As the COVID-19 pandemic was descending on the Queen City in early 2020, Yvonne R. Wilson was working at the Royal Mart gas station down the street from her house.
One day, a blonde woman came in asking community members what they needed in the city. Then-councilmember Andrea Oakes, who is now mayor of Staunton, encouraged Wilson to come to a city council meeting and speak during public comment on her belief that Staunton should be a Second Amendment Sanctuary City.
“Especially, my being female working at a convenience store,” Wilson said of her concern about safety.
Wilson is running for one of three seats on Staunton City Council in November’s election. She supports former President Donald Trump, and voted for him in the 2016 presidential election.
After November 2020, she heard cries of racism in the Queen City when councilmember Ophie Kier was not reelected.
“So, in 2020, I decided to call their bluff [and run for city council in 2022],” Wilson said.
She heard that Democrats believed no Black candidate could get elected in Staunton.
“That’s got nothing to do with me my entire life and it’s not going to stop me now,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who grew up in Maryland, served in the U.S. Marine Corps right after high school from 1997-2001.
“I wanted to be the first female Marine in my family,” Wilson said. Her father served in the Korean War and her older sister was in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War.
She moved to Arizona in 2009 to attend audio engineering school and play cello. She met her husband, John Willis, in Arizona. The couple lost their first child, a son was stillborn at 21 weeks in 2015. Wilson said she was homesick and her sister, nephew and mother were living in Silver Spring, Md. Her father died in 2006. Wilson and her husband moved to Waynesboro in 2018. They moved to Staunton in 2019.
She said she also wanted to move to Virginia because she is a direct descendant of the first slave family in what would become the United States. The Quanders trace their history back to the Fanti tribe in Ghana, Africa, and came to the U.S. in 1685. They were a family of slaves at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and are related through a Washington nephew. They are also related to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who married into the Washington family.
Freed members of the Quander family settled in Virginia in present day Fairfax, and a road was named Quander Road to recognize their legacy. Quander Road School is part of the Fairfax County Public School system. The Quanders of Virginia and Washington, D.C. began holding annual family reunions in 1926. Nellie Quander served as the first international president of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
In February, Wilson began a work-from-home position as a backup house agent for General Motors. She assists customers with vehicle issues and recalls.
As a resident of the West End of the Queen City, Wilson said one of her goals if elected is to work on public transportation and economic development in the West End.
“A lot of residents of the West End feel that they have been ignored a lot [by the city],” she said.
Uber and Lyft do not serve the West End. Wilson said that more dining options and leisure activities, such as a massage parlor, nail and hair salons, would create economic development.
“Food and leisure will bring people [to the West End],” Wilson said.
She would also like to stop the identity race politics in the city.
“Just because I’m conservative doesn’t mean I’m evil or I hate poor people or I don’t support women’s rights,” Wilson said.
She would like to eradicate conversation about how she can be conservative and a Black woman.
“My goal is prove conservatives, independents, centrists, even liberals that if we can come together with one goal to make this city prosperous [we can get past identity racism],” Wilson said.
Americans have lived with lots of ideas that have worked for years. For many years, people throughout history did not talk about race as a social issue.
“And that’s what I’m trying to do for the city of Staunton. I want diversity of ideas that last,” she said.
Wilson is also concerned about public safety in Staunton. When Black Lives Matter came to Staunton in 2020, Wilson said a Staunton resident was assaulted. Staunton’s proximity to D.C. and Richmond makes it vulnerable to another dangerous situation.
Local police, fire and rescue are preparing for if the day comes that Staunton is caught in the middle, especially after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“I’m going to try to help develop that further,” Wilson said. She is concerned that the pervasive ideas dividing the city could lead to a riot. “The ideas need to die, not the people.”
Wilson is a conservative Black woman running for Staunton City Council.
“I’m here to help bring Staunton to a more prosperous Staunton,” Wilson said.
Election Day is November 8. Early voting begins September 23.