Volunteerism may no longer be enough – Mount Airy News

County rescue squads present budget proposal
Rescue squads train in October 2021 with donated vehicles. Five rescue squads serve Surry County as a supplement to EMS and local fire departments. Funding of rescue squads is handled in part with donations from the public.
Mount Airy Rescue Squad
In March 2020 strong winds brought down a large pine tree onto a mobile home pinning a girl in her bed. The operations resulted in members and equipment from all five Surry County Rescue Squads along with local fire departments working together. The young lady trapped celebrated her fourth birthday earlier this year.
Mount Airy Rescue Squad
It was an unintentional coincidence that is a metaphor for a larger problem, and one that needs to be addressed. Representatives from the Surry County Association of Rescue Squads took their turn making 2022-23 budget presentations to the county commissioners Tuesday.
A scheduled two hours turned into a four-hour budgetary slog, with the board managing more business afterward behind closed doors.
Everyone in the room from the school superintendents, commissioners, county staff, down to the deputy in the lobby on guard was getting compensated to be there in one way or another.
Except the five men sent to represent the rescue squads, the 100% volunteer force that is the opposite hand of the 18 fire departments.
Vice Chairman Eddie Harris has sat on the board for some time and is aware of the nature of the local fire district and volunteer rescue squad model in use for Surry County. Even he asked once for clarification from the men on their volunteer status as it is somewhat baffling to consider there is not a single full or part-time paid employee on the five rescue squads.
The rescue squad volunteers sat and listened while waiting to make their budget request of just over $314,000. Last year they operated on a budget of $276,000, which had been a cut from the previous year.
They noted in presenting the data the cost of operating a rescue squad is not wholly different from that of a fire department, but funding and compensation are another matter entirely.
“We and fire go hand-in-hand,” Nathan Webb of Mount Airy Rescue Squad said of their first response cousins. The rescue squads and fire departments have some overlapping services, some fire houses offer rescue services while others do not.
Funding the rescue squads is a piecemeal affair that combines county contributions with monies from the United Fund of Surry. Donations from the public are an extremely important part of their funding. While their budgetary allotments went down during COVID donations, to their pleasant surprise, went up. The board was told that public donations were the “best in decades.”
The juxtaposition of that largesse is the part of this story that is harder to talk about. These are volunteer rescue squads and there is simply not the appetite to be found to participate. “When I took over seven years ago, I had 35, now I have 28 members on my squad. Volunteerism is at an all-time low,” Webb noted.
As the area and its workforce have changed dramatically over the past decades, it was noted that transition also added to the problem. “It’s not like the 90s when everyone could just leave the mill. We don’t live in that world anymore.”
Webb said they need to move into a world where these rescue squads have some paid staff, and they also suggested establishing some defined boundaries for the rescue squads as well. Currently, the squads are covering 177 square miles including three southern Virginia counties and offering rescue services to Stokes County.
The squads often arrive before county EMS or local fire on the scene to triage and begin care at that most critical moment, when seconds could make all the difference. A full 85% of the squads’ calls are for medical assistance as opposed to the specialized rescue for which they are also trained.
When it comes to funding it is nearly impossible for the squads to make inroads on grants. “Most nationally funded money and state money is tailored for fire department and EMS, we are somewhere in the middle and that sets us at a disadvantage,” Webb said. A grant that was approved in 2015 only came through fully in 2021, he said, so even getting approval may not yield relief.
Call volume versus compensation needs to come into better alignment somehow, they feel. For the 18 fire departments, excluding the two city departments, he quoted their call volume at over 12,000. The average compensation to the fire departments per call they run is $457.
Contrast that with the rescue squads which answered more than 4,300 calls yet their compensation is $69 per call. Webb said when you break that down further, the squads who respond to more calls get even less, Mount Airy Rescue Squad he noted gets close to $31 per call.
“It’s come to the point where the squads are suffering, we’re really suffering,” Dennis Manuel chief of Pilot Mountain Rescue said.
“We are no longer treading water, we seem to be underwater in a lot of places,” Webb said. He noted radios are an issue with spotty coverage and will need replacement. The squads are having issues with vehicles aging out, each noting having vehicles from the 1990s and early 2000s that will need replacing.
The squads made it clear that they are not asking for much, and never a penny that would be taken from their fire and EMS brethren. That said, depending on the generosity of the public as a primary form of funding seems fraught with peril.
Chris Wall of the Mount Airy Rescue squad perked up as the meeting was wrapping and asked for a moment to speak as a member of the squad, and a full-time firefighter, “All five of us have put in beaucoup hours to get re-certified,” he said of his more than 794 hours of certification and annual re-certification.
“There is a lot of stuff we do that is similar to the fire departments, but it is not the same job. As a firefighter, I could not do it without these guys. We need the rescue squads.”
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May 10, 2022
The Mount Airy News is running question-and-answer articles with candidates leading up to the May 17 primary. We posed the same three questions to candidates for the Surry County Board of Commissioners South District seat.
Eddie Harris
Eddie Harris was born in Mount Airy in 1961 and lived in the Boones Hill section south of Bannertown and went to Bannertown Elementary School and the old South Main Street School for sixth grade. After that, his family moved to Mountain Park where he finished his last six years at Elkin City Schools. A graduate of Surry Community College and Appalachian State University he married Robbin Burchette who taught first grade for 30 years in Surry County and Elkin City schools.
They have two daughters Mary Gwyn and Victoria and two sons-in-laws Alex Ratley and Brandon Cox, as well as two grandsons Harris Ratley and Samuel Cox. He is employed in the family’s business Harris Leather and Silverworks manufacturing equestrian products. “I am a self-taught hand engraver and silversmith in that business. I also do carpentry work remodeling houses on the weekends. I am a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.”
He is the current vice chair of the Surry County Board of Commissioners while also serving the community on a variety of committees. Harris is a self-identified history and genealogy buff who in discussions on J. J. Jones High was a vocal proponent of protecting the history of the building for posterity.
Question: Can you identify an area of concern that matters to you and describe how you may choose to address that issue?
Harris: I am running for a fourth term because I am honored to serve our citizens as county commissioner and appreciate the confidence the good people of Surry County have shown me these last 12 years. My primary focus is making this county a safe and decent place to raise a family, have a good paying job, and hopefully build a county in which our young people can remain.
I will continue to vote to maintain our current tax rate and insist that county tax dollars are not wasted but spent in a conservative common-sense fashion. Our tax rate has remained unchanged, and our unencumbered fund balance has grown during my tenure in office. I met with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s credit rating agencies to elevate our ratings and put our county’s financial position on a solid footing. We hired some of the best financial advisors in our state. Our financial position is sound having achieved this through commonsense conservative principals.
I will not waver in representing our working people and senior citizens who must choose whether they are going to pay their property taxes, pay their power bill, buy groceries, or their medicine. I will never forget these forgotten Americans. I will also continue our war on drugs and substance abuse that is ravaging many of our families and affecting innocent children in a horrible way. Surry County has led the way in developing a comprehensive prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery approach.
Question: How would you describe your political philosophy and what that means for your style of governance?
Harris: I am a conservative Republican and am very disturbed by what I see taking place in our country today. This includes our federal government, state government, as well as the public schools in our nation. I am pro-life and will fight the intolerant, divisive, disruptive leftist agenda that liberal politicians, the leftist news media, big corporation, and unelected big tech oligarchs are using to usurp our basic constitutional rights. They are dividing Americans young and old in every way imaginable.
When the radical woke left calls the American flag, the English language, Mickey Mouse, Dr. Seuss, meritocracy, and accountability racist, our mothers birthing persons, thieves uninvited guest, and the list goes on it causes me great worry for our nation. We need to look for ways to bring Americans together not tear the fabric of our nation apart.
I am a strong defender of freedom of speech and the rule of law. I believe what is happening at our southern border a disgrace to our people and our national sovereignty. I believe Surry County citizens should know the beliefs of all elected officials, that is why I voted to make our school board elections partisan. Knowledge is power. Our children belong to their parents and not the school boards. Political and social indoctrination have no place in our public schools. The people of this county do not support the destructive woke Critical Race Theory, social justice equity agenda. These beliefs have carried me through my 12 years on the board and I believe they mirror the working people of this county.
Question: What does the future of Surry County look like in five years?
Harris: Looking out five years I continue to see people wanting to move to our county to escape the big cities. I see our taxes low, revenues stable, and an economy that continues to diversify with small business continuing to be the leading employers. Tourism will continue to play a big role. I see a county that is more focused on keeping trash off our roadsides. I see our drug problem continuing to be challenge, but hopefully progress will be made in that area.
I believe our young people will continue to move into trades and technical education careers. I serve as a trustee on our community college board and that has been a primary focus. Surry County will continue to be a special place to live and raise a family. We must continue to offer our citizens and especially our young people the hope and promise of tomorrow. The promise of a forgiving God and a nation birthed by liberty and freedom with endless opportunity. I remain optimistic despite what we are seeing in our nation today because ultimately only God can heal our nation. With warmest regards, I seek to remain your humble servant.
Tessa Saeli
Tessa Anne Saeli of Elkin is a mother of four who along with husband Dr. James Saeli own Beth EL Wellness & Chiropractic in Elkin. Her kids are grown, but an empty nest it is not with four dogs, four ducks, one cat and a bunny to keep them company.
She wants voters to know that she has a great deal of leadership experience and qualifications, “but I am not a politician and do not want to be.
“I am an ordained and licensed minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Certified Biblical Life Breakthrough Coach. I have managed many large budgets and large groups of staff and volunteers. I have served on the North Carolina Southern Baptist Ordination Board, have served in South Carolina and North Carolina in different churches in different roles: youth pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor and children’s pastor as well as education director and missions director.
I served on Marlboro County Arts Council and Downtown Development Board, I’m a former schoolteacher, preschool director of two very large pre-schools in the Raleigh area, community outreach director, former Rotarian, and a former prison chaplain in South and North Carolina; on the Development Board of Stevens Christian Academy in South Carolina; part of the American Renewal Project and Convention of States. Have attended numerous John Maxwell Leadership Seminars to fill myself with good counsel and wisdom.
And let me add, the current elections machines need to be audited now.
Question: Identify an area of concern that matters to you and tell the readers how you may choose to address that issue.
Saeli: An area of concern in Surry County is the substance abuse problem that is truly a plague on this land. I will allocate all of my commissioner’s salary to the Substance Abuse Recovery Team for programs, prevention, etc. I will also work closely with them to establish better programs and the building of new Rehab Centers that are much needed in this area. However, prevention is the number one goal. The churches need to be better educated on how to actually “help” their own congregations. I want to be a connector in that process between the governing officials and the churches. Time to go “upstream.”
Question: How would you describe your political philosophy and what that means for your style of governance?
Saeli: I don’t have a “political” philosophy. Politics is a demonic spirit. Governance, however, is different. This nation was founded upon Biblical principles and should be governed as such. Prayer, the Bible, the Constitution is all we need. We don’t need new laws. We need to follow the ones we have. They work. Surrounding yourself with good counsel that believes in these things is a must. Term limits are a must. Praying over every decision can’t be an afterthought, it needs to be a leader’s first thought.
Question: What does the future of Surry County look like in five years?
Saeli: The future of Surry County depends on the outcome of this election. If we’re going to continue to live on the “merry go round” of the same thing over and over over again, keep the officials we have. But if you want a fresh outlook with new ideas and new breakthroughs for the future, vote for new people to lead. There is a great future ahead for Surry County if we elect new leaders that listen to God and will not compromise. Also, we need news outlets that report truth instead of pieces of the actual story.
May 10, 2022
The Mount Airy News is running question-and-answer articles with candidates leading up to the May 17 primary. We posed the same three questions to candidates for the Surry County Board of Commissioners Central District seat. Here are their answers.
Mark Marion
Mark Marion is a Surry County Commissioner from Dobson who is seeking a second term as county commissioner, and is the past chair of the commissioners. He was born and raised in Surry County. A man “63 years young,” he along with wife Sara have four daughters and six grandchildren. He is a member of Salem Baptist Church in Dobson who had racked up more than 30 years of service with RJ Reynolds before retiring.
Marion said, “I proudly coached many years and a couple of generations of children in baseball and basketball. Although I no longer coach, I get to enjoy watching my grandchildren play in all their sports.”
Question: Can you identify an area of concern that matters to you and describe how you may choose to address that issue?
Marion: As a county commissioner, all things that go on in Surry County matter to me but the two things that concern me most at this time is our opioid crisis and the overcrowding in our jail. The jail has been overcrowded for several years and it is a danger to the detention officers as well as the inmates. It is an enormous cost to send our inmates to other counties to be housed. The state inspection department was one step from closing our jail down. Our new jail is under construction and will house a new 911 operations center as well as a magistrate’s office. It can’t be completed soon enough.
The opioid crisis is not going away anytime soon, county government along with the sheriff’s department has initiated a substance abuse program where county employees along with volunteers are working diligently to combat the everyday influx of drugs in our county and assist the citizens that are affected in their rehabilitation. A plan to use opioid settlement money has been designed as a long term road map, lots of counties don’t have one.
Question: How would you describe your political philosophy and what that means for your style of governance?
Marion: As the old saying goes “treat others as you would have them treat you.” I came to the conclusion a long time ago that I’m never going to please everyone. That’s where the common sense approach comes in. I try to make decisions based on what I believe my constituents would want. Sometimes you get it right but believe me the times you get it wrong; you’re going to hear about it.
I really enjoy being a commissioner, sure there are times when you get those calls where citizens are unhappy, and you do your best to lead them in the right direction; then you get those calls where you can ease someone’s mind or comfort them. We learn and grow together every day and I would appreciate your support for this upcoming election.
Question: What does the future of Surry County look like in five years?
Marion: Surry County’s outlook is very bright. No one has a crystal ball to predict the future but the economic development along with infrastructure, broadband, water and sewer, natural gas upgrades and improvements to the Mount Airy/ Surry County airport to attract new businesses and sustain our present ones outline a promising future.
We haven’t raised property taxes since I’ve been on the board, and I don’t foresee it in the near future. Our citizens are very good about paying their taxes so we can invest in the welfare of our county. We strive to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars and with God’s help Surry County will continue to prosper. We want our county to be a place where our children and grandchildren want to continue living and raise their families.
Landon Tolbert
Landon Tolbert, 30, a small business owner from Mount Airy is in his first campaign for office. “I have been a small business owner since I was 15 years old. I know the value of a hard day’s work. I believe because of this experience I will make a strong, conservative, leader for Surry County.
“I would like to begin by thanking my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to take this journey to run for Surry County commissioner. I am a Christian first and a true fiscal conservative. I stand for the 2nd amendment, pro-life, and the Constitution.”
Question: Can you identify an area of concern that matters to you and tell the readers how you may choose to address that issue?
Tolbert: One issue that I am concerned about is that we need stronger leadership in office. I believe that we need conservative leaders who will work for the people. There seems to be a disconnect between what the people want and what the representatives do. For example, it seems like the government’s spending keeps increasing while the taxpayer’s wallet seems to keep decreasing. Times are hard right now due to inflation, and I believe that we need leaders who take this into consideration. We need leaders who will be more fiscally conservative with taxpayer dollars.
Question: How would you describe your political philosophy and what that means for your style of governance.
Tolbert: I, Landon Tolbert, want to be a watchman on the wall for the people of Surry County. The term watchman comes from the book in the Bible Ezekiel 33. A watchman to me, means a true representative that fights for the good of the people and understands the consequences of their decisions. I believe I will answer to not only the people, but I will answer to God if I do not fulfill the job of a watchman correctly. With every decision that I make, I will honor God and the people.
Question: What does the future of Surry County look like in five years?
Tolbert: I believe that if conservative leaders are voted into office, then Surry County has a bright future. Surry County can have a future with low taxes, a small government, a thriving economy, and a place where young families will choose to stay and live their lives. I hope to make all this possible with your vote.
May 10, 2022
The Konnection Band returns to the Blackmon Amphitheatre stage on Friday, while Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot will take the stage on Saturday night. Both shows will start at 7:30 p.m.
Founded in 2005, The Konnection has been tabbed as one of the East Coast’s premier party bands, specializing in a variety of music including Top 40, Rock, Country, R & B, Beach, and Oldies.
Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot are known as a Soul, R&B party band based out of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Their musical repertoire covers decades of hits from favorite artists and genres of music including soul, rhythm and blues, funk, reggae, jazz standards, country, 50s, 60s, and Carolina Beach Music. In addition to performing some of the most current hits that are topping the charts today, the group has had many successful chart-topping hits on local radio and internet stations across North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida.
Admission to each show is $15 or a Surry Arts Council Annual Pass. Children 12 and younger are admitted free with an adult admission or annual pass. The Dairy Center, Whit’s Custard, and Thirsty Souls Community Brewing will be at the concerts to provide food, snacks, drinks, beer, and wine for purchase. No outside alcohol or coolers are allowed to be brought into the amphitheatre area. Those attending are asked to bring a lounge chair or blanket to sit on.
Tickets are available at the gates one hour before the concerts, online at www.surryarts.org, via phone at 336-786-7998, or at the Surry Arts Council office at 218 Rockford Street. For additional information, contact Marianna Juliana at 336-786-7998 or marianna@surryarts.org
May 10, 2022
A South Ward slot on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is among city offices up for grabs in the 2022 municipal election season. With a non-partisan system involved, the three candidates facing off in the primary will be narrowed to two who will be on the November general election ballot. Each responded to the same set of questions designed to help voters learn about their backgrounds and positions on key issues to make informed choices. Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates and responses include those of:
Gene Clark
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Gene Clark, and I seek your support to serve as commissioner, South Ward, of the Mount Airy city council. At 59 years old, I have had an abundance of personal and professional experiences that shaped my ability to work well with others to achieve shared goals.
As a husband to my beautiful wife Becky, I have learned to cherish her unconditionally and listen carefully to her wise counsel. As father to two beloved sons, Taylor and Tyler, I have learned to put the needs of family above my own personal desires, and to expect and respect differences of opinion — so long as those differences harm no one else.
As a successful business leader for more than 40 years who has worked from the ground up in the highly competitive furniture business, I understand the importance of developing and maintaining a sustainable budget, identifying and prioritizing needs versus wishes, seeking opportunities for growth and expansion, hiring and mentoring young professionals so they can advance to more-lucrative positions and ensuring customer satisfaction and repeat business by providing a high-quality product that is truthfully promoted.
My Christian faith is the foundation of who I am and has always informed my value system. Since birth, I have been part of the Methodist Church and participated in a variety of faith-based organizations and volunteer roles — including Methodist Men, pastor-parish and serving on the church Finance Committee and Administrative Council.
I also have held several leadership positions with the Bassett (Virginia) Kiwanis Club, including president and vice president. Most recently, I led the now-defunct Citizens for Transparency — a local group dedicated to encouraging members of the city council to engage in open, honest communications with the public.
I believe my background will serve me well as commissioner, because it provides a foundation for me to engage collegially with other council members as we work together to ensure that the city’s needs are consistently prioritized.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I love Mount Airy and want to help ensure its ability to remain a family favorite beacon to yesteryear while expanding its attraction to the next generations. Sweet memories of bygone days can stir our souls, but the tools and technology of today and tomorrow must stir our imagination so we can effectively embrace the future.
As a commissioner, I will use my talents and strengths to help lay the groundwork for the city to aggressively and strategically search out and seize opportunities to move our focus beyond the immediate “downtown” area — where we have stayed mired for the past 10 years. As a commissioner, I am interested in helping to heal the ever-widening chasm that now exists between the elected officials of this town and its people.
To that end, I will invite and welcome ideas, comments, criticism and questions from the public — because a city council is only as effective as its communications — and our present council only tells people what they’re going to do rather than engage in open, honest discussions with constituents about potential plans.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: Jobs is my top consideration. And when I say jobs, I mean jobs that pay significantly more than minimum wage. I’m talking about jobs that can sustain a family and permit the purchase of a reasonably priced home within the city limits or nearby vicinity. We cannot grow unless and until we engage aggressively in finding and attracting small, medium or large-sized businesses to Mount Airy.
We must rally our local business and political interests to help us recruit new employers to our town, including women and minority owners who bring with them refreshingly new and updated views and perspectives. Such entrepreneurs will be attracted to what Mount Airy has to offer — including easy on/off access to all major highways and byways, superb educational and health care facilities, a rich variety of cultural and recreational activities and outlets and strong traditions with a culture wrapped in old-fashioned values.
My second priority will be to attain and maintain budget compliance. Over the years, we have gotten off track and spent money recklessly while raising taxes at the drop of the hat. We cannot continue on that budgetary train wreck. As commissioner, I will help ensure that the city manager and all department heads operate in unison to correct budgetary variances that lead to over-spending, and that they also lead the effort to cut costs, as might be necessary.
Unlike the federal government, Mount Airy does not have a printing press that will produce more greenbacks — so we must not spend more than our revenues allow and borrow more than we can comfortably repay. Developing and maintaining a budget is not brain surgery — it only requires a commitment to “staying within our means.” Rest assured, I mean to stay within those well-defined boundaries.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: If you believe, as I do, that the status quo has gotta go, then I’m the commissioner for you. Mount Airy is long overdue for a group of elected officials who will put the needs of the whole city first — ahead of their own personal interests.
And the city is long overdue for a group of elected officials who can work well together rather than squabbling like grade-school bullies. As your commissioner, I will be truthful and honest with you and vote with integrity at all times. And as your commissioner, I will be a proud ambassador for the city of Mount Airy — the place we all love and the place we all call home.
Phillip Thacker
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Phillip Thacker, I am 67 years old and was born and raised in Mount Airy.
I have been married to my wife Nancy for 48 years and am blessed with two married children and three wonderful grandchildren.
After 46 years of working here in Mount Airy, I am retired and have the time to continue serving the community. I am a graduate of Mount Airy High School and Surry Community College with an associate in science degree.
I was previously employed by Quality Mills for 12 years as an engineer and by Renfro Corp. for 34 years as an engineer and an engineering manager.
Other involvements have included serving on the Mount Airy Planning Board for three years and the Mount Airy Board of Education for 23 years.
I presently am a member of the Mount Airy City Schools Educational Foundation; treasurer of our church, for 21 years; and a trustee.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I was born and raised in Mount Airy and have been fortunate enough to work here for 46 years.
During that time I have served the community since 1993 as a member of the planning board and formerly the city school board, so now I would like to continue serving the community as a Mount Airy city commissioner.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: (1) Increasing the number of jobs available in the community is important to me. We need to be aware of the opportunities available and pursue them.
(2) Keeping a sharp eye on the budget. I would address this with the simple idea that you can only spend what you have available.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: Working in the private sector in Mount Airy for a long time makes me aware of the need for jobs in the city today.
Having served on a public board that successfully takes care of our tax dollars and demonstrates success is another reason. And serving on several local boards prepares you on how to work together with people and move a board in the right direction.
I know I can be a positive influence on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners and our community.
I will do my best to make good decisions for the city of Mount Airy.
Joe Zalescik
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: I presently serve as a Mount Airy city commissioner and work hard every day to represent your interests in making this city a better place to live, work and play.
My credentials include 35 years of elected and appointed public service experience; being a former member of the Mount Airy Planning Board who now is a member of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority; and serving as a representative for Surry County Tourism and Economic Development.
Also, I am a member of the Surry County Farmers Market Board and the coordinator of the Mount Airy Farmers Market along with being a member and membership ambassador of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce;
I am a small business owner in Mount Airy, of Station 1978 Firehouse Peanuts, LLC; have strong public safety experience with more than 40 years in fire and rescue activities; and am a retired health care media executive with 40 years of experience
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: In addition to now serving as Mount Airy’s at-large commissioner, I have 35 years of elected and appointed public service experience in local government and continue to make public service a priority in my life.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: There is a need for new affordable housing, especially for young people who work in Mount Airy. The city has land available for development and can offer incentives for new housing opportunities.
Secondly, we have to fill the vacant positions in our police and fire departments. I also would like to see the Police Department be nationally certified. This will help with recruitment and retention of our police force.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: Experience and a commitment to Mount Airy, including serving on the Mount Airy Planning Board before I was appointed to the at-large commissioner seat.
In working as a volunteer ambassador for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, being on the Surry County Farmers Market board and coordinating the Mount Airy Farmers Market, public service is at the core of my beliefs — as service to humanity is the best work of life.
May 09, 2022
A local man’s death is being investigated as a homicide, according to Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt.
The sheriff, in a statement released late Monday, said deputies from his office responded to a call of “an unresponsive patient setting (sic) on a lawnmower,” in the 600 block of Golf Course Road in Pilot Mountain at 1:18 p.m. Upon arrival at the scene, deputies discovered the man was dead.
“Deputies on the scene requested the assistance of the Criminal Investigation Division and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation,” the sheriff said. “This investigation is still ongoing and is being ruled a homicide,” Hiatt said. “This investigation is believed to be an isolated incident.”
The sheriff declined to release the name of the victim, the address of the finding, or whether the man had suffered any obvious wounds.
“The sheriff’s office will release additional information at a later time.”
May 09, 2022
The most crowded race facing city voters this spring is in the North Ward, where four candidates are seeking to fill the seat now held by mayoral candidate Jon Cawley. After the May 17 primary, the first- and second-place winners will then go head to head in the non-partisan municipal election next November. Each person in the race responded to the same set of questions designed to help voters learn about their backgrounds and positions on key issues to make informed choices. Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates and responses include those of:
Chad Hutchens
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: I am Chad Hutchens, 45 years old, who has have been a sworn law enforcement officer for more than 24 years. I am presently a sergeant with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office in the School Resource Officer Division.
I have been employed with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office for about 22 years. Before that, I was an officer with the Mount Airy Police Department.
I obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia Southern University and a master’s degree in criminal justice/public administration degree from Liberty University. I received my Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) certification from Surry Community College in 1997. In January of 1998, I began as an officer with the Mount Airy Police Department. In July 1999, I was hired by the Surry County Sheriff’s office as a school resource officer and in May 2007, received my Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate. In July 2009, I was promoted to the Criminal Investigations Division as a detective.
In July 2014, I had the opportunity to return to the School Resource Officer Division of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. In July 2019, I was promoted to sergeant of that unit. I serve as a liaison between the Surry County Schools and Surry County Sheriff’s Office. I encourage preventative measures for safety, instruct drug-awareness programs and lead a team of great officers.
In addition to having attended numerous schools at the federal, state and local levels, I have completed training in technology-facilitated crimes against children and protecting children online, presented by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
I have been a public service advocate involved with various organizations in our community. I have served with the Mount Airy Rescue Squad, Surry County Emergency Services, Surry County E-911 Communications, United Fund of Surry, Fraternal Order of Police and Boy Scouts of America. I have received the National Jefferson Award for my contributions through public and volunteer community service.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I am running for city commissioner because the great citizens of Mount Airy have made a difference in my own life, and I know that we can continue to make a difference for all citizens in our community. As a public servant, I have had the opportunity to help and influence the lives of the citizens who we are so grateful to serve. I will continue to bring my passion and experience to help everyone within our great community.
I also am seeking office because I have a passion for helping others, and I was raised to believe that community service is a noble exercise of our freedom. However, I also believe that community service must be done for the right reasons. It should be viewed as a personal commitment to better our community, not as a means of personal gratification.
Educated in public administration, I understand the policy issues facing our city. As a public employee myself, I also understand the challenges of providing superior public service.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: (1) Economic development and (2) community development.
We should strive to promote Mount Airy and our city merchants. We must also balance business development with quality of life. Infrastructure is a subject matter that needs our attention. We should assess our needs and address the issues of aging and outdated water and sewer lines. Recreation is essential to the growth and development of our community. We need to ensure that we have adequate facilities for our citizens to safely enjoy and promote the health and well-being of everyone.
We need a citizens-driven approach to government. Citizens should be at the forefront, as they best understand our city’s dynamics, cultures and history. We need to have citizens involved in identifying issues and measuring performance. We should be encouraging citizen participation and working to develop partnerships among our citizens. Buy-in and participation are of great importance, as our citizens are the stakeholders of our community.
The bottom line is that I care about Mount Airy, and I care about working hard for you. The critical issues to you are those same issues that are important to me.
I will work to grow our community while also preserving our small-town charisma.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: I have developed many useful skills through my education and life experience as a law enforcement officer and community volunteer. I have experience ranging from policy regulations to strategic planning. I have a positive track record in leadership as both a volunteer and paid public service professional. I understand that there are different perspectives on issues in the city regarding regulations for financial and fiscal management. I have always been focused on those we serve and their families. I will always strive to represent the public’s best interests, and I am committed to that priority.
I genuinely love Mount Airy. I sincerely appreciate its beauty, charm, history, award-winning schools and all our city activities and events. I have been an active member of our community through volunteer public service and serving as a law enforcement professional.
I have been involved with the Mount Airy Rescue Squad for the past 27 years, with which I have served as a member, chief and now as a board member. I have the confidence and support of our great sheriff, Steve Hiatt, in serving as a sergeant supervising our School Resource Officer and DARE officer unit. I have served with numerous service organizations such as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association; the Boy Scouts of America, of which I am an Eagle Scout; and the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Teresa Leiva
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Teresa Davis Leiva. I am 37 years old. My husband, Carlos, is a software developer by profession and we have two children who attend Mount Airy City Schools. I grew up just outside the city limits in Sheltontown and graduated from Mount Airy High School in 2002. I work as an advocate for high-risk children at Jones Intermediate and Mount Airy Middle schools, and taught piano lessons from my home until the pandemic hit in 2020.
I’m also an active member of my church, serving as the children’s music conductor and an adviser in the Compassionate Service Program, providing care to those in need. I am a former school board member for Mount Airy City Schools, serving on an interim basis from July 2019 to Dec. 1 2020, through the start of the pandemic.
In my free time, I volunteer for multiple programs in our community, such as Surry Animal Rescue, where we foster cats and dogs (more than 150 fosters collectively) and assist with adoptions and fundraisers. I proudly serve as a board member of the Greater Mount Airy Ministry of Hospitality over The Shepherd’s House and Helping Hands Foundation of Surry County, and I am the president of the Board of Directors for The Redemption House-Surry, a long-term men’s recovery program located right outside the city in Toast.
As the adviser over the High School Interact Club, whose motto is “Service Above Self,” I work to cultivate the next generation of service-oriented individuals. Because of the scope of my community-based activities, I believe that I am in the best position to reflect the wants and needs of those who would be my constituents.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I feel called to serve our community. I can’t change the world, the United States or even the entire state of North Carolina, but I can help to cultivate a thriving community here in Mount Airy. On a daily basis I work with children who will need jobs when they grow up, affordable housing and positive activities, and I would like to be in a position where I can do the most good for them and for all of us who live here.
This is my home, and I understand the history of Mount Airy because it is my history. We have a really wonderful town, with strong, kind individuals who deserve to be supported and to be heard. I want to be able to provide the opportunities for growth, while balancing a fiscally conservative approach and utilizing local networks as well as local partnerships to set us up for future success. I would like to support the continuance of responsible growth while maintaining the rich, vibrant history and culture we already have. Mount Airy is a great place to live, and I want to keep it that way.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: While there are some who would say jobs and housing are the two biggest issues, I would select workforce development and poverty as those I see a need to address. Jobs and housing both fall under these categories. Though proper workforce development and utilization of community programs that already exist, such as career and technical education programs, along with partnerships with the city and Surry Community College, Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools, NexGen, etc. and proper marketing we can increase development, without necessarily spending money to fix problems.
As we build stronger partnerships and grow our workforce, we provide opportunities for those struggling with poverty to rise above their circumstances. A stronger workforce cultivates a stronger economy, which entices more housing developers and businesses to choose Mount Airy.
There are many other needs our community has, but I believe that once we have focused our efforts on these issues, we will have time and tools necessary to address the other needs plaguing our community. A stronger economy generates more sales for local businesses, more enticement for tourism and more opportunities to be able to recover from addiction, just to name a few of the needs we have here in Mount Airy. I would support the endeavors that grow our workforce and encourage the retention and success of our citizens.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: My experience of being a former school board member sets me apart from my opponents running for the North Ward seat. As someone who already learned how to work alongside elected officials overseeing all facets of a large-scale community program such as the educational system, I understand why it is important to be fiscally responsible and how to allocate funding appropriately.
This experience has taught me exactly why it is imperative that officials listen to their constituents, respect differing perspectives and be willing to adapt as the needs of the community change and grow. Through my experiences in multiple community programs, I know and work/volunteer alongside an amazing network of individuals here in Mount Airy who are already striving to decrease poverty, build houses, grow our economy and help with substance-abuse recovery, as well as those who are putting in the effort to provide wholesome activities through parks and recreation, downtown development and the vital network of public safety.
As the youngest candidate and the only candidate with school-age children, I would also bring the perspective of young families with me to this position. While we have some great city commissioners, there is no representation of young families, or diversity. My young, multicultural family sets me apart from my opponents and grants me a broader view of all the people we are striving to serve.
John Pritchard
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: I’m a retired commercial banker and have lived here 30 years. I’m a senior citizen outside but only 39 inside, graduated from East Carolina University, where I studied business and economics, and have spent my entire career working with businesses large and small.
Before being transferred here I worked in other North Carolina towns, so between those places and here I’ve been involved with various chambers of commerce, Habitat, Rotary, Lions and other civic clubs, as well as Central Methodist Church. After retirement I started a management-recruiting business to locate banker candidates for other banks across the Southeast. I sold that business in 2021.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I’m a candidate for city commissioner because I think our city should adjust its direction and priorities. I want to help that happen. Our downtown is the envy of others. We have unique tourism that has kept us going during tough spells. Record-setting city spending over the past nine years has created big improvements downtown and at Spencer’s. We hope they will repay us over time. That’s been a huge kickstart and it’s now time to take off the taxpayer-paid training wheels and have private developer money move that area forward. This is what the city promised originally, so let’s get back to that plan. We need to turn more attention to the rest of the town.
Most people know I’ve closely followed our city government for years, much like others might follow Duke/Carolina basketball. From speaking up at city forums to letters to the newspaper, I’ve shown citizens my long-term sincere interest in good stewardship of taxpayer monies. That’s what a commissioner should do. We’ve all seen lots of changes over the past few years and more will come. As your commissioner I’ll make sure those changes meet the common sense test and are the best ones for all citizens.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: Our two biggest issues are a lack of good-paying full-time jobs and our almost zero population growth.
We have surplus city water and land. Our workforce is great, but much of it commutes out of town daily. Our school system is strong, as is our community college. Cost of living is moderate. Quality of life is tops. We’ve got a lot to offer. Jobs and population are directly connected and new full-time jobs can solve both problems.
Macy’s chose China Grove for a distribution center with 2,800 jobs. Just one recent year in the state saw 157 new announcements and 19,700 new jobs. Seventy percent of that went to small towns in rural counties. We didn’t get a shot at Macy’s or the 157 new job announcements. I say we weren’t trying hard enough; it wasn’t the priority it should have been.
City expenses increase over time, but our population has stood still since 2010, so each citizen will pay more taxes — unless we grow. Tourism is frosting on the cake, but real jobs form the cake itself. Real jobs are what give young people the confidence and security to marry, buy homes and raise families. We need that.
As a commissioner I’ll work to have the right people, the right priorities and the right business-recruiting plans to let the world know we are the real thing and we have everything they could want in a new location
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: That’s an easy one for me.
I’ve attended 90 percent of city council meetings for many years. Most candidates don’t start attending meetings until they file for office. They’ll need a lot of on-the-job training, but I can make a meaningful contribution from day one.
Attending all those meetings taught me a great deal. I understand city operations and procedures. I know past and present issues, I know the city budget and I know business. I know Mount Airy.
My priorities are: solid full-time jobs to grow the city, fairness and openness with all citizens, common sense and good stewardship of taxpayer money to lower taxes.
I’ve spent years speaking up for the silent majority and I’m talking with lots of them on front porches as I campaign. Many recognize me from my longtime focus on city government. I’ve spoken countless times in the public forum portion of our city board meetings. I’ve written numerous letters to the newspaper. Most of you know who I am and what I stand for — now I’m asking you to show up for me at early voting that’s going on now and especially at the primary polls on May 17.
Joanna Refvem
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My family and I moved to Mount Airy in 1996. I became licensed as a school counselor in 1999 and as a licensed professional counselor in 2001. I have worked for Mount Airy City Schools and have had my own private practice. I have served as a board member for the United Fund of Surry and also as a committee member for Young Life of the Foothills. My husband, Bill, is an orthopaedic surgeon and joined Surry Orthopaedics in 1996. He later went on to form Blue Ridge Orthopaedics, and since then has been employed by Northern Regional Hospital.
All five of our children attended Mount Airy City Schools, and all graduated from Mount Airy High School. Each has gone on to complete a higher education and all have successful careers
I was born in England and raised in the United States, so as a naturalized U.S. citizen I take voting and civic responsibility quite seriously. Recently I was challenged by a friend to think about serving our city in an elected capacity. Running for city commissioner has so far proven to be interesting and informative. I have met with a number of city leaders, and I am extremely encouraged by the status and future of this community.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I have always been interested in community development, and I have witnessed tremendous growth and progress in this city over the last 26 years. I would consider it an honor and a privilege to help navigate this great city forward to an even brighter future for all constituents. I believe that in order to be an effective leader, it is crucial to be available and accessible to respond to queries and concerns.
Not only do I commit to being approachable, I will also do the research necessary to fully understand all sides of pressing issues. Rather than pursuing my own agenda, I want to be a conduit by which the voices of the great people of Mount Airy are heard.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: Growth while retaining the inherent charm of the area is quite important. As an avid watcher of local real estate, it seems there is a shortage of available and affordable housing. As city commissioner, I would explore ways to alleviate this shortage, consulting with local Realtors and developers to understand barriers to more housing becoming available. As a homeowner I am keenly aware of a shortage of contractors to work on new or existing homes. Consulting with local educators to explore ways to encourage more people to enter the area of construction and development could prove helpful.
Secondly, aiding and promoting the development and improvement of our downtown area is crucial. I have attended a couple of the meetings where a consultant described ways to accomplish a myriad of goals to bolster our downtown, not only for local citizens but the many visitors we welcome each year. For instance, the Spencer’s buildings are a key project and opportunity for revitalization downtown. I am hopeful that this will bear fruit economically and also bring many more visitors to our community.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: I will dedicate myself to viewing issues from all sides. While I firmly believe that all my competitors are more than competent, I am confident I can bring a fresh approach to this public office. With my goal of being available to listen, and indeed my training professionally in listening well, I believe I would provide a level of accessibility that many I have spoken with say is vital.
This community has been extremely good to me and my family, and a chance to serve as city commissioner would be only a small token of my appreciation.
May 09, 2022
A fire at a local child-care facility Monday afternoon caused no injuries to the children, but an HVAC worker who had been using a torch there was treated for smoke inhalation.
The incident was reported about 1:20 p.m. at Magical Moments Day Care at 122 Williamson Ave. in Mount Airy, located off South Franklin Road in the vicinity of the Surry Emergency Medical Service headquarters.
“It happened at the worst-possible time — nap time,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said of the scenario that had unfolded as the emergency situation occurred. “Every child in there was laid down for naps.”
The chief credited Sharon Anthony, the director of the preschool center, and her staff for “an excellent job” in getting all the occupants out safely.
They included 23 children and 12 adults.
An emergency plan had been prepared to address just such an occurrence, and the staff executed that plan “to perfection,” Poindexter said.
The blaze — which was brought under control in less than 15 minutes — has been ruled accidental, caused while work was being conducted by an unidentified employee of the Logan heating and air-conditioning company using a torch in a ceiling area.
“And some kind of malfunction happened with the torch,” explained the fire chief, who added that the worker suffered smoke inhalation.
“He was treated at the scene by the EMS,” Poindexter said, and did not require hospitalization.
No structural damage resulted, but contents damage of $20,000 occurred, which the chief said largely involved smoke damage and fire extinguisher powder that coated items and will require attention.
“It’s going to be closed until they can get cleaned up,” Poindexter said of Magical Moments Day Care.
Seventeen firefighters responded to the scene altogether, including members of neighboring units who arrived as part of an automatic-aid agreement with the Mount Airy Fire Department.
The Franklin and Bannertown volunteer fire departments lent that assistance.
In addition to the Surry EMS, county fire marshal personnel responded.
May 09, 2022
Three candidates are on the ballot for the at-large seat on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners in next week’s primary election. City offices are non-partisan, with the two then getting the most votes advancing to the general municipal election in November. Candidates for the at-large position on the five-member board mustn’t live in a particular ward, but may reside anywhere in the city limits. Each responded to the same set of questions designed to help voters learn about their backgrounds and positions on key issues to make informed choices. Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates and responses include those of:
Deborah Cochran
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: I am Deborah Cochran and want to be your next at-large city commissioner. I just turned 60. You can have full confidence in my character. I have passed not one, but two extensive background checks, one as a teacher and one for my concealed carry. I obtained a bachelor’s degree in business management from Gardner-Webb University and a teaching licensure in business and information technology from N.C. State University.
I am a career development coordinator at John F. Kennedy High School and former business teacher at this school since 2015. I taught part-time at Surry Community College for 18 years, worked in radio broadcasting for decades and have been a notary since 1984.
I bring history and experience, having served during the Great Recession as an at-large city commissioner from 2007-2009 and was elected to two terms as mayor here in my hometown of Mount Airy, 2010-2015. I have attended UNC School of Government and ethics training courses. I will bring all the skills and depth of knowledge that I have acquired as a former commissioner and mayor along with teaching business and placing students in careers.
Experience matters.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: We are a nation of inflation. Economics experts predict a recession is coming in 2023. I have been approached by several citizens to seek this office due to my proven record in government. I served during the Great Recession and know what it is like to make difficult choices. My actions match my words.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: Lowering property taxes — when I left office we had reduced our tax rate from 63 cents to 48 cents (per $100 of assessed valuation). Now the rate is 60 cents. People are dealing with grocery inflation, high gas prices and the highest inflation overall in more than 40 years.
I have experience in lowering the tax rate. Businesses and citizens need relief. Citizens live within their means and government can do the same by becoming fiscally responsible.
Public safety will always be a top priority.
Property crime is becoming an issue. In the last three years, I’ve had a bicycle stolen and license plate removed from my car parked in my yard on a Sunday afternoon. A couple went to different homes in the neighborhood. Another incident involved a neighbor watching a woman steal mail from mailboxes and notifying the Mount Airy Police Department. The woman had my check on her person in the back of the police car.
I was getting ready to teach a high school class when I received the call from the Police Department.
We don’t want Mount Airy ending up like other cities where businesses and people are moving away due to crime. It is imperative for citizens and neighbors to be aware of their surroundings. Defunding police is not the answer.
As a property crime solution, it is imperative that the city recruit businesses that provide jobs and employee benefits. People need to work and be productive. Those who live purposeful lives are not engaged in criminal activity. As mayor, I flew to West Memphis, Arkansas, and helped recruit a business that is still one of the city’s largest water users, which keeps our water rates low and provides jobs.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: I have a strong background. I bring history and experience. I have a proven record of lowering taxes and recruiting business.
The municipality is still receiving property taxes and water revenues from decisions I made while on the board. I’m conservative and recycle campaign signs. I encourage anyone to research my record while I was in office from 2007-2015. I serve the citizens who pay the bills.
I have an expansive community service background, too.
Tonda Phillips
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Tonda Phillips and I have lived in Surry County most of my life. I’m 44 years old and have been a self-employed top producer in the insurance, real estate and mortgage industries for more than 20 years.
I attended Surry Community College and Gardner-Webb University. I presently serve on the board of directors for the Shepherd’s House (homeless shelter) and Helping Hands of Surry. I’m the president of the Rotary Club of Mount Airy, a member of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and also serve on the Spencer Lofts and Greenbrier Villas Condominiums associations.
I have served on the board of Habitat for Humanity and volunteer with the American Red Cross Disaster Action Team. I’m also trained in conflict resolution.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I’m interested in serving as Mount Airy city commissioner because there is a need for a new perspective. I have watched the present council drag its feet on decisions that could have been settled through existing city ordinances and processes. It seems that recently, a fire has been lit under them to make decisions that could have been long since handled.
We have great momentum with recreation, culture and tourism. I think these things have always been available to us, but those who resisted change held us back from improving in these areas. There are things that city leaders can do to propel us to a better future using the existing protocol to enhance services and encourage growth of our present resources.
Businesses/jobs, housing and infrastructure are basic necessities for a healthy economy. We cannot neglect or procrastinate on these things.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: The two most important issues, in my opinion, are public safety and business development. Our police and fire departments need adequate pay and staffing to be proactive in preventative action. There is a need to educate the public so that when faced with an incident, our citizens know what to do to minimize the damage. Risk management is an important function of city operations.
As far as economic development, I believe the city is responsible for providing the needed resources to attract businesses to this area. Our town is full of friendly citizens ready to welcome business and workforce opportunities. Businesses need well-positioned facilities, access to infrastructure and skilled labor. I believe, with some determination, we can accommodate these needs.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: I am the best choice for the at-large city commissioner seat because I’m a person of action. You might not hear me shouting my opinion or arguing with others, but you will see results. I believe any problem can be solved through prayer and then open communication.
I have been a local business owner, employing and serving local families for 20-plus years. As a Realtor, I can help with housing, both affordable and market-rate. I personally brought two large apartment complexes to Mount Airy, one beside Walmart and one just past Odell’s Sandwich Shop. As an insurance professional, I can help with managing our risk and exposure to catastrophic events. As a financial representative, I can budget our tax dollars to the highest and best use for all citizens.
Listen, motivate, engage — we all can.
Steve Yokeley
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: Steve Yokeley, age 74; B.S and D.D.S. degrees from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Active-duty U.S. Navy officer for two years, with 21 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve; retired as a general dentist after 33 years of practice; Fellowship and Mastership in the Academy of General Dentistry; was on the part-time faculty of the UNC School of Dentistry and the Dental Department of Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University;
Past president of the UNC School of Dentistry Alumni Association and of the Second District Dental Society (includes Winston-Salem and Charlotte); past chairman of the North Carolina Dental Political Action Committee;
Have been an active real estate broker licensed in North Carolina and Virginia for the past 16 years; past president of Surry Regional Association of Realtors and was Realtor of the Year in 2007 and 2015; have been a member of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Airy for many years, including serving as a deacon and an elder;
Have been a Mount Airy city commissioner for 12 years; was Mount Airy’s representative to the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC, which includes 12 counties and about 63 municipalities in the Piedmont and Triad areas of North Carolina) for 11 years, serving on the executive committee of the PTRC for eight years, including two as chairman; also was the council’s representative to the North Carolina Association of Regional Councils of Government;
Was honored to have received the PTRC’s Grady Hunter Regional Excellence Award in 2019 for dedication to regional issues and the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Public Service Award in 2015.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?
Answer: I am running to continue to serve as a city commissioner for the same reason that I have for the past 12 years – I want to continue to help make Mount Airy an even better place to live, work and play.
I always have been oriented toward service to others. I enjoy helping individuals and organizations be the best that they can be. I want to continue to be positively involved in our great community and make a positive difference.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: (1) The need to improve the quality of life for all ages by increasing the quantity and quality of recreational opportunities and free-time diversions, improving and increasing the number of housing units and bringing more and better-paying jobs of all types.
There are many reasons why people want to live in a certain location such as Mount Airy, including recreational opportunities and free-time diversions; adequate housing; challenging, rewarding and good-paying jobs; good schools; adequate medical care; taxes as low as possible; and a safe, friendly and healthy environment.
I will continue to address these important concerns by making sure that Mount Airy city government supplies the services that a municipality should be responsible for providing, including outstanding police and fire protection as well as trash, recycling, brush and leaf collection. I also will continue to help make sure that Mount Airy has a friendly environment to support both businesses that already are here and which want to maintain their success and/or expand, and those that are considering a move here.
In addition, I will help make Mount Airy a place where entrepreneurs will be able to thrive, and developers and builders will be encouraged to construct new housing of all types as well as commercial buildings. All of this can be done without the need for additional taxes.
(2) The need to improve and update our infrastructure, which includes repaving city-maintained streets, upgrading our wastewater-treatment plant, fast tracking the replacement of aging water and sewer lines, upgrading our parks and recreation facilities and improving the condition of our city buildings.
I want to make sure that we develop the proper plans to do all of these improvements and updates as efficiently and most cost-effectively as possible. I want to be sure that we explore all outside funding opportunities including the use of grants. Even though much needs to be done, with proper planning and use of grants we can do them without putting additional burdens on city taxpayers.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: First, I have a positive vision for the future, and I am not running against anyone or anything. I am a doer who wants to make positive things happen in Mount Airy. I am a good listener, an analytical thinker and a planner. I always try to do the right thing in an ethical manner and work tirelessly to get it done. I know how to get positive things done and don’t give up until they are completed.
I know how to avoid wasteful spending. I also know the proper ways to invest our tax dollars for a successful and prosperous future for all of us. I have been a tireless supporter of trying to get new uses for the Spencer’s property, which should include a downtown hotel. I know the importance of maintaining our present course and getting across the finish line at Spencer’s.
I have the knowledge and experience needed to finish the revitalization of several areas of our downtown, including the Spencer’s property.
May 09, 2022
The weather was not cooperative, with heavy storms on Friday evening and rain off and on much of Saturday, but the annual Pilot Mountain Civic Club Mayfest returned this year, filling the streets with vendors and shoppers.
While the crowds might have been off from what organizers were hoping for as a result of the poor weather, thousands still made their way to Pilot Mountain for the three-day event.
Mayfest, the major annual fundraiser for the local Civic Club, is a popular gathering, where town residents, as well as visitors from all around the region, visit Pilot Mountain for live music, a variety of food booths, and a number of craft and other vendors.
The event, an unofficial beginning of summer for many, had been cancelled the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but folks seemed to enjoy this weekend’s event even through the stormy weather.
May 09, 2022
The White Plains Elementary School’s Student Council completed a service learning project. The students collected donations for two community organizations. Snacks and miscellaneous items were collected for the Joan & Howard Woltz Hospice Home, and pet items were collected for Mayberry 4 Paws.
May 08, 2022
• A man listed as homeless was jailed under a high bond last week on a felony drug charge and other violations after being encountered by officers during a breaking and entering in progress, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
Alfred Daniel Pacheco, 27, was located on May 1 at an unoccupied residence in the 300 block of Linville Road, owned by Old Banner Properties in Toast.
Pacheco allegedly had drugs on his person, resulting in charges of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), a felony; breaking and entering; possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance (marijuana); resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer; possession of drug paraphernalia (a syringe); and possessing marijuana paraphernalia.
No property was reported stolen as a result of the break-in, with Pacheco confined in the Surry County Jail under a $15,000 secured bond and slated for an appearance next Monday in District Court.
• Police responding to a shoplifting call on May 2 at Lowes Foods filed felony drug charges against Sydney Brooke Leftwich, 28, of 252 Toast Road, and Zackary Wade Johnson, 34, of 145 Splendor Lane, which involved heroin.
Both were charged with possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, along with misdemeanor violations of possession of drug paraphernalia. Johnson additionally is accused of possessing a Schedule III controlled substance (listed as sublingual film Suboxone), also a misdemeanor.
Leftwich and Johnson were each jailed under a $500 secured bond, with Leftwich slated to be in Surry District Court next Monday and Johnson, June 6.
• An orange and black Stihl weedeater valued at $400 and owned by Jennie Loucinda Lowry of Broad Street was stolen on April 30 from a trailer while at a location on Pender Street.
• Security personnel at Walmart reported on April 26 that an incident involving larceny and possession of stolen goods had occurred at the store, where a known suspect stole two Midea air-conditioning units valued at $518.
The case was still under investigation at last check.
• Soho Bar and Grill on Franklin Street was the scene of a larceny on April 25, when persons unknown ate there and left without paying the bill totaling $34, including for hibachi chicken, draft beer and other items.
• Miscellaneous tools valued at $2,000 were discovered stolen on April 23 from an outbuilding that was broken into on Lovill Circle, with a resident of that street, Charles Michael Lovill, listed as the victim.
• Police were told on April 19 that tools and equipment valued at $3,806 were missing after a break-in of a commercial/office building on Hickory Street. Included were various DeWalt power tools and battery packs, a welder stand kit, a vehicle computer code reader and vehicle parts/accessories.
Kevin Markham of Westview Drive is listed as the owner of the property.
May 08, 2022
Scenic Automotive Group recently presented a Subaru Share the Love check of $10,600 to Yokefellow Ministry – Mount Airy. Scenic recently held two fundraisers to raise the money for the food bank.
Yokefellow volunteer, Dixie Ratliff, said that Yokefellow Cooperative Ministry has been in existence for 50 years. It continues today with its mission of providing food, prescription medicine, and utility assistance to the underserved in Surry County as well as neighboring cities in Virginia. Each year Yokefellow has touched the lives of thousands of individuals and families in crisis situations. Even through the pandemic, Yokefellow never closed the doors. Yokefellow is primarily a volunteer organization.
”Without the generosity of businesses, organizations, churches and individuals, Yokefellow would not be able to serve our community,” he said.
May 08, 2022
Three people are running for mayor of Mount Airy in the 2022 non-partisan municipal election, including Ron Niland, who was appointed to that post in 2021; present North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley; and Teresa Lewis, a former at-large city commissioner.
The two top vote-getters in the primary on May 17 will square off in the Nov. 8 general election.
Each responded to the same set of questions designed to help voters learn about their backgrounds and positions on key issues to make informed choices.
Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates and responses include those of:
Jon Cawley
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Jon Cawley and I would like to be the mayor of Mount Airy.The most important thing to know about me is that my hope is found in Jesus. God’s love is unconditional. I am blessed and I believe you are as well. Please don’t define yourself as a victim, we are meant to be so much more.
Jill Rae and I have been married for 34 years and she remains the best person I know. She and I are thankful for our adult children (Kendall, Choppy and Antonia, Simon) and the lives they are building. They are other-centered.
As far as my educational background goes, here’s what matters: I was fortunate to get an athletic scholarship that kept me around school long enough to fall in love with learning. I still love to learn and want to pass that along to others. Be intentional in your life — thank a teacher today! My teachers often cared more about my future than I did, and I’m so glad I lived long enough to share the passion.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as mayor?
Answer: I want to be the mayor in order to tell our (Mount Airy’s) story.
Most of us learned who we are and where we are from by hearing stories about our family and community. As much as the world has changed, the need to hear the stories of how it has not changed.
Our children need to know and we all need to be reminded of the collective values that made us unique. Those who desire to be comfortable living in Mount Airy should want to be productive.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: Mount Airy shares all the challenges of any city in America.
The single biggest issue facing Mount Airy is leadership. It is the issue facing all facets of life in these United States.
The answers to the issues of opioids, housing, jobs, water, roads, staffing, education, taxes, race relations, equality, transparency, special interests or any other topic begin with leadership.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: My tenure as an elected official spans more than 14 years. My voting record shows a history of caring about people, desiring small government, keeping schools safe, lowering taxes and being informed, approachable and trustworthy.
All things considered, I am the best mayoral candidate.
Teresa Lewis
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Teresa Lewis and I am 63 years old. My family has lived in Mount Airy for generations. I graduated from Surry Community College in 1978 with an associate in applied science degree in legal secretarial technology. In 1987, I founded my business, WorkForce Unlimited, and later our executive placement firm AREVO Group. For more than 36 years I have met a weekly payroll and continue to do so.
We now employ more than 10,000 individuals in three states and place hundreds of executives every year. Additionally, I am retired from my businesses and still am the majority owner. For two years, I served as the at-large commissioner on the Mount Airy city council.
Also, I am now on the board of directors of Northern Regional of Surry County. Over the years, I was chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Reeves Community Center board, Mount Airy Rescue Squad board and many others. Over the years I have been involved in many philanthropic causes in the community.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as mayor?
Answer: Being retired allows me the time necessary to serve our community as mayor. My history definitely qualifies me to hold that position and is well-documented.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: Taxes and related issues are at the top. As mayor, I will promote a reduction in taxes while keeping our present excellent service in place. As a city commissioner, I voted for lower taxes and was the deciding vote on curbside recycling. Also, I appeared before the North Carolina Legislature and saved our ABC taxes that help our local library, Police Department and others.
Allocation of property taxes will be reviewed, as our tax rate is higher than similar-size cities. Also, I want to ensure that taxes are being well-spent in addition to not being excessive. My priorities include a fair and equitable tax rate and an opportunity for all to have adequate housing.
As mayor, I would be an agent of change and collaborate with the city council to make the best decisions for the citizens.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: One of my greatest strengths is team leadership, as has been proven over the past 36 years. In my business, I have led a team of incredible employees to being recognized as one of the largest staffing firms in the region. It is my belief that my leadership skills, along with my business and government experience, uniquely qualify me as the best choice to serve as the mayor of Mount Airy.
Also, the fact that I have served in many leadership capacities and continue to do so, volunteer by giving time, talent and treasure to our local community as well as all local schools and charities certainly qualifies me as the best choice.
Ron Niland
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: I am 67 years old and have lived in Mount Airy for more than 30 years. I graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in history and have a master’s degree from Appalachian State University in political science/public administration. I am a retired city manager, having served in five cities in North Carolina, and now am a consultant to small local governments in the state.
I served on the city commission beginning in December 2019 as commissioner at large. I then served as mayor pro tem from December 2019 until July of 2021, when elected by the board to serve as mayor, filling the remaining term of Mayor David Rowe.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as mayor?
Answer: I have had the privilege of serving as the mayor of the best small town in America. We are at the exciting crossroads of opportunity and vision. Many decisions have been made that have put us in a position to make us a first-class city that will still retain the charms of what we have been blessed to enjoy. I have invested much of my energy to the future of our city and have encouraged the next generation to see public service as rewarding and fun. I have the energy and passion for public service. I truly enjoy representing my community and telling our story.
The next several years are crucial to our future and will shape our community for generations to come. With my experience in local government and, knowing the background of issues facing us, we can forge the relationships needed to effectively move us forward.
I love the interaction with our citizens and visitors and hearing all the great stories and experiences they bring in making our city a great place to live. These encounters give me the wonderful opportunity to tout the characteristics to others that we experience by living in Mount Airy. I enjoy working with our business community and seeking ways to help it become stronger. I am one who loves representing our city at events and celebrations.
We have made great progress and I want to see that continue. I want to continue telling our story and expand on the possibilities to come.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?
Answer: The two most important issues facing us are both related. They are housing and economic development. How we deal with these will affect how we live, work and play going forward.
The board and I are now working on economic development by the changes we are making in our downtown area. Most of the new investment the city has seen has been downtown. This is vital to our future. Changes in demographics and what our future holds will make what we do crucial. In speaking with our local industries these investments need to continue if they are to remain and expand here. We must create spaces and living facilities that our younger generation expect. Attracting talent that will enhance our community is vital for any vibrant and growing city.
Housing trends are ever changing, and we need to have housing that reflects those changes. The city needs to encourage exciting living communities by finding ways to make development easier and affordable. Quality high-density development will help keep our taxes low and allow us to continue the high level of excellent services we enjoy.
We must have vision and react quickly as trends dictate. A city must be growing if it is to remain vibrant. Attracting the next generation is essential, but these changes will serve all our residents of all ages by enhancing the quality of life. We can and will meet these challenges.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: Energy, passion, fairness and vision. I have the experience of serving in local government for more than 30 years and the knowledge to know how government at the local level functions. This background is invaluable as we deal with issues of service levels and cost containment. I also understand the business side of government.
None of that matters, however, without the vision of what we can become. I enjoy working with people in creating consensus of a vision moving forward. Being a leader requires the energy and passion for trying to get things accomplished when there is a diversity of thought. I enjoy the interactions of citizens, city staff and our board when we solve issues facing us. I have developed strong relationships with county and state leaders that are paying dividends. My strength is working to see everyone is heard and respected as decisions are made. I enjoy encouraging all to be part of their government and in turn, make us better as a community. I always try to represent our city with integrity and pride.
Being mayor is more than presiding at meetings and cutting ribbons. It takes the ability to lead our community and tell our story everywhere. I have tried to engage as many people as possible to help us to continue being the bright light we are to our county, state and country. Being mayor requires energy. I have that. It requires passion, I truly love to serve. Being kind is important. Vision with integrity is my promise moving forward.
May 07, 2022
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History held several activites Sunday in honor of Cinco de Mayo over the weekend, in honor of the traditional Mexican holiday held on Thursday.
While Saturday’s overcast skies and rain made enjoying the celebration a bit dicey, museum officials and participants were up for the challenge, moving some of the event indoors.
Visitors, some entering the museum for the first time, went up to the third floor to see performances from both Ballet Folklorico and students from the museum’s Mexican Dance Bootcamp.
For those who could not make it in person, there are live stream videos available on the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s Facebook page.
May 07, 2022
STATE ROAD – One of the largest area fundraisers, the 14th Annual Pfc. Adam Lee Marion Memorial Golf Tournament held at Cedarbrook Country Club, was held recently. The annual event, begun by friends of Donnie and Pam Marion in 2009 in memory of their son, Adam, has raised more than $1 million dollars over the past 14 years to benefit the Children’s Center of Northwest North Carolina.
“Once again the Marion family, the golf committee and the community have stepped up to the plate to support this organization and the youth and families we serve,” noted Valerie Smith, community relations coordinator.
On April 28, 2008, a rocket attack claimed the life of Pfc. Adam Marion while he was deployed to Iraq with the North Carolina National Guard. Prior to that, he had both worked and volunteered at the Children’s Center. Close friends of the Marions started the golf tournament in 2009 to honor their son’s memory and give to a cause near and dear to his heart.
“It’s humbling that the Marions have chosen this organization as a way to remember their son,” said Smith. “His sacrifice and this community’s generosity in honoring him will never be forgotten.”
The community is what makes it all happen, explained Smith. From corporate donors who give thousands of dollars to every golfer who tees off and every volunteer who helps make it all happen, each has a role in the event’s success.
Smith said the funds are earmarked for use in ensuring the center’s facilities meet the needs of those it serves. The Children’s Center operates two residential homes for youth in Surry and Yadkin counties, as well as youth, family, and behavior health programs and services for both youth and families in seven counties in Northwest North Carolina.
The golf course was abuzz during the event, which included both morning and afternoon sessions of golf and a lunch. As in the past, there was a program honoring Marion’s sacrifice.
In all, more than 260 golfers, in teams of four, took part in the event, and dozens of volunteers helped make the tournament possible. Additionally, many local businesses sponsored the event, forking out up to $8,000 to support the center.
May 07, 2022
Karl Singletary has a vision that he wants to bring to Mount Airy, a project he launched first in Asheville five years ago that he is now bringing to his hometown.
“I grew up on Virginia Street, I remember when drugs first got here 1981. I remember when crack first showed up,” he said with a knowing look. “Things won’t get better until we do something about it. I just want to see this place turned into a place that saves lives. It’s important that I give back, this is where my addiction started.”
New Hope New Beginnings will be a sober living transitional house located at the soon-to-be renovated multi-unit residence at 126 Rawley Avenue. It seeks to give men in recovery stability that will allow them to work a program with the security of continuity.
The home itself is an allegory of the potential hidden beneath. Comprised of eight units, a mixture of apartments and single bedroom dwellings, the goal is to totally renovate the interior of the home. Singletary gave a short tour Thursday in which some of the units seen were ready for tenants, others were a chaotic mess of trash and the belongings of past residents.
“The house is a really good example of transformation of those who live here. If we can take this house and transform it into a safe and supporting home, people can see that and maybe we can make these changes at a personal level,” said Jaime Edwards, of the county’s substance abuse office. He is making a video timeline of the project which will be shared with the community.
“We are looking for ten residents upstairs and ten downstairs, and then there are three apartments that we are going to turn into home living apartments,” he explained, “People are going to transition from the dorm to the apartments.”
The home needs a lot of work: new wiring, plumbing, and windows to go along with its new tenants. In a nod to the transformational theme, “The old windows, we’re going to turn them into a greenhouse for the backyard,” Singletary said. If inanimate windows can evolve into something new, he knows so too can the residents.
He said word they were coming to the neighborhood set off alarms. The concern of some was that the house would be a magnet for troublemakers. His project was met with a ‘not in my backyard’ response that is at times indicative of the uphill battle Surry County is facing when it comes to substance abuse.
What he wants the public to know is that this is meant to be the last stop for these men. When their time at New Hope New Beginnings is complete, they will have transitioned into a next chapter armed with a toolkit of skills, coping devices, and along with a solid stretch of sobriety to go with it.
He noted, “To bring people out of treatment or prison without getting them back into society and getting them back into the thought process of getting a job and making money, is a complete failure.”
People who leave treatment for drugs or alcohol are significantly more likely to relapse if they exit treatment without a plan including a place to live, and a support network. Often, that means a new place to live and a new support network.
This model can work. Singletary is a graduate of such a program before founding his own. After 30 years in addiction, and now seven clean, he has a lot of useful insight. He will be living at the home with the residents, albeit in separate quarters, as an accredited drug counselor and offer his wisdom of experiences with the struggle.
During active addition, people have had on blinders as they had but one goal: to satiate the urge. As the world kept turning for everyone else, they were stuck in a loop that prevented significant growth physically, mentally, or spiritually.
Filling those gaps in mental and spiritual health with something other than “a thing,” as Singletary said, is critical to their recovery. “Connections with the ministry, the spiritual aspect is very important because that’s where the strength comes from. You got to lean on some kind of faith because our best thinking is how we got here, so we have to allow other people to think for us for a while.”
It will take time; it takes time to fall into addiction and it similarly takes time to break it. This program will be making a commitment, up to two years, for these men to find their path. They will do so with guidance from Singletary and his hope is those who succeed and exit the program will be willing to help those who remain.
“Our hope is this can be the shining light on the hill that recovery works, and people get better, by setting a high level of service and expectations for ourselves, and those we serve,” said Edwards.
Some have trouble seeing addiction as anything but a personal shortcoming rather than the chronic and debilitating disease it is. Friends and family who have been put off by toxic behaviors may keep those in recovery at arm’s length for fear of being hurt again.
“A man once asked me, ‘Karl, what is the most powerful thing in this world? A mind, once you’ve made up your mind.’ So, we need to change the way people think, and the way they think about recovery and the way they think about drugs.
“Drugs aren’t the problem; it’s the way people think about drugs and what they use them for. It stopped being fun a long time ago. Drugs used us; we weren’t using drugs no more.
“We have to change the way people feel so they know drugs are not a medication, or a choice. We got to live on life’s terms, and we have to learn how to deal with that without the use of drugs or alcohol,” Singletary said.
He sees New Hope New Beginnings as a long term tool to help those in need. “We’re not trying to control people; we are just trying to provide a service. We’re not trying to have power; we are trying to empower people. It’s not about manipulation; we want to inspire.”
May 07, 2022
DOBSON — The primary election for Surry County clerk of court includes three candidates, who are all Republicans, with no Democrats having filed to run for that office this year.
One is incumbent Neil Brendle and the former clerk he defeated in a party primary in 2018, Teresa O’Dell, en route to overcoming a Democratic challenge in the November general election that year.
The third candidate in the 2022 race is Melissa Marion Welch, who has many years of experience as a clerk’s office employee.
The same set of questions was posed to all three, designed to help voters learn about their backgrounds and positions on key issues in order to make informed choices.
Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates and responses include those of:
Neil Brendle
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is L. Neil Brendle, clerk of Superior Court for the county of Surry. I thank you for the opportunity to bring attention to the office.
I have served for the last four years in this capacity, am 45 years old and a resident of Dobson. I was appointed in December of 2000 as a magistrate judge for Judicial District 17-B, and served here in Surry for almost 17 years.
Additionally, I have worked many years in the grading, highway building and public utilities construction industries. I am a graduate of Gardner-Webb University, Surry Community College and have completed many hours of education at the School of Government at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ and a conservative Republican individual rooted in the Constitution of our great nation. I have been a lifelong sportsman with a love of the outdoors and shooting sports. I am blessed to be a father of two bright, caring, loving daughters; husband to an incredibly supportive wife; and have five amazing dogs.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as clerk of court?
Answer: I was born and reared in Dobson, where my parents were public servants in differing capacities. I learned from a young age the value and reward of helping others. My mother was a town commissioner in Dobson for many years until her death. She operated the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles License Plate Agency in Dobson, and was perhaps my biggest influence in dealing with the public. No matter how difficult or time-consuming, each individual she dealt with was as important as the next.
My father served as a magistrate, a law enforcement officer with the state Department of Insurance and later owned a construction company where I worked for many years. Throughout high school and college, I was a coach and referee in youth sports, which laid the foundation for serving others. At the same time, I was working for my father long hours in adverse conditions at night and on holidays which made me appreciate the value of hard work.
I still draw upon the passion for public service and work ethic instilled in my youth every day. For the past almost 22 years I have had the opportunity to help people daily, and to be honest, I have received the greater blessing.
As a magistrate and now clerk of Superior Court I’ve honed and developed skills that no other candidate possesses. I’ve assembled a team of staff whose skills and assets rival and surpass any other workforce I have ever witnessed. My desire to continue to serve has nothing to do with a title, power or position; but solely the opportunity to lead and serve others without delay, provide equal and ease of access to justice and to utilize my skills helping others. My judicial experience equips me better than others. I have a passion and desire that is unparalleled.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing the clerk’s realm of responsibility and how will you address them?
Answer: The greatest challenge is also the largest challenge facing us since the unification of our court systems in the early 1960s. We are about to embark on the inevitable journey of modernization, by transforming our courts to a paperless system. This initiative by the N.C. Judicial Branch will have innumerable benefits, among them streamlining the court processes, increasing and easing access to the courts, improving efficiency and providing a continuity of service that is necessary as witnessed by interruptions such as the pandemic we just experienced.
I also serve as a member of a technology committee comprised of a small number of clerks across the state, which allows me to be a participant as well as stakeholder in implementing this change.
Secondly, the increased caseload we have seen is unprecedented. Our office has been phenomenal in dealing with the workload increase as well as reduction of backlog. In 2017, 58% of estates cases had not been compelled for filings. In 2019, just months after I took office, we had reduced that to 41%, and today I am proud to say we have reduced that to less than 19%.
While initially this accomplishment appears monumental, its value increases when you consider we had an overall annual increase of almost 300 case filings additionally in that category more than any year ever. This speaks volumes to the increase of efficiency of our staff. I also serve on a state clerk resource committee, and am committed to increasing the benefits our staff deserves, which will aid in the recruitment and retention of valued employees.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: Countless attorneys, self-represented litigants, judicial officials, law enforcement officers and many members of the public have stated the improvements of the environment at the Surry County clerk of Superior Court’s office since I took office. Our courts and services here are regarded as some of the most productive, efficient, secure and accurate anywhere. I have made many changes and program implementations that have produced profound benefits.
The improvement and development of interagency relations, cultivation of workforce and changes to the environment and atmosphere have been instrumental in improving productivity and efficiency. Also, the desire to be a good leader is imperative. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”
Our staff includes some of the most skilled, knowledgeable, competent and kind individuals you will ever encounter. They are constantly provided and take advantage of training, cross-training and continuing education opportunities.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were always open and provided access to the courts as required by our state Constitution. My background in human resource management, business administration and project management; my judicial experience; and unending desire to serve the public are all assets that elevate me as a choice for this office.
It’s difficult to summarize in a few words 25-plus years of experiences in these different areas, so I encourage anyone to reach out to me. My office door is always open, and one of the best parts of my job is the time spent meeting and talking with the public.
Teresa O’Dell
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: My name is Teresa O’Dell, age 60. I was proudly elected as Surry County’s first Republican clerk of court in 2014. I have 20 years of experience in the clerk’s office. I have served as an evening instructor at Surry Community College teaching about the court system and juvenile law. I also have been employed with the Yadkin County Sheriff’s Office and Adult Probation Office.
Having been born and raised in Surry County, I came from very simple beginnings. My parents are Gladys Hopkins and Elmer O’Dell. I graduated from Gardner-Webb University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. I attend Antioch Baptist Church in Mount Airy and have been a Christian since 1976. I built my first home at the age of 21 and my second home at the age 31.
A registered Republican since 2000, I am conservative and pro-life.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as clerk of court?
Answer: I want to continue serving the good citizens of Surry County. The court system requires a strong and experienced leader who is respected by attorneys, law enforcement and the general public. My door will always be open for conversation concerning the needs of the community. Trust, knowledge and good communication are the keys to a successful clerk’s office.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing the clerk’s realm of responsibility and how will you address them?
Answer: Number one, electing a clerk of court who knows how to run the office efficiently.
The second issue includes customer service, training and adding personnel to balance out the workloads. I want to be the elected clerk of court to train the next generation of deputy clerks.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: Having been the elected clerk of court, I have been on the job since Day One serving my constituents in estates, adoptions and criminal/civil filings. Every night I worked until 7 or 8 o’clock to check the work of 20 employees.
I am a proven leader with 20 years of experience in the clerk’s office and a faithful public servant for 30 years.
I am a specialist in helping people. For many years, I have been walking the extra mile to encourage people to succeed. A clerk can be many things to many people. She is a good listener, a voice for the elderly and victims of domestic violence. She is a protector of the law and procedure.
The judicial process must be productive and less stressful for those who are experiencing sessions of court for the first time. The experience must be positive. I will work closely with our resident Superior Court judge to address concerns. My goals will reflect a clerk’s office that maintains accurate records and excellent customer service.
This is one of the most important elections in our lifetime. The primary election will select your clerk of court for the next four years. There will be no general election for clerk. I am confident and prepared to return to that office.
I humbly ask for your vote.
Melissa Marion Welch
Tell citizens a little about yourself.
Answer: I’m Melissa Marion Welch, am 41 and live in Dobson. I graduated from Surry Central High School, Surry Community College and Appalachian State University. I am married to Brandon Welch from Dobson and we have three daughters, Kendall, Dannie and Charlee. My father was Danny Marion of Shoals. My mother is Debbie Hawks Dezern, from Beulah, and my stepdad is Steve “Doc” Dezern from Dobson. My mother-in-law is Judy Johnson Welch, from Ararat, and my father-in-law was Charles Welch of Dobson.
I am a Christian and a member of Salem Baptist Church in Dobson. I am presently the children’s director and oversee areas that include Vacation Bible School, children and adult Sunday School, Upward Basketball and children’s activities throughout the year. I attend a weekly women’s Bible study and am now serving my second three-year term on the Salem Christian Academy school board.
Question: Why are you interested in serving as clerk of court?
Answer: The clerk’s office is part of my life. I grew up in this office. I was 22 years old when I started my career. During my career I got married, had children, built a home and lost a parent, all while working with coworkers that were as close to me as my family. I genuinely enjoyed my job. I enjoyed coming to work and processing all the job duties that I had to complete. I felt like my job mattered and I found joy in helping people.
I enjoy passing my knowledge on to the next generation of new employees. I want to retire from the clerk’s office. I want to finish the race that I started. I always thought I would decide closer to retirement whether I would like to run for clerk of court or not.
God’s timing is in His time and not ours. I have prayed and prayed for guidance and direction with my decision to run for office. I felt at peace after months of prayer when I decided to run and told my husband my decision. I truly believe this is where I am supposed to be. I know the knowledge and experience that I have gained over 18 years has prepared me for this role.
Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing the clerk’s realm of responsibility and how will you address them?
Answer: An issue I will address is customer service. Employees in the clerk’s office are public servants. Being a public servant can be difficult. Most people who visit to do business with the clerk’s office come in emotional and upset. Something has happened in their life such as a criminal charge, a death in the family, losing their home or kids and they bring that frustration in with them. The staff needs to understand this and be able to address each person with compassion and patience.
Many people do not understand completely what the clerk’s office can and cannot do. We do not have forms to fix every issue you have. We can still take the time to speak to you and explain our processes, leaving you with a better understanding. We work for you, the public. Customer service needs to be at the highest level possible.
Another issue is training. It is a necessity for the staff to be cross-trained in many different areas. Life happens and someone will need to be out for various reasons. You should not be sent away without being helped due to an absence of an employee.
The elected clerk needs to fill any vacancies in a timely manner and make sure the staff is fully trained. Training is mainly on the job. Classes are offered through NCAOC (the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts). I would ensure employees completed classes offered in their areas of work. I would encourage them to retake classes during their career to be refreshed on processes and because laws change.
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: I began my career in the Surry County clerk’s office in December of 2002 as a deputy clerk. I have 18 years of experience, 12 years in Surry County and six years in Forsyth County. There are three levels of employment in the clerk’s office, deputy clerk, assistant clerk and the elected clerk. Each level has its own set of duties and responsibilities. I have held two out of the three positions.
While in Forsyth County I was promoted to an assistant clerk and supervised as many as 20 employees. I also worked directly under the elected clerk. I was able to learn things in Forsyth County that I would not have been able to as a deputy clerk in Surry. I want to bring the knowledge that I gained from Forsyth back to Surry County to implement services that are not presently being offered to attorneys and the public.
I have knowledge and experience in areas such as District and Superior civil proceedings, domestic violence, courtroom clerk, jury, small claims, adoptions, name changes, motor vehicle liens, legitimations, incompetency, foreclosures, head cashier, administration, payroll, benefits and time management.
While I was employed in Forsyth County, employees from Surry and Stokes would reach out to me for help. I was also contacted by attorneys from Surry County and the public for assistance. I am still being contacted at this time for help. I believe it is the right time for me to step out in faith and run to be your next clerk of Superior Court.
May 07, 2022
Surry Regional Association of Realtors recently partnered with Bradys Coffee Company to kick off Nurses Month and say “thank you” to the Northern Regional Hospital staff for their continuous hard work over the past two years. As a thank you, Realtor members raised funds to provide hospital staff with a free cup of coffee and donut.
May 07, 2022
One would think that when a board votes 7-2 in favor of something, it’s a done deal — but a longtime local businessman has learned this is not the case regarding signage for a $2 million expansion project.
The issue surrounds the development of a new Frank Fleming Body Shop and Collision Center in a building once housing a Winn-Dixie supermarket on Merita Street in Mount Airy, which Fleming bought, located across U.S. 52 from Mayberry Mall.
Fleming is moving from his present location on Springs Road near radio stations WPAQ/WSYD just outside the city limits, where the body shop has been in operation since 1985.
Since it can be considered off the beaten path from a business standpoint, the owner says he has relied on word-of-mouth traffic and a reputation for doing good work to draw customers to the shop employing about 10 people.
In looking toward the future, Fleming now is expanding to the more-visible location along the U.S. 52 business corridor. But what should be a seamless move has become beset by city regulatory issues regarding an existing sign there which he wants to re-face.
“I started this project last summer and it’s been one battle after another,” Fleming, who is known for his distinguished career in modified racing along with being a businessman, said Friday.
Although the remnants of what once displayed the Winn-Dixie sign still occupy a spot in the parking lot — including two large poles extending into the air from a sturdy base — Fleming is prohibited from using those fixtures for a sign drawing attention to his enterprise.
This is despite a recent 7-2 decision by a group called the Mount Airy Zoning Board of Adjustment to approve that use, with updated sign rules in the municipality not allowing new ones more than 15 feet tall, Fleming said he was advised.
The proposal instead required at least a four-fifths “super-majority” vote, according to a city commissioner, Jon Cawley, who explained when bringing the matter to public attention during a meeting Thursday that one of 8-1 would have constituted that.
City Manager Stan Farmer said Friday this is required by state statute rather than a local mandate.
That left Fleming with only one recourse — to bring the matter to Surry County Superior Court for review. “I have appealed this,” he added Friday.
Fairness questioned
The sign issue reached the Mount Airy Zoning Board of Adjustment via a variance hardship request.
That involves “varying” from the strict wording of zoning regulations, which the business owner requested after unsuccessfully seeking a permit for using the sign there — initially being unaware such rules even existed.
The adjustment board is a powerful, quasi-judicial administrative body whose decisions affect private property rights to the same extent as court rulings.
It not only hears requests for variances, but special-use permits and appeals of decisions made by city planning staff members and the Mount Airy Historic Preservation Commission, regarding interpretations or enforcement of ordinances. The stated overriding purpose of the board is to enforce the meaning and spirit of city ordinances.
Seeking relief from that group came with a price. “I paid $400 for the hearing,” Fleming of the cost required to make his case for the sign variance. The appeal to Superior Court is costing another $200.
The matter as it stands now has left both Fleming and Commissioner Cawley scratching their heads.
“It don’t make sense to me,” Fleming said. “The sign is already there.”
In addition to the body shop, it would highlight an existing auto parts business on the Merita Street property and an Enterprise rental car outlet to be located there.
The sign needs to be somewhat towering in order for passersby to notice the businesses due to not being directly on the highway, which is why Winn-Dixie erected it in the first place, Fleming said.
One thing that troubles the veteran business owner is that in driving along other nearby areas of U.S. 52 and U.S. 601, he has noticed places with newer signs appearing to be taller than 15 feet.
Two carport businesses, one at the former Bright Leaf Drive-In site and another on the corner of Rockford Street and U.S. 52 near Northern Regional Hospital, were among ones he cited, along with an auto dealership and a car wash.
“My question is, why them and not me — somebody’s going to answer that,” Fleming said.
The body shop owner explained that he could just as easily have decided to launch the expansion elsewhere, including Winston-Salem, but chose his home community instead.
“I was born and raised right here in Mount Airy,” Fleming said. “I wanted to stay in town.”
He also pointed out that the former Winn-Dixie location was in a rundown state, including overgrown vegetation and a deteriorating parking lot he plans to have repaved.
“I’m spending close to $2 million on a property that was an eyesore in the community.”
Cawley remarks
Commissioner Cawley brought up the matter at a council meeting Thursday afternoon, which was not on the agenda but broached by Cawley near the end of the session when officials offered general comments.
“I want the record to show that I support him,” the North Ward board member commented in reference to Fleming, saying that also should be the case with the city government as a whole. “But anyway, I want the record to show that I am disappointed in the Board of Adjustment’s decision.”
Cawley also said he had ridden around town with Fleming and noticed about 30 other signs outside businesses which were of similar size and shape to that on the former Winn-Dixie site. Some are at new businesses and others involve signs that were refurbished, he related.
“Mount Airy has a reputation for being hard to deal with when it comes to bringing business to town,” Cawley said, “and it’s decisions like this that are making us live with that reputation.”
Board chairman responds
Mount Airy Planning Director Andy Goodall declined to weigh in on the sign matter Friday. “My apologies, but I cannot comment on the referenced case while it is in litigation,” he advised.
However, Elizabeth Martin, the chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, did offer insights Friday on its recent vote.
“I think most of the board was leaning toward not allowing the sign,” she said of the matter involving Fleming.
“But at the same time, Frank’s been around here (a long time) and he was trying to improve that part of town,” Martin added in reference to the seven board members who did vote in his favor.
The two dissenters mainly were concerned about appearance issues in light of updated ordinance requirements approved by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners in 2016, including new height and area requirements to address that consideration with incoming signage.
Martin acknowledged the fact that the case can be taken up in Superior Court and possibly sent back to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a new look.
“The court reviews anything that we have done.”
May 06, 2022
Monday evening was the county commissioners’ first meeting since the explosion of interest in exchanges between the county’s Republican party chair Keith Senter and county board of elections chair Michella Huff.
Reuters first reported on April 23 that Senter had confrontational meetings with Huff in late March about concerns primarily with voting machines. The full content of those conversations is known only to those parties in the room.
Senter reportedly claimed retribution would be forthcoming against Huff, in the form of a pay cut or loss of job, for her lack of responsiveness to his concerns about the 2020 election.
Chief among those concerns were voting machines and their security. The crux of the complaints against voting machines is a claim that they may be susceptible to hacking which could then taint the results. Senter and Douglas Frank asked to inspect the voting machines of the county and were refused access.
Katelyn Love, general counsel for the state board of elections, sent a letter to County Attorney Ed Woltz on May 2 with the official response from the North Carolina State Board of Elections to the recent concerns that have been raised. She agreed with the conclusions made by Greensboro lawyer Mark Payne, whom the county hired to offer guidance on the same matter.
In his April 20 letter to the county, Payne outlined how the path to recourse for the claims that have been levied is not at the county level – neither with the board of elections nor the board of commissioners.
The county commissioners authorize the purchase of voting equipment from an approved list and approve funding for the county board of elections. “There are no other rights, obligations, or authority given to the county board of commissioners with regard to voting machines; all authority to test, approve, or audit voting machines rest elsewhere,” Payne wrote.
He went on to explain that access to the voting machines would not only void the warranties on the machines, but it would also cause an untenable precedent. Payne observed that whichever party wants the audit now, it may just as easily be the other party next time and the cycle may be without end.
“North Carolina election laws are designed to provide a consistent election throughout the state in a manner in which no party or political body can have undue access or influence. The independence of individuals and entities carrying out elections is paramount,” he wrote.
Fulton County, Pennsylvania, was held up as the example where an audit of voting machines was done with county employees’ blessing and under their supervision. Regardless of their intent, the result was the Pennsylvania Secretary of State decertified the entire county’s voting equipment and they had to be replaced at taxpayers’ expense.
Fulton County, much like Surry County, is a reliably ‘red’ county that voted in 2020 seven-to-one for Donald Trump over President Joe Biden. A Surry County official said they were, “Surprised by the fuss, since (the election) went their way” in this county.
The board of commissioners was told that if there could be hijinks in the voting counts of red Surry County, imagine the scope of such potential fraud in blue Wake or Mecklenburg counties. Huff said she offered Senter and Franks forms to fill out if they suspected voter registration errors here. She also told the pair that more serious claims of fraud must be addressed at the state level.
Payne went further saying, “Neither the county board of elections or commissioners have any actual authority to allow for an audit, nor would they have the power to do anything with the results. It would be an empty gesture.
“There is no legal mechanism to take any action based upon an unauthorized audit. At this point, there appears to be one forum where an independent audit of machines would be both legal and effective: as a result of a Federal Court Order,” he concluded.
In Dobson Monday, there was again a contingent who wished to speak during the open forum to the commissioners about election concerns and their canvassing efforts. While the group was smaller in size, they were no less enthusiastic. Zoe Claxton echoed what previous speakers have said, “I’m very passionate, I’m mad.”
The result was no different though as the open forum is a chance for the public to speak to the commissioners, not with the commissioners. There were questions raised from the gallery after the open forum period had concluded that went unanswered because of procedure.
When it was mentioned that complaints had to go to the state board of elections, an audience member retorted, “They’re all Democrats,” which is not the case.
The state board has three Democratic members and two Republican members: Damon Circosta, Chair (D), Stella Anderson, Secretary (D), Jeff Carmon (D), Stacy “Four” Eggers IV (R), and Tommy Tucker (R). When a piece of misinformation is left hanging in the air with no response, it adds to the frustration and confusion voters are feeling.
The feeling of uneasiness is not going away for those voters who feel the 2020 election was amiss, and perhaps it never will. Some may remember Bush-Gore 2000 and the years it took to stop thinking about hanging chads.
How many years will it take to settle the 2020 presidential election is a question only a future historian will be able to answer. With claims of fuzzy math and statistical improbabilities, it may be a while.
May 06, 2022
Shoals Elementary recently honored its March Leaders of the Month. The attribute for the month of March was “acceptance.”
“These student leaders have shown that they are accepting in their everyday life in and out of the classroom. We are proud of these Mountaineers,” school officials said with the announcement.
May 05, 2022
For the first time in three years, area residents were able to gather publicly to mark the National Day of Prayer in both Mount Airy and Dobson.
The annual observance, held the first Thursday in May across the nation, was cancelled locally in both 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, leaving the Mount Airy Ministerial Association to commemorate the day with local radio broadcasts.
This year, the organization was able to once again hold public gatherings, with more than 40 people on hand for the noontime observance in Mount Airy, and more than 60 turning out in Dobson for the prayer service.
“A sweeter day in the whole year cannot be found,” Dr. David Sparks told those who were gathered on the lawn of the city municipal building in Mount Airy. Calling it a “very solemn day,” Sparks — pastor at Flat Rock Pentecostal Holiness Church — said thousands upon thousands of people were gathering publicly across America for the Day of Prayer.
Mount Airy Mayor Ron Niland said this year’s service takes on a particular poignancy because of the Russian invasion of and war with Ukraine.
“We are gathering today to pray, while they are just trying to survive,” he said, urging those in attendance to pray for Ukraine and its people as well as for America.
During his remarks, Rev. Danny Miller of Central United Methodist Church spoke of the Apostle Paul and his writing to the church in Colossae, telling the church members there that he prayed for them daily, seeking God’s guidance in their growth and maturity as Christians.
Miller said Paul encouraged them to pray as well, to stay true to God, and to not be discouraged or led astray by false teachings — “disinformation, if you will,” he said.
Miller then encouraged those in attendance to remain strong in their prayer life, because that was a key to building a relationship with God.
“This shouldn’t be the only day that we pray. That wouldn’t be much of a relationship,” he said, exhorting those wishing to grow in their relationship with God to pray daily, to pray multiple times a day.
“Prayer is just talking to God. It doesn’t have to be fancy.”
His comments came after Mayor Niland had read a proclamation declaring Thursday a Day of Prayer in Mount Airy. During his remarks, he traced the history of the National Day of Prayer, with its earliest mention coming in 1775, when the Continental Congress asked the colonists to pray for “wisdom in forming a nation.”
“…the call to prayer has continued through our history, including President Lincoln’s proclamation of a day of ‘humility, fasting, and prayer’ in 1863.”
In 1952, he read from the document, Congress passed a joint resolution — which was signed by President Truman — declaring a national day of prayer, and in 1988 the law was amended and signed by President Reagan setting the day as the first Thursday in May.
A similar scene played out in Dobson at noon, with Pastor DM Dalton, president the ministerial association, overseeing the service there, with Dr. Rick Jackson of Welcome Baptist Church delivering the message to those gathered on the courthouse lawn.
May 05, 2022
Northern Regional Hospital has a new exit and entry point after opening Northern Drive on Friday.
This private drive, formerly a section of Worth Street, is located between the intersections of Rockford and S. South Streets and will serve as a way to access the Northern Regional Hospital campus.
Located adjacent to the Northern Regional Hospital Emergency Department, Northern Drive accesses parking lots E-1, E-2, and E-3, which are designated parking for the Emergency Department, outpatient services, and visitors. The new lot, E-2, adds 51 parking spaces, along with an additional nine spaces in Lot E-3, for a net gain of 60 new parking spaces. The Northern Drive area lots boast new LED lighting and large banners identifying the lots on the light poles. Northern Regional Hospital is pleased to continue offering free parking to patients, visitors, and staff.
Chris A. Lumsden, president and CEO of Northern Regional Hospital, commends Northern Regional Hospital Facility Services Director Greg Casstevens for his work in serving as general contractor for this exceptional project.
“We are very excited about the new parking spaces and designated pedestrian crosswalks, which, along with the additional lighting and signage, will make our campus much safer for our community,” said Casstevens.
May 05, 2022
U-Haul Co. of North Carolina has announced that a local business — Gen 1, LLC — recently signed on as a U-Haul neighborhood dealer to serve the Mount Airy community.
Gen 1, located at 874 N. Franklin Road, will offer U-Haul trucks, trailers, towing equipment, moving supplies and in-store pickup for boxes, officials say.
With its addition, there are five U-Haul dealers operating in Mount Airy, according to Andrea Batchelor, a spokeswoman for the moving equipment and storage rental company that has been in business since 1945. It is headquartered in Phoenix and considered the industry leader in do-it-yourself moving and self-storage.
U’Haul’s business model that involves teaming with independent dealers to offer moving equipment has filled a niche with the coronavirus outbreak, company officials say.
With COVID-19 creating challenging times for small businesses, more than 20,000 dealers across the U.S. and Canada are creating supplemental income through their U-Haul partnerships, they add.
U-Haul’s belief is that when a customer rents from a U-Haul dealer, they are directly supporting an independent small business in their community.
It also is an official American Red Cross disaster responder which has offered free storage and container support during weather crises such as hurricanes.
May 05, 2022
Some area residents — particularly those around Pilot Mountain — can be forgiven if they believe we haven’t had a proper spring in three years.
Their wait is about to end.
Friday, the three-day Pilot Mountain Mayfest, sponsored by the Civic Club of Pilot Mountain will return for the first time since 2019, after a two-year COVID layoff.
“The only Mayfests I’ve ever missed are the two we’ve canceled,” said Michelle Fallin, Pilot Mountain Civic Club president and head of the volunteer force putting on this year’s event. “It is a huge tradition for us who live in Pilot Mountain, for people who like to visit Pilot Mountain. I’ve always thought of it as the traditional way to kick off spring and summer.”
She is not the only one — traditionally more than 30,000 people flock to the small town in the shadow of Pilot Mountain for the three-day event, with several streets in downtown Pilot Mountain lined with craft vendors, food booths, along with live music and a game or two for the children.
While Mayfest has been around for several decades, this year’s festival seems to have a special meaning.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Jenny Jessup Kindy, the town’s Main Street coordinator. “It is making life feel more like normal. We’re excited to welcome something like 30,000+ visitors back to town.”
“I have heard a lot say they are glad we are back,” Fallin said. “From what I’m hearing, from people in the community, they are so ready to get back to enjoying everything Pilot Mountain has to offer.”
It’s not just the lure of a downtown festival that has Fallin and others excited. The civic club generally donates between $10,000 and $15,000 to non-profit agencies in Pilot Mountain to meet needs in the community, in additional to some direct donations to families who are in the midst of a crisis, as well as some scholarships to local students.
“Mayfest has always been our biggest fundraiser, it given us the opportunity to do that for our community,” she said. With no Mayfest the past couple of years, it has been difficult to maintain that level of non-profit support. “The money we raise this year will enable us to get back to where we used to be.”
She said this year those attending will notice a few differences, with some of the vendors and music in different places. Part of reorganizing the design is to move the food vendors to Main Street, with tables set up nearby so people can sit and eat.
“That’s been kind of one big struggle each year, for people to be able to sit down and enjoy their food.”
In addition to the vendors — many of which will be new this year — Fallin said many of the downtown businesses plan to set up booths.
“We have some awesome businesses that have come into town the last couple of years,” she said. “Our town in general has done an excellent job of bringing people in to shop. I think a lot of the newer businesses see that and want to be part of Mayfest.”
Mayfest will have its grand opening at noon on the stage set up on Depot Street. The ceremony, in addition to a big welcome to those in attendance, will include remarks by Mayor Evan Cockerham, singing by the 3- and 4-year-olds from First United Methodist Church, with the East Surry High School JROTC serving as color guard.
Fallin said the festival will be from noon until 8 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
May 05, 2022
Spring has sprung and the time is now for the 2022 Budbreak Wine and Craft Beer Festival to make its return this Saturday, May 7, from 12 – 6 p.m. in downtown Mount Airy.
Budbreak is returning to its spring date where it belongs after having a hiatus due to the pandemic and the rescheduling of the 2021 festival to the fall. “As our name implies when the vines begin to bloom in spring it is called Bud Break. That typically happens in May,” organizer Bob Meineke said.
Sue Brownfield added to that chorus, “I’m excited to be returning to our original date of the first Saturday in May as we kick off the wine and craft beer festivals in North Carolina.”
Meineke said, “We are celebrating the growing wine industry which history tells that North Carolina was the first state, going back to colonial times, to have a winery. Our area continues to be the hub for the industry with the wineries and the viticulture program at Surry Community College.”
The festival features top North Carolina wineries and craft beer producers, wonderful food, and great music. This year will see two first-time vendors joining the roster with Dennis Vineyards and Midsummer Brewing displaying their wares.
“We strive to bring many old and favored wineries and breweries then add a mix of newer ones. We always get good feedback about the boutique feel of the event. Smaller venue, downtown and surrounded by lots of things to do before and after the festival. This year we’re getting our merchants involved. Anyone wearing a wrist gets a 10% discount, day of event,” Meineke reported.
Wine & Beer Tasting Tickets cost $20 in advance and gets you a commemorative glass for tasting wine and craft breweries from the vendors. On the day of the event the cost will be $25.
Tickets can still be purchased online at the discounted rate, or in person at The Hampton Inn by Hilton, 2029 Rockford Street, Mount Airy; Old North State Winery, 308 North Main Street, Mount Airy; or Webb Interiors, 1217 West Lebanon Street, Mount Airy.
General Admission Non-Tasting Tickets will allow access to the festival which includes the music and food providers for $4.99. Children 12 and younger are free with a paid adult, and because food and beverage are being offered, no pets are allowed.
Meineke said $2,000 of the proceeds will be going to support the Rotary and Rotaract clubs of Ukraine during their time of crisis. The Budbreak Festival donated $1 per ticket that was sold online through March, which was then also matched by District 7690 for a total of a $2 donation per ticket.
Music will be provided by B-Dazzle Productions, the festival’s Hometown DJ, who will start the event with tunes to set the mood from 12 – 3 p.m. Meineke also advised that Craig Southern and The Phoenixx Band “promised three solid hours of a mix of beach, R&B, country and some rock and roll.” Southern and The Phoenixx band will take the stage from 3 – 6 p.m.
The Budbreak Festival is the primary external fund-raising event for the Mount Airy Rotary Club and has afforded local Rotarians the opportunity to donate more than $193,000 locally to groups. “The monies raised by Rotary from Budbreak go to support these local charities like The Surry Arts Council, The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, The Salvation Army, The United Fund, and The Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department.
“As well as The Shepherds House, Yokefellow Food Pantry, Stop Hunger Now, The Boys Scouts of America, and the YESurry High School Entrepreneurial Competition, to name a few,” Brownfield said, adding in one of her own pet projects, the RotaryPup Dog Park adjacent to the Emily B. Taylor Greenway – a project near and dear to her.
It’s a busy weekend, but visitors really can have it all with a trip to Mayfest in Pilot Mountain and then a trip to Budbreak. “There have always been great local events to compete with. MerleFest, Mayfest, Mother’s Day weekend and more. Variety is always welcome. We have done well each year, with the proceeds from this weekend we will top $200,000 for local, regional, and international projects.”
For tickets, including a Hampton Inn by Hilton festival package, visit: www.budbreakfestival.com/tickets
May 04, 2022
• A man listed as homeless has been jailed without bond after an incident in which he allegedly assaulted a woman with a knife, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
Joseph Thomas Duncan, 24, was encountered by officers last Friday night during a domestic disturbance at the Newsome Street home of Macy Michelle Carter, identified as the victim, who was assaulted with the knife and hands with no injuries caused.
Duncan was charged with assault with a deadly weapon; resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer; and disorderly conduct. He is scheduled to be in Surry District Court on June 6.
• Police were told on April 27 that jewelry valued at $22,000 had been stolen from Delories Pruitt Beaman’s person while the 79-year-old resident of Ararat was in a room at Northern Regional Hospital.
Two items, a 14-karat gold cluster ring and a 14-karat gold cross necklace, are said to have been taken by an unknown suspect.
• Kelsey Elaine Frye, 24, of 536 Farmbrook Road, was charged with larceny and possession of stolen goods on April 23 for allegedly stealing a Samsung Galaxy cell phone owned by Crystal Faye Norman of Rural Hall the day before at Food Lion on South Andy Griffith Parkway, where Norman is employed.
Frye, whom arrest records state was found in possession of the phone, is slated to appear in District Court on May 23.
• Police learned on April 23 that a handgun had been discovered missing, and possibly stolen, from the home of Jack Russell Morton on Pittman Street. Along with the Smith and Wesson Bodyguard 380-caliber model and a seven-round extended clip that is silver in color, seven rounds of Hornady Manufacturing Critical Defense ammunition were included.
• Property valued at $462 was discovered stolen on April 22 from a trailer on McKinney Road. The items taken included a 10,000-pound winch, an electronic brake box and battery, safety chains and a bolt.
Two Ohio businesses are listed as victims of the crime, Tanner Gill Associates Logistics and Ground Flight Expediting and Logistics.
• Police property, identified as two stop sticks and a hand reel, received $254 in damage on April 20 after being deployed in an effort to stop a man identified as Christopher Marion, who was fleeing from the Surry County Sheriff’s Office in a vehicle.
A tire-deflation device was used to halt the vehicle on Red Barn Lane off White Pines Country Club Road. Records indicate that a warrant for a charge of injury to personal property was filed against Marion by city police and served on him by county authorities.
• On April 20, multiple vehicles were found to have been broken into at the Scenic-Chevrolet-Buick-GMC dealership on Rockford Street, with property valued at $2,820 listed as stolen.
Police records indicate that at least three vehicles were targeted, including a 2017 Chevrolet Express G4500 owned by Surry County Emergency Services, a Chevy 5500 truck and a Dodge Neon.
Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp. also is listed as a victim of the crime that netted copper stranded wire; Milwaukee-brand products including a battery-powered chainsaw, battery and battery charger; copper stirrups; a Klein Tools volt meter; wire-stripping tools; a first-aid kit; and multiple dosage units of epinephrin.
May 04, 2022
The Embers featuring Craig Woolard return to the Blackmon Amphitheatre on Thursday followed by North Tower Band on Friday and Envision on Saturday. All three bands are set to play at 7:30 p.m. each day.
The Embers are widely considered a musical marvel and have laid the groundwork for what has become known as ‘Beach Music’ in the Carolinas, Virginias, the gulf coast region of North America, and every beach in between.
“They are a true musical tradition with which many Americans have listened to from childhood to adulthood,” according to the Surry Arts Council, sponsors of the Summer Concert Series. “The Embers consider the genre of Beach Music as ‘music with a memory’ and have been creating lasting memories since its inception in 1958. Simply put – Heart and soul, rhythm and blues, feel good music.”
North Tower has been one of the South’s party bands for more than 35 years, providing the best in Top 40, beach, funk, and oldies. “Sizzling brass, super vocals, and a wide-ranging repertoire all contribute to making your event a night to remember.”
“Envision’s stage show is as exciting to watch as it is to dance to, covering hits from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, all the way up to the contemporary sound of today’s Top 40,” the arts council said. Although specializing as a party band, the group’s repertoire encompasses a wide variety of musical styles, including R&B, beach, motown/oldies, pop, dance, funk, and Jazz.
Admission to each show is $15, plus tax, or a Surry Arts Council Annual Pass, which costs $135, including tax. Children 12 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. The Dairy Center, Whit’s Custard, and Thirsty Souls Community Brewing will be at the concerts to provide food, snacks, drinks, beer, and wine for purchase. No outside alcohol or coolers are allowed to be brought into the amphitheatre area. Those attending are asked to bring a lounge chair or blanket to sit on.
Tickets are available at the gates on the nights of the concerts, online at www.surryarts.org, via phone at 336-786-7998, or at the Surry Arts Council office at 218 Rockford Street. For additional information, contact Marianna Juliana at 336-786-7998 or marianna@surryarts.org.
May 04, 2022
Fourth Graders at Pilot Mountain Elementary got to take their learning on the road to visit the State Capital and other government buildings in Raleigh recently.
As part of the fourth grade curriculum, students learn about the different branches of state government and how they work. Students were excited to go visit the places they have learned about and see firsthand the many parts of the state government system.
May 03, 2022
For the second time in less than six months, a fire has occurred in a vacant commercial building in Mount Airy — and once again the incident has been tied to its occupation by the homeless.
“It was just rinse and repeat,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said of what seems to have become a trend.
The latest blaze was reported Tuesday about 6:15 a.m. at 455 Franklin St., where a large structure is located which formerly housed a private club known as Koozies and before than was a Quality Mills facility.
A passerby spotted smoke coming from the building, leading to a deployment by members of the Mount Airy Fire Department, with 15 firefighters on the scene altogether.
Upon arrival units found an active room and contents fire in the basement of the structure, according to information from the department.
Firefighters then stretched an attack line to the basement door and extinguished the blaze, which was brought under control about 10 minutes after they arrived with no injuries caused.
Primary and secondary searches of the structure resulted to ensure there was no extension of the fire from the room of origin, and the area also was ventilated.
As of Tuesday, the origin of the blaze had not been determined.
“One homeless occupant was at the scene and made to evacuate,” Poindexter added Tuesday, who later was questioned by the city fire marshal and police. “And he couldn’t give any substantial information about the cause of the fire.”
“Unfortunately, though, we determined that there is more than one person living there now,” the fire chief said of the deteriorating building that’s been a source of controversy in recent years and in February was targeted for demolition by city officials.
Evidence of bedding at the scene indicated the recent presence of multiple individuals, Poindexter explained, despite signs prohibiting its occupancy.
One person also had been at the scene of an initial fire at the former Koozies building in late November, who subsequently was charged with breaking and entering.
The man located there Tuesday morning was a different person, the fire chief said.
November’s fire is believed to have resulted from some kind of fire allegedly started to keep warm amid freezing temperatures, but that apparently was not the case with this week’s incident occurring amid summer-like conditions.
The earlier fire caused estimated damages of $1,000.
No monetary figure was listed for Tuesday’s blaze, with Poindexter explaining that it was difficult to distinguish any new damage from that resulting in November.
The multiple fires point to a disturbing trend, the fire chief said. “It’s sad to see how some people live.”
Signage might be placed at the scene, in addition to that already there, in a further attempt to prevent occupancy of the structure that has been declared dangerous and unfit for human habitation.
May 03, 2022
The Mount Airy News contacted the four candidates running for the North Carolina Senate District 36 seat, representing Mount Airy and Surry County. We presented the candidates with three questions, asking them to limit their answers to roughly 250 words per question. Here are their answers. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Shirley Randleman
Shirley Randleman, 71, of Wilkesboro, has served in both the North Carolina House of Representatives, from 2009 to 2013, and in the State Senate, from 2013-2018. Prior to that she was a long-time Clerk of Superior Court for Wilkes County.
Question: In recent years, there has been a lot of public discussion on the role of government, big vs. small government, intrusion in private lives vs. basic freedoms, and the like. In your opinion, what is the role of the state government in North Carolina?
Randleman: First and foremost, the role of government is to protect our rights as citizens.
Question: What do you believe are the two or three biggest issues facing North Carolinians today, and how do you believe the state government should attack those issues?
Randleman: 1. K-12 education in North Carolina is a major issue with more parents seeking alternatives to public education. We need to create a K-12 education system that meets the needs of parents and students. And of course, teachers. Because of discipline issues, teachers and students should not go to school in fear for themselves because of a lack of discipline. We must demand accountability, discipline in the classrooms, parental involvement, and the use of common sense. I will work with The House Select Committee on an Education System for North Carolina’s future to expand what works and eliminate what doesn’t work. We need to get back to the basics of education “reading, writing, and mathematics” and demand an end to “social engineering” and the indoctrination of our most precious resource, our children.
2. Our counties and the entire state are trying to figure out how to deal with issues associated with mental health and substance abuse. Access to care is a major hurdle for these individuals as overdose deaths have reached record numbers. In the recent opioid settlement agreement, North Carolina will receive $750 million over the course of 18 years most of which will go to the counties to help people and communities impacted by the overdose crisis. With specific guidelines for how each county can use its share of the money, I will push for careful monitoring and oversight of the State Health Department to make sure the guidelines are being followed and that the funds are being used for their intended purpose.
Question: Why are you running for office, and why should voters cast a ballot for you? What sets you apart from your opponent?
Randleman: The Legislature is the law-making branch of government. I served as the elected Clerk of Superior Court for Wilkes County, working in the court system for 34 years. My job was to help people. I implemented, instructed on, and enforced the laws enacted by the legislature. In my role as a legislator, both in The North Carolina House and Senate, this practical experience enabled me to have input on matters being considered and how they would affect individuals and businesses in our communities using a common sense approach.
Eddie Settle
Eddie Settle, 62, of Pleasant Hill, is serving the his third term as a member of the Wilkes County Board of Commissioners. He has spent four years as chairman of that board, as well as an additional three years as vice chairman. In addition, he has served on a number of community and civic organizations, including as a deacon at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, and with the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Board; as a North Carolina Agriculture Committee Chairman for 6 years; Wilkes County Economic Development; on the Wilkes County Library Board for four years; on the Wilkes County Airport Board; the High Country Council of Governments; as well as serving as chairman of the Wilkes County Social Services Board
QUESTION: In recent years, there has been a lot of public discussion on the role of government, big vs. small government, intrusion in private lives vs. basic freedoms, and the like. In your opinion, what is the role of the state government in North Carolina?
Settle: Since my experience is in business and agriculture, I firmly believe in smaller government. I have experienced the state mandates and federal government regulations stifling business. We are still trying to recover from the past two years of Gov. Cooper’s executive powers and mandates. I believe there should be no government mandate for vaccinations, wearing masks, closing businesses or churches. I believe in life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness without government intrusion. The role of state government should include providing good roads, educating our children without indoctrination. Another issue is protection from burning and looting our cities during peaceful protests. When i.e., peaceful protesters start burning and looting our cities, blocking our roads, government should stand with our law enforcement to protect the citizens.
QUESTION: What do you believe are two or three of the biggest issues facing North Carolinians today, and how do you believe the state government should attack those issues?
Settle: Our children are first and foremost the biggest issue. Public education has allowed some educational districts to take a critical turn of direction to indoctrinate our children with Critical Race Theory (CRT), sexism, and racism. Now is the time to take control of this issue! Our children have suffered over the past two years by too many state mandates.
Another issue is voter identification. Voter ID is needed to restore confidence in North Carolina’s election process.
QUESTION: Why are you running for office and why should voters cast a ballot for you? What sets you apart from your opponent?
Settle: I am running because, I can make a difference. I can work across the line and I have a record that supports this.
I am running for the futures of our children, and grandchildren. I am running for the elderly, the veterans, and the working class folks. I grew up being taught by my parents and grandparents, if you don’t’ work, you don’t eat. and that your good name is all you have. I believe in seeking God’s will in my life and the decisions that I make, because I believe in His promise.
What separates me from my opponents are that I believe Donald Trump proved a businessman can run this country better than a politician. I am a businessman and a farmer, not a politician.
Vann Tate
Vann Tate, 57, of Mount Airy, is making a bid for his first elected office, “but I can offer 30 years of experience working in the government since that was my job as an NC State Highway Patrolman,” he said. Tates has held a number of volunteer posts over the years in community civic clubs and in his thurche. “When I retired as an NC State Trooper I established a partnership as president and co-owner of USA Investigative Services, LLC, where I work as a licensed private investigator.”
QUESTION: In recent years, there has been a lot of public discussion on the role of government, big vs. small government, intrusion in private lives vs. basic freedoms, and the like. In your opinion, what is the role of the state government in North Carolina?
Tate: I believe that the closer home a problem is managed, the easier it is to get a hold on. We are seeing difficulties that occur from regulations that come down from DC, meant for the entire country, but often cause concerns for one area while benefiting another. The more each individual state can manage the concerns that area has, the easier it is to manage, and the same goes for each individual county. Each county is like a family, with different needs, different financial setups, and it is more beneficial to keep the management of those needs confined as much as possible. Smaller government does not intrude as greatly into people’s private lives which allows them to feel the freedom that our US Constitution was written to provide us. The role of the state government in North Carolina is to protect those rights, to assure the residents that their lives are as protected as possible, even making new laws to provide that, and to even be the firewall between North Carolina’s citizens and federal regulations that might intrude on the way of life that has been established here in our great state.
QUESTION: What do you believe are the two or three biggest issues facing North Carolinians today, and how do you believe the state government should attack those issues?
Tate: The people of North Carolina need to feel protected in every way possible. It isn’t just a safety issue of having sufficient law enforcement to assure that we have licensed officers at hand, but it is also protection of our way of life. Unfortunately with the “Defund the Police” and the harassment of law enforcement over these past few years, our law enforcement entities have lost personnel, and many are still operating on limited staff. There needs to be encouragement and recruitment for these careers which will help all departments throughout the state. Another concern is also the pay that is available to these individuals who get into law enforcement. The county commissioners and town boards need to step forward along with the state departments to compensate these who serve and protect as they deserve.
The second part of protection is protecting the way of life we have enjoyed in North Carolina. So much of it has been under attack in these past years from our farmers facing unforeseen regulations along with natural disasters to our loss of businesses, both larger and small businesses due to Covid. There have been federal funds that have come into North Carolina from FEMA and from Covid allocations that were made available, but every week I am reading that those funds have also been abused. There must be better oversight as the funds are given out to see that those in need get what is promised as well as the money being invested wisely by the municipalities and counties. Along with the Covid influence has come a surge in population with an unforeseen influx moving primarily from the North into our state, causing a rush on the housing market. This has been profitable for some while putting a burden on our residents to find needed housing which is another developing concern.
And … third … is protection for our children. The new ideals and whims that are being pushed into our educational system need more evaluation before our children are subjected to them. It seems that the educational system has drifted from teaching the basics to often using our children as guinea pigs. Parents have made an impact by stepping forward and objecting which is a great sign because it is not up to the educational system to teach values to the students but something that needs to start at home.
QUESTION: Why are you running for office, and why should voters cast a ballot for you? What sets you apart from your opponent?
Tate: I have known for quite some time that my life experiences have given me much to be shared with others. I want to take to Raleigh what I have learned from working with various departments of the government and from first-hand knowledge of seeing our state laws put to work throughout the years. From my experience as a Trooper I have worked across all socio-economic lines, dealing with all segments from the distressed and needy all the way to working as member of the Security Detail for the Governor of North Carolina.
One thing that sets me apart from my opponents is that I am the youngest of the four so should have a few more years to devote to serving in the State Senate. I also have more diversity than the others seem to have since I have worked in state government and in the private sector as well as having lived and worked in several counties across North Carolina. Because of my years of experience in dealing with people, with some during the worst circumstances of their lives, I have learned to care about each one I encounter. People tell me they find me immediately trustworthy and compassionate and feel I care about their wellbeing. I certainly enjoy working with others, sharing viewpoints and concerns, and finding common ground with a sensible way to address concerns. The most important qualifier that sets me apart from the other candidates is integrity which has been the basis for my life, being honest and putting the needs of others first.
Lee Zachary
Lee Zachary, 75, of Yadkinville, has served four terms — eight years — in the North Carolina House of Representatives. He has also served as mayor of Yadkinville for four years, and as a member of the Yadkin Board of Commissioners for four years.
QUESTION: In recent years, there has been a lot of public discussion on the role of government, big vs. small government, intrusion in private lives vs. basic freedoms, and the like. In your opinion, what is the role of the state government in North Carolina?
Zachary: Overall, I favor less government involvement in citizens’ lives, although I recognize that there are areas in which the government, by virtue of its constitutional duties, needs to be involved. Those areas are transportation, education, and the courts. These three areas consume the vast majority of our tax dollars. By their nature and the number of citizens affected, these government agencies are very large, as they have to be in order to provide the service.
There are other areas of governmental intervention that are very important to the citizens of our state, such as mask mandates, employee vaccination requirements, and zoning issues. This country was founded on individual rights and the right to own and control your property, and I strongly support our Constitution. The less intrusion by government into our individual rights and right to own and control our property, the better.
QUESTION: What do you believe are the two or three biggest issues facing North Carolinians today, and how do you believe the state government should attack those issues?
Zachary: One significant issue is the need to expand broadband internet service across our state. Broadband internet services are provided by communication and utility providers, and require large capital outlays. The best way for government to encourage expansion is by providing loans and grants to the providers. I will continue to support these projects, particularly in rural areas where the requisite capital may not be as available as in urban areas.
It is clear that one of the biggest issues facing our state is election integrity. If the public does not have confidence in the integrity of our elections, the public will not respect our laws and will lose faith in our government. The state has enacted laws to make the voting machines “tamper proof.” However, I have been informed that the real election integrity problem in North Carolina is the failure to purge the voter rolls of deceased voters. To rectify this problem, I am preparing legislation that would require the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHS) to send death certificates each month to local boards of election, which the local boards would be mandated to use to purge the voter rolls of deceased persons, and then to certify the changes to the State Board of Elections, where the State voter rolls could be amended. This would make voter fraud much more difficult to accomplish in North Carolina.
Another major issue facing our state is public education. Under our Constitution, the unelected members of the State Board of Education are charged with “supervising and administering the free public school system.” The elected Superintendent of Public Instruction is just the “secretary and chief administrative officer of the State Board of Education.” If the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction were in charge, we would not be dealing with Critical Race Theory or other such problems. I am currently working on a constitutional amendment to eliminate the unelected State Board of Education and put the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in charge of the Department of Public Instruction, as most North Carolinians think the superintendent is now.
QUESTION: Why are you running for office, and why should voters cast a ballot for you? What sets you apart from your opponent?
I am running for the NC Senate so that I can continue to help citizens with problems that they have with the state government. I feel that I am the best qualified candidate to serve the people of this district. As a current member of the NC House, I know the members of the NC Senate, having served with most of them for several years and worked successfully with them on legislation. As a lawyer, I know how to read legislation, how to write legislation, and how to make sure the legislation says what we want it to say and not what someone else tells you it says. I am also a veteran, and a proven conservative, having received the Certificate of Conservative Excellence from the American Conservative Union Foundation for my commitment to American constitutional principles.
If you like the job we’ve been doing in Raleigh to reduce taxes, set back money for the rainy day fund, fight the tax and spend crowd, protect 2nd Amendment Rights, and expand school of choice legislation, then I am a proven vote for conservative issues.
And I would appreciate your vote in the Republican primary!
May 03, 2022
Surry Central High School recently hosted an Addiction Awareness Week with the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery.
The school partnered with many community members to help bring information and awareness about addiction and recovery to the high school’sstudents. During the week, there were guest speakers, contests, and classroom activities to educate and inform students by reading addiction stories, information on how to get help, and resources available in our county for an opportunity for life-long recovery.
Guest speakers included Charlotte Reeves, Ben Nichols, and Carey Lowe. Reeves spoke to freshmen about the adolescent brain and how addiction affects it. Nichols spoke about his story of substance abuse and Lowe is the mother of Noah Lowe-who would have been a 2020 graduate but passed away from an overdose in April of 2020.
Surry County EMT also created simulations for students to see what happens during a “mock” overdose situation.
“It was a very successful week in educating students about addiction and recovery and trying to save future generations one step at a time at Surry Central High School,” school officials said.
May 03, 2022
The Ninth Annual MAD Dash 5K raised more than $20,000 for Surry County School System students and teachers. The race, held on April 23, and hosted by the Surry County Schools Educational Foundation, had more than 450 participants racing through the streets of Dobson, with hundreds more volunteers and spectators cheering them on.
The 5K began on the Surry Community College campus and finished at the 50-yard line of the Surry Central High School Rex Mitchell Track and Field. All eleven Surry County Schools elementary GROW (Go Run Our World) Strong Teams competed in the event. Each team goes through a 10-week training after school. The training not only prepares students to participate in the 5K but also teaches positive characteristics such as determination, confidence, self-pride and race etiquette.
“Thank you to all of our participants and our sponsors for making this event successful. Surry Insurance, our Event Sponsor, is a great supporter of our foundation and students,” said John Priddy, foundation chairperson. Northern Regional Hospital, Renfro Brands, and Wayne Farms were the Finish Line Sponsors and Dr. John L. Gravitte, DDS, PA, was the medal sponsor.
“We’re back,” said Dr. Travis L. Reeves, superintendent of Surry County Schools. “It is great to see all these leaders here this morning. Students, volunteers, parents, and spectators have all teamed up to give back to our schools. The generous community and sponsor support we receive for this race will help students and teachers experience fantastic learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom.”
Miguel Vega took top honors in the race with a time of 18:44.53 Second place went to Jack Hardy at 20:50.24, and third place went to Rodrigo Cortes at 20:53.84. Ella Priddy was first among females with a time of 21:51.45, Eliza Richardson was next at 24:05.50 and Dasia Lambert at, 24:05.78 was third.
The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization created by a group of local business and community leaders who are passionate about the education and the future of Surry County. The Board of Directors is committed to providing enhanced learning opportunities for students that will position them to be ready to compete in a global market. For more information, contact Ashley H. Mills, managing director, at 336-386-8211 and online at www.scsfoundation.org.
May 03, 2022
Pilot Mountain Elementary School recently recognized students for making the school’s third-quarter honor roll.
Third grade A Honor Roll: Gunner Copeland, Seth Crawford, Mason Estrada, Nate Grose, Payton Hester, Ocie Hunter, Eliza Jacobs, Sam Kiser, Lillian Manuel, Ellie Mills, Rowan Powell, Avianna Radford, Pryce Taylor, Kate Wilkins, Natalie Yopp
Third grade A/B Honor Roll: Emily Ayala, Kindee Boyd, Nylah Brown, Oakley Collins, Cadence Felts, Ayilan Garrison, Graham Griffith, Audrey Hayden, AJ Kincaid, Rosa Lopez, Preston McLeod, Kayden McMillian, Emma Moorefield, McKenzie Pell, Isabelle Spainhour, Lucas Wood-Armstrong, Lola Wooten, and Dominic Worthy.
Fourth grade A Honor Roll: Mia Campbell, Brody Chilton, Smith Cook, Milayah Cropps, Ji’San Davis-Reynolds, Faith Francis, Colin Galyean, Sloane Hooker, Dylan Johnson, Brayden Nicholson, Piper Patton, Eva Pena, Jeremy Stevens, Declan Tilley, and Katie Willoughby.
Fourth grade A/B Honor Roll: Morgan Dean, Xander Elburn, Anahi Flores, Lucas Gonzalez, Mason Hester, Brooklyn Horton, Wells Johnson, Carlos Lopez, Yareli Nava-Garzon, Olivia Newsom, Blakely Riddle, Amelia St. Jude, and Luke Surratt.
Fifth grade A Honor Roll: Ellie Anderson, Isabelle Bennett, Layla Comer, Sophia Estrada, Titus Hamons, Emilynn Haymore, Zoe Keener, Marlon Lowe, Kyson Massie, Sammie Moser, Carr Norris, Averie Powell, Jaxon Priddy, Journey Priddy, and Easton Sallee.
Fifth grade A/B Honor Roll: Carson Durham, Bryleigh Easter, Jayden Knight, Cara Lewellyn, Addilyn Nicholson, Amber Quinn, Nicholas Reynolds, Wyatt Robertson, Caleb Sloop, Ryan Surratt, Landri Taylor, Kaleb Williams, and Ansley Yount.
May 03, 2022
An arrest has been made in the shooting death of a city teen who was found lying in a street near his home last September, the Mount Airy Police Department announced Monday afternoon.
Marquis Reginald Hatcher, 28, of 139 Vance St., Dobson, is charged with murder in the case involving John Martinez Flores, 18, who lived in the 2100 block of North Main Street.
Flores was fatally shot outside his residence on the night of Sept. 21, police say.
City officers who were responding to a requested security check in that area located the wounded teen near the intersection of North Main Street and Jones School Road shortly after midnight, according to previous reports. He had received multiple gunshot wounds.
Flores was transported by the Surry County Emergency Medical Service to a Winston-Salem hospital, where he later died from his injuries.
The teen’s death sparked an investigation that not only involved the Mount Airy Police Department but the Surry County Sheriff’s Office and N.C. State Bureau of Investigation. It also included an appeal to the public for information about the shooting.
In the weeks and months after the homicide, authorities were able to develop evidence through countless interviews and other investigative means.
“It was very extensive with different agencies and the fact everyone worked together,” city Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday of what it took to crack the case.
“The teamwork has been phenomenal,” Watson added.
The investigative efforts led to the issuance of a felony arrest warrant for Hatcher for the murder of Flores.
“We feel it was drug-related,” the police chief advised Tuesday of the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting. “The investigation is still ongoing.”
Hatcher has a history of drug arrests, including serving time in prison for narcotics-related charges.
He is now being held in the Surry County Jail without privilege of bond,
Hatcher’s first scheduled court appearance is on May 25 in Surry District Court.
Records show he has a number of other cases pending in Superior Court, unrelated to the Flores shooting, including charges of felony assault, inflicting serious bodily injury; felonious possession of a Schedule II controlled substance; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; maintaining a drug vehicle/dwelling place; possession of heroin with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver; breaking and entering to terrorize/injure; and others.
May 03, 2022
Cycles and patterns in life happen, we frequently choose to look at them and dismiss them as a random coincidence. However, other times these cycles occur because it can be human nature to follow the path of least resistance and stay in unhealthy patterns.
Such may be the case for those in the criminal justice system for whom it can be ever more difficult to break the cycle of incarceration that, left unchecked, may find itself as the worst hand-me-down item between generations.
Wayne Farms is entering a partnership with Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt in a new job reentry program that seeks to break the cycle of recidivism while filling staffing needs at one of the county’s largest employers.
Guinea pigs at a poultry plant
Certified Peer Support Specialist Sonya Cheek said, “This cannot work without assistance from the sheriff and Mr. Wooten at Wayne Farms.”
“This is my community,” Matthew Wooten, Dobson Complex manager for Wayne Farms, said while posing for photos with Sheriff Hiatt, Cheek, and a phalanx from the sheriff’s office. When hearing of the program, it sounded like a no brainer to him, “I said ‘I like it, let’s do it!’”
Wayne Farms has a history of being an active member of the community. He said he was not scared to be the “guinea pig” for this program, and they know there may be growing pains with Wooten joking, “Experiment on me.”
“This is not a guarantee of a job, this is an opportunity,” he said, saying that these candidates will be treated like any others.
Cheek has been granted unfettered access to Wayne Farms and will be the point of contact between Wayne Farms and the county’s work reentry program. She will have to ability to make ad hoc visits onto their property to conduct onsite check-ins.
“We have a responsibility to help Wayne Farms keep the employee,” she said, “not plug them in and forget about them.” That means complying with mandated follow up and case management on a regular basis.
Sheriff Hiatt pointed that Insteel had approached him in 2019 about participating in a job reentry program, but the county was not ready at that time. Also, Leonard previously expressed some interest in participating as well. “The largest employer in the county took a chance – we want other businesses to participate,” Willis said of Wayne Farms.
Interestingly, Forsyth County had reached out to Wayne Farms to do something similar and that sparked the idea for Wooten to reach out to Surry County and inquire about a similar program with Sheriff Hiatt.
Team effort
Willis, the low-key directory of the county’s substance abuse response, admits he is “more of a systems guy” than anything else. The county needs his expertise on the admin side, he needs help from the likes of Cheek, Charlotte Reeves, and a bevy of volunteers. “I do not have the inside the bubble experience. It would be like me trying to empathize with childbirth.”
When a 3 a.m. collect call comes in, it is answered by Cheek, one of the lynchpins in the county’s new job reentry partnership between the sheriff’s office and Wayne Farms. That process will be greatly simplified because Pay Tel, a private company that has released a tablet for use inside of corrections facilities, will soon load assessments for work reentry onto the devices.
They will contain a questionnaire for those inmates nearing the full completion of their sentence and who have a desire for employment. Inmates will be identified, and then pre-screened using the tablet.
It is not hard to see the time savings if Cheek were to get an assessment back saying one inmate has heavy equipment experience, while another has mechanical aptitude. She also said the tablets are slated to have some educational material added onto them as well, including substance abuse education.
Aces in their places
There is a reason subject matter experts get placed in roles like Cheek. She recalls being so scared the first time she was asked to speak to a group but, “Right off the bat I felt like this is what I needed to do.”
Having been down and out she knows the view from down there and would really like to keep others from knowing that pain. These people who are entering the work program have completed their sentence and have done what was required of them in form of legal penance.
Now, what follows them most frequently from the detention center is a stigma. Cheek said for her, what made a difference was someone taking a chance on her. Now, she is a county employee working day and night to help inmates re-entering society find their footing and attempt to break that cycle for good.
“Hope doesn’t exist in a jail. So, when we can say – hang on, there may be a business who is hiring – that can be a game changer.”
May 03, 2022
The Farm to Feet sock brand of a Mount Airy company not only is focused on manufacturing products for the outdoor recreational market, but now blending that with inclusion and diversity.
Farm to Feet, which is associated with Nester Hosiery, has collaborated with an entity known as Black Folks Camp Too (BFCT) to create a new Unity Blaze sock style.
It is aimed at promoting BFCT’s mission to remove fear, add knowledge and invite more African-American folks to experience the activity of camping and enjoy outdoor lifestyles with others.
This is coinciding with the development of what is described as a three-quarter crew technical hiking sock featuring Black Folks Camp Too’s Unity Blaze logo. That symbol is denoted by two crossed logs and a campfire meant to promote the forging of bonds across all aspects of adventure and universal equality.
“Black Folks Camp Too is bringing more people into the outdoors, including many right in our backyard in North Carolina,” Matt Brucker, Farm to Feet general manager, said in a statement. Brucker became general manager of Nester Hosiery brands earlier this year, including Farm to Feet.
The new Unity Blaze socks are available on websites of both Farm to Feet and Black Folks Camp Too, along with select retailers, with a larger rollout to all Farm to Feet retailers scheduled this August. A portion of proceeds from the sale of the sock style will benefit BFCT.
“Our Unity Blaze socks are not just any kind of socks,” Earl B. Hunter Jr., who founded Black Folks Camp Too in 2019, said in a statement. “Our socks are helping folks signal to the world that they treat everyone, everywhere, equally while encouraging more unity in the outdoor community — together, we are changing the world one campfire at a time.”
At the core of Black Folks Camp Too’s mission is the belief that when more African-Americans become active camping enthusiasts and begin enjoying outdoor lifestyles, it will help break down barriers to create more-inclusive communities and stronger relationships overall.
“Working with Earl and the team at Black Folks Camp Too, together we can encourage more people to explore the outdoors and experience its rejuvenating power while inviting others to join us and increase diversity in the outdoors,” added Brucker.
The Unity Blaze technical hiker sock of Farm to Feet/Black Folks Camp Too is designed with targeted cushioning and ventilation to provide all-day comfort on the trail while naturally regulating temperature. It features a 19.5-micron merino wool knit with materials sourced entirely from U.S. ranchers.
These socks also contain a seamless toe closure that reduces the chances of blisters, according to promotional information. Comfort compression helps lower fatigue while reinforcement in critical areas ensures durability.
Farm to Feet, promoted as a maker of 100% American socks, turns out that footwear in its sustainability focused facility in Mount Airy said to employ the highest-level knitting techniques possible.
The brand prides itself on producing the most-comfortable and feature-rich socks available under the belief that socks are meant for the outdoors — designed for everyone to follow his or her own trail.
Farm to Feet also is committed to improving the outdoor recreational experience and advocating for the protection of wild places, says a company announcement about its collaboration with Black Folks Camp Too.
The Unity Blaze sock retails for $25, with more details on it and how to find a local retailer or buy online available at www.farmtofeet.com.
May 02, 2022
• A woman listed as homeless was jailed under a $25,500 secured bond last Thursday after fleeing from officers in reference to a probation violation, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
Katherine Louise Nelson, 28, was encountered by police as they attempted to serve a warrant on her for the probation matter, which had been filed through the clerk of court office on Dec. 28.
She fled on foot before being taken into custody at Quality Inn on Rockford Street, arrest records state, leading to an additional charge of resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer.
Nelson is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court next Monday.
• A Winston-Salem man has been arrested here on charges of interfering with an electronic monitoring device and resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer.
Carlos Zeke Reynolds, 20, was encountered by police last Wednesday during a traffic stop on North Renfro Street at Independence Boulevard, where he allegedly provided false information to delay the service of a warrant on the monitoring device charge. It had been filed on April 5 in Forsyth County.
This led to Reynolds also being accused of the resisting charge and confined in the Surry County Jail under a $5,000 secured bond. He is slated to be in District Court at Dobson next Monday.
• An Ararat woman, Jessica Turner of Zion Way, reported being the victim of a crime involving the obtaining of property by false pretense on April 19.
An unknown party misrepresented oneself on social media in order to receive $45 from Turner.
• The Speedway convenience store on Rockford Street was the scene of a false-pretense crime on April 18, when an apparently known suspect attempted to use fake currency, listed as a $20 bill, to make a deposit onto a prepaid credit card. The case was still under investigation at last report.
May 02, 2022
For the past two years, the Mount Airy Ministerial Association has moved its annual Day of Prayer celebration to the airways — broadcasting a brief talk and prayer time on local radio station WPAQ.
This year, the ceremony will move back to the open air, in-person gatherings the organization has been holding in Mount Airy for years. And, for the second time, there will be an observance in Dobson as well. Both services and prayer times will be on Thursday at noon.
Pastor D.M. Dalton, president of the ministerial association, said he and the association are thrilled to be able to return to holding the services in public.
For years the ministerial association, working with local officials, have held a gathering at the Mount Airy City Hall, on the lawn just outside the front doors. In 2019, the group expanded, with a second service in the county seat of Dobson, on the Courthouse Lawn facing Atkins Street.
The 2020 and 2021 gatherings were cancelled as a result of public gathering prohibitions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, with cases low and those regulations largely repealed, both services will be held at noon.
In Mount Airy, Dr. David Sparks of Flat Rock Pentecostal Holiness Church will serve as moderator, while Rev. Danny Miller of Central United Methodist Church will be sharing a sermon. Dalton said that Police Chief Dale Watson and Fire Chief Zane Poindexter would be serving as flag-bearers for the ceremony.
In Dobson, Dalton will serve as moderator while Dr. Rick Jackson of Welcome Baptist Church will share the sermon. The Surry County Sheriff’s Office will be serving as Honor Guards there.
This year’s theme is from Col. 2:6-7, which reads “Exalt the Lord Who has established us.”
Dalton said he has appreciated the way so many people and groups have stepped up to help, not only this year, but in previous years. He said the county was quick to support the effort in 2019 and again this year with the expansion in Dobson, as the city leaders have been through the years. He also praised the sheriff’s office for readily helping, and specifically cited John Kennedy from Salem Baptist Church as someone who has “been there to do anything we need.
“Everyone has been absolutely marvelous. Everyone really seems to embrace this,” he said.
May 02, 2022
At the April 4 meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners a bid was announced for the former Westfield Elementary School. The bidder at that time placed a $7,500 down payment against a bid of $150,000 for the former school.
The commissioners were informed at their last meeting April 18 that the bid has been rescinded by the interested party. The bid was pulled just days after the board had been informed of its existence.
The potential buyer, upon further inspection and consideration, decided to withdraw their bid. The board of county commissioners was told that “based on the possibility of soil contamination and asbestos in the gym and cafeteria” that the buyer was not sure of the feasibility.
“They did say they plan to do more research to determine if their company would be able to sustain making a new offer and purchasing the property in the future. They may come back to this in the future as they have genuine interest in the property and plans that could benefit the Surry County tax base,” the county’s statement said.
The question posed to County Attorney Ed Woltz was whether the bidder was still obligated to fulfill their offer. When that party bid, it opened a period of upset bidding that was still ongoing, but there was no upset bid.
After discussion, and a decision to change future surplus property listing to have language akin to “as-is,” the commissioners agreed to release the bidder from their bid with no penalty.
In other recent action by the board:
– An agreement has been reached between Surry County and Tanner Valuation Group LLC to provide commercial and industrial appraisal assistance service for the upcoming 2025 reappraisal. This will be a four-year project that will involve, in part: project planning, field review, field work, and assisting with the presentation of the Schedule of Values. The total cost of the project is $206,500 which will be paid in installments over the four-year contract.
– Communications Director Nicholas Brown advised the commissioners that he and a committee have been searching for a set of protocols that would aid telecommunicators with a set of questions that would streamline the call taking process for a fire emergency.
After viewing demonstrations that were designed to show the protocols in action, the committee unanimously agreed that they preferred and recommend The International Academy of Emergency Dispatch’s version of the call taking software.
– Assistant County Manager Sandy Snow has been given authorization to work with the EMS director to implement an Educational Reimbursement Agreement for EMS new hires.
– Finally, the county received two qualified bidders for the fiber broadband installation project that continues in Surry County. Spectrum and Surry Communications both submitted to the Request for Proposal, and the county has selected Surry Communications for the contract.
County Manager Chris Knopf told the commissioners that the bid from Surry Communications was more responsive to the needs of the community than that of Spectrum’s bid. The board authorized $1.6 million to Surry Communications for fiber broadband installation. An additional $309,000 was set aside to match “Great Grants.”
Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology grants are designed to target those areas undeserved by broadband. There is no guarantee Surry County will get one of the four GREAT grants, but the county set aside the matching funds to be prepared to move.
May 02, 2022
Andy and Opie would’ve been proud of those attending a weekend Healthy Family Hooplah fishing event in Mount Airy, who didn’t let water from the sky keep their hooks from the waters of Tumbling Rock Reservoir.
Although Saturday’s forecast called for only a slight chance of rain, intermittent sprinkles managed to work their way into the proceedings at the Westwood Park fishing facility which went on regardless.
Such an event, designed to give local families and kids the chance to experience the joys of angling, had not been held locally for the past two years due to the coronavirus and everyone seemed to relish its resumption.
The gathering not only provided rods, reels and bait to those lacking them while allowing participants to take home what they reeled in, but prizes for fish caught, hot dogs and trimmings, face painting and more — all for the incredibly low price of free.
Those who were younger than 16 also did not even need a fishing license to cast lines into the freshly stocked reservoir, either from a pier or along its banks.
Saturday’s scheduled five-hour affair combined the organizational efforts of Surry/Stokes Friends of Youth Inc., the Women’s League of Mount Airy, the Mount Airy Police Department, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and others.
“Really calming”
Those attending the Healthy Family Hoopla included both veteran anglers and novices taking advantage of the opportunity to explore the pastime of fishing that has helped one while away many a country day.
“Actually, this is my first time fishing and it is really fun,” said Amelia Jayde Hazelwood, 12, a student at Central Middle School in Dobson.
“It is really calming,” she explained, citing the chance to get away from the pressures of the outside work and partake of the simple pleasures of looking at lily pads in the water and the reassuring ripples of the current.
Gracie Edgar, another 12-year-old of Pilot Mountain Middle School who was fishing alongside her friend from Central Middle, was impressed by “how quiet it is” while fishing. “We sometimes hear a little baby in the background, but that’s OK.”
The two youths had not yet mastered the art of casting, but seemed to improve as time passed. Then there was a matter of waiting for the floating cork to disappear from the surface and exhibit the telltale bobbing motion that indicates a bite.
“I can never be patient enough to see it go in the water,” Amelia said while recasting her line a number of times.
Saturday’s foray at the park did not seem to reap as many denizens of the deep as previous events, despite the reservoir being recently stocked with catfish that joined sunfish and bass already there.
This seemed partly due to the cool wet weather that prevailed during the day.
“It’s a little early in the year for catfish to start biting,” Fisheries Biologist Kin Hodges of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission added while passing out rods and reels. “I think they’re taking the morning off.”
Yet there were still folks on hand trying to catch fish, no matter how elusive, and regardless of what Mother Nature served up Saturday.
“It is a great turnout with the weather,” said Surry/Stokes Friends of Youth Executive Director Tamara Veit.
May 01, 2022
The Surry County Board of County Commissioners will be having its regularly scheduled meeting Monday, May 2, at the Historic Courthouse in Dobson.
Last meeting, a group spoke to the commissioners one at a time about their concerns over alleged voting irregularities surrounding the 2020. Within days of their appearance, news began to spread of an incident between a local Republican party leader and Michella Huff of the county board of elections.
Reuters news service reported that Surry County Republican Party chair Keith Senter, “told elections director Michella Huff that he would ensure she lost her job if she refused his demand to access the county’s vote tabulators, the North Carolina State Board of Elections said in written responses to questions from Reuters,” the news service wrote. “Senter was ‘aggressive, threatening, and hostile,’ in two meetings with Huff, the state elections board said, citing witness accounts.”
While Senter initially indicated he would be willing to comment on the allegations, he has answered no requests for comment since April 23.
On that day, he responded to such requests with a text message stating “Let’s do it by email so my words do not get twisted if we do it. I already have Rueter’s in D.C. and WRAL in Raleigh trying to twist my words.”
He has not responded to emails since then.
The other speakers at the county commissioner’s meetings were contacted for comment as well.
A canvass of Surry County voters is ongoing by a non-county or state sanctioned group who are trying to match voting record logs with in-person visits. The group points to concerns about voter registration logs, alleged missing ballots, and the security of electronic voting machines as concerns. Should irregularities be occurring in Surry County, they have asked if similar problems could arise on a bigger scale in counties with larger populations.
At the conclusion of the upcoming meeting Monday night, at least one commissioner has said there will be comment made on this matter. The meetings begin at 6 p.m., and are open to public.
May 01, 2022
Meadowview Magnet Middle School Student Council has partnered with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive through the Future Blood Donor Program.
The blood drive will be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Mount Airy on May 10, from 1 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Those wishing to donate can make an appointment online at redcrossblood.org by using the sponsor code, “Meadowview,” or by contacting the Red Cross directly at 1-800 RED CROSS. All community members are welcome.
April 30, 2022
• A Mount Airy woman was jailed last Sunday on a felony charge of larceny by employee for allegedly embezzling money from a local convenience store, according to city police reports.
Kimberly Hauser Allen, 54, of 110 First St., is accused of taking an undisclosed sum from Super C on East Pine Street. She was held in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and is facing a June 6 appearance in District Court.
• A traffic stop for an alleged equipment violation led to a Mount Airy man being jailed on a felony drug charge last Saturday.
After a brief investigation upon being pulled over near the public works building on East Pine Street, Richard Anderson Carter, 72, of 287 Paynetown Road, was charged with possession of a Schedule I controlled substance, listed as a white rock-like substance. He also was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a metallic smoking device.
Carter was held in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for a May 9 appearance in District Court.
• Michael Angelo Quirindongro Olivera, 26, of 195 Deerfield Lane, is facing charges of driving while impaired, carrying a concealed weapon and having no operator’s license which were filed Sunday after an encounter with officers on Granite Road in reference to a motor vehicle crash involving a 2010 Chevrolet Cobalt Olivera was operating.
He was jailed under a $500 secured bond and is scheduled to be in Surry District Court on June 6.
• Shamal Niquan Cox, 25, listed as homeless, was incarcerated on multiple charges after allegedly threatening and/or cursing at customers and employees of a downtown restaurant on April 21.
A police investigation of the civil disturbance at Barney’s Cafe led to Cox standing accused of two counts of communicating threats and disorderly conduct in a public building. He was held in the county detention center under a $5,000 secured bond, with the case set for the May 23 session of District Court.
Cox also has been banned from Barney’s Cafe by its owner.
• Police were told on April 21 that a utility trailer valued at $1,100 had been stolen from the residence of owner Allene Michelle Young in the 2000 block of Wards Gap Road.
It bears the Carry-On Trailer brand and is black in color.
• Roddy J. White, 63, of 100 Shamrock Terrace Lane, Dobson, was charged with second-degree trespassing on April 21, when he allegedly refused to leave the Northern Regional Hospital premises after being told to do so by security personnel.
White is free under a $1,000 unsecured bond to appear in Surry District Court on May 9.
• A wallet owned by Cindy Aileen Anderson of the 2000 block of North Main Street was stolen from the rear bumper of a vehicle at her residence during the early morning hours of April 16.
The Michael Kors wallet with a gold zipper is valued at $50 and contained an undisclosed sum of money; a driver’s license; and three cards, including insurance cards.
• A crime involving injury to personal property occurred on April 14 at Walmart, where the doors and hood of a 2020 Toyota Camry owned by Vickie Hoover Dupree of Highland Drive — a store employee — was scratched with a sharp object by an unknown suspect.
The damage was put at $2,500.
April 30, 2022
Thursday saw a competition in Pilot Mountain that pitted the business acumen of budding high school entrepreneurs against one another in a test of skill and moxie. YESurry is their chance to dip a toe into the proverbial shark tank without the fear of losing a limb or being eaten for lunch.
Teams from local high schools made a pitch presentation for their businesses. Students were encouraged to look around for a need where a new business or service would be useful. The students must then double back after all groups have gone for an “elevator pitch.”
“You will be talking to our Mr. Moneybags, who is very rich and invests in new companies,” Sue Brownfield explained to the students. “Suddenly, you are riding up in an elevator with Mr. Moneybags. So, you need to ‘pitch’ yourselves and your company – you want Mr. Moneybags to say ‘Meet with me next Monday at 10 a.m.’”
The winner of the competition was Grace Phillips of North Surry High for Grace Got Cakes. Phillips said, “I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve been trying to start businesses since I was like 5 years old, so this just means a whole lot, and I’m excited for the future of Grace Got Cakes.”
She took home prize money totaling $2,500 to put toward her business. She acknowledged kids her age are not usually trying to run a business and “it has taken a toll on my social life for sure. I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with my friends.
“I see the value of doing this over going out, but I try to balance my social life and take breaks and hang out with friends. In the long term this is going to do more for me than going to parties.” It appears ‘work-life balance’ has entered high school curriculum.
Diana Casares-Carapia got up at 3 a.m. to make her confections for the competition before then going class for the day. She made a tasty pitch and Confectionery Diana took home a $1,000 check for second place, paired with $500 for winning at her school level.
She began baking to help her family make ends meet during COVID. She now has outstanding orders she needs help filling and requested investors to, “Invest in me.” Having taken business classes at Surry Early College, Casares-Carapia is ready to open her own store in Dobson upon graduation.
Elkin High came in third which doubled their initial winnings to $1,000 for Students Pay Students. Braden Oliver and Luke Burchette made their elevator pitch for an online hub where students, with teacher recommendation, can apply to tutor other students. They mentioned building a sense of camaraderie amongst the students as they aid one another.
“Find your niche,” keynote speaker Will Pfitzner encouraged the students. “There are hundreds of thousands of other people interested in what you are.”
He went on to discuss the dangers of rampant consumerism as a means by which to seek self-identity. Digital identities will lessen the desire to buy things to gain a sense of self or status. With increased access to information, he encouraged the students to be mindful of media “brainwashing” and seek their own information.
YESurry launched at Mount Airy High in 2019 and quickly grew to all seven high schools. Brownfield said the entries this year were “a notch above. They really elevated their game.”
“We want them to become business savvy: how do you start a business, how to do a business plan, a financial plan, what is your competition, how do you network,” she explained. “The advisors have challenged their team for the last several months.”
“The competition asks them to pool and hone skills they have already learned in school and supplement those with new skills,” advisor Greg Perkins said.
“I have personally seen my team develop the poise and confidence to present convincingly to business decision makers, to experience the highs and lows of product and business plan development and display the patience to complete those processes,” said the president of Perkins Financial in Mount Airy.
From inception of the concept through development of a business plan on to the final presentation takes effort. Learning to collaborate, synthesize ideas, and develop executable plans are skills that will benefit these students wherever life takes them.
“The competition is an incredible opportunity for kids to learn what the ‘real world’ is going to expect from them,” Perkins said. It should then also show the students what to expect in return and hitting an obstacle is something they will contend with.
Rejection is not a lesson anyone wants to learn, but it is a fact of business life that not every venture will succeed. For some, a cold business lesson was dispensed in a more palatable format than a door slammed shut with a rejection later in life.
“These kids are learning to conquer the fears that keep many adults from pursuing the entrepreneurial urges,” Perkins observed, “the conquering of which provides our next generation of job creators and community leaders.” The incubation of the next generation of teachers, business, and industry leaders in and for Surry County is a recurring drumbeat that is growing louder from different corners of he county.
“A lot of times we hear about young people who leave the county and never come back,” Todd Tucker said previously of keynote speaker and first-ever Entrepreneur of the Year award winner Will Pfitzner. “His story is just the opposite.”
Pfitzner is the NCSU alumni who decided to chase something he enjoyed doing rather than the almighty dollar. His ‘local man makes good and returns to Mayberry to much adulation’ story is a tale business and community leaders alike would like to see replicated.
He also alluded to the fact that the traditional four-year college track is not for everyone. Therefore, programs such as YESurry create opportunities for students to envision a different path forward both for themselves and Surry County.
These young adults put their skills to the test and while Grace Phillips won the day, the community altogether may be the ultimate winner.
April 30, 2022
Higher gas prices naturally are causing would-be tourists to question their travel plans — even to favored destinations such as Mayberry-rich Mount Airy — but a local official sees the fallout from another issue, COVID, boosting other attractions.
“People are looking for places to get away from germs,” Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Jessica Roberts told the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners during a quarterly update at a meeting last week. “People are focused on getting outdoors.”
That conforms with plans for North Carolina to celebrate the Year of the Trail in 2023, for which Surry County is well-positioned with facilities such as Pilot Mountain State Park, Roberts said in highlighting both present and upcoming trends.
“For the upcoming year we are embracing everything outdoors,” she added, also including wine trails, greenway facilities, mountain biking trails, venues with fire pits and other nature-oriented attractions.
A foundation already exists for that with visits to state parks last year up 1.2 million over pre-pandemic levels, according to information provided by Roberts showing travellers are now more cautious about where they go and for how long.
“They want a clean place to visit.”
Gas, inflation worries
For now, though, there are concerns about fuel prices and the related problem of inflation.
“Gas prices is going to be a factor in some of these things,” the local tourism official said of trips involving vehicular transports. “I don’t think it will hugely impact us as much as other cities.”
Roberts says many people from other locations are calling the Mount Airy Visitors Center to inquire about gasoline prices locally.
There is also a trend of consumers not making long-range travel plans due to the uncertainties tied to that and the economy overall, with Roberts citing factors showing that 95% of those arriving in North Carolina come by automobile.
Based on the results of one national survey appearing in March, almost 60% of American travelers say that the recent increased cost of gas will impact their decision to take trips over the next six months.
Of those, nearly one-third of the respondents predict that the impact will be great for them.
Roberts says this is playing out locally.
“People aren’t planning as far in advance right now,” she advised regarding folks being reluctant to forge long-range commitments as they have in the past due to fuel prices and inflation. “It’s kind of a last-minute decision people are making.”
The Mount Airy tourism official also presented survey results showing that if gasoline prices don’t drop, more than half of travelers will take fewer road trips this summer (56%) and choose to stay closer to home (60%).
While all this is occurring, the tourism industry is gearing up for the growing trend of electric vehicles over the next 10 years, Roberts said.
This includes trying to develop more charging stations locally, with the tourism official pointing out that she knows of only one existing now in Mount Airy, at the Sheetz convenience store on U.S. 601.
Efforts are under way to have hotels add charging stations to make it more convenient for visitors to power up their vehicles, Roberts said.
Hopeful signs
Despite gas prices/inflation, the war in Ukraine and the lingering effects of the coronavirus, road trip activity has quietly returned to 2019 levels, based on information from Roberts showing the situation to be stable at present.
Occupancy tax figures reported by the city of Mount Airy show revenues being strong, increasing consistently since March 2021 to January 2022 collections — the most recent period for which numbers are available.
For example, ones for November 2021 were up 70% from November 2020, and those for last August jumped 63% from the previous year.
In the period from July 2021 through January 2022, occupancy tax revenues collected by local lodging establishments increased 48.3% from the same period the year before.
Roberts says efforts are underway to increase visitation to this area during the traditionally slower period from November to March.
April 29, 2022
While the totals haven’t approached those for the last election in the fall of 2020 when a hotly contested presidential election was involved, one-stop early voting has gotten off to a healthy start across Surry County.
The first in-person ballots for a May 17 primary were cast on Thursday, with a total of 327 people showing up at four early voting stations in the county.
Mount Airy was the busiest location, drawing 56% of the voters among the four sites.
It is located in the Surry County Government Center at 1218 State St. behind Arby’s. Others are available at the Surry Board of Elections headquarters at 915 E. Atkins St. in Dobson; the Pilot Mountain Rescue Squad, 615 E. U.S. 52-Bypass, in the former Howell Funeral Home location; and the Elkin Rescue Squad building on North Bridge Street.
Traffic seemed light for the first day of early voting in Mount Airy — with 29 people reportedly arriving during the first two hours from 8 to 10 a.m. But Surry’s elections director said Thursday’s results overall exceeded those for a comparable primary.
Ahead of a 2018 primary election similar to what is occurring this year, early voters averaged 216 per day countywide.
That year, the Dobson site was open from April 19 to May 5, with the Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain and Elkin locations operating from April 30 to May 5.
“So we are above the 2018 average for yesterday,” county Director of Elections Michella Huff advised Friday, when another 71 voters had cast ballots at the four sites as of 11 a.m.
In contrast, for the opening day of the presidential-year primary on Oct. 15, 2020 — in the midst of the pandemic —a total of 1,013 people had voted at all four locations by 12:30 p.m. Lines of people waited at each, with 2,436 logged for the day as a whole.
The schedule for the early voting cycle now underway is 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays at all locations, with no Sunday hours involved. The service ends on May 14, the Saturday before the actual primary day, which is a prelude to the general election in November.
Early voting advantage
Along with allowing Surry residents to cast ballots before the primary day and avoid possible long lines then, one-stop early voting/same-day registration provides a reprieve to unregistered voters who missed a regular registration deadline on April 22.
They can register during the early voting period at any of the four Surry locations and immediately cast a ballot at that same site. However, those who did not register by the regular deadline will not be allowed to vote on the primary day itself.
Same-day registrants must prove their residency by displaying either a North Carolina driver’s license, a photo ID issued by a government agency, a copy of a current utility bill or a current college photo ID card along with proof of campus habitation.
Huff has said that 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election on Nov. 8 are eligible to register and vote in the primary.
April 29, 2022
More than 300 area students turned out Thursday for the second annual Student Job Fair held by the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s been a great event,” said chamber president and CEO Randy Collins.
The fair is aimed at high school juniors and seniors, along with college students, who are looking to get into the area workforce, either for long-term employment, summer work, or for internships.
There were 48 vendors on site, with booths set up to give students a taste of what their particular business and field might look like. It was also a chance for area employers to make contact with prospective employees and interns.
Lenise Lynch, general manager at Hampton Inn of Mount Airy, said her business could definitely use additional employees, particularly in housekeeping, on the front desk, in the laundry and maintenance departments.
She said working with youth just coming out of high school or college is an ideal situation for the hotel and for the prospective employee — as she believes it would be for most any business.
“It is a chance for a business to be able to help them learn what is expected (in the workforce),” she said, adding that young people in their first or second job are often easier to mold and train into being a strong employee.
“We can catch them coming out of high school and help them begin a great career,” she said. In her industry, she said it is possible to start out in most any position and move up into management, even ownership.
“I’ve been doing this for 16 years,” she said. Lynch began working at the Hampton Inn as a front-desk attendant, and within two years was the general manager, a position she has held since then.
Collins said that is exactly the idea behind the job fair, to help students learn there are career opportunities in their hometown.
“We hope the students realize there are some good paying jobs right here in our community,” he said, steady jobs that can be a career.
Staff Sgt. William Arnder with the North Carolina Army National Guard said Thursday was a good day for him and his colleague working at the job fair.
“We had more than 25 who signed up,” he said, referring to students who had given him their contact information and expressed interest in exploring work with the Guard. He said he was hoping to see 15 to 20 folks who would sign on with the Guard from Thursday’s event.
Arnder said most the positions with the Guard are essentially part-time posts, with some weekends and summertime required, but that in addition to the pay someone can earn, the Guard also offers opportunities for troops to have college paid for.
Anna Johnson and Brenna Belcher with Xtreme! Marketing said they had quite a few folks interested in their display.
“A lot of kids are interested in graphic design and digital marketing,” Johnson said, adding that her firm is looking to expand with more work coming in than they can do with the present sized staff. Several students left resumes or completed applications there.
Teresa Grimm of Hardy Brothers Trucking said her booth attracted many students.
“We’ve had quite a few of them who wanted to be mechanics,” she said. “One, she specifically wanted to be a diesel mechanic.”
While her firm can definitely use mechanics, she said their biggest need is for drivers. Her firm needs both drivers to run regional routes who typically make two or three runs a week covering a total of 2,000 to 3,000 miles; and long-term drivers going coast-to-coast. For those going west and back, she said the company generally likes two-person driving teams, and a husband and wife team is often perfect for such runs.
Grimm said her company refers students interested in this field to the truck driving program at Surry Community College.
Among the four dozen local businesses with booths set up was Northern Regional Hospital, staffed by Daniel Combs, who works in the hospital’s staff development and student programs, and Vanessa Bottomley, a unit coordinator in the emergency department.
Bottomley said the two used a CPR simulator to show youth how to determine if someone needs CPR, and how to administer the often life-saving maneuver.
“We probably had 100 kids use that today,” she said.
While medical-related jobs are what most people think of when considering a hospital-related career, Combs said he tried to emphasize to those visiting that there are other jobs there.
“We have people in marketing, people who work in the labs, who do x-rays. One young lady said she wasn’t interested in any of those, she wanted to go into accounting. I told her, we have accountants, too.”
Bottomley emphasized that the job fair may have been aimed at showing students the job opportunities in Surry County and Mount Airy, it also is a time for the hospital and other employers to learn about a whole new wave of potential workers.
“We have very good talent right here,” she said of folks in the community.
April 29, 2022
Surrey Bancorp income down
Surrey Bancorp (Pink Sheets: SRYB), the holding company for Surrey Bank & Trust (the “Bank”), this week reported net income of $1,487,503 or 36 cents per fully diluted common share. That was down nearly 25% from the same figures a year ago — $1,987,375 or 48 cents per share — from the same period a year ago.
The bank said the drop was largely because the bank realized non-interest income of $858,778 in the first quarter of 2021 with the sale of its wholly owned insurance agency, SB&T Insurance.
First quarter net interest income for the present year decreased 3.6% from $3,392,180 to $3,271,453. The net interest margin decreased from 3.24% to 2.86% due to a general decrease in interest rates and a change in earning asset mix, bank officials said.
“Higher yielding loans made up 60.5% of average interest earning assets in the first quarter of 2021 as opposed to 53.3% (this year),” the bank noted.
Noninterest income decreased from $1,420,337 in the first quarter of 2021 to $375,109 during the same period in 2022. The decrease is due to the the sale of SB&T Insurance.
For more information on the banking company, or a full look at its first-quarter report, visit www.surreybank.com
Insteel sees record earnings
Insteel Industries Inc. (NYSE: IIIN) recently released its second quarter results, showing record net earnings, more than doubling figures recorded over the same period in 2021.
For the quarter ending April 2, Insteel reported quarterly net earnings of $39 million, or $1.99 per diluted share, up from $14.9 million, or 76 cents per share, for the same period a year ago.
The company benefited from strong demand for its reinforcing products and incremental price increases to recover the continued escalation in costs.
Net sales increased to $213.2 million from $139 million for the prior year quarter driven by a 65.4% increase in average selling prices and a 7.2% decrease in shipments. The average selling price increase was the result of price increases implemented across all product lines during the quarter to recover rapidly escalating costs, which offset the impact of lower shipments resulting from tight supply conditions for raw materials.
The company reported gross profit increased to $57.1 million from $30.2 million in the prior quarter. Operating activities provided $6.3 million of cash compared with providing $15.3 million for the prior year quarter due to an increase in net working capital, which used $32.6 million of cash in the current year quarter. In the prior year quarter, net working capital used $800,000.
The strong quarter helped fuel an equally strong six-month year-to-date period, with net earnings for the first six months of fiscal year 2022 $62.1 million, or $3.17 per diluted share. That is more than double the previous year figures, which were $23.1 million, or $1.18 per share, for the same period a year ago.
Net sales increased to $391.7 million from $258.6 million for the prior year period driven by a 67.5% increase in average selling prices and a 9.5% decrease in shipments. Gross profit increased to $99.4 million from $50.1 million in the same
period a year ago.
For more information, visit https://www.insteel.com/
First Community Bank
BLUEFIELD, VA – First Community Bankshares, Inc. (NASDAQ: FCBC) this week reported quarterly income of $9.52 million, or 56 cents per diluted common share, for the quarter ending March 31, a sharp decrease from the $14.61 million reported for the same period a year ago. Despite the drop, the bank declared a 27-cent quarterly cash dividend to common shareholders, an increase of 8% over the dividend paid during the same quarter last year.
The dividend is payable to common shareholders of record on May 6, and is expected to be paid on or about May 20.
The bank said the net income decrease was primarily driven by a return to “more normalized expense in the provision for credit losses of $1.96 million for the first quarter of 2022 compared to a $4 million reversal of provision in the first quarter of 2021.”
The bank said the current year provision is largely due to robust loan growth in the first quarter, principally led by commercial loan demand. The reversal of provision in the first quarter of 2021 was driven by a significantly improved economic outlook than in early 2020.
Salaries and employee benefits increased $787,000 or 7.23%, from last year. During the quarter, the company implemented annualized wage increases of approximately $2.5 million “as part of its ongoing strategic initiative to enhance Human Capital Management, which included an increased minimum wage.”
The Company’s loan portfolio increased by $78.73 million, or an annualized growth rate of 14.74%, during the first quarter this year. “Loan demand and originations were strong in all categories, including construction, commercial real estate, residential mortgage, and consumer loans,” bank officials said.
The bank also reported it repurchased 132,000 common shares for $4.09 million during the quarter.
For more information visit www.firstcommunitybank.com
April 29, 2022
It was an unintentional coincidence that is a metaphor for a larger problem, and one that needs to be addressed. Representatives from the Surry County Association of Rescue Squads took their turn making 2022-23 budget presentations to the county commissioners Tuesday.
A scheduled two hours turned into a four-hour budgetary slog, with the board managing more business afterward behind closed doors.
Everyone in the room from the school superintendents, commissioners, county staff, down to the deputy in the lobby on guard was getting compensated to be there in one way or another.
Except the five men sent to represent the rescue squads, the 100% volunteer force that is the opposite hand of the 18 fire departments.
Vice Chairman Eddie Harris has sat on the board for some time and is aware of the nature of the local fire district and volunteer rescue squad model in use for Surry County. Even he asked once for clarification from the men on their volunteer status as it is somewhat baffling to consider there is not a single full or part-time paid employee on the five rescue squads.
The rescue squad volunteers sat and listened while waiting to make their budget request of just over $314,000. Last year they operated on a budget of $276,000, which had been a cut from the previous year.
They noted in presenting the data the cost of operating a rescue squad is not wholly different from that of a fire department, but funding and compensation are another matter entirely.
“We and fire go hand-in-hand,” Nathan Webb of Mount Airy Rescue Squad said of their first response cousins. The rescue squads and fire departments have some overlapping services, some fire houses offer rescue services while others do not.
Funding the rescue squads is a piecemeal affair that combines county contributions with monies from the United Fund of Surry. Donations from the public are an extremely important part of their funding. While their budgetary allotments went down during COVID donations, to their pleasant surprise, went up. The board was told that public donations were the “best in decades.”
The juxtaposition of that largesse is the part of this story that is harder to talk about. These are volunteer rescue squads and there is simply not the appetite to be found to participate. “When I took over seven years ago, I had 35, now I have 28 members on my squad. Volunteerism is at an all-time low,” Webb noted.
As the area and its workforce have changed dramatically over the past decades, it was noted that transition also added to the problem. “It’s not like the 90s when everyone could just leave the mill. We don’t live in that world anymore.”
Webb said they need to move into a world where these rescue squads have some paid staff, and they also suggested establishing some defined boundaries for the rescue squads as well. Currently, the squads are covering 177 square miles including three southern Virginia counties and offering rescue services to Stokes County.
The squads often arrive before county EMS or local fire on the scene to triage and begin care at that most critical moment, when seconds could make all the difference. A full 85% of the squads’ calls are for medical assistance as opposed to the specialized rescue for which they are also trained.
When it comes to funding it is nearly impossible for the squads to make inroads on grants. “Most nationally funded money and state money is tailored for fire department and EMS, we are somewhere in the middle and that sets us at a disadvantage,” Webb said. A grant that was approved in 2015 only came through fully in 2021, he said, so even getting approval may not yield relief.
Call volume versus compensation needs to come into better alignment somehow, they feel. For the 18 fire departments, excluding the two city departments, he quoted their call volume at over 12,000. The average compensation to the fire departments per call they run is $457.
Contrast that with the rescue squads which answered more than 4,300 calls yet their compensation is $69 per call. Webb said when you break that down further, the squads who respond to more calls get even less, Mount Airy Rescue Squad he noted gets close to $31 per call.
“It’s come to the point where the squads are suffering, we’re really suffering,” Dennis Manuel chief of Pilot Mountain Rescue said.
“We are no longer treading water, we seem to be underwater in a lot of places,” Webb said. He noted radios are an issue with spotty coverage and will need replacement. The squads are having issues with vehicles aging out, each noting having vehicles from the 1990s and early 2000s that will need replacing.
The squads made it clear that they are not asking for much, and never a penny that would be taken from their fire and EMS brethren. That said, depending on the generosity of the public as a primary form of funding seems fraught with peril.
Chris Wall of the Mount Airy Rescue squad perked up as the meeting was wrapping and asked for a moment to speak as a member of the squad, and a full-time firefighter, “All five of us have put in beaucoup hours to get re-certified,” he said of his more than 794 hours of certification and annual re-certification.
“There is a lot of stuff we do that is similar to the fire departments, but it is not the same job. As a firefighter, I could not do it without these guys. We need the rescue squads.”




© 2018 The Mount Airy News

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