Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. If you have an idea, topic or want to hear from someone in our community, let us know. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com
In this Town Talk, we’ll have a conversation with Gary Kushner. Gary has been outspoken at the Board of Supervisor meetings, as well as, Town Council meetings. Gary comes prepared with researched data and presents reasonable solutions to issues facing local government. With time restraints imposed by our governing bodies, the Royal Examiner offered some additional time to Gary to present some solutions to be considered, or at least serious thought to be given.
Here is a planned presentation Gary planned to give to the Town Council on February 19, 2020. As Gary mentions in the video, he had requested time to present, but 4 out of 6 councilmembers declined to hear his remarks.
Planned Presentation at the February 19, Special Council Meeting:
Few were satisfied with the February 10 Council session where frustration and emotions were on display by many in attendance. I believe some of the rudeness and criticisms leveled in the public presentations prevented a cohesive communication from being received by Council.
I’m attempting to provide a more organized and effective communication to the Council on some relevant issues and offer suggestions that may help in the development of the 20/21 budget. Also, I heard Council comments that they’ve listened to the silent majority in contrast to most of the Feb 10 in-person citizen opinions. However, I believe there’s the silent majority that supports much of the in-person testimony the Council heard as well.
Also, I’m known as a straight shooter and generally not inclined to sugar coat things. So, to ensure there’s no misunderstanding with my perspective, I try to be very direct. However, I intend that these comments will be taken constructively.
Regardless of the criticism heard at Council meetings, I think the majority of the public is appreciative of their efforts and that members sincerely try to represent the interests of the citizens.
I believe there is much common ground between the citizens and the Council.
– I think there’s consensus that having a fiscally conservative Govt is the right direction.
– Having Operational expenses grow 35% over the past ten years when the population has only grown 4% indicates things have gotten a bit off-course, and Right-Sizing efforts are needed.
– There’s a limited appetite for increases in taxes and fees.
– Virtually everyone agrees that Maintenance of Infrastructure is essential, and ‘kicking the can down the road’ isn’t a responsible position.
– Maintenance needs to involve quality and permanent solutions, not temporary ones. Most agree that applying a slurry solution to roads instead of using asphalt is penny wise and pound foolish, and curbs and gutters are valuable.
– Aggressively addressing the waste/water Inflow and Infiltration (I&I) is preferable to having undesirable consequences imposed by outside authorities.
– That is, having citizens involved with their government is a necessary thing. Citizens want to be represented, not ruled. The government is a shared responsibility. Getting feedback from citizens should create better solutions and distribute accountability between the Council and the public. A collaborative approach ensures that all sides of an issue are analyzed and avoids having a limited perspective.
So lets’ address some specific issues;
You heard significant opposition to the proposed reorganization that would have Community development and Tourism outsourced.
Some of the key arguments presented included:
– AppalachianTrail Committee Co-chairman Susan Tschirhart highlighted that Front Royal had achieved an ‘Appalachian Trail Community’ designation that was special and created a better promotion for our community.
– She noted steady tourism revenue growth in the last 5 years.
– There were 5 new recreational based businesses, 3 being on the main street.
– The Front Royal Visitor Ctr was rated Second only to Skyline Caverns as a top attraction site.
– Virginia Tourism Corp reported that in 2018 Warren County received $151 mil from tourism and there were 1,700 jobs with a $23 mil payroll
– She confirmed that Town staff were motivated and had been effective in their efforts to promote tourism.
– and The Joint Town/County Tourism Advisory Board was an effective organization.
The bottom line here is that evidence exists that the previous organization and staff were achieving good results. So, what was the justification in not observing the principle of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’?
Explicit statements were made by the Interim Manager that there were no negative performance issues related to the fired employees, and the proposed reorganization was solely to expand Tourism results. Considering that the firings occurred so quickly and that positions were funded through the end of the year, there is reasonable public concern that other factors were at play here that was not honestly reported. That being said, public trust is a very important element, so all efforts are warranted to maintain that trust.
There was opposition not only to the proposed re-organization but to its implementation as well.
– The ‘midnight massacre firings’ was anything but compassionate and not well thought out.
– No consultation occurred with the Joint Tourism Advisory committee
– No plan was immediately available to address the responsibilities of staff that was fired just before the beginning of the Spring/Summer tourism season.
– And regardless of the HR legal opinion that the firings met muster, some believe the Town may have subjected themselves to legal jeopardy because of other personnel issues.
There were also several negative factors relevant to outsourcing being proposed as the solution.
– The Town had previous experience with outsourcing that did not produce good results.
– Other Valley jurisdictions had bad outsourcing experiences as well.
– The employees of a contracting business would not have a personal investment as do staff who live in our area.
– Having Town staff conducting tourism promotion provides a continuity year to year that would not be guaranteed with contractor employees. Such personal relationships between local staff and business interests is an important element and should not be undervalued.
– Contracting tourism support would not be as ‘agile’ as having local staff. Contracts are for specific tasks, to get well-defined deliverables, in a specified time frame. Tourism is a dynamic area, and outsourcing would not provide the flexibility available with using in-house resources.
With all that said, subsequent comments from Council has me hopeful that they will be re-visiting the proposed outsourcing plan.
Next, let’s address the EDA:
Everyone references the organization as the EDA, but the formal name is; The Industrial Development Authority of the Town of Front Royal, Va. And the County of Warren, Virginia. Its purpose is to represent the interests of both jurisdictions.
In a Memorandum of Agreement for the New Market Tax Credit Program signed by Mayor Tharpe, Manager Waltz and the Town Attorney May 2017, Paragraph 1. says: “ It is anticipated that loan funding would be acquired by the EDA from the Program at 1.5% interest annually for the first seven (7) years of financing, at which time the Town will have to secure refinancing for the unpaid outstanding principal balance on the Town projects from another source”. With the operative word being ‘anticipated’.
Paragraph 3. states; “ The Town will fund, to the extent legally permissible, one hundred percent (100%) of the EDA’s debt service through an annual appropriation and expenditure from the Town’s adopted budget associated with the a) Police Dept HQ on Kendrick Lane: …..”. This evidences Town liability in my mind that goes beyond the moral one.
Thereafter, the Town was encouraged by Brian Phillips of PEOPLE Inc. (who managed the New Mkt Tax Credit program) to take a 2.65 % loan rate but the Town elected to ‘roll the dice’ for the 1.5% rate that they never qualified for.
A loan for 3% was eventually obtained for the Town’s Police Dept. construction. The EDA recently offered an interest rate of 2.25% but the Town continues to think they deserve the 1.5% rate and have authorized $45k for accounting services and $200K for legal services supposedly to get it!
The difference between the 1.5% interest rate the Town wants and the 2.25% rate EDA offered is only $87,240! The EDA is eating the difference between the offered rate and the actual 3% rate on the loan. What sense does it make to budget $245K to address a possible $87k loss? Let’s look further.
The Town originally filed suit against EDA for $3 million, supposedly to guard against being affected by a statute of limitations. However, no specific evidence was ever advertised to support that justification. Later, the Town increased the amount to $15 million but without any documented specification of damages. Now the suit is being amended again to who knows how much!
The EDA owned properties are now assessed at $31.5 million, but they have $40.8 million in debt. There’s no surplus to get! And if the Town thinks they’re going to get a property as a possible court-ordered payoff, that’s a pipe dream. Is it reasonable to consider that the courts would give the Town precedent over the loan holders?
Jennifer McDonald and the prior EDA Board, who were allegedly responsible for the misdeeds and losses, are GONE. The new Exec. Director and Board have been working diligently to clean up the mess and get back to producing good results for the Town and County.
It’s been alleged that the EDA was mostly focused on County projects but the truth is just the opposite. They’re working on the Happy Creek Technology Park, and they did the Leech Run Project, they’re actively marketing the Avtex property and many others. On February 19, they hosted an event with the Blueridge Assoc. of Realtors and visited 28 sites, 21 of which were in the Town.
Plus, the Town is not without fault in this whole affair, in my opinion.
– They gambled with the PD loan rate with the New Market Tax Credit program.
– They virtually abandoned involvement with the EDA Board well before the skulduggery was discovered.
– When a Council member first raised a red flag years ago, they were not only ignored but were seriously criticized.
– Now, the Town is withholding even the principal payment on the PD loan making EDA’s financial situation more precarious.
The Town’s continued adversarial behavior is damaging the organization that is presently, and has been, trying to support it! The past EDA embezzlement and misdeeds are enough of a black eye itself. Still, the contentious environment the Town is promoting is making things worse and further damaging our community’s reputation. What business wants to make a serious investment where there is so much chaos, drama, and uncertainty?
To promote improved communications between the Council and the public, to promote Economic Development activities and to address having a balanced 20/21 budget, the following suggestions are offered.
– Increase the public presentation time at Council meetings to 4 or 5 minutes per citizen but be less lenient with speakers who cannot observe that limit. This would enable citizens to communicate w/ Council better and demonstrate an honest desire by the Council to encourage citizen participation in their government.
– Institute a provision for public interaction at the work sessions. This could be limited to just questions and be controlled either by a time boundary (30-60 min?) or limit it to a specific # of issues. Or consider having written questions submitted to the Mayor when the work session items are finished, and a short break is taken. Then have the Mayor choose which issues are most relevant to address when the work session is reconvened.
– Implement the ‘town hall’ sessions previously identified in the prior Communications proposal, with only the Mayor representing the Council positions. Try them monthly, to begin with, and then evaluate and adjust based on experience. I believe the Mayor is addressing this already.
– Support the creation of public committees on specific issues such as infrastructure, finance/budget, etc.). I believe the Mayor may be considering this already.
– When significant issues or organizational changes are being considered, produce a documented analysis, and advertise it to the public, before final decisions are made. Now, some in the public think why show up at Council meetings and provide feedback since decisions are being advertised rather than being proposed?
– Since there seems to be meaningful animosity and distrust between the Interim Mgr and the public, consider having a special town hall session where concerns can be honestly expressed, and explanations can be offered to dispel any rumors and misunderstandings.
Anyone who doesn’t see the disconnect between the public now and the Council maybe has their head in the sand. Simply continuing business, as usual, will not create different results and is the definition of ‘stupidity’.
– Re-establish the in-house Community Development/tourism structure that was so effective previously and abandon the outsourcing plan that’s been emphatically opposed by much of the public
– Encourage engagement with the Joint Town/County Tourism Advisory Board.
– Direct the Town’s finance representative to meet with the EDA accountant so available records can be reviewed to arrive at an overpayment figure such that options can be developed to resolve that matter without unnecessary attorney involvement.
– Accept the EDA offered an interest rate of 2.25% on the Police Dept loan and begin making full payments. If this option is not pursued, at least begin making principal payments that the Town is moral, if not legally, obligated to which is not in question.
– Withdraw the litigation against the EDA.
– Use the remainder of the budgeted $245K planned for EDA accounting and attorney services for other 20/21 needs.
– Withdraw the Virginia legislation proposal to permit a separate Town EDA. That proposal sends the wrong message.
– Begin a fully cooperative engagement with the EDA Board.
– Engage more fully with the Town/County Liason Committee.
– Eliminate the proposed Asst. Town Mgr position for a savings of well over $100K in salary and benefits. This proposed new position is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Include this responsibility in the Finance Director’s position in that they are most knowledgable about all Town issues. When you’re looking to down-size government, creating new positions is counterproductive.
– Evaluate eliminating the 12 existing vacant positions referenced at the February 3rd work session that may not be critical.
– Apply the ‘last in, first out’ policy on the positions that were expanded in the preceding several years and eliminate positions and operational programs that are not critical.
– Abandon the proposal to obtain a Landscape Architect and hire a well-qualified replacement for the landscape person who recently retired. In-house staff will be more nimble and should cost less than outsourcing. Plus, you get what you pay for.
– Consider adjusting the employee benefits package to get a rate that does not exceed the budgeted 3% increase from last year. My understanding is that the existing benefits package is very generous.
– Instead of providing the third full traunch of the compensation study this year, split the balance in half and extend it to 4 yrs rather than finish it in 3 years. This would have a minimal effect in that a COLA is also shown in the budget.
– Direct the Interim Manager to document any possible government improvements that may be identified henceforth but leave them for the permanent Town Manager to consider for possible implementation.
That concludes the presentation I would have made to the Council had I been permitted to address them at the Feb 19 work session.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for September 25 – 29, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile markers 6 to 9, eastbound and westbound – Overnight single right lane closures for inspection of bridge over Norfolk Southern Railway and Shenandoah River, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday night.
*NEW* Mile marker 9 to 7, westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures as needed for road and bridge work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of November 27. Shoulder closures 24/7. Work zone speed limit: 55 miles an hour. Work is related to southbound acceleration ramp extension and bridge widening, with estimated completion in fall 2024.
Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Shoulder closures between Route 619 (Rivermont Drive) and Route 607 (Rocky Lane) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 522 (Remount Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 665 (Chester Gap Road) and Route 604 (Harmony Hollow Road) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 702 (Baugh Drive) – Flag traffic control between Baker Plaza and Route 661 (Fairground Road) for paving operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through October 6.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
A Salute to General Daniel Morgan: Virginia’s Revolutionary War Hero
Honoring a Legend: SAR Dedicates Plaque at the Historic Burwell-Morgan Mill.
Millwood, Clarke County, Virginia – General Daniel Morgan, a stalwart of the American Revolution, was honored with a dedication ceremony hosted by the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) on 15th September 2023. The picturesque Burwell-Morgan Mill served as the backdrop for the event, with a bronze plaque celebrating the General’s extraordinary life taking center stage in the meadow.
Daniel Morgan’s journey from a young New Jersey lad to a Virginia legend is one for the books. As a youngster who could hardly read or write, he ventured to Virginia, making the Shenandoah Valley his home. From his humble beginnings as a teamster to playing a crucial role in the War for Independence, his life was nothing short of extraordinary. Morgan’s resilience was evident when, after receiving a near-fatal injury from an ambush outside Fort Edward, he carried the scars and stories proudly. His tactical brilliance shone brightest at the Battle of Saratoga and later, Cowpens, setting the stage for Cornwallis’ eventual defeat.
The event was a grand spectacle, with the Virginia SAR State Color Guard presenting colors and dignitaries from various societies paying their respects. Marc Robinson emceed, while Paul McComb undertook chaplain duties. The guest list was illustrious: Mid-Atlantic District Vice President General James Engler, Sr; Virginia Society SAR President Ernie Coggins; representatives from DAR and C.A.R., among others. Dale Corey painted a vivid picture of Morgan’s life after which numerous SAR Societies and DAR Chapters presented wreaths in the General’s honor.
As James Graham, Morgan’s biographer, once wrote, his “strength and spirit, his frank and manly bearing, his intelligence and good humor” made him beloved by many. This sentiment echoed throughout the ceremony as attendees remembered the General’s influence on the colonial victory.
The event reached its crescendo with Anita Bonner and Jocelynn Wilson leading the attendees in a rendition of “God Bless America,” culminating in a musket salute by the Virginia State Color Guard.
In an era where heroes often emerge from the pages of fiction, General Daniel Morgan’s story stands as a testament to the mettle and spirit of real-life warriors. This dedication serves not only to commemorate his incredible life but also to inspire future generations to value sacrifice, strategy, and resilience.
In From New York State Larry Tuttle Sr. Steps to the Plate, I Mean McDonald Federal Trial Witness Box
With the federal criminal prosecution of Jennifer McDonald again on hold, this time from Tuesday, September 19 through Friday, September 22, if not longer, due to what was described by the prosecution as an “unexpected health issue,” we decided to fill the gap with a recounting of earlier testimony this writer witnessed in the wake of his own testimony of Wednesday, September 13. As previously reported, McDonald is charged on 34 counts related to the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA, EDA) “financial scandal,” as it has come to be known. Those charges include bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.
As reported in my lead story on my two days, September 12 and 13, in the 10th Western District of Virginia federal courthouse, among the other witnesses scheduled that day after my testimony was Larry Tuttle Sr. Tuttle identified himself as defendant Jennifer McDonald’s stepfather George Hassenplug’s cousin. He is a resident of Monroe, New York, he told the prosecution during direct examination. He also noted that he was last employed in 1993, before being in “a terrible car accident,” after which he has survived on Social Security disability benefits of about $1700 a month, he said in response to a direct examination question. Spending some time near Tuttle and what I believe was his wife in the courthouse third-floor hallway prior to either of our testimonies, I could see that he had some difficulty moving around, rising, and sitting back down.
As I watched his testimony following my own, the prosecution’s interest in Tuttle soon became apparent. He testified that as a favor to his cousin, George Hassenplug, he had signed some apparently partial real estate documents sent to him at his New York home during the time frame coinciding with some of the Jennifer McDonald real estate transactions that later came under legal scrutiny as allegedly involving misdirected EDA assets. Tuttle testified that while he knew who Jennifer McDonald was due to his cousin’s relationship with her by marriage to McDonald’s mother, that he did not know her personally and had never met her.
Asked if he was close to his cousin George Hassenplug, Tuttle replied that he “had been” from the 1990s to 2017 and that they had talked on the phone three to four times a week regularly during that period. Tuttle also testified that he didn’t own, nor was he invested in any property. As for real estate experience, he noted that he had a mortgage on a home prior to his accident.
Prosecution counsel asked Tuttle if he knew William “Billy” Biggs or had ever discussed business opportunities with him. Biggs was a long-time Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Board of Directors member and treasurer during and prior to McDonald’s EDA executive directorship, circa 2008 to 2018. Tuttle replied “no” to both questions, the second one on the “business opportunities” query after a defense objection was overruled by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon.
Tuttle was then asked a series of questions, many about loans apparently attributed to him involving real estate transactions involving the defendant. Had he ever loaned $3 million to facilitate a real estate transaction brought to him by his cousin? Tuttle laughed as he said, “No.”
Had he ever loaned $1.9 million to McDonald’s Da Boys LLC real estate company? This one drew a somewhat nasally laugh accompanying his “No” response, leading to an apology to the court for snort-laughing his answer, which drew some sympathetic laughter from the jury.
Tuttle was also shown a “Death Settlement Agreement” with his name on it — “I’ve never seen this before in my life,” he testified. Another “No” followed a question about a $1.75-million loan on mortgages.
If I heard correctly, Tuttle estimated he currently had $29 in his savings account, leading to his level of amusement at the financial questions being asked of him, particularly his loaning large amounts of money to facilitate real estate transactions.
Tuttle did say, however, that a portion of paperwork regarding a Buck Mountain Road transaction sent to him attracted his attention enough that he asked his cousin George Hassenplug if he should sign it. He said he was told that he shouldn’t worry, that “the deal will fall through in a couple of months.” Asked if he was involved in a $1.95-million loan related to that sale, he again replied, “No.” It might be recalled that the Buck Mountain Road transaction involved another witness that day in court, William Vaught Jr. That transaction saw the sale and repurchase of that property at an approximate $600,000 loss to the buyer in under a month, as the deal apparently did “fall through,” as predicted by George Hassenplug to his cousin.
William Vaught Jr.’s testimony indicated he was told that ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran was initially involved in that projected purchase but had later backed out. It is believed that the Aggravated Identity Theft federal charge against McDonald involves Tran’s assertion his name was forged in documents related to this real estate transaction. This reporter did not see Tran’s testimony due to his status as a pending witness at the time of that testimony.
Back to Tuttle’s direct examination, he was asked if he had ever received money from Jennifer McDonald. “No,” came his now familiar reply. Had he received $560,000 related to a Rileyville Road transaction? Once again, the answer was “No”.
Asked about his signature on a $1.075-million loan, Tuttle replied that he did not believe it was his. He observed that he “wrote a lot neater” than the signature on the document. He added that it was possible it was his signature, but he doubted it and did not recall signing that document.
Near the end of his direct examination, Tuttle was asked if he’d ever received money for his willingness to put his signature on the documents sent to him by his cousin. “No,” he replied. How about “gifts?” came the follow-up question, to which he responded in the positive, citing what he estimated as a $10 T-shirt sent to him. That led to the prosecution’s introduction of Exhibit 534, a photo of that T-shirt which had “That’s Mr. Tuttle” and letters appearing to be “COTB.” Asked the meaning of the T-shirt lettering, Tuttle said he was told it meant “Taking Care Of Business or something to that effect.”
On a brief cross-examination, the defense raised the specter of a Little League baseball game he had attended at which he had been asked to leave by an umpire after questioning ball and strike calls involving a nephew. The “That’s Mr. Tuttle” on the T-shirt was a reference to his responding, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire, defense counsel asserted. Tuttle said he had been asked to leave the game but denied that he had responded, “That’s Mr. Tuttle to you,” to the umpire.
And with that and a brief re-direct examination to clarify a date on one of the documents shown him, Larry Tuttle Sr.’s turn at the plate, I mean on the witness stand, ended.
Rabies Outbreak Detected in Front Royal’s Feline Population
Warren County Health Department Issues Directives on Containment and Prevention.
A recent incident in the Oregon Hollow Road area of Warren County has sounded the alarm bells for local pet owners and animal enthusiasts. A feline displaying signs of rabies infection was detected, prompting immediate action by the Warren County Animal Control Deputies.
On September 14, 2023, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office attended to an animal control call involving a seemingly ill feline. The on-scene Animal Control Officer found a confined cat among several others on the property. The complainant highlighted a troubling trend: people frequently desert cats in the area.
The caged feline’s behavior raised suspicions of a potential rabies infection. This suspicion was later echoed by a local veterinary clinic, where the cat was taken for a professional opinion. The unfortunate confirmation led to the feline’s humane euthanization, and its samples were sent to the Warren County Health Department for further testing.
By September 20, the grim results were in. The Warren County Animal Control Officer received confirmation that the feline was indeed infected with rabies. Given the severity and potential spread of this disease, the Warren County Health Department acted promptly. They issued a directive that, for public safety reasons, all remaining cats on the property would be trapped and humanely euthanized.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office has since amplified its efforts to spread awareness. Residents are urged to update their pets’ rabies vaccinations and to exercise caution, especially around unfamiliar animals that may exhibit erratic or unusual behavior.
Rabies, a potentially fatal disease, poses a severe threat to both animals and humans. The quick response by Warren County Animal Control highlights the significance of early detection and intervention. As the county grapples with this challenge, collaboration and vigilance among residents will be paramount. Warren County’s residents are encouraged to stay informed, taking the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and that of their beloved pets.
Michael S. Williams Receives Prestigious 2023 Community Builder Award
Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146 Honors a Community Pillar.
In a heartwarming ceremony, Michael S. Williams was recently presented with the 2023 Community Builder Award. Acknowledging his unparalleled contributions to the betterment of the community and his dedication to nurturing young minds, Williams’s recognition came as a testament to his tireless efforts.
Jennifer Knox, Principal at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School, initiated the event, expressing her gratitude for the presence of all attendees, specifically highlighting the Early Act Program. “It’s evident just how much you all cherish the moments you spend at the school with Mr. Williams,” she stated, reflecting on the evident warmth and respect the community holds for him. Knox, not missing a beat to praise the initiative, shared her appreciation of the program during a recent district board meeting, emphasizing the positive impacts it has brought about.
The highlight of the event was the words from Will Bryan of the Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146. Taking a jovial moment to impersonate Michael, Bryan, amid laughter and playful banter about misplaced glasses, transitioned to the reason for the gathering. Addressing the young attendees, he sought acknowledgment for the deep respect and appreciation the community holds for Williams. By the sea of raised hands, it was evident Michael was indeed a beloved figure.
The Community Builder Award, Bryan announced, was being presented to Michael Shawn Williams for his “outstanding service to the community.” The accolade didn’t just commend his services but recognized the profound impacts of his efforts, making the community a more vibrant, cohesive space for everyone. The gesture, from Unity Masonic Lodge No. 146, underscored the value of individuals like Williams in the broader fabric of the community.
Closing his tribute, Bryan added a personal note, reflecting the sentiments of many present. “We appreciate you,” he began, his voice holding a mixture of gratitude and admiration, “I am a better man because I’m around you.”
Michael S. Williams’s receipt of the 2023 Community Builder Award was more than just a ceremonial recognition. It was a moment of collective gratitude from a community that has benefited from his unwavering dedication and service. In the words and gestures of both young and old, one thing was clear: Michael S. Williams’s impact resonates deeply within the hearts of many.
A Tale of Two Visions: Butler’s Achievements vs. Cline’s Commitments
Butler and Cline: Two Distinct Visions for a Safer Warren County.
In a riveting forum, Warren County citizens gathered to hear from two stalwart contenders, Mark Butler and Crystal Cline, both vying for the coveted position of Warren County Sheriff. With a term lasting four years, the stakes are high, and the commitment deeper.
Crystal Cline, having served the Front Royal Police Department for over two decades, began with a heartfelt thank-you to the chamber for facilitating the forum and the community for their presence. She reminisced about her deep roots in Warren County, highlighting her involvement ranging from the Mom’s Club to coaching the traveling volleyball team. Cline’s main thrust was the need to restore leadership and integrity to the role of sheriff. She voiced concerns over the dissolution of the Animal Control Division and the pressing need for dedicated School Resource Officers (SROs). Most poignantly, she discussed the department’s retention issue and the imperative of a full staff. Addressing Sheriff Butler’s claim about a massive drug bust, Cline firmly stated that such an incident hadn’t transpired in Warren County and stressed the significance of integrity in leadership.
On the flip side, Sheriff Mark Butler, the incumbent, recounted the tumultuous period four years ago when Warren County grappled with a major scandal. He emphasized the changes he had championed during his tenure, such as attaining the accreditation that was lost in 2019, introducing community policing, and enhancing safety – all while lessening the taxpayer’s burden. One of his crowning achievements, he mentioned, was the confiscation of 77,000 fentanyl pills last year, which he tied to a broader narrative on the devastating drug epidemic. Butler concluded by affirming the commitment of his department to the Constitution and the rights it guarantees to the citizens.
As November 7th approaches, the air in Warren County is thick with anticipation. With two distinctly passionate perspectives on the table, the choice voters make will significantly shape the future of the county’s law enforcement.