The nation’s political divide, which was exacerbated this year by the presidential election, was magnified in Lovettsville in 2020.
Early in the year, the Town Council took a vote to support the Second Amendment, causing a divide among right- and left-wing residents. Later in the year, a censure of a planning commissioner who published an explicit Facebook post led to a spur-of-the-moment vote to re-appoint a committee member who removed after posting a controversial comment online, which led to the resignation of a handful of others.
On Feb. 6, the Town Council voted to adopt a proclamation declaring that it supports and defends the U.S. and Virginia constitutions through opposition to legislation that “infringes upon the right to keep and bear arms”—a vote that was prompted by the Virginia General Assembly’s passing of several bills to intensify gun control measures across the commonwealth.
Dozens of Second Amendment supporters—some armed at the hip—packed into the town office that night to witness the vote and to speak their part, with many overflowing into the parking lot. Dozens more stayed at home, stating that they felt unsafe being around armed Second Amendment supporters.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and led to canceled town events and a pivot to virtual Town Council meetings, political tension in the town of 2,200 residents cooled down a bit, or at least found its way out of the public eye for a few months.
It picked back up when, on Oct. 8, the Town Council voted to censure former Planning Commissioner Kris Consaul for a Sept. 30 post to her personal Facebook page in which she added a speech bubble to the bird from the town logo reading “Nazi Punks F— OFF!” Consaul said she posted the image the day after the presidential debate because, she said, President Donald Trump did not explicitly condemn white supremacy when asked if he would.
The council censured Consaul “based upon her violations of the town code of conduct in appropriating to her private use the LOVE sign artwork in a way that disparaged the town, its policies and its officers, constituting malfeasance in office.”
“The use of the image and profanities in a public social media post does not meet the professional expectations of an appointed member of the town government,” the motion to censure her read.
Consaul said she felt Town Council members interpreted the message in the image she posted as being directed toward them, since the town planner had recently met with Consaul to discuss her violation of the town’s sign ordinance. While the ordinance allows residents to display three flags and/or signs on their properties, Consaul at the time was displaying seven flags on her porch, most of which featured the likes of politically driven movements and organizations, like Black Lives Matter, the Human Rights Commission’s equal sign for gay rights, the American Indian Movement and a rainbow flag for the LGBTQ community.
That tension boiled over into November, when Consaul, and other community volunteers, resigned from their posts on town committees and commissions in response to what Consaul said was “racism and white supremacy.”
On Nov. 19, the Town Council voted to appoint Consaul to the Love Winter Committee. That prompted Councilman Chris Hornbaker to make a motion to re-appoint Andru Spangler to the town’s Oktoberfest Committee; the Town Council on June 11 had voted unanimously to remove Spangler from that committee for a comment he posted on the Facebook page of The Shelby Star newspaper in Cleveland County, NC ,on an article with the headline “Confederate Battle Flags Removed From Graves.” Spangler commented: “That’s not hate. Blacks are filled with more hate, than any other race in America.”
Hornbaker said he made the motion to re-appoint Spangler because he felt the council should give him a second chance since it was giving Consaul a second chance after her Facebook post and censure. The council voted 5-0-1 to re-appoint Spangler, with Councilman Buchanan Smith abstaining.
In the next two days, Mayor Nate Fontaine vetoed the vote because, he said, it was “procedurally incorrect.” The vote was taken without Spangler filling out an application to serve on the committee. Fontaine said Spangler was unaware the Town Council had voted to re-appoint him.
But before Fontaine issued his veto, Stephanie Burget, Jim McIntyre, Natalie Metzler and Yvonne Smith resigned from the Oktoberfest Committee and Consaul resigned from the Planning Commission.
Consaul said her resignation was additionally in response to Mayor Nate Fontaine’s refusal to explicitly denounce the actions of Minuteman Arms Owner Warner Workman, who on Nov. 21 set up a sign outside his gun shop reading: “Krazy Karen Cristen & Chris Sale Be Armed AR-15 $775”—a message Consaul said she interpreted as a threat directed toward her and her neighbor.
Some residents are busy compiling lists of the dozens of volunteers they claim have resigned from their duties serving the town in the past few months in response to the same kinds of politically driven allegations that led Burget, McIntyre, Metzler, Smith and Consaul to step down.
When asked last week why Lovettsville seems to have a more heated political divide than in most other Loudoun towns, Fontaine said there is not a “huge issue” in the town.
He suggested that the political divide many see is the result of recent changes on the Town Council and a seemingly endless election cycle. Normally, towns see elections every two years. But in Lovettsville, resignations in recent years have led to annual special elections.
Fontaine said residents and town leaders should work together to “make a better Lovettsville” by engaging in the community, especially while town events are canceled in response to the pandemic.
He noted the town in 2020 has also experienced some positive changes, with several new business openings and the unveiling of the county’s fourth LOVE sign.