WINCHESTER — The Frederick County Board of Supervisors voted 6-1 Wednesday night to adopt a resolution asking the General Assembly to limit the governor’s ability to impose mandates.
Back Creek Supervisor Shawn Graber introduced the resolution. Recent state mandates include requiring state employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or get tested every week and requiring those who enter school buildings to wear face masks amid the pandemic. As of Sept. 23, the virus had killed 12,463 Virginians.
Graber, Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. and supervisors Blaine Dunn, J. Douglas McCarthy, Judith McCann-Slaughter and David Stegmaier voted in favor of the resolution. Supervisor Bob Wells voted against it.
Graber said the resolution was not about whether he agrees with the vaccine or thinks it’s effective, but rather about standing up for “the individual rights of people to make medical decisions for themselves and for their family.”
The resolution calls upon the General Assembly “to amend relevant statutes dealing with mandating medical treatment by establishing a clear and limiting delegation of authority to those in the executive branch and in local government offices to impose mandates.”
Stegmaier said local governments have conceded too much authority to state and federal governments over the years, especially during the pandemic, and it’s time to “reassert our constitutional rights.”
He said Gov. Ralph Northam’s school mask mandate neutralized the Frederick County School Board’s decision not to require masks. He said this was “a perfect example of how reluctant the state government is to give local government any authority at all, when it may run contrary to what the governor and the state agencies want.”
Wells said he wanted to represent all of Frederick County, not just one segment, and encouraged upset individuals to contact their state representatives as it is a legislative issue.
About 30 area residents and small-business owners attended the meeting to support the resolution — either through comments they made or by clapping. Most of them wore red shirts. They believe these mandates infringe on their freedoms.
“We have rights to our own bodies,” said Stephens City resident Debra Crowley. “What’s that saying going around? ‘My body, my choice?’ It should stand for anything. We shouldn’t be forced to do things to our body we don’t want done.”
Back Creek resident Clay Perry said the mandates are preventing the “right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Josh Phelps of Winchester Metals spoke in favor of the resolution as a representative of the Small Business Freedom Alliance, a coalition with more than 600 members in the Northern Shenandoah Valley that believes their constitutional rights are being violated.
The SBFA was formed in response to state government-mandated shutdowns in 2020 in the early days of the pandemic.
“We’ll do everything we can as a group to make sure that the people that are elected to those positions support the constitutional rights and support this resolution,” Phelps said. “For those that don’t support this resolution, our group will be your biggest opponent over the next few weeks.”
Shawnee District resident and School Board candidate Eric Reifinger was one of two residents who opposed the resolution. He said Northam has consulted with medical experts and there are already checks and balances in place to limit the governor’s powers. He added that the FDA has given the Pfizer vaccine approval.
“We’ve had plenty of tests to show how safe and effective these vaccines are,” Reifinger said. “So when it comes to the mask regulations, when it comes to vaccine requirements, the governor already has to work with multiple individuals and multiple committees when it comes to passing executive orders to ensure the safety and well-being of all Virginians.”
Opequon District resident Bryan Nuri compared vaccine mandates to the state requiring people to wear seat belts for safety. He said vaccine mandates have a historical precedent and vaccines were responsible for making polio disappear in America.
“Please everyone, please do what’s best for your community and not your ego,” Nuri said.