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WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe County Republican Party met on Tuesday, Feb. 16 at The Loghouse at Smitheys.

Treasurer Terry Sexton presented the Treasurer’s Report with the current balance of $4,583.41. The Ashe GOP currently has no outstanding checks.

The party’s balance at the last meeting on Nov. 17 was $5,681.54.

During comments from the vice chairman, Tom Breggar shared some findings of his review of data from midterm elections.

“Turnout for midterm elections, from the data I have reviewed so far, is about 60 percent in Ashe County,” Breggar said. “That is not going to work next time around, my goal is to have it be 70 percent plus.”

Next, Chairman Jonathan Jordan invited elected officials to share updates.

Chairman of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners Todd McNeill shared that the county is now advertising for bids for the construction of the new N.C. 163 convenience center. He added that construction is anticipated to begin by April 1 and is projected to be complete within three to four months, weather dependent.

The BOC recently also appropriated some funding for a new inmate transport van for the Ashe County Sheriff’s Department. Their current van is showing some wear and tear after 14 years of operation.

Commissioner Chuck Olive spoke about how construction on the county’s new middle school is set to begin soon and the next step is to decide what is to become of the current site.

He encouraged people to fill out and share Ashe County Parks & Recreation’s recent survey regarding its long-term plan.

“If you want something or your family members want something this is the time to plan for it,” Olive said.

Olive also serves on the board of health and he shared some information about COVID-19 vaccines.

“The health department is doing everything they possibly can to get as many vaccines administered as quickly as they can,” Olive said.

Jordan read comments from elected officials who were unable to attend the meeting.

“My thanks to all who are participating in the meeting this evening, it is certainly my loss I cannot be with you all,” read some of the message from U.S. Congresswoman Virginia Foxx. “But please know I am with you in spirit and am looking forward to being with you all in person sometime very soon. My hope is you all have recovered from the 2020 election season and are excited to jump into the 2022 election cycle.”

She encouraged party members to stay actively involved and also encourage their neighbors to become involved.

Sen. Deanna Ballard wrote that she had just gotten the reopening bill for schools out of the Senate and the conference report was to be received by Governor Roy Cooper on Feb. 17.

Ballard also shared that she is working on literacy and summer learning options, while are two separate Bills to address the learning loss resulting from school closures and remote learning.

She has also been putting forth great effort in securing allocations for COVID-19 vaccines. Ballard stepped in when the state was giving no vaccinations to Ashe County.

“The national average of 65 and older is 16 percent, in North Carolina it is 17 percent, in Ashe County it is 25 percent,” Jordan said.

Both Ballard and Rep. Ray Pickett are unable to travel to Ashe County during session in Raleigh.

Pickett wrote that he wished he could be at the meeting but plans to be at the county convention on March 6 to provide further updates.

He said everything is going well in Raleigh, but since he is new there is a lot to learn.

Pickett said to be added to his email list, those interested can email him at ray.pickett@ncleg.gov. His website can be accessed by visiting www.representativeraypickett.com.

Sheriff B. Phil Howell was unable to be present at the meeting but also sent some messages to be read to party members. On Feb. 12 he had emailed party members the Report on Law Enforcement Professionalism.

Howell was elected to represent 10 counties on a Law Enforcement Professionalism working group for the state this past June.

The working group was comprised of a diverse group of 13 sheriffs from across North Carolina that met a total of six different times and heard presentations from several different subject-matter experts. The goal of the group was to create a report containing specific recommendations on how to improve the law enforcement profession in North Carolina.

Due to his service, Howell was unable to attend previous GOP meetings due to both meetings being on the same day. The final version of the report was in October and the November meeting provided closure for the group.

According to Howell, the report includes recommendations that will allow the law enforcement profession to better educate, train, and retain professional law enforcement officers. These recommendations are intended to ensure that NC agencies can hire and retain professional law enforcement officers who are trained to the highest standards so that all communities in North Carolina can continue to trust and rely on them in times of need. Some of the recommendations will require funding, but many will not.

“It is with great joy that I am able to serve as sheriff,” Howell said in the email. “I enjoy being an advocate for our law enforcement and citizens while protecting Ashe County in the same breath. Thank you all for being such wonderful supporters of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.”

Prior to adjorning, Jordan presented the resolutions for party review, which are to be voted on at the county convention on March 6.

These resolutions include: A Resolution to Rescind all Prior Calls for an Article V Constitutional Convention, Resolution in Support of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: To Stand by Your Oath, A Resolution to Preserve Electoral Integrity, Resolution in Support of Ashe County Sheriff Phil Howell, A Resolution to Support Our Local Police and All Law Enforcement and Keep Them Independent from Federal Agencies, Appreciation for Congresswoman Virginia Foxx, A Resolution to Limit Big Government-Not Terms and Electoral College Resolution.

The only comment was from Breggar, who suggested another resolution be added. He spoke about how Gov. Roy Cooper is wrecking the economy of the state by continuing to extend emergency powers.

His suggestion was to ask legislators to limit Cooper’s emergency powers to mirror more of what the state of Pennsylvania has been doing regarding reopenings and executive orders.

The next meeting of the Ashe GOP will be April 20 and there will be no March regular meeting due to county convention.

The county convention will be held on March 6 at Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Masks will be required and social distancing will be enforced. There will also be an option to participate virtually via Zoom.

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