Candidates Court Tea Party Votes

Clarke County’s upcoming elections will likely hold few surprises this year. Clarke voters will see only two contested races on their November ballots; Berryville’s school board incumbent Jennifer Welliver will face businessman James Brinkmeier while White Post district voters will decide between republican Bev McKay and democrat Randy Sprouse for the Board of Supervisors spot being vacated by Pete Dunning. Sprouse, along with Sherriff Tony Roper and Commissioner of Revenue candidate Donna Peake offered their campaign positions and fielded questions from voters at an open forum hosted by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Tea Party chapter.

Democrat Randy Sprouse is running for the White Post Board of Supervisor seat - Photo Edward Leonard

Sprouse told the gathering of approximately 20 voters that he wasn’t exactly sure what the Tea Party was all about but, after reading the group’s website, he felt very comfortable with its platform planks of smaller government, personal responsibility and support for free trade.

“I think that the two party system has let the people of this country down,” Sprouse said. “If something like the Tea Party is what it takes to galvanize our country then I’m all for it.”

Sprouse told the group that he has had a life-long interest in politics that sprang from family discussions around the dinner table when Sprouse was a child.

“Politics was one of the staples at our dinner table,” Sprouse smiled.

Sprouse said that he believes that one of the core issues for this year’s election, and likely for several election cycles to come, will be the need for local government to do more with less.

“I just don’t see that changing in the near future,” Sprouse said. “It’s going to be about where do you cut and where do you focus. I think that this will be true locally, statewide and nationally.”

Sprouse, whose humor and personality helps him to quickly create rapport with his audience, joked about his various careers when asked what he does for a living.

“I haven’t had a real job since 1979,” Sprouse said. “But since then I’ve mainly been self-employed as a general contractor. Before the economy crashed I bought 19th century homes and rehabilitated them. I also have a Virginia real estate license.”

Berryville resident, Abby Marcy asked Sprouse to explain why voters should select him over his challenger, Clarke County Planning Commissioner Bev McKay. Sprouse’s response focused more on McKay’s campaign tactics than on the political differences that separate the two candidates.

“The differences are subtle,” Sprouse replied. “But people who support Bev McKay and Pete Dunning are trying to paint me as a developer living in a subdivision that I built. That is completely false.”

“If development is something that is important to you,” Sprouse cautioned. “I would advise you to look at the many subdivisions Pete Dunning has pushed through and Mr. Mckay supported from his position on the Planning Commission.”

Asked about his ideas for increasing business tax revenue in Clarke County, Sprouse said that the ideal situation is for people to visit Clarke County, spend money and then leave.

“Most people that live here like things the way that they are,” Sprouse said.

Sprouse said that conference centers, like the projects proposed by the Salvation Army on a tract near Clarke County High School and by Georgetown University on the mountain, offer the potential to generate positive tax revenue streams. However, Sprouse expressed frustration that the current Board of Supervisors seems to disagree.

“I still don’t really understand why the Salvation Army conference center proposal became a bone of contention. People attending that conference center were going to come to Clarke County, spend their money and leave,” Sprouse exclaimed.

Sprouse expressed similar dismay about Georgetown University’s planned complex that was ultimately approved under the threat of a lawsuit over County zoning measures.

“Georgetown University wanted to improve a piece of property with a house that was all but condemned, restore the house and build a retreat center to bring professional people to Clarke County and the Board of Supervisors voted them down,” Sprouse said. “It’s not like Georgetown was planning on bringing inner city youth here. This is an organization that wants bring professionals to the County, pay taxes, restore a historical home and then the visitors leave.”

“If I had a choice I’d look for development opportunities like that,” Sprouse said.

Sprouse said that another property with the potential for generating business tax revenue lies just north of Waterloo along US Route 340. Sprouse mentioned a property on the west side of the road that he said has no development unit rights and will not perk.

“That property has the ability to tie into water and sewer in Waterloo,” Sprouse said. “It also would be a great property to tie in with the railroad.”

Sprouse criticized the County’s unwillingness to move forward with a commercial development plan near Double Tollgate where Clarke County Supervisors have been debating whether the abandonment of a Virginia Department of Corrections facility with a significant sewage treatment plant located near US Route 340 and US Route 522 could be converted to support commercial development in the area.

“The Board of Supervisors doesn’t have the political will to upgrade the water treatment plant but they are willing to keep spending tax dollars studying it,” Sprouse said.

Commissioner of Revenue

Candidate Donna Peake is running unopposed for Clarke County Commissioner of Revenue. The position is currently held by Warren Arthur.

Peake told the audience that she is a Handley High School graduate and has attended Lord Fairfax Community College. Peake has worked in the Commissioner of Revenue office for fifteen years with the past eight years as the County’s real estate assessor.

Donna Peake is uncontested for Commissioner of Revenue - Photo Edward Leonard

“I take pride in the competent and dependable service that I have given to the citizens of the county that I love,” Peake said. “It is a service that you deserve.

Peake said that although she is not a Tea Party member, she does share many of the party’s values and has even attended a Tea Party rally in Winchester.

“I never felt so much pride as I did when I attended the 2009 Tea Party Tax revolt in Winchester,” Peake said. “It felt great to be with so many other people and speak out about what was going on in Washington and knowing that they were listening.”

“I even had a tea bag hanging from my car’s rearview mirror,” she laughed.

Clarke County Sheriff

Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper, also running unopposed, said that he accepted the group’s invitation to speak because he always welcomes the chance to talk to citizens.   Roper told the attendees that citizen feedback is an important way for him to understand the issues that are important to the public.

“When I first ran for office I had a background in drug interdiction and violent crime prevention,” Roper recounted. “So, I knocked on doors and told people that if I’m elected I’ll protect you from drugs and violent crime.”

Roper said that a voter replied “That’s wonderful but what I’d really like to know is what you plan to do about those speeding cars that go zipping down my road? If one of them hits me I will be just as dead as I would from a violent crime.”

Roper said that one of the benefits of a locally elected sheriff is that the office can respond to what the community says it wants.

Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper - Photo Edward Leonard

“So I created a traffic enforcement unit even though the Code of Virginia says that the sheriff’s office is only required to do three things; civil process service, court security and jail administration.”

Roper said that his office is being affected by budget cutbacks just like other County agencies. But Roper said that he takes full responsibility for deciding what services are funded given limited budget dollars.

“Clarke County is 178 square miles and I have 17 full time deputies,” Roper said. “There is no question that public safety in Clarke County is underfunded. But when a budget decision is made that we can do without something, that’s my decision.”

“I am completely comfortable in my firm belief that you live in a well-protected county,” Roper said.

Roper said that as funding levels have been cut he has had to make difficult decisions about corresponding cuts in enforcement services.

“As budgets tighten there may not be as much radar enforcement or less hours allocated for a school resource officer because I have a core level of service that the Sheriff’s department needs to provide,” Roper said. Asked about illegal immigration enforcement, Roper said that budget cuts have made it impractical to attempt to process illegal aliens who deputies encounter in day-to-day patrols.

“I made a policy decision that if a deputy encounters an undocumented alien who would not be arrested otherwise, the deputy’s job is to issue a citation and let the person go on their way,” Roper said. “We just don’t have enough resources to do anything else.”

Roper continued, “However, when there is a serious crime by an illegal alien or anyone else, like the recent murder that we had, our office will chase the suspect to the ends of the Earth.”

“The reality is that there are people out there who are breaking laws that just aren’t going to get any attention from us” Roper said. “There just aren’t enough resources to lock them up.”

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Tea Party meets regularly on the 3rd Thursday of the month at Camino Real in Berryville, Virginia at 6:30pm.



  1. Clarke Life says:

    Bev McKay will be voted into office by those people in White Post! What a shame for the rest of the residents in the county that this will affect. He is Pete Dunning part II…….. Just say NO to everything unless it personally benefits him or his select bunch of buddies! Everyone knows this…….. Here’s hoping that the people out there have some sense enough to give McKay the boot.

    • Tony Parrott says:

      Well I know a lot of people that think Bev is a good guy. He may be but he will not be getting my vote for two reasons:
      1. He has never asked for it or said anything about his platform.
      2. If/when he is elected the first order of business will be to fill his vacant spot with Pete Dunning.
      That is unacceptable to me.
      P.S. I’m a conservative!

      • If you know nothing about McKay’s platform, how do you know that he will appoint Dunning?

        • Ask him he will tell you…

          • Why should we have to ask? Isn’t that a part of politics? Made your platform known? Oh, and he will appoint Dunning, they have to keep things here the way they are………….. NO CHANGE and say NO to everything……….. Way to go White Post!!!!!!!!!!! You guys out there have given us ROBINA and DUNNING!!!!!! You should be proud out there………. Sarcasm off.

  2. The only way to stop the cronyism is to not elect one of the cronies. Electing a hot-head like Bev McKay is not in the best interest of this county.

  3. But the Rich Folk in White Post and the Farmers have his back!

  4. “[Sprouse] felt very comfortable with its platform planks of smaller government, personal responsibility and support for free trade.”

    On the county level this can only be taken as a desire to dismantle the Master Plan and open Clarke County to the same kind of development that has ruined Loudoun and Frederick counties.

  5. I was at the Tea Party meeting at the Mexican restaurant in Berryville to hear Randy, Donna and Tony speak. They all spoke well. I never got the impression that Randy wants to dismantle the Master Plan. He spoke a lot of his appreciation of our rural landscape. He likes the idea of restoring old homes. He praised Georgetown University’s good idea of wanting to fix up a property on route 601 at the eastern edge of Clarke County on the Blue Ridge Mountain. A retreat center for students, professors and professional people would bring in money for the county.

  6. Randy Sprouse says:

    Thank you Mr. Kelly for opening my eyes to the vile and wicked ways of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Tea Party. Before I spoke to them I googled “tea party” and learned that their domestic ideas were centered around smaller government, personal responsibility, and less restrictions on business. I had no idea that they had a secret agenda to dismantle master plans and suburbanize rural counties. They sure fooled me. In the future I will be very careful about accepting invitations by such nefarious groups.

    • Are you running for office, or trying to do a Will Rogers impression?

      I trust you won’t be so snarky if you prevail in the election, or are we getting some real insight into your leadership style. This and pandering to the Tea Party won’t win votes from me and mine, mister.

    • I’d also like to hear your opinion on the “Bev McKay is a hot-head” remark.

    • Mr. Sprouse, you’d get my vote if I lived in your district. Ignore “Bob Kelly”, he doesn’t really exist, nor does he live in VA.

      • Excuse me, I don’t live in Virginia? What are you talking about?

      • I don’t think you should make accusations you can’t prove. Verizon lists two R. Kellys in the Winchester Directory (which encompasses the Northern Shenandoah Valley) and a Robert Kelly in the Loudoun Directory. Are any of these the Bob Kelly who is posting here? Don’t know, but clearly there are Bob Kellys living in Virginia.

  7. “The Northern Shenandoah Valley Tea Party meets regularly on the 3rd Thursday of the month at Camino Real in Berryville, Virginia at 6:30pm.”

    Does Camino Real donate this, or are they compensated?

    What’s the average attendance at the monthly meetings?

    • Hey Bob:

      Camino Real allows the Group to use the room as long as we bring in $100 of business. Most folks order a drink/snack or dinner, so this is an easy threshold.

      We have had as few as 10 & as many as 25 folks in attendance.

      Please come & participate.


      • TY. In summary it’s a decent business decision on the part of the restaurant and there are regular attendees. Couldn’t discern that from the article.

  8. Mr. Sprouse seems to be making an effort to understand the sensibilities of all potential voters – isn’t that a positive thing?

    I would like to see a little more due diligence performed by anyone running for a BoS position though, especially when it relates to comments, theory, and decision making re: development issues. For instance:

    The GU “retreat” center was opposed nearly unanimously by the residents in the district affected, as well as by most of the planning commission – due to environmental concerns, ingress/egress issues, and vehicle trips on a winding and at times narrow main road. It’s questionable whether a “retreat” development is compatible with the mountain land plan, and there was/is ongoing concern about the precedent that this development may set – less than 3/4 a mile further up the road is another property for sale that has routinely listed “ideal for a corporate retreat” in their listing. Lastly, but most pertinent to this article, the visitors to the GU retreat will be faculty and students who are part of the university’s theological studies… it will be utilized as a contemplative facility. The visitors will be coming to Clarke and leaving, but not spending any money in the county. The only revenue generated will be property taxes, and I believe that GU has already tried (and my still be trying) to negotiate a fixed annual “contribution” rather than paying property taxes.

    The SA conference center, due to it’s proximity to Berryville, would have had a much better chance of bringing disposable income to the town and county. But you may recall that their was a pretty tight relationship between the key proponent/broker of the land deal, the proponent’s attorney, and a local home builder who is no longer in business. The trade-off was going to be residential development in a larger scale than what is now under review.

    I get where Randy’s coming from re: having people come to the County, spend money, and leave. That’s low impact on government services and resources and cash in our coffers. Please peel all the layers off of past, current and future development proposals though so we can make sure that any strings attached to them are known.

  9. Longtime Berryville resident says:

    The Tea Party is trying to increase citizen awareness about the federal debt and deficit. Dave Stockman was involved with Roanld Reagan’s budget and he wrote a great book called “The Triumph of Politics” . John Chancellor was NBC news anchorman for 12 years before Tom Brokaw and in 1990, he wrote “Peril and Promise A Commentary on America”.