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Vigil for Democracy launches into 3rd year in the populist political trenches



Len Sherp, far left, is preparing to move to Oregon but his Vigil for Democracy will continue beyond his departure. Photos/Roger Bianchini

About 20 people, including 26th District Democratic State Senatorial candidate April Moore, gathered at Front Royal’s Town Gazebo at noon on Wednesday, March 13, to join Len Sherp in marking the start of the third year of the Vigil for Democracy he began on March 8, 2017.

“We mark our calendar by Wednesdays – we started on the second Wednesday of March 2017 and it’s the second Wednesday of March 2019,” Sherp said of any date discrepancies.

On that second Wednesday of 2017 Sherp explained the impetus for his Vigil for Democracy to Royal Examiner: “This administration in eight weeks has shown that it doesn’t understand the rule of law; does not respect the separation of powers; and has a Republican Congress that for some reason refuses to stand up and be adult.  There are threats to our democracy when our president lies every day.  And I think there are some underlying issues – I’m holding a sign today that says ‘Show us the Tax Returns’. Every president, I believe since Eisenhower if not even earlier, has released their tax returns, so that we can see that they are not indebted to or beholding to other foreign powers.”

And for Sherp on March 13, 2019, not much has changed.

Kathleen Roush and Hannah Bement flank Len Sherp at first Vigil for Democracy in March 2017 – affordable health care and Trump’s financial ties to other countries were and remain vigil concerns.

“At the time I told you that I thought we faced a crisis in our country that basic constitutional principals seemed to be ignored; and we were heading toward a path that I felt the future of our democratic-republican form of government was in peril. Nothing over the last two years has convinced me otherwise,” Sherp said.

“We still have disrespect from the highest office in the nation, the presidency of the United States, for the rule of law; disrespect for the separation of powers; disrespect for the truth; we have disrespect for a free press; we have disrespect for the hardworking members of the federal government; we have disrespect for our allies; and we have instead an affection for dictators and a wish from our president that perhaps he could be president for life like his friend, Comrade Xi (Xi Jinping, president of China).

“And he talks about ‘love letters’ with (North Korean Dictator) Kim Jung Un – and we stopped our annual or semi-annual military exercises with the Republic of South Korea, our strongest ally in the Far East – what did we get for that? Oh, we got a picture with Kim Jung Un.

“And I didn’t even mention the violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution and the violations of the ban against nepotism – I could go on and on,” Sherp said deciding to end the litany of reasons the Vigil for Democracy continues, and will continue beyond his pending move to Oregon. Sherp and his wife are moving west in several weeks to be close to their daughter.

Sherp pointed us toward other vigil participants for comments, including those who will be instrumental in continuing to see the Vigil for Democracy remains a viable expression of political dissent guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Long-time vigil participants Bob Hill and Jorge Amselle will share Vigil for Democracy organizational rolls after Sherp’s departure.

Vigil participants surrounding Sherp, kneeling with cap, flash two fingers to celebrate two years and counting of a call for the continuation of constitutional norms, including political transparency and legal accountability for the president. Bob Hill, kneeling with dog, and Jorge Amselle (with ‘Trump’s Agenda is Toxic’ sign) will take over organizational responsibility for vigil following Sherp’s move west.

We asked Amselle why he, like Hill and others in the vigil trenches, has been there on Wednesday afternoons with Sherp for the bulk of two years.

“This is the only thing that keeps me sane; this is the only thing that gives me hope for our country – to be out here with people who recognize the danger that we’re in, who are like-minded. I believe I told you before, I used to be a conservative Republican for 30 years; for years I voted Republican. When Trump was running I kept telling my fellow Republicans ‘You can’t vote for this guy – he’s insane and a racist.’

“And when he won the nomination I decided that’s it, I’m out, I’m done. And I left the Republican Party and volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign and did everything I could to make sure Trump didn’t win.”

Over two years later Amselle is maintaining his commitment to make Americans, including Republicans, see what he sees in the 45th president – a would-be demagogue who puts self interest above the national interest.

Amselle pointed out how many congressional Republicans, Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz being prominent examples, were documented during the 2016 nominating campaign saying horrible things about Trump’s character; but now fall easily in line with the worst of the president’s policy initiatives or personal impulses.

“I think it’s just winning at all costs – nothing matters but winning, you know, no morals, no qualms about lying, cheating, stealing, pandering to white supremacists, empowering racism and other forms of bigotry; being inconsistent on all the things you ever preached. See, there used to be a competition between all different kinds of conservatives, your libertarians, your evangelicals, all different kinds of conservatives were there to argue and debate conservative ideologies.”

“Now that’s all gone, now it’s just Trump – the only ideology that matters is Trump,” Amselle observed of an apparent party-wide fear of not antagonizing Trump’s sizable base among Republican voters.

And when the cult of personality meets ideological intransience tempered with stereotypical vilification of minorities and outsiders you have a historically dangerous combination – a combination often found at the outset of the rise of state totalitarianism.

It is a trend another former Republican present at the March 13 vigil has noticed. April Moore is positioning herself for a Democratic challenge of 26th District State Senate Republican incumbent Mark Obenshain in the upcoming election. See her observations on the trend of Republicanism in the Trump era mentioned by Amselle in this linked story.

26th District candidate April Moore worries over the direction of her former party

Of her presence in staunchly Republican Front Royal and Warren County for the March 13 Vigil for Democracy Moore said, “I’m impressed people here in Front Royal have been out here every week for the last two years protesting what the Republican Party has become and what it’s doing: this party that nominated, elected and now serves as accomplices to a president who lies to the public multiple times every day; and who is assaulting our rule of law; and even seems to be in some kind of strange cahoots with our most dangerous adversary.

“So part of why I’m running is the reason they’re out here,” Moore said of Vigil for Democracy participants.

April Moore, Democratic contender for the state 26th District Senatorial seat, addressed the March 13 Vigil for Democracy crowd on her concerns about the impacts national, statewide and local of the Trump presidency.

Bob Hill, who with Jorge Amselle will continue the organizational impetus for the Vigil for Democracy in Sherp’s pending absence, sees a fundamental necessity for that continuation.

“I think the vigil has been an awakening for a lot of the people here in Front Royal that there is a two-party system and two parties make us stronger. Obviously if you have a one-party system you are heading away from democratic principals,” Hill observed of the role of political dissent in non-totalitarian nations.

Hill, who was a primary vigil player in establishing a dialogue with elements of the pro-Trump contingent across Chester Street, pointed to mutual concerns about local politics.

“My Trump friends over there,” he said gesturing toward Ralph and Michael Waller and their pro-Trump signs across Chester Street, “when I talk to them about what’s going on locally, about the EDA or about insurance policies (against abuses) they’ll say to me ‘Well, it’s the politicians’ and I’ll say ‘What politicians?’ and they’ll say ‘The ones we voted in’ – and I’ll ask ‘What party are they?’ And in staunchly-conservative Warren County and Front Royal the answer with few generally independent exceptions is Republican.

In August 2017 Bob Hill, right, crossed the Chester St. political divide to help start a dialogue with Trump supporter Ralph Waller, left. The pair found initial common ground over a shared concern for the environment.

“Years ago my wife came home and said, ‘Look, I could be a Republican – I believe in smaller government except for one thing: smaller government would mean fewer people overseeing and making sure that I, as a Republican, don’t think of myself first and foremost.’

“Sure it’s smaller government, but it’s also corrupt government,” Hill said of an unmonitored economic system where the largest and wealthiest competitors are free to prey upon, not only smaller-positioned competitors, but the marketplace itself.

“Sometimes people just don’t see the forest for the trees,” Hill concluded with an age-old expression of the problem of seeing the bigger picture when you find yourself immersed in the middle of that picture.

And when one looks at the political picture being painted by the current occupant of the White House: from a general disregard for federal institutions from law enforcement to intelligence and the diplomatic wing of the State Department, coupled with the number of unfilled federal positions after two-plus years of the Trump presidency, as well as the conflicting professional interests of many who have been appointed to head oversight agencies like the EPA, Commerce and Interior, it would seem the core political issues that have brought Vigil for Democracy participants together for over two years are nowhere near a resolution.

So we imagine you will continue to see these anniversary reports, along with those coming across the Chester Street political divide, for at least another two years …

Two-plus years of the Trump presidency have eased none of Vigil for Democracy founder Len Sherp’s concerns about threats to constitutional norms and the rule of law emanating from the White House.

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Major health insurance carrier may quit Valley Health; health care costs may rise for many in 2021



Valley Health issued a warning this month that, once again, insurer Anthem is proving difficult to deal with in contract negotiations that could lead to a discontinuance of relationships with the insurance giant that covers up to 70 percent of its Valley Health patients.

In a letter to policy holders, Valley Health’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, Mark Nantz, said, “We want you to prepare for the possibility that Valley Health will no longer be ‘in-network’ with Anthem beginning January 1, 2021.”

According to local physicians, Anthem is the biggest insurer in the area and, one said, is “trying to drive down reimbursements and not for the first time.”

Warren Memorial Hospital and the rest of the Valley Health network have been warned of the potential loss of insurance coverage by the Anthem network as negotiations flounder around system costs. Royal Examiner Photo by Roger Bianchini

Of the situation Nantz added, “Unfortunately, Anthem has been unwilling to work with Valley Health caregivers… Valley Health will continue working in good faith to reach a solution before the end of the year. If Anthem is unwilling to work with our team and considers Valley Health “out of network”, your health care costs will likely increase.”

He said further that Valley Health, after several months of negotiations, has offered Anthem a solution to the situation (that) would “protect (patients) access to care while also making sure our team can continue confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and other health challenges.”

Many who receive anthem coverage in the Valley are retired federal employees. Valley Health, on its website, urges them to consider transferring to another carrier during the government’s open season November 9 – December 7. For these, and other details visit

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North Warren Fire Department negotiates on a $500,000 fire truck, seeks funding to finalize a deal by December



North Warren Volunteer Fire & Rescue (NWVFR) Company 10 isn’t the only local organization experiencing a funding shortage, but COVID-19 could not have hit the northside fire department at a worse time.

At the beginning of this year, North Warren’s creaky but still functional fire engine was beginning to suck up thousands of dollars in maintenance costs – $10,000 in repairs in just the last few months. In January, out went the call for donations to put a down payment of $100,000 on a new half-million-dollar emergency vehicle and all went well until March. As the virus took off, there was $46,000 in the truck fund.

However, since March through the end of July, just four donations had arrived in North Warren’s coffers ($325); and according to an SOS letter from Company 10 President Ray Warriner and Fire Chief Reggie Fritts, things are looking pretty desperate.

While this is neither of them, N. Warren Company 10 is seeking funding for a new firetruck to replace its aging unit that has become a money pit on expensive repair maintenance. Royal Examiner file photo.

Acknowledging that “we are all in a period of unprecedented hard times” but citing the increasing cost of truck repairs, Warriner wrote: “We have been holding off seeking donations but feel we must ask those who can, to consider donating now… (to) purchase or lease a dependable emergency vehicle that can respond to your calls for help.”

He and Fritts said their truck committee had hoped to have a contract by the end of June but extended the target to the fall while developing specifications on a truck that will meet the needs of the community. Without giving any dollar amounts, the letter to community residents said a combination of generous donations from citizens, business and industry, are closing the funding gap, but more dollars are needed from the communities served – Warren, Frederick (Lake Frederick), Clarke (White Post area), and Shenandoah Counties so that “we (can) order the new truck soon.”

In a telephone conversation, Warriner said Frederick County had only recently been added to the fire department’s responsibility but was generous in its financial contribution to NWVFR. He indicated about $60,000 was in hand toward a $100,000 target and that a 15-year lease arrangement was being sought. He said talks on a contract would continue this Saturday, October 3rd, and that hopefully there would be sufficient money available to complete a contract by the end of the year.

Fingers crossed!

Tax deductible donations may be made online at or call (540) 635-6759.

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New ‘Dining’, ‘Shop’, ‘Walking Mall’ banners portend more public art on the horizon



Melissa Ichiuji is a local artist and Front Royal resident who is a founding member of the Warren County Project for the Arts (WCPA), dating to its February 2020 inception. The placement of new downtown Arts Project banners advertising dining and other business opportunities in Front Royal’s downtown, including as part of the late spring implemented weekend walking mall phenomena, gave Royal Examiner the opportunity to meet her and others involved in a growing downtown arts movement.

“We are a group of local artists, residents and some town administrators who have gotten together as a committee; we are a branch of the Architectural Review group (Board of Architectural Review, BAR) – sort of an informal committee, this is all volunteer. Our mission is to curate and facilitate public art in Front Royal, Virginia.”

Will the banner artists present please step forward and take a bow – from left, walking mall entranceway banner artist Kate Fristoe hedges at the front and center offer, as Melissa Ichiuji, interested admirer of the arts Anita, and Chris Stephens urge her forward. Below, a closer look at the absent artist Dagmara Weinberg’s work. Royal Examiner Photos by Roger Bianchini

Ichiuji said the group has also been working with the Façade Grant Program that is part of the State-administered Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) downtown revitalization project the Town has received to make physical improvements geared toward downtown economic revitalization of localities in the Commonwealth. As part of their work in this regard, the Arts Project group has been involved, not only in the building wall-side mural project underway, but also development of some advertising banners to coincide with the Town’s weekend closing of portions of East Main Street to vehicular traffic to facilitate a walking mall aspect to Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.

That impetus began in late May to help revitalize downtown businesses, initially particularly restaurants, hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic State-mandated business closings and social distancing restrictions that while unpopular with some, have helped Virginia stay on the moderately impacted side of the national equation that has seen over 200,000 reported deaths over an eight-month period.

“So, we believe that art is a universal language that can elevate the spirit of the community and especially in this time it’s a little bit divided, it’s the one way we can elevate the town and have it come together,” Ichiuji continued, pointing to the banner we were standing under in front of Element, one of downtown Front Royal’s featured eateries. “And this is one of the ways we’re doing that as kind of a quick pick me up of Main Street since the walking mall is going to be open until November 30th just as kind of a quick, colorful addition to liven up the street.”

At left, Joe Petty biked up to join the Warren County Project for the Arts discussion. On the Manor Line Market wall behind, an early mural effort of butterfly wings that has become a popular photo op for downtown visitors.

She noted the financial assistance of one local citizen, the semi-anonymous “Frank” acknowledged at a recent Front Royal Town Council meeting for his financial assistance in facilitating the sign and banner project.

“This was kind of pulled off pretty quickly, and Frank was kind enough to support this effort. So, without his help it would not have been expedited and maybe wouldn’t have happened. So, we’re very thankful to Frank,” Ichiuji said with a nod to the nearby and camera-shy patron of the banner project.

“Our original mandate, self-proclaimed mandate, was to upgrade the quality of the public art offerings in town,” Arts Project artist Chris Stephens added as this reporter recruited an Art Project group photo op. “We weren’t in the mural business; we were just in the review of signs and murals. And now we are about to create some murals, have funding for them, and now the signs were added as we were asked to do something for the closing of Main Street every weekend.”

Above, WC Project for the Arts walking mall signage at the East Main St./Commerce Ave. intersection. Below, at the Chester St. intersection – ‘Dine, Shop, Discover’ sounds like a worthy weekend project in Historic Downtown Front Royal.

Kate Fristoe was acknowledged as one of the involved artists in the banner project present for our start of the September 25-27 weekend look at the new banners. We asked Fristoe about her involvement.

“I got involved because my dad is one of the founders of the group. And I’m also a local artist with a little bit of experience with murals, mostly indoor murals. And I mainly do logos and graphic design. So, it just kind of happened that I became the resident committee designer for this project. And we aimed to give something really fresh and colorful and indicate there was a walking mall because it seemed not everybody knew about that. So, we wanted to make some noise and get people excited,” Fristoe said as I gathered those present for a shot under one of the “Dine Front Royal” banners at Element.

An artist noted for her work on those walking mall pole banners, not present for our Friday look at them, was Dagmara Weinberg. So, here’s a shout out to Dagmara for her stellar street pole banner work. Fristoe was cited for her work on the large “Walking Mall” banners at either end of East Main Street, as well as the sandwich boards on side street intersections as at the Chester Street barrier. Also acknowledged though not present, was committee member Mary Ellen Lynn, also a town electric department employee.

Above, a closer look at one of the border walking mall signs; below, what’s not to LOVE about the Warren County Project for the Arts efforts downtown?!?

And as that photo gathering was proceeding, Joe Petty rode up on his bike and joined the group, which acknowledged the County Zoning Administrator as a part of the Arts Project team. So, we asked Joe about his involvement with the Warren County Project for the Arts.

“I am a citizen of Warren County and Front Royal, grew up here and am passionate about fine arts. And as Chris said, we came together to bring quality art to Warren County, whether that is through murals, exhibitions; it could be music, performing arts. We just really wanted to create this mechanism for artists to come together in our community that we thought was lacking.”

Petty asserted the presence of an artists’ community in the town and county that has perhaps been more to the forefront of local culture in the past, than it has been in recent years. That led this reporter to invoke the name of late indoor and outside wall mural and Village Commons sundial sculptor Patricia Windrow, who was a forerunner in the creation of public art in Front Royal in the years before her death.

“There are great artists here, there’s been examples of it in the past,” Petty acknowledged with a nod to Windrow, “And we wanted to bring that spirit back, especially down to Main Street. We think that art provides an experience, it creates place-making and it creates community. We wanted to bring that here … and when people leave Front Royal, we want them to leave with that positive experience,” Petty observed of the Warren County Project for the Arts impetus and direction.

“We kind of got together before the COVID hit, and yea, the walking mall created an opportunity to do some things; and so did the Community Development Block Grant. And we’re trying to take advantage of that opportunity. And hopefully that will spur more excitement and murals, public art, sculptures – there’s bands out here now,” Petty noted gesturing to walking mall sites where businesses have brought live music to their doorsteps.

“It’s exciting to see new things happening that we just haven’t seen before and hopefully art can be a part of that,” Petty concluded of the Warren County Project for the Arts involvement in helping present a best face forward for this community, beginning with Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District and the Town’s exploration of a weekend walking mall concept.

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Front royal man charged with Grand Larceny and Forcible Sodomy of a 36-year-old victim



On Saturday, September 26, 2020, Troy W. Stotts, 51, of Front Royal, was charged with § 18.2-95, Grand Larceny and § 18.2-67.1, Forcible Sodomy of a 36-year-old victim. These felony charges are in connection with an investigation that was conducted at 1122 North Royal Avenue at the Budget Inn. The victim in this case made allegations against the accused stating that he took advantage of her while sleeping and stole her cash. The victim was transported by detectives to Winchester Medical Center for further treatment in this case.

Troy W. Stotts. Photo courtesy of RSW Regional Jail.

Mr. Stotts was arrested on September 27, 2020, without incident and transported to the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren (RSW) Regional Jail where he went before the magistrate and was ordered to be held without bond.  A court date for these offenses is set for October 20, 2020, at 10:00am, in Warren County General District Court. Further details regarding this matter cannot be released at this time due to the pending nature of the investigation.

This investigation is ongoing and anyone with any further information is asked to contact Front Royal Police Detective M.R. Ramey at (540) 636-2208 or by email at

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VDOT: Warren County Traffic alert for September 28 – October 2, 2020



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 entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.

*NEW* Mile marker 16 to 13, westbound – Overnight alternating lane closures for pavement patching, 8 p.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday.

*NEW* Mile marker 300 to 299, southbound – Right shoulder closures for ditch cleaning, Tuesday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

No lane closures reported.

Various roads – Flagger traffic control for utility tree trimming, Monday to Friday during daylight hours.

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 entry or a revised entry since last week’s report.

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

The VDOT Customer Service Center can assist with reporting road hazards, asking transportation questions, or getting information related to Virginia’s roads. Call 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623) or use its mobile-friendly website at Agents are available 24 hours-a-day, seven days a week.

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Eleven test postive for COVID-19 at Warren Memorial Hospital and Lynn Care Center



Valley Health Warren Memorial Hospital (WMH) and its adjacent long term care facility, Lynn Care Center, reported Friday, September 25, 2020, that nine employees and two Lynn Care residents have tested positive for COVID-19. The clinical leadership of the facilities has initiated a series of precautionary steps to identify, notify, isolate, and test those who may be at risk for virus exposure.

Six of the employees work at Lynn Care. All the center’s other residents and staff have been tested and results are pending. Three of the COVID-positive employees work in the hospital, and five additional WMH employees have been tested and are awaiting results.

“The safety and well-being of our residents, patients, and staff is our top priority,” said WMH President Floyd Heater. “We are monitoring our staff and residents closely and are confident no other staff, Lynn Care residents, or hospital patients currently have symptoms. We are working in partnership with local and state health officials to ensure we are taking all appropriate steps to safeguard hospital patients, long-term care residents, and staff from exposure.”

Effective immediately, Warren Memorial and Lynn Care are suspending visits by family and care partners, with exceptions only for special circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Also on hold are visits by health care professions students completing clinical rotations at WMH and Lynn Care.

Since March, both the hospital and the 120-bed Lynn Care Center have meticulously followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to safeguard staff and residents from COVID-19, including:

• Enhanced infection control precautions including preadmission COVID-19 testing and 14-day quarantine for all new admissions;

• Screening residents, staff, and essential visitors for an expanded list of symptoms;

• Restricting visitation and entry of people to the building;

• Testing staff and residents for COVID-19 based on current protocols and availability of tests;

• Canceling group activities and dining;

• Requiring universal facemask wearing for all staff;

• Encouraging residents to wear masks and utilizing face shields when caring for residents who cannot wear a mask.

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