We­bert joins, Benson leaves del­e­gate race

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - BY ALISA BOOZE TROETSCHEL Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Rap­pa­han­nock News on Mon­day, Michael We­bert an­nounced his in­ten­tion to run in the Repub­li­can pri­mary to rep­re­sent the 18th District, which in­cludes all of Rap­pa­han­nock County, in the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s House of Del­e­gates.

On Wed­nes­day, Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dent Todd Benson, who’d an­nounced his in­ten­tion to run for the 18th District seat last month, with­drew from the race, cit­ing health rea­sons.

We­bert breeds and grazes cat­tle in Fauquier County. Be­ing a farmer goes handin-hand with car­ing for the land, We­bert said.

We­bert’s grand­mother, Ma­galen (“Maggie”) Bryant, of Mid­dle­burg, is a well known and ar­dent con­ser­va­tion­ist. “ She walks the walk of a con­ser­va­tion­ist,” We­bert said.

“The agri­cul­tural land use act is de­signed to set aside land for fu­ture pro­duc­tion, so we can feed our chil­dren as our civ­i­liza­tion goes for­ward,” said We­bert. But he wants to mod­ify the tax credit re­ceived on land ease­ments granted by own­ers.

“I be­lieve it can be made bet­ter,” said We­bert.

We­bert has fenced his cat­tle away from wa­ter­ways run­ning through his prop­erty, but he op­poses manda­tory re­quire­ments. Al­though farm­ers are re­im­bursed for the pro­ject, his concern is that the State will end up pass­ing the cost onto farm­ers.

In We­bert’s view, most pol­lu­tion in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay orig­i­nates fur­ther north and from de­vel­op­ment rather than from agri­cul­ture.

Af­ter study­ing at Union Col­lege in Sch­enec­tady and Shenan­doah Univer­sity in Winch­ester, We­bert grad­u­ated from Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity in 2011, ma­jor­ing in com­mu­ni­ca­tions. He was in­ducted into Lambda Pi Eta, the com­mu­ni­ca­tions stud­ies honor

so­ci­ety.

While at­tend­ing Ge­orge Ma­son on a part-time ba­sis and work­ing full-time, We­bert was on the staff at Green­Wave Ra­dio, which in­forms lis­ten­ers about en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, earth­friendly busi­ness trends and green tech­nolo­gies. Af­ter four years, he left as the ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer.

If elected, We­bert said that he will ad­vo­cate for bal­ance in pre­serv­ing ru­ral beauty and de­vel­op­ment. He pro­posed us­ing the the 15/85 rule as a guide, where 15 per­cent of pris­tine land will be de­vel­oped, with 85 per­cent re­main­ing as open space.

“Growth is go­ing to hap­pen whether we like it or not,” said We­bert. A farmer is bet­ter suited to rep­re­sent this re­gion, which is 80 per­cent ru­ral and agri­cul­tural, We­bert said. He and his wife run Black Lo­cust Live­stock Mar­ket­ing. This ex­pe­ri­ence en­ables him to re­late with the con­cerns of small busi­ness own­ers, he said.

We­bert is 31 years old, and a new­ly­wed of one month. He moved to Fauquier County in 1999, and plans to live there the rest of his life.

We­bert de­scribes him­self as po­lit­i­cally con­ser­va­tive and Repub­li­can.

In a letter dated June 15 to Jim Fisher, who chairs the Fauquier Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee, Huntly res­i­dent Todd Benson with­drew his can­di­dacy for the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to Yak Lubowsky. Lubowsky is a mem­ber of the War­ren­ton Town Coun­cil, and re­ceived a copy of Benson’s letter.

Benson, 58, cited health con­cerns.

“He [ Benson] is a good guy, a good friend,” said Lubowsky. ‘The District loses a sin­gu­larly qual­i­fied rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Rich­mond.” In his view, a can­di­date of Benson’s qual­i­ties only comes along once in ev­ery two gen­er­a­tions.

For the past seven years, Benson, an at­tor­ney, had served as a field of­fi­cer for the Pied­mont En­vi­ron­men­tal Coun­cil ( PEC) and as an as­sis­tant zon­ing of­fi­cer for Fauquier County. He fa­vors low taxes to grow busi­nesses and jobs. He cham­pi­ons farm­ers’ con­cerns and con­ser­va­tion prin­ci­ples.

Kevin P. Kel­ley, also a Repub­li­can, re­mains in the race with We­bert. He lives in Fauquier County and owns a busi­ness con­sult­ing com­pany in Manas­sas. Like Benson, he ap­proves of low taxes. He would want the state bud­get to be tightly fo­cused on pri­or­i­ties. Small gov­ern­ment as well as busi­ness and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment are im­por­tant to Kel­ley, who is 52.

The Repub­li­can pri­mary will be held Aug. 23.

Del. Clif­ford L. “ Clay” Athey, Jr. ( R-War­ren County) has cho­sen not to seek re­elec­tion af­ter serv­ing 10 years in the House of Del­e­gates. At about the same time the Gen­eral Assem­bly’s redistrict­ing plan took Rap­pa­han­nock County out of the district now rep­re­sented by Todd Gil­bert and into the new 18th, which in­cludes parts of War­ren and Culpeper coun­ties, and a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of north­ern Fauquier.

Michael We­bert

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