An enthusiastic and confident Leslie Mathews — founder of the Warren County chapter of Moms for Liberty, a national organization designed to improve public schools through increased parental involvement — held her first information meeting Sunday, February 19, at the Public Safety Building in Front Royal.
Mathews is confident that she accomplished her goal at the first meeting of making parents aware of what local public schools must do to improve.
Before an enthusiastic audience, Mathews spoke for 30 minutes and answered questions for an hour on the mission of Moms for Liberty and how the group has multiplied in two years from one chapter in one state (Florida) in 2021 to almost 200 chapters in 37 states today.
In her presentation, Mathews stressed the importance of parents becoming more aware of local public schools’ curriculum, discipline, and budget problems.
She also emphasized the importance of parents exercising their God-given “parental rights” to solve those problems.
One of the first things she wants her chapter to determine is why 23 percent of school-aged children in Warren County — almost one in four — are not attending public schools.
Mathews said repeatedly she wants to ensure that local tax dollars spent on public education are spent wisely.
It was pointed out during her presentation that local taxpayers spent $81 million to educate 5,000 students last fiscal year — an average of $16,200 per student per year.
Also, classroom teacher salaries last year ranged from $45,900 to $67,624 — compared to $115,000, the average salary paid to 34 administrators.
The 34 administrators — making an average of $115,000 — consisted of one superintendent, two assistant superintendents, nineteen principals, and assistant principals, two high school athletic directors, and ten directors and supervisors of various departments.
Total classroom salaries last year comprised only 32 percent of the $81 million spent on public education.
The next meeting of Warren County’s Moms for Liberty will be held Sunday, April 2nd, at 3:00 pm in the Public Safety Building meeting room.
Watch the Moms for Liberty meeting on this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
County Overseen EDA Takes Care of Business at Last Meeting of 2023
The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority (FR-WC EDA) held its monthly meeting on Friday, December 8, 2023, at 8 a.m. All seven Board members and legal counsel were present.
The regular meeting began with Committee and Board Reports. Board Vice-Chair J.D. Walter and Treasurer Jim Wolfe announced that the Board will be having a Strategic Planning Meeting on Friday, January 12, 2024. The Asset Committee Chair, Jorie Martin, provided an update on the ongoing maintenance at the 400 Kendrick Lane building. Warren County Director of Economic Development Joe Petty discussed the FY-2025 budget schedule and an overview of the previous Open-Door Business Session in November. The Board then approved online banking access for the Chair, Treasurer, and a designated County staff member.
During the new business portion of the agenda, Equus Capital Partners provided an update on their due diligence as part of a contract to purchase property within Stephens Industrial Park. In addition to typical findings from geotechnical work and preliminary engineering, they are working with the gas company on dedicating a defined width of the gas line easement, which dates back to 1949.
After the Equus presentation, a status update on the TransPortation Opportunity Fund (TPOF) was given. The Board then approved the 2024 Regular Meeting Schedule, the second term option in the current lease agreement with CCAP, and extended the Baldwin Grazing lease an additional year.
The Board concluded the meeting with a closed session to discuss the potential disposition of real property to business prospects and legal consultation on active litigation. Following the closed session, the Board authorized Joe Petty to dispose of two vehicles owned by the EDA; approved extending the contract on Stephens Industrial Park, Parcel 2, until December 31, 2024; and approved a resolution authorizing legal counsel to draft a lease for the Avtex Parking lot.
As noted above, the FR-WC EDA will be having its Strategic Planning meeting on Friday, January 12, 2024 (8 a.m.), and their next regular monthly Board meeting will be held on Friday, January 26, 2024, also at 8 a.m. at the Warren County Government Center.
(From a release by the Warren County-overseen FR-WC EDA)
Collaborative Effort Leads to Swift Arrest in Warren County
Four Law Enforcement Agencies Join Forces in High-Risk Operation.
In an exemplary display of inter-agency cooperation, four law enforcement bodies in Warren County successfully collaborated to apprehend a dangerous suspect involved in a drive-by shooting. This operation, occurring in the early hours of December 9, 2023, highlights the effectiveness of coordinated efforts in ensuring public safety.
The operation commenced following a distress call from the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO) to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO). The call was regarding a high-risk vehicle stop linked to a drive-by shooting in Culpeper County, reported less than an hour earlier.
The suspect’s vehicle, identified by the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and spotted by an RCSO lieutenant, was followed into Warren County. Recognizing the gravity of the situation and the potential risk to public safety, RCSO sought additional support from WCSO. The Front Royal Police Department (FRPD) was also involved, setting up spike strips at the county line as a precautionary measure.
The high-risk vehicle stop, strategically executed on Route 522 South before reaching more populous areas, led to the peaceful surrender of the suspect. This outcome was a testament to the meticulous planning and coordination among the WCSO, RCSO, CCSO, and FRPD.
The suspect, identified as Demetre Dominique Skinner from Manassas, VA, faces multiple charges, including shooting from a vehicle, aggravated malicious wounding, and the use of a firearm during a felony. The joint operation’s success underscores the importance of inter-agency collaboration in handling critical situations.
The victim of the shooting was airlifted to UVA Charlottesville and is currently in critical condition. The incident, according to detectives, was isolated to the Culpeper area, involving only Skinner and the victim.
The swift and effective action of the four collaborating agencies in apprehending a dangerous individual serves as a reminder of the critical role law enforcement plays in community safety. The successful outcome of this joint operation not only ensured the swift administration of justice but also prevented potential further harm to the residents of Warren County and its surrounding areas.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for December 11 – 15, 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.
No lane closures were reported.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Shoulder closures for mowing operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through December 18.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures and traffic-lane shifts as needed, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through March 2024. 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.
*NEW* Route 55 (Strasburg Road) – Flag traffic control between Stoney Mountain Drive and Shenandoah County line for inspection of bridge over Norfolk Southern Railway, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday (December 10).
*NEW* Route 340/522 (Winchester Road) – Southbound alternating lane closures between Route 637 (Guard Hill Road/Riverton Road) and Front Royal town limits for inspection of bridge over Crooked Run, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday.
No lane closures were reported.
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.
Penny Lane Hair Co: A Fresh Cut on Front Royal’s Main Street
Front Royal Celebrates the Opening of Penny Lane Hair Co on Main Street.
In a vibrant ceremony, the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce, led by Executive Director Nike Foster Cales, welcomed a business to its new location in the heart of the town. Penny Lane Hair Co, located at 413 E Main St, opened its doors amidst the cheers and support of the local community, including Mayor Lori Cockrell and Supervisor Walt Mabe.
The air was filled with excitement as Mallory Deinert, the owner of Penny Lane Hair Co, was greeted with warm applause and cheers from a crowd that included Chamber members, friends, and representatives from various local businesses. The event not only marked a new business opening but also symbolized the ongoing revitalization and diversification of Main Street’s business landscape.
Mayor Lori Cockrell expressed her enthusiasm, reflecting on the uniqueness of each ribbon-cutting event she has attended since joining the council and becoming mayor. “Each opening brings something new to our community, and we’re thrilled to support them all,” she remarked. Her words echoed the sentiment of inclusivity and diversity that the town prides itself on.
Supervisor Walt Mabe also shared his satisfaction with the expansion of downtown, noting the importance of adding varied businesses to the area. “It’s a sign of our town’s growth and vitality,” he said.
For Mallory Deinert, the opening of Penny Lane Hair Co. is the culmination of a lifelong dream. Overcome with emotion, Deinert shared her journey, “I’ve always wanted to be on Main Street, and now here we are, just a few doors down from my mom’s business. It’s a dream come true.” She dedicated this milestone to her family, mentioning her late father, her brother, and her mother, whose birthday coincided with the opening.
The community’s support was palpable as Deinert thanked everyone for their encouragement and shared her excitement for the future of Penny Lane Hair Co on Main Street. Her story is a testament to the power of local support and the importance of small businesses in building vibrant communities.
The opening of Penny Lane Hair Co. is more than just a new business on Main Street; it’s a symbol of the community’s resilience, growth, and commitment to supporting local entrepreneurs. As Front Royal continues to welcome diverse businesses, it strengthens its reputation as a supportive and dynamic place for commerce and community.
McDonald Defense Counsel Renews Motions, Including for a New Trial, as Feb. 12 Sentencing Date Looms
Federal officials in Harrisonburg have verified that defense counsel for former Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority Executive Director Jennifer McDonald has filed renewed motions seeking a new trial for their client, as well as the overturning of several of the 34 guilty verdicts a federal jury of six men and six women in Harrisonburg delivered on November 1. Verdicts being sought to be overturned include several counts of bank fraud and one of aggravated identity theft. The latter of those charges involves the use of ITFederal principal Truc “Curt” Tran’s name in promoting one of the real estate transactions McDonald was convicted of using to misdirect money to her personal benefit or that of others under the guise of conducting FR-WC EDA related business. Attempts to reach defense counsel about their filing were unsuccessful as of publication.
The defense has submitted its motions, similar to ones denied by Judge Elizabeth K. Dillon at trial, as the sentencing of McDonald, set for 10 a.m., Monday, February 12, 2024, looms over their client, who remains free on bond. The defense motions reiterate points made by federal Public Defenders Office attorneys Andrea Harris and Abigail Thibeault at trial and in closing arguments delivered October 31. The three defense witnesses called on that final day of the trial appeared to be presented in an attempt to discredit some of the 67 witnesses called by the prosecution in the trial that began on August 21 and ended on November 30, following several delays of a week to several weeks due to a need to suspend or reschedule the trial because of medically verified illnesses or issues of involved parties, on several occasions defendant McDonald.
The new motions, like those rejected at trial, focus on the defense’s central contention that McDonald and the FR-WC EDA had entered into a secret agreement behind closed doors to pay McDonald $5 million or more in exchange for her not filing a sexual harassment or assault lawsuit against local government officials over actions she alleges during her tenure as FR-EDA executive director. The lone signature on a defense exhibit submitted in support of this scenario belonged to former FR-WC EDA Board Chair Patty Wines, who was by then several years deceased. The prosecution asserted the signature was a forgery. Other EDA officials called by the prosecution, including board member Ron Llewellyn, also unhappily called as one of the defense witnesses on October 31, denied any knowledge of the existence of such a document. It was noted during trial testimony that such a document could not have been approved without a full vote of the EDA Board of Directors.
The defense motion for a new trial centers on the asserted exclusion of evidence related to the alleged sexual harassment secret agreement. Arguments about the exclusion of a transcript of grand jury testimony given by someone with alleged knowledge of the secret agreement or the absence of that person being called as a witness at trial appear to be at the center of the mistrial/new trial motion. There is also an objection to a related jury instruction given by Judge Dillon, noting that the prosecution didn’t have to produce every piece of evidence or potential witness related to the case at trial.
According to the federal 10th Western District of Virginia website, thus far a hearing date on the new defense motions has not been set for the Harrisonburg federal courtroom.
McDonald was accused of diverting as much as $ 6.5 million of EDA assets to her direct personal benefit out of an estimated $26 million alleged to have been moved under false pretenses during a four-year period (2014-2018) of her executive leadership of the FR-WC EDA. Part of that larger total, a $10-million loan with additional developmental expenses estimated at as much as $2 million, was approved in support of Tran’s ITFederal company’s development plan earmarked for 30 acres of the 148-acre Royal Phoenix Business Park property in Front Royal at the former Avtex federal Superfund site. EDA officials and civil cases attorneys assert that a $10-million loan and subsequent addition of developmental expenses were achieved under false pretenses as to Tran’s ability to achieve his submitted developmental plan. However, at the time some of these McDonald-involved real estate transactions were occurring, between 2016 and 2018, information was being circulated that Tran was planning to invest in other business opportunities at other locations in the county. Tran has said such investments were discussed but never finalized and never signed on to by him.
Virginia’s Creative Harvest: Celebrating Farming with Hay Bale Art
Hay Bale Decorating Contest Showcases Agricultural Pride and Community Talent.
As autumn colors adorned Virginia, the state’s agribusinesses, community groups, and educational organizations displayed their creativity and agricultural pride in the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s (VFBF) annual Hay Bale Decorating Contest. Now in its ninth year, the contest has become a cherished tradition, drawing a record number of 59 entries, each telling a unique story of Virginia’s rich agricultural heritage.
The competition invited participants from across the state, including county Farm Bureaus, FFA chapters, 4-H clubs, and individuals, to create imaginative displays using hay bales. The themes were as diverse as Virginia’s agricultural landscape, depicting farm animals, idyllic farmscapes, horticulture, farm machinery, and a variety of Virginia-produced commodities.
Faye Hundley, VFBF Women’s Leadership Committee chair, expressed her excitement over the record participation. “The imagination and ingenuity everyone puts into the hay bale displays is always so impressive,” she said. More than just a fun activity, these hay bale artworks serve a dual purpose – they are not only visually appealing but also play a significant role in fostering discussions about farming and connecting communities with their agricultural roots.
Local businesses and organizations, including farmers’ markets and school agricultural groups, were encouraged to participate, highlighting the contest’s role in strengthening community bonds. The winners, spanning various categories, were awarded a $100 cash prize and a trophy, with their accomplishments celebrated on the VFBF Women’s Leadership Program Facebook page.
The winners of this year’s contest were:
The VFBF, with nearly 135,000 members across 88 county Farm Bureaus, stands as Virginia’s largest farmer advocacy group. This non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization remains dedicated to supporting and promoting the state’s vital agriculture industry.
The Hay Bale Decorating Contest is more than a display of creativity; it’s a testament to Virginia’s agricultural spirit and community involvement. Through these artistic expressions, participants have showcased their talent and highlighted the importance of agriculture in their lives and those around them. It’s a colorful reminder of the state’s deep-rooted connection to the land and the people who cultivate it.