MARSHALL – Passing legislation aimed at limiting the role of government and reforming regulations. That’s the approach Michael Webert wants to bring to his role as the Republican delegate representing the 18th District, which he is seeking reelection to and has won since 2011.

The district includes the Happy Creek District and East Shenandoah and South River precincts of Warren County, while primarily covering Rappahannock, Fauquier and Culpeper counties.

Webert is seeking to fend off Democratic challenger Douglas Ward.

"The best part that I've found early on is I just enjoy,  enjoy people, talking to people...getting to know the community, trying to figure out ways to make it better," Webert said. "I try to make it better with less government."

Originally from Colorado, Webert, 42, moved to Fauquier County about 20 years ago. A former radio producer with experience working in the landscaping industry, Webert took over the family farm, producing vegetables and meat for businesses across the district.

With his experience as a legislator, Webert said he has seen how much and how badly at times government can function.

Touting a recent regulatory reform bill he sponsored, Webert said it's possible to make Virginia the leader in regulatory reform as it once was.

"I just became a policy-wonk on all that stuff," Webert said. "Just trying to make it easier and better for our constituents. And I enjoy that."

With his knowledge of farming, Webert said he wants to address the issue of farm nutrient run-off affecting the Chesapeake Bay.

That includes planting buffers, increasing fencing requirement flexibility, preventing erosion and providing incentives to farmers, Webert said. He sits on the John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation Commission and in 2015 he was named the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Legislator of the Year, Webert said.

Preventing that run-off extends to opposition to solar farms as they are currently proposed, Webert explained. The angle of the panels can lead to runoff as the creation of solar panel fields, or "solar farms," also leads to deforestation while taking away from the beauty of the countryside.

"With more and more funding, we can do even better," Webert said of protecting the bay.

A bill that he proposed would allow for local county supervisors to have input on the installation of solar panel fields rather than simply meeting a checklist of qualifications for their construction to happen, Webert said.

“There's got to be a compromise there....good policy to accomplish cleaner energy but also keep our bay clean and keep our countryside looking like countryside," Webert said. "Trees actually do provide a much more useful environmental impact than a solar panel."

As a member of the Republican minority in the House of Delegates, Webert said there hasn't been much involvement in the legislative process with the opposing Democratic majority.

In the last special session to allocate $4.3 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, Webert said he supported some measures, like expanding broadband access, but didn't like the process that didn't provide much deliberation in how things were decided.

"Rather than giving the governor a slush fund, maybe we use that to get [Personal Protective Equipment] and get everything that schools need to be able to have in school class without having kids necessarily wear a mask," Webert said, critical of the $1.3 billion the majority of the Legislature voted to reserve in case of any COVID-19 resurgence emergency.

Included in the two-minute Republican alternative proposal to the ARPA spending plan was an initiative called Project Ceasefire, Webert said. The initiative is based on a program in Boston that sought to provide resources to people transitioning out of gang lifestyles and letting them know recidivism will lead to harsh penalties.

That program, along with Attorney General Mark Herring actually prosecuting criminals with the state's laws, would reduce violent crime, Webert said, while not enacting acting gun control measures.

"There are a number of laws that are already on the books to prevent gun violence," Webert said.

For Warren County, Webert said he would like to see a change to the funding allocations from per pupil to using the composite index. It's a calculation that determines how much funding goes to certain localities, provides more equal distribution to rural communities and was included in the Republican ARPA spending proposal, Webert said.

"If my counties are going to lose on that stuff, I'm not going to be voting for it," he said.

In the last full session, the Democratic majority passed legislation too quickly, as evidenced by a bill to remove military-style equipment from law enforcement, Webert said. Included with the bill was a provision to remove 50-caliber-style rounds, which includes shotgun rounds. The governor had to amend the bill to allow shotguns, which is a firearm that every trooper in the state had to get a waiver for prior to the amendments, Webert said.

"Those types of mistakes were pointed out," Webert said. "But the arrogance of the other side and the inability for us to communicate in person made any negotiation unavailable."

Changing the parole board to not let criminals out and be repeat offenders will help reduce recidivism rates, Webert said. Virginia previously had some of the lowest recidivism rates in the country, he noted.

Allocating funding to have law enforcement agencies accredited, which provides third-party, regulatory oversight of departments, can help, too, Webert said.

Webert said he has received a COVID-19 vaccine but the choice to get the vaccine, he said, is a personal one and should not be mandated, as with the requirement to have students wear masks. That should be left to parents, he said.

Rappahannock County Public Schools were able to put in place stringent COVID-19 precautions and able to reopen last year without a problem, Webert said.

"I think what the governor did was pretty heavy-handed," Webert said. "I think that moving forward we can find some compromise on that."

If Critical Race Theory is going to be taught in schools, opposing theories also need to be taught, which could include the work of U.S. Supreme Justice Clarence Thomas explaining how Democratic programs have broken the family system, Webert said.

"I believe students should be taught how to think, not what to think," Webert said.

Webert said that he is pro-life, but declined to comment on recent anti-abortion legislation passed in Texas. Regarding voting rights, he said he supports reform that includes requiring an identification to vote, and having ballots counted in real-time, so they aren't counted in mass amounts at different times of the day.

"People need to trust the voting process," Webert said.

Medicaid expansion may have helped some people but it does not lower costs as the state's budget has increased from $93 billion to $143 billion, with a large portion being insurance, Webert said. More needs to be looked at in the insurance industry to increase affordability, Webert said.

Changing a regulation that limits the number of health facilities in a certain area could allow for more treatment centers, which could go toward addressing mental health issues and lowering crime rates, Webert also said.

The election is Nov. 2. Early voting has begun.

Contact Charles Paullin at cpaullin@nvdaily.com