellows Program is March 18, 2018 at 11:59p.m. The program directors will review applications and will conduct interviews from March 26 through April 6, 2018. Decisions will be issued starting in mid-April. The Program runs from June 4, 2018 until August 3, 2018.

Applicants should submit their recommendation letters and transcripts to:

Benjamin Hermerding
Governor’s Fellows Program Director
Patrick Henry Building
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

For more information on the 2018 Governor’s Fellows Program, please visit

Legislative Update
Goodlatte praises passage of judiciary bill to reform the ADA
February 15, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017, a product of the House Judiciary Committee. Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, released the following statement:

“This legislation provides important reforms to the ADA that will provide more access for persons with disabilities, educate businesses on the proper way to provide public accommodations, and fend off costly and wasteful lawsuits. The ADA Education and Reform Act safeguards the best intentions of the ADA, while including common sense solutions to make sure the law is not abused by misguided trial lawyers. I am pleased that the House has voted to provide more access for more Americans more quickly, and I thank my colleague Representative Ted Poe for his important contributions to this bipartisan bill.”

Background: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a landmark piece of legislation that protects those with disabilities. However, some have taken advantage of the system to file exorbitant lawsuits for monetary gain. Some plaintiffs’ attorneys have even targeted multiple businesses they have never frequented for minor compliance issues and then demanded large fees – when compliance could have been achieved faster and cheaper if only fair notice and an opportunity to fix the problem had been given.

The bill alters the public accommodation provisions in Title III of the ADA to remedy this problem. Under this legislation, those who seek action against businesses for ADA compliance issues must first give a written notice. Businesses then have 60 days to respond in writing and 120 days to make necessary changes before being subject to civil action.

H.R. 620 also instructs the Department of Justice to create an education program for state and local governments and property owners regarding ADA compliance.

Local News
Hollis Tharpe announces re-election bid for Town Mayor
February 15, 2018

Hollis L. Tharpe, 66, officially announced Thursday that he is seeking re-election for Mayor of Front Royal on November 6, 2018.

Hollis is a Front Royal native and has been married to Deborah Stonebreaker for 25 years. They jointly have four (4) daughters, ten (10) grandchildren and three (3) greatgrandchildren – with a fourth on the way. Hollis proudly served in the United States Marine Corps. Hollis is a proud member of the Loyal Order of Moose, BPO Elks Lodge, the American Legion Post #53, and the Warren County Humane Society.

Mr. Tharpe was first elected to the Town Council in 2000 and served until 2004 and was elected again in 2010 & 2014; where he served as Vice Mayor from 2014-2016, being elected as Mayor in 2017. Hollis is proud to serve as part of a team to achieve the goals set forth by the Town Council, both past and present. He is currently serving as Mayor on a team that has kept Front Royal’s electric rates the lowest in the Commonwealth of Virginia, along with the some of the lowest rates for water in the Shenandoah Valley.

The work will continue, as Mayor Tharpe works as the leader of the Town Council to reduce the amount of tax increases, and provide the resources for an efficient and effective Police Department. Hollis wishes to continue his dedication of service that started with his Service to His Country.

“Let’s keep Front Royal a Town to be proud of!”  – Hollis L. Tharpe

Local News
Local Korean War veteran attends opening ceremony of Winter Olympics
February 15, 2018

Front Royal resident Jack Keep, a Korean War veteran, found it fortuitous that he would be in Seoul, South Korea during the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympics this month, so he did what most of us would do:  he scheduled a side-trip to the mountaintop village.

Keep, who enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17, was assigned to Task Force 77 as a petty officer, aboard a ship patrolling the North Korean coast.  He talked to the Royal Examiner about what it was like to return to South Korea, about seeing the opening ceremony of the Olympics.


Real Estate
Renting out a room to travelers?
February 15, 2018

Millions of people are renting rooms in private homes instead of hotels. And millions are doing the ‘hosting.’
Before you join the crowd to rent out a room for that extra dash of cash, review your homeowners insurance.

Likely, your homeowners insurance doesn’t cover damage or liability if you rent rooms, according to How Stuff Works.

Once you rent a room, your home becomes a business.

Be sure to talk to your insurance agent before you rent out a room. You might be well advised to get a landlord policy to cover liability and damage. That is especially true if you have a pool.

Local News
Dunbar brings her 6th District nomination campaign to local churches
February 15, 2018

Cynthia Dunbar is running to represent the people of the 6th Congressional District of Virginia. While Cynthia had no desire to seek political office, over the past year she had constituents all over the 6th District ask her to please run to serve them as their U.S. Representative in Washington. After much prayer and consideration, she has consented to run.

Cynthia is not a politician. She is a leader. She is not polished, but is bold, fearless and impassioned! Cynthia has no personal agenda or political career motives. However, she is not afraid to stand up to the powers that be. She is not for sale. She is the  courageous constitutional conservative.

Cynthia is a true believer in the principle that less government means greater liberty. Cynthia has proven time and time again that she does not back down from a fight and that she is committed to doing what is needed to save our nation. In short, Cynthia is more than just a vote. Cynthia has committed that if elected, she will sacrificially serve not only the people of the 6th Congressional District but every patriotic American who desperately wants to see our Constitutional Republic restored. She promises to fight with every ounce of courage she has to take on the stagnant status quo of Republican leadership in Washington. Cynthia promises results, never excuses.

The Royal Examiner’s cameras were at the Skyline Baptist Church off of Route 55 in Front Royal on Wednesday evening and capture her comments to local churches.

Cynthia Dunbar is an American patriot, author, public speaker, and National Committeewoman to the RNC for VA. She formerly was an elected member of the Texas State Board of Education, Assistant Professor of Law and Advisor to the Provost of Liberty University. Cynthia is a public servant who has worked tirelessly at the local, state and national level.

She is a contributing Professor for Constituting America, serves on the Boards of Directors of Source for Women, Faith 2 Action, Oil & Wine, Youth Can Lead, Amigos de Dios, Intercessors for America, and Merryfield Orphanage. Her policy and academic writings have been published by various mediums including William & Mary’s Journal of Women and the Law, Washington University’s John C. Danforth Center on Religion & Politics, Constituting America, Newsmax, and the Liberty Legal Journal. Her passion for our Constitutional Republic has garnered her both National and International attention from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, PBS, Dateline, Norwegian International Radio, BBC Radio and the London Guardian, among others. She has been featured in the New York Times Magazine, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, frequently seen on Fox News and she has been a regular contributor addressing educational policy issues on Fox and Friends.

Cynthia is no stranger to political warfare and strategy. She has fought the hard battles in education. Few areas are as controversial as what content gets put in our children’s textbooks. During her tenure as a Texas State Board of Education Member, Cynthia never backed down from fighting to ensure accurate American History was taught in the classroom.

“I have had the pleasure of working side by side with Cynthia on legal and political battlefields. I can state with assurance that there are few who are more committed to Christian principles being upheld within our government, and even fewer who are equipped to diligently fight for them. She will be a strong voice and advocate for Virginia’s 6th Congressional District and for all Christian Conservatives across the nation! This is why I heartily give her my endorsement for this position.”—Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel & Former Dean of Liberty University School of Law


Cynthia Dunbar is a 2018 Republican candidate seeking election to Congress to represent Virginia’s 6th district, which is being vacated by retiring Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte. The district is a Republican stronghold, and is located in the west-central part of the state, including Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Shenandoah Valley. Cynthia is the only conservative candidate in the race who has the experience and values to represent Virginia in Congress.

Cynthia believes both parties are to blame for Congress’s inability to get anything accomplished, but she is particularly frustrated with her own party. “The fact that we Republicans hold both chambers in Congress and continue to play politics instead of keeping our promises to the American people is unacceptable,” said Dunbar. “There is absolutely no excuse for not having repealed Obamacare, and I will fight tirelessly until it is repealed.”

Cynthia is a true conservative with a record of winning tough battles and she has the scars to prove it. She does not spend years politely tiptoeing around leadership with few victories to show for her time. She gets in, gets things done and then gets out.

“The preservation of a free Government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power be invariably maintained; but more especially that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.”  – James Madison


Town Notices
Town scholarship application deadline is approaching
February 14, 2018

The Deadline is February 23, 2018 at 5:00 pm to submit an application for one of two (2) Scholarships in the amount of $500.00 each to be awarded by Town Council to two (2) high school seniors who reside in the limits of the Town of Front Royal and who are pursuing continued undergraduate or trade education at an accredited university, community college, or trade school.

Town Council will select and present the awards in Spring 2018 at a Town Council Meeting. An application is available by clicking below.

Scholarship Application


Community Events
Drive to collect items for domestic violence shelters across the Shenandoah Valley
February 14, 2018

FRONT ROYAL – A ​student led Destination Imagination Outreach team ​Full Hearts ​ is running a drive throughout the month of February to collect items needed by Domestic Violence Shelters in surrounding areas of the Shenandoah Valley.

WHAT: Full Hearts will place donation boxes in various stores and businesses across the Shenandoah Valley. The list of items needed include: Women/Children socks & slippers (all sizes), toiletries (full size), feminine hygiene, laundry detergent/softener, twin sheets and blankets, dish detergent, kitchen trash bags, salt and pepper shakers, ziplock bags, toilet paper/paper towels.

All products MUST be new The items will be divided among four domestic violence shelters: Response, Potter’s House, Laurel Center, and Choices.

WHO: Response, INC. – “Response is Shenandoah County’s only agency assisting those affected by sexual and domestic violence, and child abuse. We began as a grassroots organization in 1980, formed by concerned citizens to aid victims of domestic violence and their children.

In 1994 Response was given space at the Shenandoah County Farm, to operate a 14-bed shelter. In 1997 Response received funding to implement a court advocacy program. in 1999 Response added a sexual assault program. In 2000 Response received funding to begin providing prevention and intervention to teens. As we outgrew our space, we began searching for a larger building. In 2001 we purchased a large home in the county and opened a 28-bed shelter and were awarded funding to begin providing services to children. In 2005 Response began the Child Assault Prevention Project in Shenandoah County Schools.” For more information about Response, Inc., please visit​.

The Potter’s House- A place of rest, refuge, and restoration. A traditional housing program for women and children that serves both people leaving bad situations and women and children needing housing.

The Laurel House: Intervention for Domestic and Sexual Violence – “The Laurel Center empowers victims of domestic and sexual violence by providing emergency housing, advocacy, support services, and education. We reach out to our community through education and awareness programs.”

Choices – “Choices is the Council on Domestic Violence for Page County, Inc. Confidential services are provided free of charge to any individual who is, or has been: a) Involved in a situation of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. b) A victim of sexual abuse or rape. We are a non-profit organization funded solely through State, Federal, and Private grants, donations, community support and the United Way of Page County.”

WHERE: A variety of businesses in the Shenandoah Valley including: Strasburg- Strasburg Community Library Food Lion Recreational Center Winchester- YDC War Memorial Building Shenandoah University Spiritual Life Front Royal- Selah Theatre Project Lester And Mowery’s Pharmacy Community Center Luray- Page County libraries in Shenandoah County and Luray Luray Chamber Of Commerce

WHEN: The drive will last through the month of February. Domestic Violence Statistics:

● Every day in the U.S, more than three women are murdered by their husband or boyfriend.
● Studies show that up to 10 million children witness domestic abuse annually.
● Every 9 seconds in the U.S., a woman is assaulted or beaten.
● Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern. Stats via:


Town Notices
Town Council searching to fill vacancy on Board of Zoning Appeals
February 14, 2018

The Town Council is accepting resumes from citizens interested in assisting the community by serving on the Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) to fill a 5-year term.

The Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) is a 5-member Board appointed by the Judge of the Warren County Circuit Court to hear and decide appeals from any order, requirement, decision and determination made by an administrative officer. Council approves a recommendation of appointment to the Judge. The BZA meets once a month as needed.

Those interested must be a citizen residing within the Town Limits of Front Royal. There is currently one vacancy to fill a 5-year term expiring May 1, 2023.

If you are interested in serving on the UFAC or BZA please complete an application and/or resume with a cover letter and send to:

Jennifer Berry Clerk of Council
P.O. Box 1560
102 E. Main Street
Front Royal, Virginia 22630

Legislative Update
General Assembly Crossover Update – VA Senator Mark Obenshain
February 14, 2018

Mark Obenshain

Having just completed crossover, we are officially halfway through Session. During the first half of the session, both chambers consider the bills filed by their respective members. Crossover is the date by which all Senate bills must be acted on and the Senate decides whether to pass them or not. We heard just under 1,000 bills in the past five weeks.

After crossover, we will be considering bills filed by delegates that won approval in the House.  Although delegates filed more than 1,600 bills this session, the Senate won’t have to consider nearly that many during the second half of session.  The House will have winnowed down its bills, approving only a fraction of the ones submitted by delegates.

Last week, I was honored to join the Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, Governor Northam and House Courts Chair Rob Bell in announcing an historic criminal justice compromise effort that achieved the dual goals of further protecting victims of crime with enhanced restitution and doing the right thing by raising the felony threshold for larceny.  Our felony threshold for larceny has been at $200 for almost 40 years. This compromise, raised the threshold to $500. It is the right thing to do. Stealing is a crime that should and will be punished, but we are overdue in adjusting the level at which someone might be sent to prison for more than a year. On the restitution front, victims of crime don’t have lobbying firms advocating on their behalf.  By ensuring they will receive the restitution they deserve, including the millions collected that have gone unclaimed, we’re standing up for their interests.  I’m proud to be the Senate patron of the two restitution bills which upon passage, will be signed into law by the Governor.

The major focus of Session thus far has been health care. The Governor has proposed a massive expansion of the Medicaid program envisioned by ObamaCare to cover an ever expanding group of able bodied Virginians. My Republican Senate colleagues and I have been working tirelessly on a package of reforms designed to address the skyrocketing insurance premiums and to provide coverage options to many working Virginians who are being priced out of the health insurance market as a result of ObamaCare.

The Medicaid Program was never intended to be – and never designed to be- a substitute for health insurance.  It is instead, a reimbursement program for hospitals and health care providers to mitigate the costs associated with providing care for the most vulnerable (children, disabled, indigent.)  Our existing Medicaid program still has severe limitations, many of which were detailed in the JLARC December 2016 report which you can read here.  There are clearly those who would like to see a single payer government funded Medicaid style health plan provide universal health coverage for everyone. This approach, while well intentioned, is misguided and will inevitably lead to the rationing of health care seen in Canada and elsewhere.

The Senate Republicans have focused on restoring options and competition to the private health care and health insurance marketplace. Yesterday the Senate passed groundbreaking legislation as part of our Health Care Package to focus on the 80% of Virginians who are dealing with exorbitant premiums and staggering out-of-pocket expenses and to help those most in-need, including those waiting on ID/DD waivers. The package consists of four bills that will increase competition, lower premiums, provide lower costs for services, increase funding for mental health and opioid/addiction treatment, and make catastrophic care coverage available to more Virginians.  SB 964, SB 935, SB 915 and SB844 accomplish these goals.  I hope it will be the pleasure of the House to pass these critical initiatives and that Governor Northam will sign them into law.

In moving forward, Senate Republicans want to institute more reforms to Medicaid to include: a workforce requirement for eligible able-bodied individuals, personal responsibility measures such as participation in a Health Savings Account, and tying funding to performance-based review to ensure funds being spent and truly improving the quality of life for those in the program. The ultimate goal, however, should be to move more Medicaid recipients into the work force, self sufficiency, and into the private sector health care marketplace.

Since all Senate bills have been acted upon, that means some of my bills are advancing onto the House. SB 521, dealing with mandatory investigations of registered voters in localities where there are more registered voters than voting age individuals, was passed unanimously from the Senate. SB 523, deals with electronic pollbooks. This bill requires that the Department of Motor Vehicles share their database of photographs with registrars so that registered voters have a picture in their file. If they do have a photograph on file, they would not be required to present a form of identification.

Interstate 81 improvements in the Shenandoah Valley have been long overlooked.  My bill, SB971,  directs the Commonwealth Transportation Board to study I-81 improvements and to consider what revenue could be raised from potential tolls on heavy trucks to fund these improvements along this corridor. Almost half of statewide truck traffic runs along this interstate and about a fifth of crashes involve a heavy truck. With over 2,000 crashes per year, and 30 crashes a year with a clearance time greater than six hours, we must be willing to look at creative methods to find substantive solutions to this problem.

Finally, SB 568, will require public institutions in Virginia to share student loan information with students in order to help spread continued awareness of the potential consequences of overborrowing. Student debt is rampant both here in the Commonwealth and nationally. I believe that we as state legislators have a duty to help inform our students of the financial impact their borrowing decisions will have on their futures. Included in the yearly report that institutions will send will be amount borrowed, interest rate, estimated monthly payment and total amount paid by the end of the payment period.

To see the full list of the bills I am carrying this session, click here.

These past few weeks, we’ve had lots of visitors stopping by our offices in Room E502 of the Pocahontas Building. It was great to welcome the following visitors/organizations:  Rise for Youth, students from JMU and EMU along with members of the Virginia Interfaith Council, Copper Fox Distillery, Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Chamber CEO, Blue Ridge Community College President Dr. Downey and students, JMU representatives, Rockingham Co. Board of Supervisors & County Administrator, Warren County Board of Supervisors and County Administrator, representatives from Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative & Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, and VAIL (Valley Associates for Independent Living).

We have four more weeks of session.  I always enjoy hearing from citizens in my district on issues that are important to you.  Feel free to email me at or call our General Assembly office at 804-698-7526.