Griffin Tavern’s Debbie Donehey announces bid for Wakefield BOS seat

‘I am excited by the prospect of working full-time to support our wonderful county’

The staff at Flint Hill’s Griffin Tavern celebrate the departure of an employee. From left to right: Jim Donehey, Raegan Miller, Debbie Donehey, Andy Camp, Taylor Leotta and Eric Ralls. File photo by Luke Christopher

Debbie Donehey, who with her husband Jim owns and operates the popular Griffin Tavern in Flint Hill, said Friday evening that she will seek the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors seat being vacated by BOS Chairman Roger Welch.

“Once Roger announced his decision not to stand for re-election, my thoughts about running solidified into a decision to run,” Donehey told this newspaper, adding that she spent “months” contemplating such a bid should Welch bow out.

“I am excited by the prospect of working full-time to support our wonderful county, and all Wakefield District residents, and my efforts to earn the support of voters will begin immediately with meetings and conversations that will help me understand constituent concerns, priorities, and potential solutions to the issues we face,” she said.

Donehey becomes the first resident of the district to announce her candidacy.

“For me, the goals for our next BOS will start with being an efficient, effective body that implements solid, lasting policies, without being contentious or combative in its deliberations,” she said. “My hope is that we are seeking the same things — centered on maintaining the beauty and realizing the promise of our county — and getting there should not involve the board in anything but collegial consideration of best alternatives.  

“I will have more to say as my meetings and discussions produce a detailed agenda for supporting our natural resources alongside our tourism, agriculture, business, and artistic communities; ensuring appropriate support for the special needs of our youth and aging populations; and taking maximum advantage of the amazing volunteer efforts that exist throughout our community.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Wakefield residents and to give back to the community that has been my home for twenty years, and that gives each of us such a glorious place to call our home.”

The Doneheys, who both worked at the time for Capital One, purchased land in Rappahannock County in 1997 and became full time residents here in 2002. At the time, they found it difficult to find a good burger and a cold draft beer, which was the incentive to launch the tavern and restaurant.

Debbie said she had always dreamed of a restaurant and Jim envisioned a pub like the ones he frequented when in the UK. They realized their opportunity when the owners of Chappalapa, or the Bradford House, mentioned their interest in selling the circa-1850 building in Flint Hill, which has since become one of the most popular taverns and restaurants in the northern Piedmont region of Virginia.

In fact, Debbie’s term will end in May as Second Past Chair of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association (VRLTA), which has represented the commonwealth’s restaurants, hotels and travel attractions for nearly 80 years.

Welch, who has sat on the board for 20 years — the last ten as chairman — announced earlier this month that he would not run for re-election in November due mainly to illness.

“I don’t want anyone to misunderstand [my motivation for the decision],” Welch said, referring to the contentious nature of BOS meetings in recent years. “My leaving has more to do with my Parkinson’s.” He said he also wanted to spend more time with his three grandchildren.

He did acknowledge, however, that being a supervisor had become more difficult.

“For the first 16 to 18 years on the Board of Supervisors, I enjoyed going to meetings,” Welch said. “We used to solve problems, now we create them.”

Asked if she was ready to become a Rappahannock “politician,” Donehey, a former board member of the CCLC, replied: “I have a lot of learning to do, to be real honest.”

About John McCaslin 449 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at

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