I understand the reasons why the recent VDOT hearing on this intersection got heated.  I use the traffic light at Freemans Ford Road and 29 almost every day. This is close to home for me, literally. But this intersection is more than just a traffic problem.  It’s really the embodiment of what is wrong in our rural community. We have two worlds colliding here.

We have 30,000 vehicles traveling through this intersection twice a day Monday through Friday. It is basically commuters and commercial traffic that increasingly chooses not to use 95. On the other hand, we have farmers, school buses and residents who just want to cross the road or get on 29 to go to Warrenton or Culpeper.

This is the conflict:

We can’t use 29 as an interstate AND a rural local road at the same time. This intersection has been the site of numerous accidents over the past few years including four recent fatalities. Local residents are terrified to cross the road because cars are going 70-80 miles an hour. There are houses that have driveways directly on 29. To get to and from their homes, to get their mail, they have to pull on to a race track. It’s because 29 was never intended to be an interstate. It is now.

This is a perfect example of how we are being left behind by Richmond. I was at the contentious VDOT meeting where residents were reviewing VDOT’s solution to this problem. There was not one not one elected state representative there. Where was Delegate Webert? He wasn’t there. His constituents are the ones commuting and living near or on 29.

The real solution is obvious – an overpass. An overpass means local residents, farm vehicles and school busses wouldn’t have to go on 29 to cross the road at all, making it far safer. Unfortunately, VDOT says it is not on the table because it costs $30 million and Richmond is not prioritizing us. This is a symptom of the larger problem that our elected officials, especially Del Webert, have been ignoring. Now it’s out of control and residents are terrified to simply cross the road.

We need leaders who understand what daily life means here in District 18 today. Political leaders who are willing to find real solutions to the problems of our unique rural community.  We are different from any other rural community in Virginia. We are a rich area that has all the problems of a poor district. Del Webert seems to be okay with that. I’m not.

My name is Tristan Shields. I’m a rural Democrat running for Delegate. You can vote for me on June 11th and again on November 5th.

There is a massive political dumpster fire happening in Warren County. $17.6 million stolen from taxpayers. Mayor stepping down for soliciting a prostitute, gambling, shady real estate deals. Really…. is this what we want from our political leaders?

Recognizing long term public service is a job of a Delegate. At the end of last session, Delegate Webert co-sponsored a joint resolution to commend the retiring Sheriff of Warren County. Under normal circumstances I would do the same.

However, given the current political dumpster fire happening in Warren County, Delegate Webert clearly shows that he is NOT doing his job. He commended a person who is now being investigated for stealing $17.6 million from Warren County taxpayers. Best case scenario, Webert is just oblivious what’s going on in his backyard.

It’s hard to fathom but this story reads like a Netflix thriller, our very own House of Cards. It’s complete with corruption between almost all branches of local government in Warren County, gambling, prostitution, and shady real estate dealings.

Everyone in Warren County and all of District 18 should hear this and be very concerned. This month, a special grand jury was formed to investigate potential financial wrongdoings within the town, county, schools, Economic Development Authority and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. There is a civil case alleging that $17.6 million was stolen from Warren County taxpayers by Sheriff McEathron, by Jennifer McDonald, the former director of economic development and seven others. Not to mention Front Royal’s Mayor Hollis Tharpe is stepping down May 2nd because he’s being indicted for soliciting a prostitute.

I don’t know about you, but when I heard about this, I had to ask myself: How did this happen?

This is a total lack of oversight paired with corruption and the good ole boy network. Where are our elected officials in protecting the taxpayers? We are facing a crisis of leadership. What is Webert’s response to all this? A commendation. How out of touch can you be? Seems to me we need leaders who actually know what’s going AND are interested enough to find out.

I’m Tristan Shields. Vote for me June 11th and November 5th and I guarantee you I will work tirelessly to really understand what is happening in District 18 and take the appropriate action to protect you and your tax dollars.