Virginia House District 83 candidate profile: Otto Wachsmann

Published 4:28 pm Friday, September 29, 2023

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There are two candidates on the ballot seeking to represent District 83 in the Virginia House of Delegates. 

Early voting began Friday, Sept. 22, and will continue through Saturday, Nov. 4, ahead of Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7. People can vote early in person at their local registrar’s office. The Virginia Department of Elections states that people may wish to check their registration status or call their registrar’s office.

Isle of Wight County General Registrar-Director of Elections Lisa Betterton can be reached at 757-365-6230 and/or

Southampton County Registrar Lynn Burgess can be reached at 757-653-9280 and/or

As noted by the Virginia Public Access Project, Virginia House District 83 includes a part of Isle of Wight County that represents 33.59% of the voters in the district; all of Southampton County, which represents 19.95% of the voters in the district; all of Brunswick County (16.69%); all of Sussex County (10.78%); all of Greensville County (9.69%); all of the city of Emporia (6.04%); and a part of Dinwiddie County (3.27%).

The candidates running to represent District 83 include Democrat Mary Person and Republican Otto Wachsmann.

The Tidewater News sent identical questionnaires to Person and Wachsmann on Sept. 5.

No questionnaire answers from Person were received.

Following is the response received from Wachsmann.

Name: Howard Otto Wachsmann, Jr. PharmD

Age: 59

Occupation: Pharmacist

Prior elected offices held: Delegate 75th District Virginia House of Delegates

1.) Can you briefly summarize why you decided to run for the 83rd District?

I decided to run for the House of Delegates from my experience as a resident in the district.  I grew up in my father’s independent pharmacy and I have been involved in the community since I started working at that store when I was seven years old.  Later after pharmacy school, I worked as a pharmacist there.  In 1995 my family moved to the Winchester, Virginia area where my wife worked for Shenandoah University’s main campus while I began my academic career on faculty developing the Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy at Shenandoah.  In 2003 I returned to Stony Creek where I purchased Stony Creek Pharmacy from my father and owned it until 2019.  It was upon my return that I realized our county, and many of the counties surrounding it had not moved forward since I had left.  I also noticed in the faces of the many patients whom I interacted with that their ambitions had deteriorated.   As someone who regularly attended my county’s Board of Supervisors and served as a volunteer legislative aid for Delegate Harvey Morgan in 1986, once my two daughters were grown, I decided it was time for me to run for the House of Delegates in 2019.  While I was unsuccessful my first run, I successfully ran again in 2021 and I am just completing my first two-year term.  As my work is not done, I am running again for the newly created 83rd District

2.) Who is your political role model? Why?

While I have never really considered who would be my political role model, I would say that I have leaned toward Ronald Reagan and John F Kennedy.  While both of these two Presidents are from opposing political parties, it was their great communication skills that I find appealing.  JFK set a clear goal of getting man on the moon while Ronald Reagan was clear on telling Mr. Gorbachev to tear down his wall.

3.) What change, if any, to state law would you like to see in the wake of last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade?

The abortion issue is certainly a heated topic of discussion.  While much anticipation was created once Roe v. Wade was overturned, we did not see any bills come before us on the House floor.  First, we need to see the proposals, discuss and debate them, see what comes out of committee and then make the best determination.  It is inappropriate to go into too much detail without knowing what we are talking about and certainly never good to debate hypotheticals. 

4.) Should school personnel be required to use transgender students’ preferred names, pronouns and/or not reveal their gender identity to their parents? Why or why not?

Parents are the ones who are responsible for raising their children until their children are deemed adults.  The exception to this rule would be if the parent should become incapacitated or guilty of abusing their child.  In these cases, the child should have a guardian assigned to raise them.  It is not the role of school staff to be “parenting” someone else’s children.  Students are in school for a limited amount of time with a focus on being educated.  It is detrimental for someone developing their life skills to have a secret life unknown by their parents.  In the event a child is truly having gender identification issues it is imperative that the school teachers/counselors work with the parents on helping this child through the process.  One only needs to conduct a search about the proposed Sage’s law and read their story to learn just how wrong keeping the parent in the dark can become.  Parents and school personnel should work in unison when a problem is identified with a student.

5.) Do you agree with Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order banning “divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory” from public schools? Why or why not?

We as a society need to come together.  School materials that I have seen related to this subject have been divisive and not inclusive.  We should not be putting one student’s race up against another student’s race.

6.) What more can Virginia do to prevent mass shootings?

We need to identify what has changed.  The guns have changed very little in the past fifty years.  What has really changed?  Discipline at home and in the school?  Mental and behavioral illnesses?  Reliance on newer pharmaceutical agents and less counseling and behavioral therapy?  What have we learned from the mass shooter who have been captured?  It appears that we never hear those outcomes.

7.) Should all counties have the option of raising their local sales tax rates by 1% by voter referendum to fund school construction projects? Why or why not?

I look forward to more discussion on this subject.  Taxes are too high and I do not believe we need to increase individual’s taxes at a time when inflation is so high.  I know that I am certainly trying to get over the sticker shock of a fast-food meal now costing as much as a sit-down meal in a nice restaurant was just a few months ago. 

Having said that however, with some further discussion, I might be amenable to consider allowing a local referendum to allow the citizens to make that decision on a local basis.

8.) Should the state get involved in stemming or encouraging the proliferation of solar farms in rural counties?

This is presently a local issue and I believe zoning decisions are best made locally.  I am in agreement that this new “clean” energy source may not be as completely green as it is marketed.  In that regard, I look forward to the state developing requirements that make certain concerns like erosion control are addressed before these solar facilities are constructed.  I refuse to consider these facilities “farms”.  They are clearly commercial entities. 

In closing, I am not completely for or against solar.  I believe it has its place and I believe there are places that it should not be in certain places.  I often wonder if in the near future those of us who live in rural areas where these large commercial operations which now occupy thousands of acres of former agricultural and forested lands will be criticized to cutting down too many trees and preventing the land to be returned to agriculture.

I am in favor of rolling back policies like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiatives and allowing basic business practices to prevail.  This will work to temper the massive growth in solar into something more reasonable.  Regulations like getting rid of traditional fuel for electricity and requiring new cars to be electric at the same time are on a collision course.

9.) What is one issue where you disagree with your political party’s national stance?

I am focused on Virginia.  I am focused on what is the best for our constituents.  Quite honestly I do not have the time or resources to question what I disagree on relating to my party’s national stance.  The best I can do is what every citizen should be doing.  Try to influence our elected officials to act in a manner best suited to assist our citizens in having better lives and opportunities.

10.) How should retail marijuana sales be implemented, or should the 2021 legalization be overturned?

Virginia got it wrong with the previous administration.  First it legalized marijuana and now they are trying to regulate it.  This is a backwards approach.  No one has a clear understanding of what is occurring.  The previous administration “let the horse out of the barn and now the legislature is being tasked with trying to put the fence up around the pasture before the horse gets away.”  This is not the way to conduct business.

11.) Virginia has banned China, and any “foreign adversary,” from purchasing farmland in the state. A company headquartered in China recently purchased 435 acres of land zoned CM-1 (conditional limited industrial) in Southampton County. Would you like to see the state take any more action with regard to the ability for U.S. Department of Commerce-designated “foreign adversaries” to purchase land in Virginia?

As indicated above, I believe the locality is best to determine its zoning ordinances. Do we really want Richmond to be second guessing and overturning every zoning decision made at the county level?  Personally, looking at the property I believe question 11 is referencing, I do not feel it was appropriate to re-zone it limited industrial.  While the question utilizes the word “conditional” it is my understanding that there is not a conditional use permit required for the intended purpose of the new owner(s). 

Regarding national security, perhaps there is a role for the state legislature to investigate it further like the recent proposal for agricultural lands.  But that does not apply to land zoned CM-1 (conditional limited industrial).

I would like to applaud The Tidewater News for reaching out to the candidates so our citizens may make a better decision in this important election.  I am also asking for your vote so I can continue my work for the citizens in the 83rd District.