By Brandon Martin
Wren Williams, the former unit chair of the Patrick County Republicans, is taking aim at the Ninth District House of Delegates seat currently held by Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill in the June 8 primary.
Williams, 32, said he is a man of the people of the Ninth District.
“My campaign is supported by constituents throughout the community that are concerned about the direction of our community, the direction of our state and the direction of our country,” he added.
Hoping to change that direction, Williams said it’s time for “some new, fresh ideas.”
“This infrastructure is easily one of the most important things when it comes to our attractiveness to outsiders as far as potential residence and business,” he said. “Every time that I’ve done some sort of real estate closing or that I’ve talked to some business leader or entrepreneur, some of the first things they are looking at are healthcare, emergency rooms, emergency services, internet and real estate prices.”
Compared to other areas, Williams said the Ninth District has fallen behind.
“We are having to compete with that very much so it’s important for us to make sure that we cut wasteful spending in order to be able to afford some of these infrastructure investments in order to attract more businesses, more residents and things like that,” he said. “The last thing you want to do is raise taxes in order to fund these things, because when you are raising taxes, you are disincentivizing these people.”
If taxes are raised locally to pay for such projects, Williams said potential investors and residents will choose to live in areas like Floyd or Pulaski counties, which offer lower taxes and more services.
“That’s important for me to make sure we are cutting wasteful spending, pet projects and prioritizing these infrastructure needs to provide for our citizens and for our potential businesses, which in turn provide for our citizens,” he said.
Williams said there are many ways to accomplish the goal of enhancing infrastructure, and cited a bill proposed by Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell.
“Essentially what it would do is if a business chose to move to this area ━ and there were some stipulations on it ━ but, if they chose to move to this area then it would receive tax breaks in no Virginia income tax for 10 years,” Williams said. The proposal also called for granting a 10-year exemption from Virginia income tax to employees who moved to the area with the company.
Williams said the bill would have resulted in approximately $10,000 to $20,000 in avoided taxes, but “unfortunately, that bill didn’t pass.” He added that he favors tax cuts, because they offer more control of the financial future of the area to local residents.
“The main thing that we have to do is that we have to stop sending all of our money in taxes to northern Virginia and sending all of our money to attract businesses to northern Virginia,” Williams said. “The people of Patrick, Henry and Franklin counties should not be sending money for generations just to fund another bridge over into D.C. from northern Virginia suburbs.”
Instead, Williams said he would like to see to it that projects like the expansion of U.S. 58 are completed to stimulate the local economy.
“Essentially, right now you have U.S. 58, and I call Patrick County an economic cul-de-sac because you can’t get there from here,” Williams said of the attempt to connect the route to I-77. “Basically, what we have is a four-lane road that stops at the bottom of the mountain, and then we have another four-lane road at the top of the mountain. Tractor trailers can’t come through here without a permit, so they are having to go up through Roanoke.”
Williams said this creates a problem for northern Virginians as well since it creates traffic elsewhere in the state.
Expanding the road “would reduce traffic and help us continue to build economic development along 58,” he said. “I want to see U.S. 58 be just as economically productive as I-81. That’s important to me and I think that is important to all of the counties along Southside and Southwest Virginia.”
“I would love to have a hospital. I’m going to push for that going forward, but we need to make sure that we prioritize emergency care so that we can get people safely stabilized and out to these other communities as soon as possible,” Williams said, and added that a hospital may not be the most feasible initial option.
“That doesn’t mean that we can’t push for a stand-alone emergency room that would provide 24-hour access to triage and stabilize patients in our community before we can transport them to places that can provide those services sooner,” Williams said.
“When somebody has a stroke or a heart attack, seconds matter. Right now, if you are standing in the middle of town, the closest hospital is 35 minutes away. Response time might be upwards of 10 minutes. Think about the amount of brain damage that you may have while waiting to get to that hospital instead of the center of town and five minutes from an emergency room,” he said.
With the overall goal of getting the patient to a hospital, Williams said he’s a proponent of taking care of the basics first.
However, “I personally don’t think that at this moment that we would be able to reopen the Patrick County hospital,” he said. “It has now been shut down for several years, and there is quite a bit of restoration that would need to occur, and there are large tax liens still on the property.”
As the youngest member ever elected to the Patrick Henry College Board of Directors, Williams said he’s pushing for more trade careers in the area.
“These Patrick County folks love to work with their hands, they are interested in seeing something important, and they want to make sure they can do their jobs well,” Williams said. “We have pushed very strongly to make sure that we have successful welders, that we have successful HVAC men, that we have successful plumbers, electricians — all of these things that everybody says that we are going to have a huge shortage in the coming years as more and more individuals retire. I want to see those jobs filled with hard working Americans from my community.”
Instead of classes in sociology and recreation, Williams would like to see more shine on the “dirty jobs” that keep the nation running.
“We have to end that stigma that dirty jobs are lesser than others,” he said. “I appreciate the work that these people do. They work harder than most individuals can work, especially our linemen that go out and work in the weather to get our power back up. Those are good paying jobs that our community loves and can continue to succeed in and have good lives. I want to continue to support that.”
Having spent time litigating potential voter irregularities in the past election, Williams said his main focus moving forward will be to secure elections in the state.
“My number one objective, if elected, is to make sure that our elections are secure,” he said. “I spent a month and a half in Wisconsin on Donald Trump’s legal team fighting election fraud.”
As a former organizer for the Patrick County Republican Committee, Williams said the last election was “incredibly frustrating.”
“I have worked my tail off as the chairman of the Patrick County Republican Committee to register hundreds of first-time voters before the 2020 election. People reached out to me left and right and said, ‘we wouldn’t have voted but for you. You encouraged us. You got us engaged. We thought our vote didn’t count,’” Williams said.
After the election, “those same people are looking at me and saying ‘Wren, why should we vote again,’” Williams said. “As hard as I worked, it’s disheartening. I want to make sure that those people can know and trust that when they cast their ballot, that it is counted and that it is not diluted by illegal ballots cast elsewhere.”
Given the history of a strong democracy in the United States, Williams said that election security is an ever-pressing issue.
“These are huge, important things for us to know, for us to trust the foundational pillar of our United States of America,” Williams said. “I’m going to work my tail off and help the Republicans take back the majority.”
Relations with Democrats
If elected, Williams said he is willing compromise with legislators across the aisle on some issues.
There also are areas he is unwilling compromise, Williams said.
“I’m not willing to compromise on the Second Amendment. It says in the Constitution, ‘shall not be infringed.’ It’s troublesome to me that people don’t understand that phrase.”
Williams said he will be resolute against encroachments on the First Amendment as well.
“I’m not willing to compromise on religious freedom,” he said. “I think everybody under the Bill of Rights should have the opportunity to worship their god. That’s important to me, and clearly it was important to the founders of our country. And I’m not willing to compromise on free speech. In fact, I’m going to push back on those that continue to trample on us if they don’t like what we have to say. This is something that I’ve fought back against for years.”
A Stuart native, Williams graduated from Patrick County High School and then attended Hampden-Sydney College as a Patrick Henry Scholar. He then attended Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law where he met his wife, Britt. The two own Schneider & Williams, P.C. law firm in Stuart.