H. Otto Wachsmann is the Republican candidate for Virginia House of Delegates District 75. His name will appear on the ballot on Nov. 2.
Candidate: H. Otto Wachsmann
Race: Virginia House of Delegates District 75
Biography: Otto Wachsmann is passionate about his sense of community and his strong desire to see his community move forward. This value has been instilled in him from his early days: Spending as much time in the summer as he could on his grandfather’s farm, standing on a soda fountain stool so he could reach the keys on his father’s cash register at their family owned store, serving for 16 years as a member of the Stony Creek Volunteer Fire Department, maintaining his efforts as a member of the Joyner Gray Yale Ruritan Club, and his decades working as a pharmacist at Stony Creek Pharmacy.
After graduating from high school, Wachsmann attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg for two years to fulfill his entrance requirements into the Medical College of Virginia-Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. There he earned his bachelor’s of science degree in pharmacy in 1986. Immediately following graduation, he started working as a staff pharmacist for Peoples Drug briefly in Richmond before being transferred closer to home at their Emporia location. It wasn’t long before he left corporate pharmacy and began a career working for a collection of independent pharmacies in Sussex, Petersburg, Prince George and Crewe.
In 1989, Wachsmann took a brief absence from community pharmacy and took a home office manager positions at the A. H. Robins Company in Richmond as their first manager of managed health care and technical information and later as their manager of new product planning and technical information. While those two roles only lasted for one year before the company was purchased by American Home Products, it provided him with an inside view of what has now developed into how prescription drug prices are created and further manipulated.
After returning to his previous work with independent pharmacies, in 1996 Wachsmann stepped out again and accepted the position as director of experiential education at the newly created Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy at Shenandoah University in Winchester. While pioneering this position, Wachsmann traveled throughout the state and became quite aware of the concerns of many people in our rural areas, including the opioid crisis which was just developing in Southwest Virginia at that time. It was also during this time that he earned his doctor of pharmacy degree at Shenandoah University and served as president of the Virginia Pharmacists Association.
Although Wachsmann found the Winchester region in Virginia quite appealing, in 2003 he returned home to the 75th District and purchased his father’s pharmacy that he still owns. He continues to help those in our community with their prescription needs. He is quite fortunate to have some outstanding and friendly staff to assist with serving their patients, who need and deserve assistance with understanding their healthcare needs. It is this position, from behind and in front of the pharmacy counter, that Wachsmann has gained his sense of passion for his community.
As portions of our economy, according to the experts, seem to have improved the past few years, it is apparent in rural areas such as most of the 75th District this move to prosperity appears to have stalled. While we hear of programs to help improve the economy from a statewide level, with very few exceptions, Wachsmann has not seen those benefits translate well to those in our community. Instead he sees many areas of decline for his patients, and as a small business owner, he watches as hardware stores, grocery stores, and other pharmacies close, leaving those in the community with a loss of valuable resources. These reasons are what have prompted Wachsmann to make a bid for the office of delegate for the 75th District in Virginia.
Today Wachsmann and his wife, Judy, have their roots in Sussex County to stay. He sold his pharmacy in 2019, but continued to work there until recently when he resigned to focus on this year’s election and other interests. He enjoys living in the house that he and his wife had built on that very same farm that Wachsmann enjoyed spending so much time on with his grandfather.
They have two daughters, Katherine (Kate) and Kirsten, that have recently moved off the farm and into their own. Kate Wachsmann works at Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia as an x-ray and cat scan technician, and their youngest daughter, Kirsten Wachsmann, is in graduate school at Longwood University in Farmville. When Judy Wachsmann isn’t maintaining her efforts with managing the dual-enrollment high school student program at Paul D Community College in Franklin, in their free time, she and Wachsmann enjoy their farmhouse with their chocolate labrador, Celexa, who is probably at this very moment adding to her collection of sticks, rocks, and weeds she keeps in the family room.
Why should Virginians elect you to the Virginia House of Delegates?
Citizens of the 75th District should vote for Wachsmann for several reasons. First and foremost is the need for a change. I am challenging a 16-year incumbent who has done little for our district.
I was born and raised in the district, and when I was younger I recall when people were proud to say that they were from the area. As someone who is a pharmacist and spent much of his life working and owning an independent pharmacy in the district, I have personally witnessed the defeated look on people’s faces as their hope and pride in the district has declined.
For the past two years we have watched as one-party rule and control in urban areas of the state has eroded our rural values and lifestyle. I have experience as a small business owner, worked for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, and for seven years I was on faculty at Shenandoah University, all while working with everyone in the community. We must re-vitalize the 75th District. We need a new prescription for Southside, and I am the person to bring pride back into the area.
What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?
I plan to turn things back around in Southside. I want this area to place an emphasis on getting our educational system back on par with other districts in the state. Richmond needs to recognize that Southside is in need of their investment.
We need to develop incubator projects to encourage our citizens to develop small businesses in the district while developing our workforce so larger businesses will see our area as a viable place to locate. Our district has major north-south thoroughfares, such as Interstate 95, and two rail lines that provide access across the East Coast with vast amounts of open land to develop, yet we have lost industry. We need to capitalize on these resources to bring in businesses and expand our tax base.
Then there is healthcare, the 75th District is comprised of an elderly population with low health outcomes. As large as our district is, we have only two hospitals. At the same time COVID-19 hit our country, our existing delegate allowed those two hospitals to lose their contract with a major insurance plan that includes our state employees. She also allowed the Crater Health District to close one of our county health departments. That is inexcusable. We need to look at the reasons that we are losing healthcare providers in our area. We need to infuse a sense of pride back into Southside.
What is the most important issue facing your district, and what is your position on it?
It’s loss of pride. Our district has been going into a spiral the past decade-and-a-half. Much of our agricultural industry has collapsed into few farms. Many of the large benchmark employers, like International Paper in Franklin, Georgia Pacific in Jarratt and Skippers, Masonite and Waverly Hardwoods in Waverly, and St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, have long since left the area.
Northern Virginia and Richmond area legislators are threatening our rural heritage by placing pressure on the traditions of many in the district by going after firearms and hunting. We have watched our health outcomes decline as the state has allowed third party payors to favor more urban area providers without recognizing the additional healthcare burdens associated with not having access to transportation or specialists like cardiologists, nutritionists, diabetes educators, and endocrinologists. The good people in the 75th District have been forgotten by those in office. Rural areas in general have been forgotten by Richmond.
What is your position on Virginia’s overall response to the coronavirus pandemic, and what might you have done differently?
Our state has done a terrible job at getting us through the coronavirus pandemic. My county is served by the Crater Health District. his is the same health district that was criticized by our governor as being one of the last to get out of the 1A vaccination level to begin vaccinating the general population. Crater closed the Sussex Health Department in my county for the better part of a year beginning at the onset of the pandemic while our current state delegate was completely silent on it’s closing. How does a state allow it’s public health department to close during a national pandemic, especially when many of the counties in the district were some of the hardest hit in the state?
After months of the Sussex Health Department being closed, I contacted the Crater Health Department and was simply told they had scarce resources and were forced to move personnel to areas harder hit by the pandemic, which was inexcusable as three of the localities in the 75th District (Emporia, Greensville and Sussex) individually had more death and higher incidence rates than the two localities combined which Crater Health focused on.
My calls to the Virginia Department of Health at that time went to a never-ending voice mail tree which ultimately landed into an already overloaded voice mail box. As a pharmacist, I saw the computerized enrollment system change three times. Elderly without internet access or an e-mail system were unable to register for the vaccine. The only testing offered in our area until January of this year was one volunteer rescue squad worker who would meet people at the rescue squad, and then only if you knew how to contact her. Our local doctor’s office was told they would receive an initial shipment of vaccine to vaccinate their employees only to later discover they would not receive any. Our public health program failed our portion of the state.
What are the top three issues created by the coronavirus pandemic in your district, and how would you plan to address them?
- Disorganization: With our county health department being shut down, we had no unified information. While our governor was preaching “shots in arms,” we had no vaccine to give. As a healthcare provider in the 1A group, I was initially told that I did not qualify for a vaccination despite CDC guidelines clearly listing pharmacists in the 1A category.
- Employment: Many of the businesses that were forced to closed during the beginning have not recovered. Many of those that remained open are now in jeopardy of closing because they can not find help as so many have moved toward unemployment. As I travel around the district talking with business owners, getting employees in their number one expressed concern right behind the increased cost of supplies and difficulties of staying compliant with the various and shifting coronavirus regulations.
- Isolation. People want to get out and enjoy life again. They want to share information in a face-to-face fashion again.
How to address these issues? Work toward creating an immediate summit with the Virginia Department of Health. Examine what has occurred and develop a plan to improve it while addressing the mental health needs of our citizens in the state.