Letter: Mr. Jones does not speak for the locals

Dear Ben Jones, I am responding to your recent editorial in The Washington Post opinion section. I wish to address what I believe are your flawed arguments and rather objectionable commentary regarding D.C. real estate developer Jim Abdo’s recent real estate purchases in the town of Little Washington, in Rappahannock County.

In particular, I’d like to take issue with and indeed admonish you for your rather crude generalization of Rappahannock locals as folks with kitchen appliances located upon their front porches. Perhaps you are unaware that Rappahannock locals consist of individuals from all walks of life, from self-made millionaires to folks whose ancestors farmed thousands of acres and whose children still run profitable enterprises upon these very tracts of land, to folks who live humbly and with great pride and dignity.

My family has been in the Slate Mills area since the 1800s. My former in-laws live in Old Hollow. My roots are true and country. With all due respect, you are a “come here,” though your saber rattling bespeaks of someone of local heritage (or a “been here” as we like to call ourselves).

You embrace a “been here” mentality, and speak as if you represent all of us, and that is all well and good, but you are in fact a transplant from Georgia. The “come heres,” it seems, are the folks who’ve moved to Rappahannock and are virulently opposed to Abdo’s real estate transactions and visions for the town. What of the local businesses who might indeed prosper from his actions?

Mr. Abdo is a shrewd and smart businessman. He is an entrepreneur. He saw an opportunity to make money and I hope he prospers, not to be controlled by “come here” possessiveness of the county they’ve adopted. He took advantage of his close relationships with local politicians and businessmen. He has done nothing illegal.

Your editorial discusses your surprise to find out through a Washington Post article of Abdo’s actions; if you’d read and supported your local Rappahannock News, you would have discovered that Abdo’s actions had been reported much earlier. You are a day late and a dollar short.

Some may find Abdo’s view of Little Washington’s supposed ills as objectionable. His ego permeates his quotes. His disdain for a quiet, tranquil and bucolic town is apparent as he describes it as “hollow, vacant, empty and without a pulse,” and he wishes to therefore rectify and revitalize.

The reality is that the town is already an artificial, made-for-tourists trap. Most locals don’t frequent the county seat. How many drop $500 on a meal at The Inn, or buy goods at some of the shops? So why demonize the man for adding to what is already present in abundance — a town mostly designed to attract outside visitors?

If you want to talk about the real beauty of Rappahannock, go back to the 1960s before the invasion of the “come heres.” Local businesses have been stifled for years and local shop owners have hardly enjoyed a trickle-down effect.

Abdo’s decision to attract additional business to Main Street will certainly prove beneficial to local businesses. Mr. Jones, you should feel honored to live in Rappahannock and not stop progress that benefits the local merchants. I’m sure you’ve seen numerous shops and businesses close in the past 10 years.

Mr. Abdo may be controversial, he may be a 20-year weekender with no close ties to the community, indeed he may not be well liked in some quarters, but regardless, he’s taking legitimate advantage of a capitalist economy.

Larry Green
Slate Mills

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