Tragedy strikes along US 601 – Mount Airy News

A television reporter from a nearby community prepares for a live broadcast from the scene of the fatal Surry County accident along US Highway 601 Wednesday afternoon. To her right is seen the utility pole that was struck during the accident.
Ryan Kelly | The News
Skid marks are found along US Highway 601 near the site of Wednesday’s fatal accident involving a mother and son from Dobson and a logging truck.
Ryan Kelly | The News
The scene of Wednesday morning’s traffic accident that a Dobson mother and her son, as seen looking South down US 601 toward the Yadkin River
Two area individuals, including a 5-year-old boy, were killed in an early morning wreck just south of Dobson, according to authorities.
The North Carolina State Highway Patrol responded to an emergency call Wednesday morning before 6 a.m. off of US Highway 601 and Chandler Road, according to that agency.
While details were scant early on, Sgt. Fletcher Pipes of the Highway Patrol confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a tractor trailer carrying timber lost control and crossed left over the center line and overturned on Chandler Road. That sent part of its load of logs tumbling off the side of the truck, in the process the falling timber crashed into a passenger vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction.
Two passengers in the vehicle that was struck by the falling logs were gravely injured, both were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.
The Highway Patrol this afternoon identified the adult victim as April Hill, 42, of Dobson.
Hill’s family told FOX8 WGHP that her 5-year-old son was in the car with her and was also killed, that station reported.
Sgt. Pipes said that while all accidents are tragic, the loss of a child’s life is an especially horrific loss.
Emergency responders from the county as well as the Dobson Rescue Squad responded to the scene of the accident. Surry County Emergency Management Director Eric Southern said that Highway 601 had been closed for several hours because the truck landed on its side and the logs that fell off had to be removed. The truck lost hydraulic fluid that needed to be contained, and a power line was impacted as well.
Highway 601 had returned to normal operation before noon.
According to the Highway Patrol charges are pending the outcome of the investigation.
Dual fatality in 601 logging truck accident
18 graduate from truck driver program
January 10, 2023
Jessi Seat’s Shoals Elementary School kindergarten students wrote and published their own book—starting with drafting and writing and then adding illustrations.
“Parents were able to join in on a very special author’s breakfast to celebrate these young authors,” school officials said of the celebration.
January 10, 2023
ARARAT, Va. — The Ararat Ruritan Club celebrated its 70th anniversary over the weekend with a special guest in attendance to help mark that occasion.
Ruritan National President Glen Broadwater was among those gathering Saturday afternoon for the event held at the club building on Ararat Highway.
The Ararat Ruritan Club was chartered on Jan. 9, 1953, being sponsored by another club at the opposite end of Patrick County in the Critz community.
That early group in Ararat had 29 members, mostly farmers, with an honorary roll call of those individuals conducted as part of Saturday’s festivities to mark 70 years of serving the community.
Those initial members’ mission of making it a better place to work and live continues today through an active membership that has made its mark in a number of ways.
“It’s the most wonderful thing,” Broadwater said while mingling with those attending the event.
Not only is the 70-year milestone important to commemorate, said the 2022 Ruritan national president — who will step down from that post later this month. It’s also a time to reflect on what the club has done for the corner of the world which it serves.
And that can be assessed by posing a key question, added Broadwater, who lives in Nickelsville in Scott County in the far-western corner of Virginia:
“What would the community be like without you?”
The Ararat Ruritan Club is engaged in a variety of service projects, which 2023 President Pam Smith says is a way of carrying out the goals envisioned by the original members and maintaining their legacy.
It has mounted fundraisers to support community causes including the Patrick County Food Bank, a county backpack program and a Home Alone effort that serves residents in the Willis Gap and Ararat areas.
One noteworthy project emerged at the height of the coronavirus pandemic which met a need created when local students were kept at home and could not attend schools where they normally received free breakfasts and lunches.
The Ruritans mobilized to provide bags of food for the youths.
And recently when a cold snap brought record temperatures to the area, the club opened the doors to its building to provide safe, warm shelter for folks lacking that.
Saturday’s festivities included the serving of cake and ice cream to commemorate the anniversary and a large array of memorabilia on display to highlight the club’s storied history.
Broadwater pointed out that the Ararat club is one of more than 900 in the national Ruritan organization that has nearly 25,000 members throughout the United States altogether.
January 09, 2023
Two new businesses have joined the lineup of occupants at Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy, one that is replacing a previous tenant with a similar name which closed there in 2021.
Leases with Bargain Bins and Myobody Studio were disclosed Friday by Taylor Massey, marketing director of WRS Inc., a real estate investment firm based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, which bought the local shopping center in February 2019.
The bargain store opened Friday at the mall, with Myobody Studio having done so previously.
“Bargain Bins replaces Bin City Bargains as a family-owned liquidation company featuring products from major online retailers, as well as big box department stores,” Massey explained. That terminology from the WRS spokesman is almost identical to that accompanying the opening of Bin City (also listed as BinCity) Bargains at the mall in July 2021.
“It’s totally different,” Marty Miller, a store spokesman, said Saturday afternoon of the distinction between the two stores.
“Be sure to put that in there,” Miller stressed regarding including that fact in an article about the Bargain Bins opening.
The store was packed with customers Saturday. And 275 people were lined up for its opening Friday morning, according to Miller, who is office manager there.
The earlier Bin City Bargains store had shut its doors in October 2021, about three months after opening, with competition from a growing number of similar retailers cited as a reason.
As its name implies, Bargain Bins offers merchandise in a bin-type setting at reduced prices.
Though announced just last Friday to the Mount Airy News, WRS actually had leased a 20,243-square-foot retail space to Bargain Bins in October 2022, with a 1,258 square-foot section leased to Myobody Studio in December.
Information from Massey describes the Myobody operation as “a high-energy group fitness studio that focuses on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and functional training exercises to promote a healthy lifestyle.”
The concept has gone over well so far, according to a statement from Joshua Claybook, the owner and operator of Myobody Studio, as relayed to WRS Inc.
“My family is over the moon with joy from the level of support we have received from our community,” Claybrook said.
“We hope to bring a brand of exercise and wellness to Mount Airy that is energetic, scientifically proven, safe, personal and most of all, compassionate,” he added.
“It has been a lifelong passion of ours to help others to learn the many health benefits of living a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and exercise.”
Recruitment continues
As the latest tenants to enter into leases at Mayberry Mall, Bargain Bins and Myobody Studio are joining an existing array of retailers including Belk, Hobby Lobby, Shoe Department Encore, Enmar Accessories and LA Nails.
It recently was announced that one longtime occupant, a Hallmark store with a 40-year history there, would be closing this month.
There is much more space to be occupied and WRS Inc. continues to actively seek new retailers and restaurateurs to operate at the recently redeveloped mall.
Based on events of the past six years, there was a good chance the shopping center located in the area of U.S. 52-North and Frederick Street wouldn’t even be around at all today.
After opening in the late 1960s, Mayberry Mall eventually fell into the hands of a New York owner and into disrepair.
Structural problems were ignored that came to a head in 2017, which local governmental officials said threatened public safety and eventually prompted them to plan for its demolition.
WRS Inc. stepped in at a critical point to buy the mall and initiate major renovations to achieve its present status as a viable business location.
January 09, 2023
The Pilot Mountain Civic Club officially installed new officers for 2023 at its first meeting in January. The new officers are Michael Warren as president, vice president Mike Russell, Donna Kiger as treasurer and Meagan Hutchens as secretary.
Wayne Smith, a past president and charter member, conducted the installation ceremony. He recognized the outgoing officers and thanked them on behalf of the club for their service. In the selection of new officers, he cited their leadership, contributions, and service provided as well as the support from the club membership. Referencing the by-laws and responsibilities of each position, he administered the oath of office and obtained their pledge of service to the club in serving our community. The new officers were congratulated by the members.
As the new president, Warren presented a plaque to outgoing president Michelle Fallin in recognition of her four years as president. “Her leadership, creativity, forward vision, and true caring for our community has been key in the club’s success,” officials with the club said.
“Under the new leadership, the club is excited to continue the purpose of the civic club of promoting civic pride, establishing public unity, obtaining needed improvements and providing aide to our community,” they said.
January 09, 2023
Will every place in the world eventually be connected by some giant pathway? While that sounds far-fetched, a movement is now underway to study the possibility of linking municipalities in Surry County via paved trails and sidewalks.
As part of that concept, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 last Thursday night in favor of a resolution of support for the long-range connection of greenways in the county.
Specifically, the city will be partnering with an entity known as the Northwest Piedmont Rural Planning Organization to seek a feasibility study grant. If awarded, the funds would be used to help identify potential routes to connect Mount Airy to Dobson and Mount Airy to Pilot Mountain through the paved trails/sidewalk network.
The resolution approved Thursday states that city officials realize neighboring municipalities and communities in Surry hope to develop trail systems. And it is their desire to link those here with other sections of the county along with recreational areas and surrounding trail systems, it adds.
“By all means, I think this is a big-picture dream plan to be able to connect communities,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis, Mount Airy’s former parks and recreation director, said in follow-up comments after the board’s action.
“But there is no question it is being done all across the country,” Lewis added. “And if they can do it, why can’t we?”
“The benefits of this project are numerous and include quality-of-life improvements, community-wide health benefits, access to key amenities, the increase of tourism and economic development and the increase of property values,” the city government resolution says.
Lewis acknowledged the long-range nature of the concept actually taking shape, due to the detailed, time-consuming process involved with acquiring easements for and constructing trails.
For example, it has taken more than 20 years for Mount Airy to realize its Granite City Greenway, beginning with the opening in 2001 of the Emily B. Taylor segment along Lovills Creek.
The system now contains 6.6 continuous miles, to soon be joined by a 1.3-mile extension.
Money for the study to explore possible links elsewhere is being sought from the state Integrated Mobility Division Paved Trails and Sidewalks Feasibility Program.
Lewis said Mount Airy’s involvement in that process could help in securing grants for construction of connecting routes.
January 09, 2023
When a loved one passes and the hymns sung, the hugs and cries complete, it is the wish for the one who has left passed on to find rest.
We offer ‘rest in peace’ as a wish that the body shall remain undisturbed again by human hands. It should go without saying that the goal is for the loved one to also lay undisturbed from eighteen-wheeler traffic in a cemetery.
Enter Cheryl Craft, who has found the cemetery at Oak Grove Baptist Church, where her father is among those at eternal rest, being driven through and even having some headstones knocked to the ground.
Craft explained the current situation that has only been a problem of late. “That monument (her father’s headstone) has been there since 1973 and we’ve never had any problems until the Dollar General was opened at Beulah Church Rd.”
She has talked to some who live around Oak Grove Baptist and on Oak Grove Church Drive and have found the commonality to the tractor trailer turnaround turmoil to be those ubiquitous Dollar General trailers that are so hard to miss because of their distinctive coloration.
Her father’s grave, even from first glance at a distance, shows the damage from an interaction with a tractor trailer as a big chunk is missing from the façade, with other smaller nicks and dings visible that one would not expect to find on a heavy stone grave marker.
Craft said they were shocked when they first saw that damage. “That was the first time, and we didn’t know what happened. The whole thing was lying flat on the ground about two feet back.”
She said damage like that to a headstone is not something that can just be buffed out or filled in, the stone is permanently damaged. William Smith, a deacon of the church, was the one who placed the headstone back in place.
If this had been a one and done sort of thing, Craft may have done the Christian thing and turned the other cheek, but it soon happened again. “The second time the people in the house saw the Dollar General truck, that’s when a man from church (Swift) made a report at Dollar General.”
She went on to relate that Swift made a complaint at the Dollar General physical location. “The clerk told him that the same truck driver had ran into the store wall making a huge hole.”
“A few weeks later my aunts were there removing some flowers from other graves, and lo and behold a Dollar General truck starts to pull in the lower driveway,” Craft said the story starting the same way as it had before. “But because (my Aunt’s) car was sitting there, he went on down the road turned around, came back.”
While she was quick to point out that there are contract drivers whose livelihood is made by hauling goods for retailers, so it may not be actual employees of Dollar General who are behind the wheel of these trucks. However, since the Dollar General location on Beulah Road opened this situation soon followed with it.
Craft said she had no clue what was causing this issue. “I don’t know if they have the wrong address in GPS or if they just look up and see oak grove “Church Road” and think that’s it,” referring to the Beulah Church Road, which is the location of the Dollar General store in question.
Craft said enough is enough. “The church finally put up cameras last week.” On a tall wooden post found at the beginning of the southern entrance drive to the wrap around is a sign noting that cameras are now in place.
That may seem a dramatic step to some, but for those who have loved ones at rest at Oak Grove Baptist, it is far from dramatic and may be only the first necessary step. Craft has been at this for some time, she began making calls on this issue in February 2021 and advised that other contacts were made with Dollar General that year as well.
Phone calls have not worked as Craft said she has tried to make contact with Dollar General corporate. She was told a ticket was to be opened and she would be contacted back from the corporate office; that call has not arrived.
The Surry County Sheriff’s Office have also been called to Oak Grove Baptist Church after one such drive through did tremendous damage to the grass of the graveyard. Even now there are several discernable sets of tire tracks in different places of the graveyard, lingering evidence of a choice some drivers made to save time by sacrificing the sanctity of the dead.
A call to Dollar General corporate offices Monday were not returned and the general manager of the Dollar General of Beulah Church Road. referred all questions to the corporate office.
January 08, 2023
After being there for so many families across the region when their services were needed, now Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care officials are asking the public for a helping hand. They are seeking volunteers to help staff The Humble Hare, their new nonprofit shop which opened in Mount Airy in October.
The Humble Hare is a retail hub selling a little of this and some of that – with profits going to support the efforts of Mountain Valley in providing comfort to those facing a time of incredible need. Their store location is found at 705 West Pine St., suite 300, Mount Airy, near the crossing of Andy Griffith Parkway and West Pine Street.
They are asking the public for assistance with finding additional volunteers to staff the store. “The Humble Hare employs one store manager, Kelly Jennings, and a part-time employee but relies heavily upon volunteers for its daily operations.”
“Our shop volunteers are a fun and friendly team, who graciously donate time out of their week to make a difference for those in need of end-of-life care, grief counseling, and other hospice-related services. The atmosphere of the new store is cheerful and relaxed which makes it a pleasant place to volunteer and shop,” says Sara Tavery, vice president of philanthropy at Mountain Valley.
“Volunteers do not need retail experience, although a passion for fashionable clothing and quality home furnishings is a plus for volunteers who price, sort, and display store merchandise. Additionally, volunteers with the ability to lift furniture are needed to help load and unload the store’s delivery truck. As an added incentive to encourage additional volunteer support, all volunteers receive a store discount.”
She said of The Humble Hare’s mission, “Our goal is to offer shoppers high-quality new and gently-used items at affordable prices while increasing revenue in support of patients and their families who lack financial resources to pay for their hospice care.”
The Humble Hare store is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Item donations are accepted by appointment only, Tuesday – Thursday. To learn more about volunteering at The Humble Hare in Mount Airy, stop by the store or contact Jan Matthews at 336-583-2893 or
A new storefront is only one of the changes in the works for the folks at Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care as the organization approaches its 40th year in operation. Like the caterpillar emerges as a butterfly, they are shedding one identity to take flight anew simply as: Mountain Valley.
“As we begin our milestone 40th year of service, we are unveiling a new brand identity reflecting this evolution and growth,” the announcement read.
“We believe every patient facing serious illness deserves skilled and compassionate care. Our new identity reflects our agency’s progression, as well as our commitment to our mission and the community,” said Tracey Dobson, president and chief executive officer.
“Our mission is to honor the lives and experiences of the individuals we serve and make every moment matter. Our brand now reflects our commitment to create the best experience for those facing serious illness. Every patient. Every family. Every time.” said Jan Bullard, vice president of marketing and public relations.
Over the coming weeks, the new identity will begin to appear in various applications and then roll out more broadly throughout the eighteen-county service area Mountain Valley covers during 2023.
For more information on Mountain Valley Hospice call: 888 789-2922 or visit their website at:
January 08, 2023
Ten non-profit organizations in Surry County have been awarded subgrants from the Grassroots Arts Program of the North Carolina. Of the total, $13,981 were state funds and $16,722 were federal funds from a special appropriation. The subgrants provide funding for quality arts programming within Surry County, with $12,440 awarded for multicultural projects.
The subgrant committee was hosted by Marianna Juliana, Surry Arts Council’s grant and contract coordinator. Members of the subgrant committee included Surry Arts Council Board members Terri Champney, Swanson Snow, Lenise Lynch and Scott Kniskern. Jody Crawford and Emily Loftis also served on the committee. The Surry Arts Council Board approved the committee’s recommendation for these awards.
A total of $13,981 was awarded from the North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots Grant program. Those receiving these funds include:
– The Surry County Historical Society received $1,500 for continued work on the Surry County Old-Time Music Documentary that was prepared by Paul Brown for the 250th Surry County Anniversary Celebration;
– Voce received $1,000 to provide musicians and accompanists for concerts that will be held in Surry County;
– The Mount Airy Public Library received $1,363 for monthly free live performances by Bright Star Children’s Theatre;
– Minglewood Fam and Nature Preserve received $400 to set up a booth to promote nature art at Surry County events;
– The Mount Airy Photo Club received $2,000 for a free presentation and workshop with a professional photographer;
– The African American Historical and Genealogical Society received $2,218 for artist fees to offer free African American drumming and dance workshops;
– The Reeves Community Center Foundation received a total award of $5,500: $1,000 to hire an artist or artists to enhance Kidfest; $1,000 for free monthly arts programs for families to extend the summer Young Audience Series into the winter and spring months; $1,500 for artist fees to enhance the Cinco de Mayo Celebration on Market Street; and $2,000 for artist fees for a new celebration of Latin American Heritage on May 27;
Those receiving the federally funded subgrants include:
– The Dobson Community Library received $1,600 to publish “Communion: A Historical Narrative of the Mitchell River and Devotion.”
– The Pilot Mountain Development Corporation will receive $8,000 to improve the portable stage that is used for downtown community events;
– The Downtown Business Association in Mount Airy will receive $2,000 ($1,750 for artist fees and $250 for marketing) to enhance and promote Farmfest, a celebration of Surry County’s agricultural heritage;
– The Reeves Community Center Foundation received $5,122 for artist fees to enhance a celebration of 190 years of Thai-United States relations and the Sister City relationship with the Province of Samutsongkhram.
The funded projects will enrich the lives of thousands of adults and children in Surry County and beyond. New annual multicultural events were funded along with existing festivals being enhanced. Several genres were represented in the awards ranging from documentary film to multicultural festivals and celebrations to literary projects, vocal performance, performing arts, visual arts, photography, craft, agriculture and a small capital project.
Since 1977, the N.C. Arts Council’s Grassroots Arts Program has provided North Carolina citizens access to arts experiences. The program distributes funds for the arts in all 100 counties of the state primarily through partnerships with local arts councils. Surry Arts Council is the Designated County Partner in Surry County and manages and is accountable for the funds received from the N.C. Arts Council Grassroots Arts Program.
For additional information, contact Juliana at 336-786-7998 or
January 07, 2023
• A trespassing investigation in Mount Airy has resulted in a Pinnacle man being incarcerated on a felony drug charge, according to city police reports.
Joe Robert Reynolds, 62, of 3337 Shoals Road, was encountered by officers Sunday during the trespassing incident at a Northridge Street location.
Reynolds was charged with second-degree trespassing and during a routine search as part of the arrest process allegedly was found with methamphetamine on his person.
He is accused of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, a felony, along with possession of drug paraphernalia, listed as a glass smoking device. Reynolds was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $10,000 secured bond and slated for an appearance in District Court this coming Monday.
• Zachary Lawrence McMillian, 42, of 607 Riverside Drive, was served with an outstanding warrant for a larceny charge after police responded to a domestic disturbance incident at that location last Saturday.
The charge had been filed on Dec. 23 through the Surry County Sheriff’s Office with Tanner Austin Lineberry as the complainant and no other details listed. McMillian is free on a written promise to appear in District Court on Jan. 18.
• Damage to municipal property occurred at Riverside Park on Dec. 28, when a stainless-steel wall-mounted trash can and a plastic jumbo bathroom tissue dispenser in a restroom were targeted.
The total damage was put at $150.
January 07, 2023
The local Daughters of the American Revolution has recognized key volunteers with the group and also announced the selection of DAR Good Citizens at area high schools.
This round of honors included Harry Downs, a Pilot Mountain resident, receiving the Community Service Award of the Jonathan Hunt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Resolution from Faye Haas, vice regent of the chapter based in Elkin.
Downs has been a long-term volunteer Good Citizen judge for that chapter.
Good Citizens are selected among the senior classes at area high schools as part of an initiative begun by the DAR in 1934. The DAR Good Citizens Award and Scholarship Contest seeks to encourage citizenship.
It has long recognized and rewarded high school seniors who possess the qualities of dependability, service, leadership and patriotism in their homes, schools and communities.
Students can choose to write an essay for the scholarship portion of the national DAR program.
Application essays are judged locally and at the district and state levels prior to winning applications being sent to the national DAR for final judging.
In addition to Downs, Brenda Barfield and Joyce Downs are judges for the Good Citizen program locally and were tapped to receive an award from the Jonathan Hunt Chapter.
Students selected
Seniors named Good Citizens for 2022 also have been announced by Haas, highlighted by Avery Castle of Yadkin Early College being named as the chapter winner.
Her application will be sent for judging at the district and state levels and if she wins there it then advances to the national DAR for a chance to capture a $50,000 scholarship.
Others seniors chosen as DAR Good Citizens include Ava Utt of Millennium Charter Academy in Mount Airy, Allyn-Claire Simmons of North Surry High School, Calista Stone from East Surry High School, Anne O’Neal of Surry Central High School and Conner Allen, Elkin High School.
The Daughters of the American Revolution is an organization for women whose membership is based on being direct descendants of persons involved in the United States’ efforts toward independence.
Along with working to preserve Revolutionary War history while promoting education and patriotism, the non-profit group sponsors activities on behalf of Native Americans.
January 06, 2023
In the game of tennis, love means nothing (a score of zero), but city government officials have served up plenty of good love to the girls championship team at Mount Airy High School.
This occurred Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners when the squad was honored for capturing the 1-A dual team state title in November. That marked the second state championship for the Lady Bears tennis players in as many years.
“It’s been a heck of a run and I couldn’t be prouder,” Head Coach Luke Graham said during a special program held for the team at the meeting. It included the reading of a resolution of recognition from city officials in honor of the girls’ success, an introduction of the players and special remarks from council members.
“This team has represented Mount Airy High School very well — and also this community,” Commissioner Phil Thacker said.
Thursday’s recognition marked the second time in recent weeks that the council has honored a state championship team from Mount Airy High. On Dec. 15, the school’s football team was celebrated for its 1-A title victory five days earlier in Raleigh.
Character a key
Just as having a good serve or backhand can pay dividends in tennis, certain other qualities are needed to compete at a championship level, it was noted Thursday night.
“All of us have seen teams that had good players who didn’t win,” said Mayor Jon Cawley, who also has coached at Mount Airy High School. “But not the Lady Bears.”
Coach Graham was given much of the credit for their achievements by Cawley. “He has got them to perform at their best, match after match.”
That was evidenced by Mount Airy’s 5-0 win over Chatham Central in the November championship match in Burlington during which the Lady Bears did not lose a single set in individual competition.
While such a showing requires great talent, also “it takes a good leader,” Commissioner Thacker added in his compliments regarding the team.
Graham, however, was quick Thursday night to praise the players, whom he said possessed all the intangible qualities needed for a state championship in addition to their athletic skills. Just as any other sport, long days of practice and preparation produced that outcome.
“They came in and put the work in every single day,” Graham said of his players. They logged a won-loss record of 21-1 and went undefeated in Northwest 1-A Conference play this past season for the second year in a row.
The coach characterized them as the epitome of what the term student-athlete should be all about, praising their academic prowess along with that on the tennis court.
“GPA (grade point average)-wise, it’s got to be the smartest team at our school,” Graham declared during the meeting. “I’m probably the dumbest one on our team.”
He also stressed that the players possess a brand of self-discipline that has not required coaching them up in the traditional sense.
“I do not have to raise my voice with them too often.”
Other officials’ comments
“It’s pretty amazing,” Commissioner Tom Koch said as the girls gathered in the council chamber, “state champions, smart and pretty.”
Koch added, “Nobody will ever take that away from you.”
In commending the tennis squad for its “outstanding job,” Commissioner Marie Wood said its legacy will last long into the future given the nature of that sport. “Tennis is something you can take with you the rest of your life.”
“It’s only just begun for you and Coach Graham,” Commissioner Deborah Cochran told the team, saying that as an educator she is impressed by its dual achievements in class and competition — which should benefit the group as community members going forward.
“The player who serves well rarely loses,” Cochran commented, quoting an old saying about life being similar to a game of tennis.
As someone who has been involved with coaching, Commissioner Chad Hutchens says he appreciates how the Bears’ tennis team has carried itself.
“I can understand your commitment,” Hutchens said, and how that has spelled back-to-back state championships that are important for Mount Airy as a whole.
“It means a lot.”
January 06, 2023
This is a resolution of recognition prepared in honor of the Lady Bears tennis team at Mount Airy High School winning the 1-A dual-team state championship — its second in a row — which was read during a meeting of the city commissioners Thursday night attended by players and their coach, Luke Graham:
WHEREAS, the Mount Airy High School women’s tennis team ended the 2022 season with a 21-1 record; and
WHEREAS, the Mount Airy High School women’s tennis team played at the highest level and finished with a 2022 NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association) 1-A dual-team championship win over Chatham Central 5-0; and
WHEREAS, the Mount Airy High School women’s tennis team and their coach have demonstrated the teamwork and drive necessary to produce a winning season while showing commitment and dedication to their sport; and
WHEREAS, these players and their coach have helped create a positive image for their school, the city of Mount Airy and the surrounding communities:
Section 1. The mayor and Board of Commissioners do hereby commend the Mount Airy High School women’s tennis team, along with Head Coach Luke Graham, for their hard work, exceptional talent and success during this tennis season.
Section 2. The mayor and Board of Commissioners do hereby extend their heartfelt congratulations and best wishes for the continued success for each member and coach of the Mount Airy High School women’s tennis team in their future endeavors.
Section 3. The mayor and Board of Commissioners do hereby encourage all citizens to recognize the accomplishments of this tennis team.
Section 4. Mayor (Jon) Cawley is hereby authorized to present this resolution to the Mount Airy High School women’s tennis team on this 5th day of January, 2023.
In witness whereof, I have hereto set my hand and caused the seal of the city of Mount Airy to be affixed on this the 5th day of January, 2023.
Jon Cawley, mayor
Attested by Melissa N. Brame, city clerk
(The resolution will be in the permanent records of the municipality.)
January 06, 2023
Commissioner Larry Johnson scored a victory Tuesday night during the meeting of the board of county commissioners. Each board member represents a district and so each will, at times, take an especially vested interest in a particular issue facing their constituents.
Johnson has reminded his fellow board members repeatedly about the fire in 2018 that gutted Faith Baptist Church on Franklin Road in the Toast community of Mount Airy. He has been asking, and gently reminding from time to time that he has asked, for a solution to preventing such a fire again by adding a fire hydrant to the East side of Franklin Road.
On Thursday he told fellow board members that the City of Mount Airy had taken it upon itself to place a request for bid and had selected a contractor to lay not one, but two, new fire hydrants on the East side of Franklin Road. One of the two new hydrants will be located on the school grounds to protect the largest elementary school in Surry County from another such dangerous fire.
Greenfield Utility Construction LLC won with a low bid of $135,000 for a project Fire Marshal Jimmy Ashburn called a no-brainer. Johnson informed Mount Airy will continue to lead the effort, “They took it and run with it… and are willing to pay for it, and bill us half of it.”
Mount Airy and the county will split the cost of the project 50-50 with the county’s $67,500 being paid from the general contingency fund. Johnson thanked the city and the board for agreeing to remove this thorn from his side and protect the citizens in Toast.
More than a dozen agencies responded to the Faith Baptist fire with assets even crossing the line from Virginia. Franklin Elementary was examined for smoke damage and air quality before students were allowed back in for instruction.
Pastor Randy Edwards said at the time, “I don’t think there’s words really to describe all the emotions you’re going through at that time, it’s devastating.”
Johnson has been pushing for the new hydrant to prevent anyone else from the feeling of devastation Edwards referred to and has been monitoring the potential cost estimate as well. As with nearly everything else, the projection went up dramatically, but County Manager Chris Knopf also pointed out that a second hydrant had not been included in the quote before.
In other actions at the board meeting:
– Jessica Montgomery of the county’s public works department sent through a series of budgetary changes related to the constructions of the new detention center that needed board approval. Contractor HG Reynolds and Moseley Architects are overseeing the detention center construction. The firm sent four changes to cost projections on projects like waterline blow-offs and epoxy of floors/surfaces in the center’s shower rooms, and one price reduction to a fifth project.
The board of commissioners approved the five budget projection changes that added a total of $60,099 to the projects initial estimated total cost of $41 million. Completion of the project and opening of the facility are to happen this year, with firm dates yet to be announced.
– The Town of Elkin renominated Bill Golden to be the ETJ representative on the planning board and board of adjustments. The board approved his reappointment for another term upon the recommendation of Sarah Harris, Elkin’s town planner, which will run through December 2025.
– In county personnel moves, Samantha Ange, county health director, received approval to establish a new Public Health Nurse II position that will work in support of the WIC division. WIC is the colloquial name of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children that serves to help those who are at “nutritional risk.”
She said the nurse will help “provide services to meet the needs of Surry County residents and proved high quality health care and resources.” Ange is using creative staffing to fill this job as she told the board in her memorandum that finding a nutritionist to work for the health department has been challenging. The Public Health Nurse II role can be cross trained, providing some of the same services her department is lacking for not having a nutritionist on staff.
– Finally, a resolution sought by residents and faith-based leaders was presented to the board in the fall that seeks to have the county proclaim this a safe place for the unborn. Residents petitioned the board to consider the resolution that would proclaim Surry County as a sanctuary county for unborn children and take a stand against abortion, or murder as proponents of the resolution may choose it phrased.
Since the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June that changed the face of reproductive health and rewrote the laws on abortion in many states across the nation, some women have been seeking recourse by travelling across state lines to places where there are less stringent restrictions.
While there are restrictions, abortion is still legal in North Carolina until week twenty of a pregnancy. In July, Governor Roy Cooper by executive order decreed the state would not seek to prosecute women who cross into the state seeking an abortion and the resolution proposed to the county board seeks to plug that hole, at least in spirit.
Chairman Eddie Harris recalled that when last discussed all five commissioners expressed an interest in further discussion of the resolution “in some form or another.”
“This is the resolution in regard to the sanctity of life. I would ask the board members think about this, I think we really ought to have a unanimous vote on this. I am not going to let perfection be the enemy of good in this, I think if we’re going to do this – and I do support doing this – I think it ought to be a unanimous vote.”
He encouraged his colleagues to consider the resolution and offer comments to him. “Think about it, makes some notes in regard to what you can support, and can’t support, and bring those back to me,” he advised that during one of February’s meetings the board could consider the resolution as the public requested.
In October Harris said he was aware any such action by the county commissioners would be a non-binding resolution, but he said there is a benefit to the board, and therefore the county, taking such a stand, “It (the resolution) has no weight behind it, it would send a strong message.”
January 06, 2023
The Blue Ridge Girls will lead the Surry Arts Council celebration of Breaking Up Christmas on Saturday night, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Historic Earle Theatre.
Across northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia, the 12 days of Christmas have traditionally been celebrated with a generous amount of enthusiasm. Breaking Up Christmas is both a tradition and a song of the same name. Both have taken on a life of their own over the years from its beginnings as a celebration that bridges the gap between Christmas and the New Year, as well as a way to continue traditions.
The tradition refers to the 12 days from Christmas Day on Dec. 25 to the Epiphany or Old Christmas on Jan. 6 during which folks would travel from house to house for an ongoing celebration filled with music, friends, food, and dancing. The song is an old-time fiddle tune played during almost two weeks of festivities which holds its heritage from the area.
The annual celebration dwindled after World War II but was revived in the 1970s. The tradition lives on with festivities held in civic clubs and concert venues rather than traveling amongst several private homes. This year, Surry Arts Council strives to continue the tradition with The Blue Ridge Girls for a night full of music, fun and dancing at The Historic Earle Theatre that is aimed at being reminiscent of the old times.
The Blue Ridge Girls, like their name, invoke a picturesque simplicity with their take on traditional mountain music. The trio features Martha Spencer, Jamie Collins, and Brett Morris, and features a variety of old time, bluegrass and country songs, flatfooting to fiddle and banjo tunes, original songwriting, and unique takes on other familiar crowd-pleasers. All three women grew up in musical families and are working to preserve and promote the Blue Ridge’s rich musical heritage.
Breaking Up Christmas will be held at the Historic Earle Theatre in downtown Mount Airy on Saturdaystarting at 7 p.m.
Tickets are $12 for orchestra seating and $10 for balcony seating. Tickets are available online at, 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
January 05, 2023
Chuck and Brenda Pierson have been in Mount Airy this week trying to solve a mystery.
The two have been in town celebrating their 53rd wedding anniversary in a curious way — trying to find just where they were married.
The couple, Ohio natives who have lived in the Newport area of North Carolina since 2012, were just young adults — she was 18, he was 20 — when they planned a clandestine wedding more than five decades ago, as 1969 was drawing to a close. They put that plan in action just after the first of 1970 — the two hopped in a car, drove from Ohio to North Carolina, where they could marry without parental permission or a waiting period, and Mount Airy was the first city they found once they drove across the border.
Brenda Pierson said both sets of parents were not necessarily against their planned matrimony, but they wanted the two young lovers to slow down just a bit.
“We dated 19 days before he asked me to marry him,” she said. “That was a Thursday night. I told him ‘Come back tomorrow and I’ll let you know.’”
The next evening she told him yes, but then their parents stepped in.
“Needless to say, after the short period of time we dated, neither set of parents were extremely pleased with it. They asked us to hold off to June. So, we started planning a June wedding,” she said.
That was in October 1969. By December, the two had decided waiting was not in the cards. With the help of a relative on each side of their families, the two planned to elope, but not tell anyone about their marriage, carrying on through the June wedding as if the marriage had never taken place.
As is often the case when two young folks drive off with what some might consider an impetuous plan — enacting that plan was fraught with obstacles.
“We planned to leave Ohio on Friday morning, to come to North Carolina to get married, and our bloodwork was delayed at the hospital in Ohio, we got a very late start,” Brenda Pierson said.
Chuck Pierson said once they were in Mount Airy, they stopped at the first store they saw to ask where the courthouse was so they could secure a marriage license, only to learn they had to drive to Dobson.
“We got into the courthouse, into the office to get our marriage license, I looked up at the clock and it was 5 til 5,” Brenda Pierson said. “We cut it very close. I didn’t think there was any way we would get a license that day.”
But they did, and then motored back to Mount Airy, stopping in some unremembered store to buy a Bible and a set of rings.
So the young couple found themselves with everything they needed to get married — except a minister or Justice of the Peace.
“We went looking for a church, but it was Friday, 6:30 or 7 at night,” she said.
Finally, the two stopped at a local pharmacy — and this is where the mystery begins.
“The owner was the pharmacist. We asked him if he knew where we might find the Justice of the Peace,” Barbara recalled when telling the story this week.
In a scene that would be very Mayberry-like, she said the owner laughed.
“So ya’ll want to get married? He’s (the justice of the peace) a friend of mine, I’ll call him and he’ll be right up.”
Sure enough, he was there in just a few minutes, and corralled a couple of his friends who happened to be shopping in the store at the time to be witnesses.
“We didn’t have a church, he (the justice of the peace) said ‘Let’s use the back of the store.’ I didn’t want to get married in a pharmacy, but I didn’t want to say no,” Brenda said. “I had imagined getting married in the living room of the justice of the peace, or at the courthouse, but not in a pharmacy.”
Still, the two went through with the service, and soon were Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Pierson.
Return to Mount Airy
Now, 53 years later, the couple has been back in town this week trying to find the building that served as their wedding chapel.
Their search has sent them to a number of places to check out older buildings — Holcomb’s Hardware, the current home of Surry Medical Ministries, and a few others, including a vacant building on the corner of Rockford and Worth streets.
Both of them thought that building looked familiar, until they discovered it was a former bus depot.
That sent them searching again, with few clues. Even on their marriage certificate they could glean little useful information — the hand-written signature of the magistrate, along with any information about where the wedding may have taken place, was illegible.
Amy Snyder, curator of collections at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, did a bit of sleuthing and discovered the name of the Justice of the Peace at that time — J. Earl Ramey. He worked at Granite City Insurance Agency, was secretary at Surry Milling Co. & Ice Plant and also served as the Justice of Peace.
She also landed on what might have been the wedding location, the former hospital pharmacy on Rockford Street across from Super Mercado Esmeralda — known as The Red Barn. That pharmacy building, unfortunately, was razed a few years ago for expanded parking space.
While it appeared the couple might not definitely learn where their marriage took place, the two decided to make one more stop in their search — at the Mount Airy Public Library. There, in a stroke of good luck, retired head librarian Pat Gwyn happened to be attending a book club meeting there. Learning of their search, Gwyn was able to direct them to some old Mount Airy telephone directories still on file at the library.
Utilizing those, the couple discovered while the building on the corner of Worth and Rockford had been a bus depot, its prior use was as Surry Pharmacy.
“Pat said it used to have a lunch counter and a few small booths,” Brenda Pierson said. “I remembered those.”
Mystery Solved
Standing outside the vacant building Wednesday, peering through the windows, she also pointed out a series of support poles inside. “I remember those. I think the pharmacy counter was there.”
Given that the couple is marking their 53rd anniversary, the quickie wedding seemed to suit the two. While relations between their two families were strained for a bit after everyone learned of the wedding — one of those relatives helping set it up apparently spilled the beans a couple of months later — Chuck Pierson said all involved became the best of friends, often vacationing and socializing together.
His younger sister even married Brenda’s younger brother a decade later, the two men spending their careers working in the same manufacturing plant, the two women spending their careers working in the same school system.
“Our kids are all double-first cousins,” he said, with Brenda chiming in that the entire extended family has remained close over the years.
But that one question, about where they were married, tugged at them.
Now, the two seem to have closure on that mystery.
“I didn’t think we were ever going to figure it out,” Chuck Pierson said Wednesday, standing outside the former pharmacy. “But it’s been worth it. I’m glad we finally figured it out.”
January 04, 2023
First it was the Bears’ state championship football team, and now the girls tennis squad at Mount Airy High School will receive official recognition by the city council for its like achievement.
It is unusual for athletic teams from the same high school to win state titles within the same academic year, and both the MAHS football and tennis teams pulled off that feat during the fall.
The football players and coaches were invited to City Hall before Christmas to be congratulated during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting for their victory in North Carolina’s 1-A championship game against Tarboro on Dec. 10.
In November, the girls tennis team had captured its second-straight dual team championship in the state 1-A classification by defeating Chatham Central — not losing a single set in the process.
It will be recognized during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners scheduled today at 6 p.m.
This is expected to include a resolution of recognition being read and presented in honor the Lady Bears’ latest championship under their coach, Luke Graham, along with special remarks offered by city council members.
When the football team was honored last month, players also got the chance to introduce themselves.
Mount Airy officials believe the state championships reflect well not only on the high school but the community as a whole through the example of teamwork and dedication that the players and coaches have demonstrated.
In addition to announcing plans to have the football and tennis teams come to City Hall for special recognition programs, officials declared Dec. 18 as “Mount Airy Bears Day” in the city.
A Parade of Champions also was held that day in which both teams were featured in a procession that left the school campus on North South Street and made its way to the downtown area to be greeted by appreciative fans.
The resolutions of recognition for the football and tennis teams will be permanent parts of the official governmental records for the city of Mount Airy.
January 04, 2023
Mount Airy officials are awaiting word on an application seeking American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding targeting a section of town hit by stormwater runoff problems over the years.
This involves a possible infrastructure improvement grant for the Aims Avenue area. It is a densely populated residential neighborhood in the northern section of Mount Airy, where Aims Avenue occupies a low-lying spot near the bottom of a hill off Hylton Street adjacent to Madison Avenue.
It is one of several areas in Mount Airy with longtime drainage problems. “And we hear about them frequently,” former city Public Works Director Jeff Boyles said at a March 2019 meeting.
The money for the proposed Aims Avenue improvements has been made available through the N.C. Division of Environmental Quality, which announced plans for awarding $82 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for such projects.
ARPA funding involves assistance provided by the federal government to help localities around the country recover from the pandemic. Earlier, Mount Airy received $3.2 million from that source to cover various other needs, with a chunk of that also allocated to aid the missions of local non-profit organizations after a rigorous selection process.
Meanwhile, a separate ARPA funding pool has been set aside for stormwater projects through a newly created Local Assistance for Stormwater Infrastructure Investment program, according to Mitch Williams, the city’s present public works director.
Those funds are available for cities, counties, non-profit partners and other entities for construction and planning projects that will improve or create infrastructure for controlling stormwater quantity and quality.
The cost of the Aims Avenue work is estimated at $450,000 to $500,000, to cover rehabilitation/replacement of the existing stormwater infrastructure there. It is part of a multi-year storm-drainage capital improvement plan that also seeks to meet needs in other areas of town including on Franklin Street near a former Quality Mills site.
That plan cites projects with a total price tag of about $1.3 million, also including several for water/sewer rehabilitation.
WithersRavenel, a consulting engineering firm working on behalf of Mount Airy, was hired to submit an application for the possible stormwater improvement grant targeting the Aims Avenue area.
“There is no guarantee we’ll get it,” Williams said after the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted to approve the application submission in September, which city documents state could be in the form of a loan rather than a grant.
A check with the public works director in recent days revealed that the city hasn’t learned whether the funding request was approved.
Williams has said that the proposed project would not change the fact that Aims Avenue is in a zone susceptible to flooding during major weather events.
“But it may help with some of the smaller storms that happen, getting water out of the street quicker.”
January 04, 2023
• A crime involving two commodities much in the news these days — a catalytic converter and gasoline — was discovered last Thursday in Mount Airy, according to city police reports.
The incident targeted a 2009 Mazda owned by Haylie Michelle Bullock of Pipers Gap Road while it was parked at 1412 W. Pine St., the address for an unspecified business.
In addition to the catalytic converter being stolen from the vehicle, its fuel was removed, representing a total loss figure of $215. Property damage also was caused.
• Police were told on Dec. 28 that power tools and related property valued at $1,360 had been stolen from a toolbox on a vehicle, constituting a felonious larceny.
This occurred at the home of the victim, Carlos Alberto Espinal Gomez, on Durham Street, where the items were taken from his 2022 Dodge Ram pickup.
Included were three pieces of battery-powered Dewalt equipment, a Sawzall, drill and sander; a Bosch concrete drill; and eight DeWalt and Bosch batteries.
• Cody Dodson Jackson, 36, of 250 Cross Creek Drive, was jailed without privilege of bond for a charge of assault on a female after police investigated a Dec. 21 incident at that location.
Jackson is accused of pushing Monique Sheran Howlett to the ground, causing an injury, police records state.
He is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court next Monday.
• Israel Jacob Davis, 24, of 211 W. Oakdale St., was arrested on charges including possession of a stolen motor vehicle as the result of a Dec. 20 traffic stop on Newsome Street.
Davis was found to be the subject of an outstanding warrant for the vehicle-related offense, which had been filed on Dec. 16 through the Surry County Sheriff’s Office with no other details listed. He also was charged with driving while license revoked and littering in connection with the traffic stop and confined in the Surry County Jail under a $500 secured bond.
During that same encounter with police, Hailey Nichol Robinson, 37, of 1243 Brooklyn Ave., was charged with possessing up to a half-ounce of marijuana and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Robinson is free on a written promise to be in District Court next Wednesday, when Davis also is slated to appear.
January 04, 2023
Another set of secretive economic development incentives was passed by the Surry County Board of Commissioner Tuesday evening. Project Denver will now join Project Cobra on the shelf as it waits for a companion incentives package to be debated by the Town of Elkin Board of Commissioners next week.
The county board was told a private company is proposing to make a direct investment of $6.4 million in property and equipment in Elkin. As per North Carolina general statute 158-7.1 a public hearing was called for so that residents could offer their thoughts on the proposed Project Denver.
Terms of Project Denver are for a five-year performance-based grant of $116,156.74 that will only be paid out upon the company’s completion of its investment and payment of property taxes.
Just as with Project Cobra, the identity of the company was not disclosed, “What I can tell you about the company is that it is a supplier to an existing industry cluster in the county,” County Manager Chris Knopf advised the board.
“Also, the company is looking at three states, three locations, this is one of them. So, this is a competitive project,” he added.
Richie Parker, the only speaker during the public hearing, spoke in favor of Project Denver on behalf of the Surry Economic Development Partnership, “SEDP supports the location of this new company in Elkin. The diversification of the business base is important to ensure that we have a strong and thriving local economy.”
He said the tract of land is suited for the company and would require no rezoning. “The proposed location is zoned for the land use, so the project aligns with the town’s long term development goals and future land use plan.”
He went on to offer a few tantalizing details that were enough to get the imagination of those in the gallery going with rampant speculation as to what the company may be. “This company will support an existing business cluster of the region and our primary economic develop strategy is to retain and grow existing businesses. This company will help with that strategy by strengthening the regional supply chain.”
Parker said a lot without giving away the farm and drew a few lines for the commissioners and residents alike to read between. “The new jobs created by this company will create economic opportunities for our citizens, and manufacturing jobs generate a higher economic multiplier than retail or service jobs.”
“This company’s impact will far exceed the direct jobs and investment by stimulating more economic output in the local economy and the incentive is performance based, so no funds expended until the investment is complete and begins paying taxes, plus the town and the county will receive new tax revenue from the company’s investment.”
Commissioner Van Tucker said that incentives are the way this business seems to get done nowadays. “These companies and their expansions, and new company startups, they are very highly sought amongst a lot of rural counties and municipalities in many states.
“It’s a proposition where they are expecting some type of incentives from the place where they will eventually reside. That’s what they’ve asked of us, and that’s the resolution we will be voting on,” he summarized.
Chairman Eddie Harris retraced some of his steps from the Project Cobra hearing and gave a short history lesson on the way in which incentives used to be done. “In the last twelve years economic incentive projects have been greatly scaled back, particularly in this county.”
He remembered again the Pittsburgh Glass incentives package. “That was an $8-9 million package, trimmed back to six, and then it went to four. They were required to hire 265 folks, and there was a lot of complicated parts and pieces to that, those days are long gone.”
“This one (Project Denver) is based on the investment the company does and they have to perform; they have to do what they say they are going to do. But, at any scale this is a very, very modest number and its indicative that the county supports bringing businesses to this community and job creation. I think it will pay taxpayers back many, many times.
“There are multiple locations in competing for this company,” the chairman continued “and I will say that in light of some of the comments I have heard recently about, ‘Well, how do we know what it is?’ These things are competitive in nature and some of the information proprietary,” he said, acknowledging some frustration of residents in a process that is pitting three communities against one another for this project.
“It just can’t happen in that order. I am about business succeeding on their own merit, and the free enterprise system, but I think this meets all the parameters of capitalism and free enterprise and furthermore that the county is supporting business and job creation, in particular small business. This would be classified as a small business under the definition by the standards.”
“We hope this business does move to Surry County and I think it’s a good thing for Elkin in particular,” he said in support of the measure before opening it to a vote which was passed unanimously.
The Elkin board will consider Project Denver on Jan. 9 at Elkin Town Hall located at 226 N. Bridge Street.
January 03, 2023
Officials at Shoals Elementary School recently announced the November Student Leaders of the Month.
“These students demonstrated the leadership attribute integrity,” school officials said. “We are so proud of these students for being honest, respectful, hardworking students in their classrooms and around school.”
January 03, 2023
The Surry Early College High School HOSA-Future Health Professionals club recently competed at the NC HOSA Regional Leadership Conference.
Fifteen students participated competing in several different categories. Nine out of the 15 placed in the top ten and will move on to participate in the NC HOSA State Leadership Conference in April.
Theses students who placed in the top ten, and their category, include:
– Ben Sain, second place biotechnology;
– Maddie Grimes and Saylor Jennings – third place CERT skills;
– Jordin Beasley and Angie Guarneros – top 10 CPR/first aid;
– Fayonna George – third place epidemiology;
– Addison Southern – top 10 human growth and development;
– Hadie Guarneros-Montoya – top 10 medical law;
– Jasmin Ruiz-Vazquez – first place medical spelling.
January 03, 2023
When is the best time to conduct public meetings on matters affecting taxpayers which takes the interests of everyone concerned into account?
For now, the prescribed time for the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is 6 p.m. two days each month, under a revised schedule that will go into effect beginning with the board’s next meeting this Thursday.
The city council has regularly been convening at 2 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month and 6 p.m. on the third Thursday.
But when last gathering on Dec. 15, officials decided to alter that by holding both monthly meetings at 6 p.m.
This was suggested by Mayor Jon Cawley in response to a recent changing of the guard with three new commissioners coming aboard as a result of the November election. Two of those members, Deborah Cochran and Chad Hutchens, have day jobs out of town, while the third, Phil Thacker, is retired from a local industry.
The two others on the five-member board, Tom Koch and Marie Wood, also are retired.
Cawley reasoned that eliminating the 2 p.m. meeting in favor of a night session would better accommodate members who typically are at work during the afternoon.
However, Hutchens, a North Ward commissioner who is employed by the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, said his schedule shouldn’t matter.
“I don’t want to change the time for me,” Hutchens advised his fellow council members.
“I’ll make it work,” he said of the afternoon meeting time and the juggling of his schedule to accommodate that. “I’ll make it work regardless.”
Yet the group decided as a whole to go the 6 p.m. route for both meetings each month, which reflects concerns for other stakeholders.
In saying he wouldn’t object to maintaining the 2 p.m. session, Hutchens referred to municipal employees who might be attending for some reason. They obviously favor the daytime meetings to better fit their schedules as opposed to returning in the evening after work.
“We also have to remember the public,” Mayor Cawley reminded. “And for years I have heard that the public did not like our two o’clock meeting,” especially if there were matters of special interest to citizens on the agenda.
Time demands have necessitated public hearings being conducted during the first-Thursday meeting, yet those sessions are always moved to 6 p.m. to address the very concern cited by Cawley.
City Manager Stan Farmer pointed out that the scheduling change will be accompanied by giving municipal staff members the option of not attending the evening meetings unless there is some business pertaining to their areas of responsibility.
“Some department heads like to come even if they don’t have anything,” Farmer added.
Cawley mentioned that the origin of the 2 p.m. time dates to when he was an assistant football coach at Mount Airy School and the team’s practices conflicted with the evening start time. “We weren’t done in time for me to get here,” he said of rushing to City Hall.
Originally, plans called for the 2 p.m. meetings to be only work sessions with no votes taking place.
“But it wasn’t long until we were voting at two o’clock,” Cawley recalled, which usually occurred due to some action being needed which couldn’t wait until the third-Thursday session.
“The speed of life right now,” the mayor said in offering a reason for this.
Official action needed
Altering the meeting time requires formal action involving the Mount Airy Code of Ordinances, the council was advised at the Dec. 15 meeting by City Clerk Nicki Brame. “We need to change the ordinance if we’re going to change the time of the meeting,” she explained.
The board officially recessed its Dec. 15 meeting until the next one this Thursday night, when a vote on the time shift is expected.
As part of the same discussion, Commissioner Wood suggested that officials consider altering the standard agenda for the meeting being moved to 6 p.m. as a way to shorten that session.
Wood said this could include not conducting a public forum for citizens to speak on issues and eliminating a time set aside for city officials to offer general remarks — focusing “just on the business at hand that needs to be done.”
“I am not in favor of changing certain elements of our meeting,” the mayor responded. “We might run into a problem if we start trying to limit elected officials’ ability to be able to speak.”
Wood had successfully lobbied for council members’ comments to be eliminated during a meeting held right before the municipal election on Nov. 8.
The other members agreed to that move, including Koch calling it “an excellent idea” — which Wood said was a way to avoid politics being injected into those comments.
Wood later said she was not in favor of this becoming a permanent change, explaining that the early November bypassing of remarks “was just a one-time thing.”
Meanwhile, Cawley said the board will return to the 2 p.m. meeting time if the change to 6 p.m. proves problematic.
January 02, 2023
• An investigation of a civil disturbance has led to felony drug charges being filed against a Mount Airy woman, according to city police reports.
Brandy Lynn Kelley, 41, of 2540 Wards Gap Road, was encountered by officers on Dec. 24 during that investigation at a residence on Salem Drive off Wards Gap Road.
This was accompanied by a consent search of Kelley’s 1998 Ford Mustang which turned up drug items inside the car, police records state.
Kelley subsequently was charged with possession of a Schedule I controlled substance and possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, both felonies, along with misdemeanor violations of possessing a Schedule VI controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
The woman was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $3,500 secured bond and slated for an appearance in District Court next Monday.
• A theft of property valued at more than $700 was discovered last Thursday at Quality Inn on Rockford which victimized a person listed as a resident there, Hope Christina Forley.
The crime targeted a 2004 Jeep Cherokee that was unlocked at the time, enabling the larceny of items from the passenger and trunk areas of the vehicle, including an Apple iPad electronic tablet, a North Face book bag, assorted textbooks, a multi-tool knife, assorted “fake” jewelry and multiple medications.
In addition to Forley, Mount Airy City Schools is listed as a victim of the crime.
• Property owned by the city of Mount Airy was damaged as the result of an incident discovered Thursday, which involved an unknown suspect throwing concrete through a window, causing damage put at $300.
Police records indicate that the crime occurred at restrooms along the city greenway behind the Roses shopping center on West Independence Boulevard, with a double-pane decorative window receiving the damage.
January 02, 2023
Lisa Ring has stuck with Mayberry Mall in Mount Airy through thick and thin — keeping her Hallmark store there open even as the mall literally was crumbling and causing all but a handful of merchants to bail.
She maintained Hallmark’s presence as a South Carolina real estate firm bought the then-50-year-old shopping center in early 2019 — effectively rescuing it from forced demolition by local government officials after the former owner neglected repairs, making conditions unsafe.
Calling the acquisition by WRS Inc. “a blessing” at that time, Ring saw hope for the future as the company launched a major renovation project that signaled the kind of storybook ending often associated with the Hallmark name — until it didn’t.
After surviving the ordeals of recent years, Ring will not be resting on any laurels and deservedly taking her business to the next level — but closing it instead sometime later this month.
“It was my dream — I put every penny I made back in the business.” Ring said of how she built up the store over time.
“This store has been here over 40 years,” she said recently regarding a fixture at the mall on U.S. 52-North which itself had opened soon before in the late 1960s. “And I have owned it for 15.”
The reason for the closing is not the usual suspect where businesses are concerned — lack of profits — but a complicated series of events surrounding the space she leases at the mall from WRS Inc. for her 4,500-square-foot Hallmark store.
“The economy isn’t great, but that’s not why I’m closing,” Ring said.
It boils down to the business owner being told she must sign a new lease that would mean forking out more than $81,000 per year for that space — about double the present cost.
Coupled with this problem is a failed, 20-year-old HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system at her store which recently has meant hot conditions in the summer and cold ones in winter.
WRS was willing to replace the HVAC components at an estimated expense of $18,000 — but only if she signed the new, long-term (three-to-five-year) lease at the much higher cost, according to Ring.
“They will fix it if I pay that kind of rent,” she related. “They won’t do anything for me until I pay full rent.”
Yet Ring can’t justify coughing up that sum since the mall still has only a few occupants, not generating enough customers to cover such a hike. This relates to how the success of a mall depends on some extent to the ability to draw steady and diverse customer traffic through the power of stores’ collective presence.
Ring said the Hallmark outlet certainly does its part in this way. “I bring people to Mount Airy.”
Other spaces kept cozy
Ironically, heating and air conditioning is not a problem elsewhere in the mall, where store spots await new occupants. “They have got spaces sitting here empty that’s got heat and air and mine don’t,” Ring said of the Hallmark store where three infrared heaters have been pressed into service in an effort to keep it warm.
“They told me I could send them a counter-offer,” the veteran businesswoman said of her negotiations with WRS personnel, “which was rejected immediately.”
Ring also questioned the timing of the lease ultimatum that she believes was a leveraging move to force a quick decision — coming during the advent of the holiday season. “They waited until I got my store filled with Christmas merchandise,” including an array of cards, ornaments and gift items.
Asset Manager Frank Peters at WRS — whom Ring has dealt with during the process — did not respond to a voice-mail message left Friday at his office seeking the firm’s response to the Hallmark matter. Peters also was invited to submit an email statement as an option, which hasn’t occurred.
Meanwhile, Lisa Ring is left wondering how the situation reached this point after everything else that has happened.
“It’s a shame,” she said of the closing that puts into question the fate of the eight-person Hallmark staff, which includes Ring — “as much as we have fought and put up with” since Mayberry Mall began deteriorating.
“It’s been nothing but a battle for six years,” the store operator continued in reference to the series of problems there.
“And it’s a losing battle.”
Blames herself
Lisa Ring concedes that part of the blame for the difficulties rests with her.
Before the recent impasse, the Hallmark store had been operating on a temporary lease that went into effect when Mayberry Mall was sold to WRS, which seemed reasonable on its face.
“I was so excited — I was gullible,” she now admits.
The rent cost under the temporary lease was 10% of her sales, the going rate for such temporary arrangements, according to Ring. The longtime business owner had the understanding she would not be charged a full rate until the mall was about 75% full of stores.
She further was led to believe WRS would take care of the HVAC upgrade.
“But since I’m in a temporary lease, legally they don’t have to,” advised Ring, who says she should’ve paid more attention to its fine print and had provisions included which weren’t.
“This is all my fault for not paying attention to my lease.”
Now Ring says she basically has no legal leg to stand on in butting heads with the South Carolina corporation that owns shopping centers in multiple states throughout the region.
“It’s kind of David and Goliath.”
Future uncertain
A casual observer might suggest that Ring should just move her Hallmark store to another high-traffic location — but such an option is not as simple as it sounds.
Under guidelines imposed by the Hallmark chain in order for outlets to benefit from its highly marketable name, this would require upfitting another building with new fixtures to the tune of $30,000 in order to meet its specifications.
Ring said she is working with downtown property owner Gene Rees and Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison about a possible new store site in Mount Airy’s central business district, and local businessman Bill Juno, who owns shopping center space locally.
“It would not be a Hallmark store,” Ring said of the requirements involved for a full-fledged operation. The only other option is to open a Hallmark Express outlet offering only limited merchandise such as cards.
While Ring is uncertain about her future in the local business community, she seems even more mystified by the circumstances leading to the present predicament.
“I wake up in the middle of the night and I just can’t believe it,” she said, while offering one possible explanation: “It’s greed.”
January 02, 2023
Ralph Hardy, who founded Hardy Brothers Trucking in 1965, passed away over the weekend.
Hardy Brothers Trucking Company wrote online, “Ralph Hardy loved his family, friends, and trucking until the blessed age of 90. Ralph opened Hardy Brothers in 1965, becoming a friend and mentor to all who joined the Hardy Brothers family.
Condolences were rolling into Hardy Brothers online with commenters, friends and colleagues who had worked for, or with, Hardy and Hardy Brothers Trucking over the years.
“Ralph was known for his generous spirit and always greeted you with a smile. He will be missed by many. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our Hardy Family. Arrangements are forthcoming.”
Cox-Needham Funeral Services has since released those arrangements — the family will receive friends at Salem Baptist Church in Dobson on Thursday, Jan. 5, from 10:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m., with a celebration of life service at 1 p.m. and a private interment following.
With Ralph’s son Eddie now the president and grandson Ryan the company’s vice president, Hardy Brothers Trucking has been and will continue to be a family affair — just as Ralph Hardy would have wanted it.
In September at the celebration of his 90th birthday, his grandson Ryan said that it was unlikely that there was anyone working in trucking who did not know of Ralph Hardy. “If you go across the country someone will know Ralph Hardy. He’s a hard worker who has never compromised and has made an impression throughout this area and across the trucking industry.”
That widespread acclaim in the industry help his company land the coveted task of transporting the 78-foot Capitol Christmas Tree from the Pisgah National Forest to Washington D.C. before Christmas, which included dozens of stops all across North Carolina and Virginia.
Siloam Baptist Church shared online, “Please remember the Hardy family, our church, and all of our Siloam family. This man was a true hero of the faith and Patriarch of our community. Ralph Hardy was a Blessing to all who had the honor of knowing him. He will be sorely missed.”
“Heaven became a little sweeter when the truck driving man pulled into the pearly gates. Rest Easy Ralph.”
Rebecca Carter wrote, “I never spoke with Mr. Ralph when he did not display a kind and gentle spirit. A hole will be left in the Siloam Community, Siloam Baptist Church, and his family and work family.”
“He was always at church no matter if Wednesday, Sunday, revival, etc. His life exemplified a Christian walk. Deep sorrow for the family,” she concluded.
Frankie Andrews of Pilot Mountain wrote, “I just heard the news of a local icon passing away. For some you may not recognize the name for those in the transportation industry many will be hurt knowing the last of the good ones is no longer with us.”
“Ralph Hardy founder of Hardy Bros. Trucking passed away… In a world where we all see darkness Ralph was always a light to all those around him. In an Industry that has changed so much over the years for what seems to be for the worse Ralph refused to change and continued to operate and run a business in a way that showed both gratitude and respect for those he worked with and for those who worked for him.”
“Proverbs 27:17: 7 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Ralph surely made those around him better. I feel blessed and fortunate in saying I was able to attend Ralph’s 90 birthday party back in September.
“You see Ralph didn’t look at other Trucking Companies as the enemy or competition,” Andrews, who is the Operations Manager for RHJ Trucking said, “He sees them as family, and he always wanted family around. Thank you, Ralph, for all you have given us.”
Dwayne DeMoss, a vendor who worked with Hardy, said, “This one hit hard. Hate that I haven’t been able to see Ralph as much as I once did. But I’m glad I got to see him briefly a couple of weeks back.”
“I will miss him joking with me. One of the most genuine down to earth people I have ever met. I know one thing Ralph will be missed by many. What a loss to the community and the Trucking Industry,” he said. It seems that Hardy made such an impression over the years that even those who did not work at Hardy Brothers wanted to send along their remembrances.
Joining in also was Keith Kennedy who added that Hardy was a humble man who treated he and his wife “like family and we will be forever indebted to him, his family, and staff.”
Some said that Hardy was cut from a cloth that is hard to find these days like Denise Gusler who reiterated a comment from many others about the quality of the man. “Ralph helped me so much in trucking with his knowledge and his kindness. Trucking lost a good man.”
January 02, 2023
Project Denver is on the menu for the Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday evening, the meeting moved from Monday to allow the county’s observance of the New Year’s Day holiday.
The board will be considering several staffing changes, hear an update on Surry on the Go streaming channel, and hear about changes to the detention center construction budget. The commissioners will also hear a presentation on Surry County’s natural heritage from ecologist/botanist Ken Brindle who was one of the featured lecturers during Surry 250, the county’s sestercentennial celebration, last June.
Of interest to many county residents will be the public hearing on Project Denver. While there have been no details released to the public on the name of the company in question, nor the type of industry it is, Project Denver is known to be a “proposed minimum investment of $6.4 million in real and personal property” to be made by the end of the calendar year 2023.
The draft resolution on the incentive package the board will consider reads, “Following the payment of taxes by Company to County, the County shall make an incentive grant to Company of not more than $116,156.74 over a five-year period.”
The county stipulates that its payment of the incentives package will only be paid out only after evidence has been provided that the investment benchmark has been attained. Also, the company will have to be current on its property taxes before the incentive funds will be released.
Wording in the resolution allows for wiggle room if the company in question does not meet all its targets,. “The incentive grant shall be reduced proportionally if Company fails to achieve or maintain its benchmark minimum level of investment.”
Board approval of the package will signify that the commissioners feel the incentives are justified because such financial inducements “will increase the taxable property, employment, and business prospects of Surry County.”
If approved Project Denver will join another package of incentives earmarked for the business growth of the county, Project Cobra, that was approved in November. That package was designed to entice an existing Surry County employer to consolidate its operations from locations out of state into one local hub in Mount Airy.
That consolidation represents a potential investment $1.9 million and would bring 35 jobs to the area, whereas if the Project Cobra bid fails the company will head elsewhere and take 63 jobs with them as its leaves.
When the commissioners were hearing details on Project Cobra, the former director of the Surry Economic Development Partnership Todd Tucker gave it his endorsement. “This incentive will keep people working and create new opportunities for others and add new value to Surry County’s tax record.”
The prompted Commissioner Bill Goins to note that retaining businesses that are already here is and should remain a priority to county leaders. To that end, the board voted unanimously to pass the incentive package of $36,244 spread over five years in performance-based incentives with those funds coming from the county’s general fund.
The City of Mount Airy board of commissioners followed suit shortly thereafter and approved a similar package. Neither package, Denver nor Cobra, made any declaration of what the specific use of the funds would be.
Targeted incentives with benchmarks that must be met are a safer bet, Chairman Eddie Harris said in November, then how many packages used to be designed. They will also be easier to ensure the recipient is in compliance than benchmarks tied to employee head count.
At Tuesday night’s board of commissioners meeting, the public will again be asked to provide comment to the board on the proposal.
There was some complaint after the Project Cobra hearing that the public was not given enough advance notice or any context to better understand the proposal. It is mandated that such a public hearing be held after public notice is given but it is unclear what residents may have to say on a proposal under wraps.
For those who were frustrated by the process, there will be no change to it Tuesday as the machinations of the county behind the scenes in business development must be kept secret. There will be no grand reveal of the company before the board makes their vote.
Commissioner Van Tucker explained after the Project Cobra hearing that some privacy and secrecy in deliberations such as these are needed. If a business shows its hand, he said, it may be opening itself up to have its idea or location poached right from under them.
The board of county commissioners meets at 6 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Dobson, 114 W. Atkins St., starting at 6 p.m. Meetings are livestreamed, and the videos will be posted to YouTube and the county’s website for residents unable to attend.
January 02, 2023
A Real World Simulation event took place recently on East Surry High School’s campus in Pilot Mountain.
Thirty guests from the Children’s Center, Alliance Insurance, Pilot Mountain Civic Club and State Employees Credit Union were on site to educate students who attended workshops, visited with businesses, compiled budget sheets, and entered to win door prizes.
January 02, 2023
Auditions for the Surry Arts Council’s production of “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” directed by Madeline Matanick are being held on Tuesday, Jan. 3 and Wednesday, Jan. 4, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. each day at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
“Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” is the new Broadway adaptation of the classic musical. This contemporary take on the classic tale features Rodgers & Hammerstein’s most beloved songs, including “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible/It’s Possible” and “Ten Minutes Ago,” alongside an up-to-date, hilarious and romantic libretto by Tony Award nominee Douglas Carter Beane, arts council officials said.
“At its core, ‘Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella’ remains the heartfelt tale of the girl from the cinders who connects with her prince,” they said. “This version shows her to be forthright and kind as she tries to change the prince into a better man.”
Those auditioning should be prepared to sing 16-32 bars of a musical theater song in the style of the show. Those auditioning may take sheet music or sing acapella. “Be ready to learn a short dance combination and read from the script,” organizers said. “Wear clothing you can move in and bring dance shoes if you have them. You only need to be present at one evening of auditions. Auditions are open to ages 5 to adults.”
Auditioners must be available for mandatory rehearsals and performance dates. Tech rehearsals will be on March 24 and from March 27 to March 30. The public performances will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 1, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 2. School performances will be at 12 p.m. on Friday, March 31, and Monday, April 3.
Watch for details of other activities associated with the production including a Cinderella Tea served by members of the cast, and Cinderella-theme craft workshops.
For additional information about auditions, contact Madeline Matanick at madi@surryarts. For all other inquiries, contact Marianna Juliana at or 336-786-7998. Tickets for the shows are available online at, via phone at 336-786-7998, or at the Surry Arts Council office at 218 Rockford Street.
January 02, 2023
The Franklin Elementary School Robotic Team, Robodogs, recently traveled to Surry Community College for the FIRST Lego League Competition, where the team won the Judges Award.
The team had to present their innovation project before a panel of judges and go through an interview process, without their coaches in the room. They had to design a robot and it had to run missions on the Lego table. At the competition the team had to run their robot against 35 other teams.
“These students really showed their awesome leadership skills,” school officials said. “Our team received tons of compliments about how energized the team was. This was the first year that elementary schools were a part of the competition.”
December 31, 2022
Winter Storm Elliot, as the cold weather system that rocked much of the nation over the Christmas weekend was named, is still being felt in Surry County. Residents have heard by now about the recently resolved issues with a water main break in Pilot Mountain that yielded a boil advisory and can breathe a sigh of relief that it has been lifted and water is safe for human consumption again.
In Mount Airy though it appears that the weather caused a power outage in the gymnasium of Mount Airy High that has caused damage that
“We discovered Monday morning that we had water in the back left corner of the gymnasium at Mount Airy High School,” Mount Airy Schools Executive Officer of Communications Carrie Venable said.
“There was also water discovered in the basketball offices downstairs which had come down a wall.”
“We are still trying to assess what happened, but it looks like the electricity flickered Sunday evening due to the weather and cutting the heat off in the gymnasium. Later a coil in the old heat blower gave out allowing water to come into the back corner area.”
“We are currently assessing to see if there is any residual damage that could affect sports schedules.”
SERVPRO said on their social media that they are, “Setting up heaters to begin the drying process after a boiler line ruptured at Mount Airy High School flooding a portion of the gym and the locker rooms.”
Request for comment from the administration of Mount Airy High and Mount Airy Schools were unsuccessful.
Mount Airy High is still on winter break and students are set to return on Wednesday, Jan. 4. On that day the Granite Bears are scheduled to host Thomasville and North Stokes on Jan. 6 for basketball games.
There is a fortunate break in the athletic schedule for Mount Airy High that sees them travelling for away contests before returning to host Alleghany for basketball on Jan. 17. That may allow enough time for school district officials to diagnose and solve the problem before more sporting events need to be rescheduled or relocated.
The Mount Airy News will provide updates as needed to the Mount Airy High School athletics schedule in January should changes be required.
December 30, 2022
CHAPEL HILL – The North Carolina Association for Scholastic Activities presented the 13th state finals of the state writing competition, The Quill, on Dec. 3 at Smith Middle School.
Twenty schools qualified from regionals to compete in the state finals.
Four students from each team wrote from four different text type prompts. Submissions were scored in the afternoon and individual and team results were presented. The Middle School Team from Millennium Charter Academy of Mount Airy was the winner and name middle school state champions of The Quill.
Mount Airy High School was also among the competitors at the state championship and the Granite Bears finished in sixth place.
In individual accomplishment, Millennium’s Paisley Chilton was named the State Champion in the category of informative / explanatory.
Contestants were not able to keep a copy of the prompt or their submissions.
December 30, 2022
ARARAT, Va. — It’s rare when an organization can exist for 70 years, and the Ararat Ruritan Club will be commemorating that milestone with a special event next week.
It will be held on Jan. 7 at the club building, located on Ararat Highway not far from the North Carolina border.
The celebration is planned from 2 to 5 p.m. that day, when the club will make the most of the occasion.
It will include special presentations, cake and ice cream (the standard anniversary party fare) and displays of photos, awards and other materials from the local Ruritans’ long history.
Ruritan 2022 National President Glen Broadwater also is scheduled to attend the event.
Old Ruritan records show that the local group was chartered in January 1953 with Cecil W. Spencer as its first president and fellow Ararat resident Hobert Bateman as vice president.
Although Spencer was in the teaching profession and Bateman worked as a rural letter carrier, most of those in top leadership positions with that early club were farmers, a breakdown shows.
That fact is not lost among those now heading the Ararat Ruritan Club who want to preserve its history.
“It means we’re carrying on a legacy that basically our local farmers started,” said Pamela Smith, who will serve as the club’s president during 2023. “It means a lot that we carried on a legacy from 70 years ago.”
Smith added Friday that everyone is invited to the Jan. 7 celebration, including community residents and anyone just wanting to learn more about the Ruritan mission.
Its national organization began in 1928 in another Virginia county, where residents saw a need for community leaders to meet and discuss ways to make their corner of the world a better place to live.
The word “Ruritan” was formed by combining the Latin words for open country, “ruri,” and small town “tan,” interpreted as relating to life in such places.
Local group active
Ruritan National now has nearly 25,000 members throughout the United States who are working to improve more than 900 local communities, including Ararat.
The club there has 29 members who are engaged in a variety of public service projects.
Those activities have including holding fundraisers to support community causes. These benefitted the Patrick County Food Bank, a county backpack program and a Home Alone effort that serves residents in the Willis Gap and Ararat communities.
“The motivation is the needs that are in the community,” Smith said of what keeps members involved in such ways.
She mentioned one cause that emerged at the height of the coronavirus pandemic which recognized a gap created when local students were kept at home and could not attend schools where they normally received free breakfasts and lunches.
The Ruritans mobilized to provide bags of food for the youths.
“As bad as it sounds, COVID brought us together,” Smith said of how the group rallied, “to help the community.”
More recently when a cold snap produced record temperatures in the area, the club opened the doors to its building to provide safe, warm shelter for folks lacking that during the crisis.
December 30, 2022
Jeff Jessup is getting ready to call it a career at Scenic Ford in Mount Airy. After joining the staff in 1983 as a salesman and then promoted to General Sales Manager, he has seen a lot of cars leave the lot over the years. From the offices of Scenic Ford, he was jovial as he wrapped up his last week on the job and took a moment to reflect on his tenure.
To hear him tell it, you may think sales would be an easy job since Jessup said one of the best attributes a salesman needs is to be a people person. Being able to talk to folks and use soft skills like listening to what the customer is asking for can make all the difference.
It also helps to follow through for it has been said the consumer votes with their feet and will take their business to where they feel more valued, “The main thing is you need is to be good with people and make sure to take the time to call people back and follow up with your customers,” he said.
The cars and the industry have changed since he started at Scenic in 1983. He pointed to the fact that on their lot now that cars are no longer their bread and butter – the venerable Mustang is the only passenger car they currently sell.
Trucks like the Ford F-150 are what bring many Surry County residents into the dealership, and he noted the F-150 has been the top seller for numerous years. Their SUV lineup of Explorer, Expedition, Edge, and Escape now make up a strong percentage of sales for the company as well.
When asked about what has changed in the industry, “The technology, gracious,” he began, “When I first got in the car business power steering was an option, air conditioning, even bumpers on trucks were an option,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s been continuous progress ever since then.”
From his perspective as the sales manager, he said that “The market is strong,” but that issues with supply chains and shortages have caused a few headaches. That includes for him personally, “I never thought I would see the time where you couldn’t get inventory for people to buy, and it was the pandemic and computer chip, part shortages – various things. It’s not just one particular car, it’s across the board.”
“Who would have ever thought this two or three years ago?” he asked of the pandemic’s effect on the global economy. He is hopeful as so many others are that the pandemic may one day be in the rear-view mirror.
He did seek to calm buyers’ fears and explained that the wait times can vary dramatically. The horror stories of waiting over a year for a part are not the rule of thumb these days.
The computer chip problem is a byproduct of those technological advances that never stop. Drivers expect their cars to do more for them than ever before.
With advanced sensors guarding the blind spot, the backup camera making sure Fido isn’t in the driveway, or touch screens to manage media and apps, cars today are closer to the Jetsons than Flintstones and they need those computer chips to make it happen.
This comes at a price and has left auto makers held hostage by those few chip manufactures which are predominantly in Asia. Jessup sees the light at the end of the tunnel for this problem, “Most of your manufactures are starting to loosen up a little on getting inventory to the customers; but so much outsourcing was sent to China. We have to wait for them to get back up and going.”
Jessup is aware of plans to try and ramp up chip production domestically, “There is your biggest problem, you don’t have a factory here and by the time you get one built, the technology may have passed by.”
He reiterated that there is not a vast difference in the initial quality of cars made here in the U.S. versus those overseas, however the way folks take care of their cars is one of the biggest determining factors for how long a vehicle can stay on the road, “Checking the oil, the tire pressure, and having the car serviced at regular intervals will help and I think that it has a lot to do with the longevity of the vehicles, for sure.”
“I just want to say that I appreciate you coming to Scenic and buying cars with us, or being a good customer for all these years, and allowing me to serve you,” he offered to the many customers over the last 39 years.
He recognizes that to work in one industry, to say nothing of one employer, for nearly 40 years just is not common anymore. The Scenic family is just that, he said, a family and that is the biggest reason he stayed around as long as he did.
He said they do things the right way at Scenic and that goes back to 1983 when he was interviewing with owner D.A. Gough, “I was sitting right where you are now, and I was nervous as a cat.”
Jessup wanted the job and Gough wanted him, but as Jessup was a salesman at Simmons Ford at that time, “He said he didn’t want to poach me, that’s not how he did business. He said that he had a good relationship with the other dealers and didn’t want to do it like that.”
The stars aligned and a few weeks later Jessup arrived at Scenic where he will be found until the end of 2022. New Year’s Eve will be his last official day on the job, and Jessup says he does not have a ton of firm plans for his retirement years.
He admitted though that there may be some sales work left in his future as his son runs a furniture store. However, he knows there is golf in his future, and he sounded confident that you would be able to find him on the links at Pilot Mountain Park where he has been a member for many years.
The public has been invited to a retirement celebration for both Jeff Jessup and Jimmy Vernon on Jan. 14 from 2 until 5 p.m. at Scenic Ford.
December 30, 2022
The state Welcome Center on Interstate 77 in Surry County just south of the Virginia line is a key resource for travelers entering North Carolina — which will be coming to a temporary halt for a construction project there.
This will involve the present I-77 North Welcome Center, located at Mile Marker 105 on the southbound portion of the interstate, being torn down and rebuilt, beginning sometime in 2023.
“It’s 40 years old,” center Manager Jeff Mills said in explaining the reason for the project.
Records show that the NC. Department of Commerce facility was first opened in 1982 and renovated in 1997.
The I-77 North Welcome Center is one of nine such rest area sites in North Carolina. These are located just inside the state lines along interstates and provide travel information to motorists entering from outside areas to enhance tourism efforts.
Each center has a statewide focus, but with an emphasis on information for visitors traveling a particular interstate corridor, including directing them to local attractions. That task is aided by the on-site presence of professional, nationally certified travel counselors, according to state officials.
The centers collectively promote thousands of tourism-related businesses, attractions, accommodations, events and more, thereby enhancing commerce throughout the state.
The upcoming closure/rebuild project at the I-77 North Welcome Center was made public by Jessica Roberts, executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority/Tourism Partnership of Surry County.
Roberts mentioned it during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners earlier this year as part of a quarterly tourism report to the board, covering that and other developments within the local tourism realm.
However, Mills, the manager of the I-77 North Welcome Center, is unsure when the closure, tear-down and construction of the new facility actually will begin in 2023.
“I have no idea,” he said.
While such undertakings typically reflect a need to modernize and/or enlarge a location, Mills is unsure about the scope of the I-77 project or how it will take shape.
“I’ve not seen any blueprints on that,” Mills said.
The present center contains 75 parking spaces for cars, eight for cars/trailers and 10 for trucks.
Staff reassignments?
One aspect of the plan brought to light by Roberts, the Mount Airy tourism official, concerns the possible reassignment of personnel at the I-77 North Welcome Center until the project runs its course.
“As of now, we have three,” Mills said of the staff there.
Roberts told city officials that the shift could aid tourism efforts elsewhere in the county.
“I am working with the manager, Jeff Mills, to place the staff at no costs in our various visitor centers throughout Surry County, including ours in Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain downtown, Pilot Mountain State Park and Elkin, as well as at the Trails Center and Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce,” she related.
Those workers would be displaced during that time but still on the payroll with the N.C. Department of Commerce through the state Department of Transportation, the tourism official added.
“We will be happy to have this extra help for up to a year or so once construction begins.”
Mills says this shift in staff has been discussed as a possibility for the I-77 North Welcome Center. “Nothing is set in stone yet.”
December 30, 2022
The American Red Cross has announced a series of blood-collection events for every corner of Surry County during January through what one spokesman calls an effort “to save and sustain lives in our communities.”
While many activities have been curtailed during the holidays, the need for blood in surgical and other procedures has continued.
And to help maintain adequate supplies, the Winston-Salem office of the Red Cross, which coordinates blood drives in Surry, has released this schedule of ones that are open to the public, beginning in the coming week:
• Tuesday at the Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, from 1:30 6 p.m.;
• Wednesday, Copeland Community Ruritan Building, 975 Copeland School Road, Dobson, 2 to 6:30 p.m.;
• Thursday, Lifepoint Church, 1785 N. Bridge St., Elkin, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
• Jan. 7, Antioch Baptist Church, 137 Antioch Ave., Mount Airy, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
• Jan. 7, First Presbyterian Church of Mount Airy, 326 S. Main St., noon to 4:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 8, Calvary Baptist Church, 314 S. Franklin Road, Mount Airy, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 12, Sulphur Springs Baptist Church, 164 Sulphur Springs Church Road, Pilot Mountain, 2 to 6:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 16, Elkin Rescue Squad building, 940 N. Bridge St., 1:30 to 6 p.m.;
• Jan. 16, Highland Park Baptist Church, 1327 Grove Lane, Mount Airy, 1 to 6 p.m.;
• Jan. 17, Shoals Elementary School, 1800 Shoals Road, Pinnacle, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 17, Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, noon to 4 p.m.;
• Jan. 18, Surry Community College-Pilot Center, 612 E Main St., Pilot Mountain, 1 to 5 p.m.;
• Jan. 23, Pilot Mountain First United Methodist Church, 210 Marion St., Pilot Mountain, noon to 4:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 24, Dobson Elementary School, 400 W. Atkins St., 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 25, Surry American Red Cross building, 844 Westlake Drive, Mount Airy, noon to 4 p.m.;
• Jan. 25, White Plains Elementary School, 710 Cadle Ford Road, Mount Airy, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan, 25, Meadowview Middle School, 1282 McKinney Road, Mount Airy, 1 to 5:30 p.m.;
• Jan. 26, Cedar Ridge Elementary School, 734 Flippin Road, Lowgap, 1 to 5:30 p.m.
Contact, other info
Donation appointments can be made by visiting Give Blood or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
This process also can allow one to determine the availability of appointments for drives on the schedule.
Prospective whole blood donors must be in good health, feeling well and at least 16 years old in most states, along with weighing no less than 110 pounds.
An individual can give every 56 days, up to six times a year, according to information from the Red Cross.
December 30, 2022
It undeniably will be a new year, but any cleansing or disposal processes accompanying the birth of 2023 must wait another day where sanitation operations for the city of Mount Airy are concerned.
This will include no residential yard waste collections on Monday due to its proximity to New Year’s Day on Sunday.
In addition, commercial and industrial sanitation routes normally serviced on Monday will be halted then as a result of the holiday.
City offices also are scheduled to be closed on Monday in observance of New Year’s Day.
December 28, 2022
Just in time for the new year, Mount Airy officials have unveiled a revamped city government website that in addition to serving local citizens is aimed at drawing more visitors and potential new residents to town.
“We think this is a way we are going to be able to promote Mount Airy,” Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis said during the last council meeting earlier this month. “This is just another way we can highlight the city and all the great things we have to offer.”
Both Lewis and City Manager Stan Farmer made a presentation then on the new website — at — which both have been working on for months in addition to their other responsibilities.
“It means a lot to me because this was one of the first projects I identified when I got here on Jan. 31,” said Farmer, who came to Mount Airy from a position in Texas.
“We’re both very excited that this has come to fruition,” he added regarding the effort involving him and Lewis. “It has taken quite a while to get this done.”
“I think it’s a little more user-friendly than what we had,” said Lewis.
The new online presence that has resulted contains the same basic City Hall information as before about utility services, the various municipal departments, employment opportunities with the city, records of commissioner meetings and other resources to engage citizens.
But the rejuvenated website, which went live in recent weeks, is much more visually stunning, including the presence of its most noteworthy addition: short video segments that can be accessed on it which are professionally narrated and contain music.
This includes an introductory, or welcoming, video that provides a general overview of various sites of interest in the community, which the city manager says is just a way to provide “a feel” of the place.
“I think we got all the highlights of everything in Mount Airy in three minutes there,” Farmer said.
Other short video segments highlight the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority featuring comments by its executive director, Jessica Roberts; Mount Airy City Schools, with Superintendent Dr. Kim Morrison making an on-camera appearance; Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison commenting on what downtown Mount Airy has to offer; and Northern Regional Hospital President and CEO Chris Lumsden speaking about that facility’s services.
Of course, the new website devotes much exposure to local Mayberry connections with Andy Griffith in addition to concerts and other events presented by the Surry Arts Council, local industrial parks and Mount Airy’s recreational resources including its greenway system.
The fabled white granite produced here is a further highlight along with the local fiddlers convention and Mount Airy’s proximity to nearby attractions such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, Pilot Mountain State Park and Yadkin Valley wine region.
At one point, the video narrator touts Mount Airy as “America’s greatest small town” and declares that “it just feels like home.”
There also are links to community organizations such as the United Fund of Surry and its 26 member agencies that meet various crisis, medical and other needs, and links to local commercial entities listed as sponsors.
“So it’s a way that we can promote our local businesses,” Lewis said.
“Lot of moving parts”
The new city government website bears a tagline with the words “Mayberry, mountains, music and Merlot,” which Farmer believes summarizes what the local area is all about.
“There’s a lot of moving parts to this,” Farmer said of what it took to develop the new website.
It involved the work of two videography companies, one that provided its services to the city for free, according to Farmer.
He dealt with an entity from Dallas to produce the three-minute welcoming video.
“Darren was the one who took the lead on this, almost daily,” Farmer said of Lewis.
“We both drove around with the videographers,” the city manager related, which sometimes consisted of rushing from Snappy Lunch to the greenway and then some other location.
The task additionally required sifting through hundreds of still photographs to find ones that appear on the website on a rotating basis, including scenes from a concert at Blackmon Amphitheatre, a picture from the greenway and more.
City officials worked with CivicPlus, a web development business that handles Mount Airy’s online site, in order to incorporate the new elements — “to change out information and make the look different,” Farmer said.
“A lot of technical things can go wrong,” the city manager said when so many facets are juggled to achieve a finished product.
“But we really like the look of the new page.”
December 28, 2022
Among the many missions of the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery is outreach and sharing with the community knowledge to live a happy and clean life. Over the last months, their teams have spread out to the schools to discuss opioids, fake pills laced with deadly fentanyl, and more recently have been sharing information on the dangers of vaping.
There is a field of study now known as hope science and institutes of hope have shown up at colleges and universities across the country. Arizona State University’s Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of Hope has been studying hope as a concept, and as a practice.
Those results are trickling into Surry County, and it is again the team from the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery (SCOSAR) who are preparing to find innovative ways to bring the message of hope home to those who have found hope to be in short supply.
“Hopeful people are able to set goals, identify ways to reach their goals and feel as though they can do the work to achieve those goals,” says Crystal Bryce, associate director of research in the Hope Center and clinical assistant professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University
“Hope requires a person to take responsibility for their wants and desires and take action in working towards them,” John Parsi, executive director of the Hope Center wrote. He explained that wishful thinking or optimism is just believing that something will come to pass. Believing that you can have an influence over your situation is hope.
It may require a little change in the way people think to break an association between wishful thinking and optimism versus actionable change, “Optimistic people see the glass as half full, but hopeful people ask how they can fill the glass full,” said Parsi.
“Dreams and optimism are just belief structures,” he further explained. “When you’re an optimistic person, you believe things in the world will turn out just fine. Hope is an active process.
Jaime Edwards, research analyst for SCOSAR concurred saying, “Without a sense of hope and a belief that we can have happiness, it can be impossible to change. If we don’t have a sense of hope, then why would people want to try and change anything?”
“A lot of trauma, adversity, or lack of basic needs diminish hope and hope is one of the single best predictors of wellbeing across the lifespan,” SCOSAR’s outreach coordinator Charlotte Reeves said. She has been collaborating with a team from the state and UNC-Chapel Hill to investigate early childhood traumas in Surry County like hunger, neglect, and substance abuse and find ways that the community can work together to change outcomes.
“The relationship I would like people to see is that there is certainly a great life after having bad times in our lives; we just have to be the drivers of our own destiny,” she said. Those childhood traumas can be overcome, and cycles do not have to repeat themselves.
Neurologist Dr. Jerome Lubbe said, “One of the most powerful things we have available to us as human beings is hope and the reason hope is so incredible and fascinating… is because of what hope can offer us in the here and now but also in the future. Also, the fact that hope is a tangible measurable experience that happens in the brain.”
There may be more to the power of positive thinking after all it turns out. He suggests positive thinking is the best way to create hope and create change in a person’s life, “Science has shown you cannot have a thought without having a legitimate change in neurochemistry – either a neurotransmitter changes or hormonal change that impacts your physiology.”
“We live in a distracted period or time whether that is environmental, online, or within our daily lives. For many of us we lack time to just be in the moment. If we can learn to be in the moment and listen to ourselves better that will yield a sense of hope and a sense that we can influence the outcome,” Edwards said.
From studies like those at Arizona State University it is felt there is a growing understanding of some of the neurochemistry behind hope, “This isn’t a squishy science,” said Parsi who points to statistics showing that efforts to improve hopefulness in young people can be “more effective than many mental health interventions.”
Edwards also said that hope can be passed along between generations, so creating an environment of hope and gratitude can help members of this community who are not yet among us.
Many people are looking for non-medical solutions to health issues, and mental health needs to be on that list too. If Edwards and the hope scientists are right that being mindful of the moment is part of the solution to those issues, then residents of Surry County are in luck to be blessed with clean rivers, parks, and trails aplenty to stop and smell the flowers or listen to the water ramble by.
December 28, 2022
• Employees of the Staples store on Rockford Street were the victims of a recent theft there, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
The loss of property and money from the Dec. 17 incident totalled nearly $500, including a Microsoft Surface smartphone, glacier white in color; an orange Bamberg phone case; a blue Oliver Co. wallet; a driver’s license; and a medical card.
Victims of the crime are listed as Kevin Mitchell Inman, a Roslyn Lane resident, and Suzanne Stewart of Gardner Street. The larceny was perpetrated by an unknown party.
• Police were told on Dec. 16 that a North Carolina registration plate, number JEH6632, had been stolen from a 2011 Honda Odyssey owned by David Alexander Hayes, who lives on Spring Water Trail.
The tag was taken while the vehicle was parked in a lot in the 200 block of Riverside Drive.
• Flores Vincente Gomez, 44, of 344 Granite St., was jailed without privilege of bond on Dec. 15 for a charge of assault on a female.
It had been filed earlier that day with Rosalba Gomez as the complainant. Flores Vincente Gomez is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Jan. 19.
December 28, 2022
In some cases, being at the “1” level is a great thing — but where economic rankings are concerned, Surry’s recent designation as a Tier 1 county means it is among the state’s most-distressed localities.
This development to be in effect for 2023 is prompting concern among both Mount Airy and Surry County officials, since the new rankings by the N.C. Department of Commerce reflect a decline in Surry’s economic well-being involving median household income.
“It doesn’t bode well for the county to be a Tier 1 county,” Eddie Harris, a longtime Surry commissioner representing its South District, said Wednesday.
“This status isn’t favorable because households have less disposable income at a time when inflation is rampant,” observed Deborah Cochran, a city commissioner who is troubled by the lower ranking and also weighed in on it Wednesday.
The state department annually ranks North Carolina’s 100 counties based on economic well-being factors and assigns each a Tier designation. The 40 most-distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least-distressed as Tier 3.
Surry had been Tier 2 before moving to Tier 1 through the latest evaluation. It is among five counties shifting to a more-distressed tier, also including Onslow, Pitt, Randolph and Transylvania.
Tier rankings are calculated based on four factors: average unemployment rate; median household income; percentage growth in population; and the adjusted property tax base per capita.
Where Surry came up short in the new Tier rankings for 2023 is the median household income category affecting its overall economic distress level.
For 2023, its shift from Tier 2 to Tier 1 is accompanied by the county’s overall economic distress rank being lower at No. 38 (it was No. 51 for 2022). This shift was largely driven by Surry’s median household income rank falling from No. 47 last year to No. 30 this year.
The county’s median household income is listed as $47,114 in the latest state report.
In comparison, Stokes County’s income figure was given as $59,068, ranking it 79th in North Carolina.
Union County has the top ranking with a median household income exceeding $90,000.
Double-edged sword
The income situation poses an obvious problem for county residents, Commissioner Harris said.
“Median household income is what drives prosperity and moves them out of poverty.”
Cochran, the city commissioner, also cited the link between income and poverty, which she sees as a signal for local government units to avoid placing other financial burdens on citizens such as increased property taxes.
Harris said the state rankings have presented a unique situation for Surry since it always is near the cutoff mark for Tier 1 and Tier 2. One change here or there can place it at one level, then the other the next year due to the variety of factors that can be involved.
From his perspective, the Tier system has always represented a “love-hate” situation, Harris said.
“Because if you go into a Tier 1 county it opens up opportunities for public schools to get more money,” he explained, along with added federal funding for local programs.
The Tier system is incorporated into various state programs to encourage economic activity in the less-prosperous areas of the state, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“Cities and counties will be given preference for state assistance and grants due to being Tier 1,” said Cochran.
She was elected this year as the at-large member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners after serving in that position in the past and as the city’s mayor.
Possible remedies
But both Cochran and Harris indicated that such extra assistance is not better in the long run than maintaining a healthy income level locally.
The county commissioner believes that the solution points to the ongoing need for economic diversity and more workforce-development programs to prepare workers for higher-paying jobs.
He pointed out that the local labor market remains tight, which can be considered a motivator for training opportunities.
In the meantime, local government also must do its part, Cochran believes.
“What might be done?” she added, answering that question by pointing out how a conservative approach is needed.
“Government on every level must operate in a real world of financial reality,” Cochran commented. “It would not be prudent to increase taxes, fees, water rates and increase unnecessary spending — if we keep taxes low, businesses will want to operate here and create jobs.”
“I served (the municipality) during the Great Recession and know it is possible to keep our rates low and focus on priorities,” Cochran added.
“When I was on the city council in 2013, we recruited a company that still pays $12,000 to $17,000 per month for water usage — this helps to keep our water system up and running without passing along increases to customers.”
December 27, 2022
On a recently Saturday morning, elementary and middle school students from across Surry and Yadkin counties converged upon Surry Community College to compete in the 2022 NC FIRST Regional Qualifying Event, sponsored by Surry First Lego League (FLL) and Surry Community College.
Teams representing Mount Airy, Surry County, Elkin and Yadkin County schools, took part in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) event with the hopes of taking the championship back to their district and school.
“Each year FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) selects a theme and develops a series of missions where competitors must learn, research, problem solve, and program their way through four competitive areas: core values, innovative project, robot design, and the robot game challenge.
“The mission of FIRST is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” organizers said. “With adult Coaches to guide them, FIRST Lego League teams (up to 10 members) apply science, engineering, and math concepts, plus a big dose of imagination to develop solutions to real-world challenges. They also design, build, and program Lego Mindstorms or Spike Prime-based robots to perform autonomous ‘missions’ on a playing field. Along the way, they develop critical thinking, team-building, and presentation skills.”
Jeff Edwards, Science Institute coordinator for Surry County Schools, coordinated the event with the North Carolina FIRST Lego League Planning Committee.
“This year’s theme was, ‘superpowered,’” he said. “Teams were given the task to re-image the future of sustainable energy and power their ideas forward. Teams also had to prepare a presentation on their solution to the chosen problem. All members of a team must take part in the presentation and each team has no more than five minutes to sell their idea to the judges.” This year’s winners in the project category were the Solar Warriors of Central Middle School.
Edwards also shared, “Core values are the heart of the program. Through core values, teams express the FIRST philosophies of gracious professionalism and ‘coopertition.‘ Student participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and that helping each other is the foundation of teamwork. Participants are expected to display and uphold these core values in all that they do. Teams demonstrate core values to the judges by preparing a brief presentation on how they expressed these values as they completed this year’s preparations, and by engaging in a challenge designed to show how well teams shared the load and worked together to accomplish a task.”
This year’s winners in the core values event were Team Panther Attack of Yadkin County Schools.
“Robot design mimics a real-world engineering design review,” Edwards said. “In this event, teams must present their robots to judges who are tasked with determining how well teams used attachments, body shape design, and programming to get the robot they built to accomplish the missions created for the robot challenge. Using Lego bricks teams may build whatever attachments they think will help their robot in completing missions. They may also choose from an assortment of sensors to add to the robot.”
The winners of the Robot Design category were Team Robush of Yadkin County School.
“The highlight and public portion of the competition takes place in the afternoon, the Robot Runs,” Edwards said. “In the Robot Runs competition, teams must program a robot using coding skills to accomplish a series of missions relating to the theme Superpowered. Robots had to move energy units, battery packs and interact with energy production and consumption models as they completed missions on a robot playing field. Completing these missions earn points and the team whose robot attained the highest score is named the winner.”
The 2022 winners of the local tournament were Team Robush of Yadkin County Schools.
The Judges’ Award this year went to The Franklin Robodogs, a rookie team from Franklin Elementary. The Judges’ Award recognizes the team that impressed the judges during the participant presentation component of the competition. The team showed promise with the robot design, programming, strategy and innovation, teamwork, research, and presentation categories. Although not placing first in any of the individually judged categories, The Franklin Robodogs’ name appeared in the top three in multiple categories.
Team Energetic Engineers of Mount Airy City Schools were named the Overall Champions of the tournament. This event qualifies teams to participate in the state tournament held in January.
Maria Blakeney of Pilot Mountain Middle School was named the recipient of the Mentor Award. This award is given to an individual who has inspired their team to do their best, both as individuals and together. Mentors are nominated by a team member or member of the school community. After all nominations are submitted, judges review the information submitted and choose one winner. Blakeney’s guidance and leadership are evident among her team and she also served as this year’s competition emcee.
The Surry FLL program is supported by local business partners who recognize the value of the Lego FIRST Robotics Program to help students develop career skills as they participate in the program; career skills to prepare them for entering the workforce. To further enhance students’ skill sets, Surry Community College offers the Mechatronics Program. Students studying in the Mechatronics Program are able to be a part of the local pipeline into the STEM workforce.
This year’s sponsors of Surry FLL included Renfro Brands, NCFI Polyurethanes, Insteel Industries Inc., Northern Regional Hospital of Surry County, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital, Surry Economic Development, and SouthData. “We are extremely grateful for their support of the FLL program. The support of these business partners made today possible. It was awesome to see all of these teams exemplifying STEM and demonstrating what they have learned and how much can be accomplished with teamwork” Edwards said.
December 27, 2022
When Mount Airy residents turn on a faucet, they might appreciate the clear, clean liquid that emerges without really considering the facilities and processes making this possible — which is where an important new project comes into play.
It is targeting the Spencer Water Treatment Plant on Orchard Street, one of two such facilities in the city.
The Spencer plant was constructed nearly 100 years ago — in 1924 — and still contains the original interior concrete walls of sedimentation basins installed at that time.
Those walls have been in a state of disrepair for years, according to city Public Works Director Mitch Williams.
He added that this is a concern since sedimentation basins are used to filter particulates from the raw water entering the treatment plant from Lovills Creek nearby.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners responded to that situation by voting earlier this month to award a contract for the rehabilitation of the interior concrete walls at the plant.
Two bids from qualified contractors had been received for the project, with a High Point company, Creative Resurfacing, tapped by the board.
It submitted the lowest proposal, $143,844, which was almost $50,000 less than the other bid received, $193,750 from Triangulation Inc.
In addition to the financial consideration, Creative Resurfacing has “an excellent working relationship with the city,” Williams pointed out in recommending that it get the job, based on past performance with municipal contracts.
The approval by the board includes a total project cost of $150,000 to allow for possible overruns. Funding for it was included in the budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year that began on July 1.
Work at the Spencer plant is to include pressure washing to remove old coatings, abrasive blasting to remove residual coatings and loose material, resurfacing spalled concrete and gaps with epoxy mortar, priming surfaces with epoxy and top coating with Sherwin Williams Duraplate 6000 Epoxy.
All products used in the rehabilitation will be NSF (National Sanitation Foundation)-certified for use in water-treatment facilities, Williams mentioned.
Spencer plant significant
“It is imperative that the city adequately maintains and refurbishes the Spencer Water Treatment Plant because it is used as a backup to the larger Doggett Water Treatment Plant located on Stewarts Creek,” Williams wrote in a memo outlining the need for the rehab.
In elaborating later, he added that the Spencer plant paid dividends in this regard in February through a way the public might not have known about.
“Due to the fuel tank spill at North Surry High School late last winter, we had to totally shut down the Doggett water plant until the fuel cleared from Stewarts Creek,” Williams explained.
“The city had to totally rely on the Spencer plant for about a month until the fuel cleared from Stewarts Creek.”
That facility is in pretty good shape mechanically for its age, according to the public works director, who says maintaining it as a backup plant is “extremely important.”
“However, there are some issues (sediment basin rehab, interior concrete rehab and more) that we would like to address in the next few years to bring the plant back to its original glory, thereby ensuring the plant is a reliable backup for decades to come,” Williams stated in the memo.
“The city of Mount Airy is fortunate to have two operational water plants on two different water sources.”
Both facilities were awarded by the N.C. Division of Water Resources for surpassing federal and state drinking water standards in 2021.
The Spencer Water Treatment Plant also received the same recognition for 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and the Doggett plant for 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Awards are given annually to water systems around the state which demonstrate outstanding turbidity removal, a key test of drinking water quality, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
Turbidity is a measure of the cloudiness or haziness of water caused by individual particles that can interfere with disinfection and provide a medium for microbial growth. Microbes are microscopic particles that occur naturally but possibly include harmful bacteria and viruses.
While all drinking water systems must adhere to strict state and federal standards of quality, the local plants have met performance goals that are significantly more stringent than state and federal standards, officials say.
December 27, 2022
Since 1975 at Scenic Ford in Mount Airy Jimmy Vernon has been a fixture from his days back on the mechanics line to sitting in the big chair as the service department manager. As 2022 draws to a close, so too does his time with Scenic and he will be leaving the oil changes and sounds of air wrenches behind and taking fond memories with him.
To work so long in one industry, or more specifically for one employer, for that amount of time is no longer common. Vernon said the answer to how or why he last so long is easy, “I’ve never come to ‘work;’ I’ve always enjoyed it. I love cars and I love people, so this was the perfect job for me,” Vernon said from his office in the service bay of Scenic Ford the walls behind him filled with photos, memorabilia, and parts catalogs from years gone by.
In 1975 he started on the line and worked his way up from there saying he learned how to rebuild transmissions and differentials, “Before you knew it, I was doing it all.” In 1983 he was tapped as the new service manager and it was the same year, he said, that his most tenured current mechanic started.
“It used to be that you could do it all, you could pretty much fix a car with just a screwdriver,” he said of the changes to the cars over the years. The cars got smarter and lighter as they moved away from the heavy metals and manufacturers started using other materials.
Today some may deride the quality of autos versus the ones of the era before the massive influx of imports and the many changes that arrived with emissions standards, but he said that is not always the case. Most of today’s car are better built and will be on the road for “hundreds of thousands” of miles more than their older counterparts.
“The time was that if a car hit 50 to 60,000 miles that it was going to need a new engine, now? I had a lady in here recently over 300,000 on her first engine,” he said.
It is a good thing the cars are lasting longer because parts for older, and even some middle-aged, vehicles are harder to come by. Vernon said often folks are looking for a late 90’s car or truck thinking it may be easier to find a part and can be surprised when finding they are not the only one who has had that idea. A Ford Ranger sitting on the lot at Scenic right now of that age is patiently waiting while the right belts, hoses, and a filler spout can be tracked down so that it will be road ready once more.
As the technology changes, the human element of auto repair may never be fully replaced. Even though the cars are smarter and have computer chips governing much of their activity, there are things a human can do a machine cannot. Vernon quickly joked that automation and robots can never replace the humans because, “Someone’s gotta’ plug them in.”
Jokes aside, a human’s five sense can all be important when it comes to working on a car that gets entrusted at times with the most precious of cargo. A robotic helper may not be able to feel a vibration, detect the sweet smell of a leak under the hood, or the sounds of an engine idling higher than it should. The split-second decision making that comes with decades of working on autos cannot yet be matched by automation and many mechanics and drivers alike hope it stays that way.
Vernon agrees there is something to be said for tinkering and getting a feel for the car one is working on that a diagnostic readout will never duplicate, and he went on to add that a human is needed even after a diagnostic to pinpoint through isolation and exclusion what a faulty component may be.
He gained that knowledge from the elbow grease academy and earned his stripes when it was still just Scenic Mercury. While the brand names have changed and Scenic sells and services more than they used to, the human touch in repair and with customer never changes as styles come and go.
Same too with employees, Scenic customers should fret not upon his departure as Vernon says the service department is going to be in the knowledgeable hands of Kevin Pratt starting in the new year.
Looking back over his time he wanted thanked the team and ownership of Scenic for the many years and all the support he got from them saying, “You can’t do anything without support… I’d say you find more of that, and I see more of that, at Scenic than probably at the average business.”
Vernon said had it not been for health issues, he would like to have stayed on the job even longer, “I was hoping to work until I am 75, but the good Lord has other plans for me,” but he also noted that he isn’t going anywhere just yet, “People can still call me, if they like.”
December 26, 2022
Willie Wayne France celebrates the Project Timberlake Community Organization’s fifth Yard of the Month belonging to Sue Krepps who will have the sign adorn her yard until the first winner of 2023 is selected. The PTCO was formed to help foster a sense of community pride in their neighborhood and awarded a subscription to The Mount Airy News as a prize for winning.
The Project Timberlake Community Organization recognized James and Clara Carter as having the Yard of the Month. Carter (left) poses with Willie Wayne France of the organization and the yard of the month sign. The group has been working to improve the quality of life for residents of the community through service, outreach, and crime prevention via community watch.
Project Timberlake Community Organization Secretary Betty Brown-France and Treasurer Barbara France place the Yard of the Month sign in an earlier winners yard during what looks like much warmer days.
December 26, 2022
• A Mount Airy man has been arrested on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses, according to city police reports.
William Joseph Spencer, 50, of 2553 Westfield Road, was taken into custody on Dec. 15 at 2038 Rockford St., the address for Advance Auto Parts, by officers during an investigation involving the possession of a stolen vehicle.
He was found to be the subject of an outstanding warrant for the false-pretense charge that had been filed in the city on Aug. 19, with no other details listed.
Spencer was confined in the Surry County Jail under a $5,000 secured bond and is scheduled to appear in District Court on Jan. 9.
• Colby Craig Cassell, 36, of 3886 Pine Ridge Road, Lowgap, was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, a felony, on Dec. 13, after he was encountered by officers at Walgreens on Rockford Street.
Cassell was jailed under a $1,000 secured bond. In conjunction with the same incident, Ashley Luann Goins, 35, of 511 Gillespie Road, Dobson, was charged with possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance (lorazepam), along with possession of drug paraphernalia, and transported to Northern Regional Hospital due to an overdose.
Goins is slated for a Jan. 9 appearance in District Court, with a court date not found for Cassell.
• Adam Kane Westmoreland, 32, of 1227 Bryant Mill Road, Ararat, was incarcerated under an $8,013 secured bond on Dec. 7 for a civil non-support order violation.
Westmoreland was encountered by officers during a traffic stop at Cook Out on Rockford Street and found to be the subject of the outstanding order whose name had been entered as wanted in a national crime database.
December 26, 2022
Surry Community College fall semester art students presented a Fall Art Show and Open House earlier this autumn.
The art show featured work from the current studio classes including 2D design, drawing, painting, ceramics, and digital photography. Attendees were able to tour the studio art classrooms to see additional student art and learn about the Associates in Fine Arts in Visual Arts degree. Art instructor Anna-Olivia Sisk was on hand to answer questions about the visual arts opportunities at Surry Community College and how students can register for future art classes.
The associate in fine arts degree in Visual Arts program at SCC focuses heavily on the visual fine arts and is recommended for those who plan to continue their education at a senior institution. This program prepares transfer students to meet selective admission criteria for acceptance into a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts at a senior college or university.
The course work in this program consists of Universal General Education Transfer Component courses in literature, humanities, social/behavioral sciences, mathematics and natural science. Students in this program are provided an opportunity to concentrate in a major area of fine art study that includes elective choices in drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics and digital photography.
Follow the fine arts program on Instagram @surryfinearts. For more information about the fine arts program, contact Lead Instructor Anna-Olivia Sisk at 336-368-3479 or
Registration is open for spring courses. For questions about college application, financial aid, or class registration, contact Student & Workforce Services at 336-386-3264 or
December 26, 2022
This area was fortunate to avoid the blizzard conditions and subzero temperatures gripping much of America the past few days — but hasn’t escaped the cold and related issues altogether, including a 92-year-old record being broken locally.
That occurred Saturday morning, when a reading of 2 degrees above zero was noted at F.G. Doggett Water Plant in Mount Airy, the city’s official weather-monitoring station.
This not only shattered the previous low-temperature record locally for Dec. 24, a 7-degree day on Christmas Eve of 1930, according to a plant spokesman, but did so decisively as evidenced by the 5-degree margin.
Remember, this took place in early winter, with that season having just got under way last Wednesday.
Weather statistics have been kept in Mount Airy since 1924, and 2022 will go down in history for delivering the “gift” of a memorable Christmas weekend that proved challenging for many.
In addition to frigid conditions that descended Friday — dipping into single digits, gradually rising into the teens and 20s and finally creeping into the low 30s Sunday — high winds and rolling power blackouts were factors during the arctic blast.
Trees downed
Despite the record cold that swept in with little warning, no loss of life attributable to the frigid conditions has occurred in Surry, according to Eric Southern, the county’s director of emergency services, unlike some parts of the nation.
But other difficulties did surface.
”Countywide, I think we had over 200 trees that were down,” Southern said Monday in commenting on a situation caused by gusting winds on Friday. “Emergency services around the county were pretty busy.”
This included fire departments, N.C. Department of Transportation crews and county emergency management personnel. Duke Energy crews also were visible during the crisis, among others.
The cold weather caused rolling blackouts to be implemented Saturday by the two local electrical providers, Duke Energy and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corp., in response to the statewide power grid being threatened by excess demand.
This mirrored a precaution taken throughout much of North Carolina, which involved some customers in Surry being without service for more than 90 minutes.
Southern said Monday that the severity of this situation was lessened by the fact folks among both local utility systems responded by conserving electricity.
Meanwhile, a weekend fire at a residence on Lambert Farm Trail is believed to have started in the attic, with residents getting out safely while facing another problem.
“I think it ended up displacing the family,” Southern said.
Regarding in-city activity, the Mount Airy Fire Department responded to calls during the holiday weekend including one structure fire, one electrical fire, one smoke investigation, two downed trees, three power line incidents and a trio of sprinkler activations caused by frozen lines.
None were thought to be major in nature.
Local area relatively unscathed
All in all, Surry County weathered the arctic blast relatively well, the director of emergency services said, “compared to other places.”
That viewpoint was echoed Monday by Mitch Williams, who deals with climate-related issues within his realms of responsibility as Mount Airy’s public works director.
“Friday, we had a few downed trees,” he said, caused by the severe winds. And there was a water line break about 9 p.m. that day on Dyson Place, a street in the northern part of town which municipal workers addressed.
“They worked constantly until early Saturday morning,” the public works director said.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Williams added in assessing the overall effects in Mount Airy from the weather.
Where water lines are concerned, he was most concerned Monday about problems surfacing later this week as the ground thaws from the freezing temperatures. This relates to how water expands when freezing, exposing lines to stress that can lead to leaking or burst pipes becoming apparent as conditions grow warmer.
“Knock on wood,” Williams said optimistically.
The National Weather Service forecast, as of Monday afternoon, was calling for a warming trend that will bring mercury readings in the 50s Thursday, Friday and Saturday and even the 60s on New Year’s Day next Sunday.
December 26, 2022
Thirteen students recently graduated from Surry Community College’s Practical Nursing Program.
The graduates include Amanda Hutchens of Boonville; Jessica Mabe of Danbury; Sara Scott of Dobson; Brittany Walker of East Bend; John “Luke” Hatcher of Lowgap; Courtney Davis, Shannon Hobson and Dove Mayes of Mount Airy; William “Steven” Duncan of North Wilkesboro; Cassandra Bishop and Hailey Wilson-Felts of Pilot Mountain; Laura Mullins of Pinnacle; and Jessica Foley of Ararat, Virginia.
A pinning ceremony was held to honor the graduates and celebrate their accomplishments on Dec. 14, in the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology on the Dobson campus. The guest speakers at the ceremony were Dan Combs, BSN, RN, and Allison Bedsaul, BSN, RN, of Northern Regional Hospital.
Northern Regional Hospital is a strong partner of the nursing programs at Surry Community College, providing clinical experiences, as well as clinical faculty to support nursing student education. Bedsaul and Combs both serve key roles in nursing education within Northern Regional Hospital. Both speakers congratulated the graduates and encouraged them to find an area of nursing that they loved and to continue learning and growing in nursing. Bedsaul remarked about the graduates being fortunate to live in a community with such a variety of high-quality healthcare opportunities.
Combs also encouraged the students to keep in mind what is important in nursing, encouraging the graduates to find an employer who will support them in their goals and aspirations. He also reminded them of the importance of treating their patients and the patients’ families like they would want to be treated.
The practical nursingcurriculum at Surry Community College prepares individuals with the knowledge and skills to provide nursing care to children and adults. Graduates are eligible to apply to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) which is required for practice as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Employment opportunities include hospitals, rehabilitation, long-term care, home health facilities, clinics and physicians’ offices.
Prospective nursing students can contact Dr. Yvonne Johnson, SCC associate dean of health sciences, at 336-386-3368 or for additional information on Surry Community College’s nursing programs or go to
December 25, 2022
The fifth Annual Surry County Schools GROW Strong 5K bolted through Fisher River Park on recently, with all 11 elementary schools participating in the event with more than 300 students competing.
The 5K race for third, fourth and fifth-grade runners began at 9:30 in the morning. By 11 a.m., all student runners had completed the race with dozens of family members and Surry County School system staff cheering on each team.
GROW is an acronym for Go Run Our World. The initiative encourages enthusiasm for health and wellness, and a love of running. Each team’s coach trains students to run a 5K and teaches perseverance, responsibility, race etiquette, self-motivation, self-pride, and teamwork. Training takes place over ten weeks leading up to the big event.
Surry County Parks & Recreation hosted the event and worked with the organizers to ensure safety for all participants. The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation Managing Director Ashley Mills, along with Rockford Elementary Coach Deanne Fitzgerald, organized the event for Surry County Schools.
“This is a great day. I am so thankful for all of you and for your families that have come out to support you,” Superintendent of Surry County Schools Dr. Travis L. Reeves said before the race.Reeves also commented about how proud he was of each student. “These students have set goals for themselves, and today they are able to reach these goals. I am proud of these students, and I know their coaches and families are proud too.”
Results of the race:
Third grade girls school time
1. Lillian Childress Dobson 28:15.10
2. Yeeimi Arreola Rockford 31:41.36
3. Kalley Cienfuegos Rockford 31:42.96
Fourth grade girls school time
1. Eliza Richardson Dobson 26:18.59
2. Ila Wilmoth Cedar Ridge 26:56.63
3. Bristol Holder Cedar Ridge 27:00.06
Fifth grade girls school time
1. Alleah Ayers Shoals 27:21.15
2. Karina Gonzalez Lugo Rockford 27:41.29
3. Haidyn Horton Dobson 27:46.42
Third grade boys school time
1. Colten Bean Copeland 26:56.69
2. Dilon Nava Copeland 25:58.13
3. Grady Swift Cedar Ridge 26:55.30
Fourth grade boys school time
1. Jose Ivan Baltazar Dobson 23:42.47
2. Silas Hiatt White Plains 24:23.34
3. Roe Johnson White Plains 26:33.89
Fifth grade boys school time
1. Luke Hampton Dobson 22:44.23
2. Leonel Garcia Santchez Dobson 23:07.61
3. Abraham Garcia Santiago Dobson 23:18.04
Dobson Elementary earned the titles of overall fastest boys’ team and fastest girls’ team.
The final recognition was the GROW Strong All Heart award for one male and one female student. Coaches could nominate students for this award based on attitude, participation, courage, and team spirit. Mia Faistl and Daniel Martinez, both from Rockford Elementary, won those awards.
December 25, 2022
The Surry Regional Association of Realtors gathered for its annual Christmas celebration at White Sulphur Springs recently, where several were recognized with awards and the group’s new executive board was installed.
The event featured a dinner catered by 13 Bones, live music from Craig Vaughn, door prizes and fellowship.
During the event, the 2022 Realtor of the Year was awarded to Stephanie Montgomery with Mitchell Prime Properties. The recipient of this award is nominated by fellow association Realtors and chosen by the two prior award recipients — Dana Whitaker and Tonda Phillips.
The 2023 executive board was inducted by the North Carolina Association of Realtor Region 6 Vice President, Paul McGill. The 2023 Executive Board includes President Stephanie Montgomery, President-Elect Maggie Cockerham, Secretary/Treasurer Dana Whitaker, State Director Bobbie Collins, and directors Eric Hodges, Steve Yokeley, and Brandon Johnson.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News


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