WINCHESTER — The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday considered making Frederick County a “constitutional sanctuary” in response to what it believes are overly restrictive state mandates.
Last year, Virginia mandated numerous business closures, crowd capacity restrictions, mask mandates and sanitization measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has resulted in the deaths of 11,270 people in Virginia to date.
The discussion was prompted after members of the Small Business Freedom Alliance, a local group of nearly 300 small business owners, accused the super
visors of not sticking up for them against state-mandated COVID-19 restrictions. They told the board that the pandemic resulted in many small businesses closing permanently and that regulations for those that were allowed to stay open were cumbersome.
Josh Phelps of Winchester Metals, a Small Business Freedom Alliance member, said small business owners in the county felt they were not valued by local officials. He said he felt the board failed “to protect us from unchecked government overreach at any time for seemingly any reason.” He urged the supervisors to “push back against Richmond” and say that the businesses in Frederick County are not going to be told how they will operate.
Those who spoke at Wednesday’s meeting especially objected to emergency orders from the governor that did not require support from the General Assembly. They accused the state government of overreach and violating their constitutional freedoms.
“This cannot be allowed to happen again, and this will happen again,” Phelps said. “Some new emergency will emerge that state or federal leadership will attach itself to, and this whole exercise will begin one more time. That’s why we must take a stand now.”
School Board candidate Miles Adkins added that the supervisors should also reaffirm their commitment to making the county a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”
In December 2019, the supervisors adopted a resolution opposing any laws that would infringe on Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, has said these resolutions “have no legal effect.”
Several members of the board, which is entirely Republican, said Wednesday night and at previous meetings that they sent letters to Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam and state representatives objecting to the state-mandated restrictions, to little avail.
Back Creek Supervisor Shawn Graber said he would like either the county’s Code and Ordinance Committee or the county attorney to explore making the jurisdiction a “constitutional sanctuary county.”
“What does that mean? That simply means that if any law or ordinance is passed at the federal or state level that it would not be enforced in Frederick County if it was deemed to be unconstitutional,” Graber said. “I believe that can go a long way to mitigating some of the concerns that have not only been represented tonight through the speakers but have been represented through many constituents in my district.”
Gainesboro Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy said he would support making a resolution declaring the county a constitutional sanctuary but that “it’s not going to have a whole lot of effect.”
“Because we as a body have no control over the other constitutional officers,” McCarthy said. “So unless you get a commitment from the other constitutional officers including your treasurer, your commissioner and your clerks and your sheriff, then what we pass here doesn’t have a whole lot of impact. And that’s why it’s so important that you don’t rely on this body to solve this problem but that you go to the root of the problem, which is in Richmond.”
McCarthy said the way to make change happen is “to take the tyrants out of Richmond and replace them with the people who will do the right thing.”
“Even if they don’t get elected, that doesn’t mean that our constitutional rights go away,” he continued. “They are inherent in our being. We are born with these rights. And if it comes down to it, at some point you and your children may have to decide it’s time for civil disobedience. You do not have to give in to a government that will infringe upon your God-given constitutional rights.”
Opequon Supervisor Bob Wells apologized to the crowd for not making them feel like the board supported them. He also encouraged the public to vote in November.
“Let’s take our state back,” Wells said.
Also at the meeting, the board passed a resolution of appreciation for County Administrator Kris Tierney for his more than 30 years of service to the county. He was hired as zoning administrator in 1988 before becoming deputy planning director and then deputy county administrator. In 2017, he was named county administrator. Tierney plans to retire on July 1.
Attending the meeting at the County Administration Building at 107 N. Kent St. were Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. and board members Bob Wells, Blaine Dunn, Shawn Graber, J. Douglas McCarthy, David Stegmaier and Judith McCann-Slaughter.