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Municipal elections forecast new mayors and alderpersons

ASHE COUNTY — Polls closed and all three precincts reported their unofficial results for the 2019 municipal elections held Tuesday, Nov. 5, with the people of Ashe County electing their mayors and alderpersons for the upcoming four years.

In total, 256 Ashe Countians participated in this year’s election, representing a 14.73 percent turnout rate out of the 1,738 registered voters in each precinct.

A breakdown of the unofficial election results are as follows:

Town of West Jefferson

For the town of West Jefferson, a total of 191 voters arrived at the polls to select a mayor and choose between six candidates running for two aldermen seats.

Tom Hartman, running unopposed for the mayoral seat left vacant by Dale Baldwin, received 151 votes; 11 votes were cast for write-in candidates.

“It feels good, I guess it really hasn’t hit me yet,” Hartman said on his new position. Hartman previously served as a member of the Board of Aldermen from 2007-2015.

He said it was an honor to follow in Baldwin’s footsteps as mayor.

“I’ve known him basically all my life,” Hartman said. “There’s not another gentleman in the town that looks after the town better than he does. He’s put his heart into the town.”

Running for alderman were Rusty Barr, Christopher Neaves, Crystal Miller, Laura McPherson, Jeffery Caudill and Grant Price. Of those six, the people of West Jefferson chose Rusty Barr and Crystal Miller to represent the town on its board of aldermen.

Barr, running as an incumbent after being appointed to the position on July 1 after the death of Brett Summey, received 150 votes. Miller, manager of Bohemia and president of the West Jefferson Business Association, received a total of 80 votes.

“I’m very excited about it. I’m looking forward to serving on the board and working for the future of West Jefferson,” Miller said.

Miller’s future in the role as president of the WJBA is undecided for now, due to any potential conflict of interest. She added that she looks forward to putting her own voice into the board, as both a younger member and a woman.

Of the other four candidates for alderman, Price received 67 votes, Neaves received 29, McPherson received 18 and Caudill received 13.

Town of Jefferson

Out of the 41 voters who turned out for the Town of Jefferson’s municipal election, incumbent Mayor Bluferd Eldreth defeated Mike Spencer by two votes, receiving a total of 20. One write-in vote was cast for alderman Charles Caudill, as well as one provisional ballot.

At 84 years old, Eldreth has served the Town of Jefferson for four decades, first being elected to the board of aldermen in 1989.

“I just thank people for voting for me and won’t disappoint them,” Eldreth said.

For the two alderman seats available, incumbent alderpersons Cathy Ballou and Charles Caudill ran unopposed. Ballou received 29 votes, and Caudill received 34.

“I look forward to serving the Town of Jefferson for my next term,” Ballou said.

Caudill has served on the Jefferson Board of Aldermen for 21 years, he said.

“I promise to do my very best for the citizens of Jefferson and try to keep moving forward,” Caudill said.

Town of Lansing

A total of 24 citizens cast their votes in Lansing, with all of them voting for Mack Powers, who ran unopposed.

“I was pleased to hear it,” Powers said. “I’m just pleased with the support that I’ve got, my people have been very encouraging. We’ve got a good, strong board and I’ll be working with them to try and continue the good things going on in Lansing.”

Incumbent Mayor Dylan Lightfoot rescinded his candidacy July 16 citing personal reasons for not seeking re-election.

Elsewhere, incumbent alderpersons Jim Blevins, Tom Richardson and Cheyenne Blevins all kept their seats. Jim Blevins, Tina Greer and Richardson ran for two of the seats, while Cheyenne Blevins ran unopposed to keep her appointed, unexpired seat. Jim Blevins received 17 votes, Greer received 6 and Richardson received 22. Cheyenne Blevins was voted for by all 24 who turned out.

Jim Blevins said he was looking forward to another term on the Board of Aldermen, adding that there was still much to be done

“Well I wanted to do another term,” Blevins said. “There are a lot of big things that I think are going to be happening in Lansing over the next four years and I wanted to serve another term and see some of those projects through.”

Powers and Jim Blevins are first-cousins, with both saying they looked forward to working with each other to continue Lansing’s growth during the next four years.

Winter weather brings snowfall to Ashe County

ASHE COUNTY —Ashe Countians awoke to the sight of snow in the morning hours of Tuesday, Nov. 12, followed up by a day of blistering winter winds as the county remained under a winter weather advisory into Wednesday, Nov. 13.

The advisory was active from 4 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 to 7 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, and said to expect snow accumulation of 1-2 inches, mainly in the higher elevations. Wind gusts of 45-50 mph were expected to bring wind chills to lower than -5 degrees, the advisory stated.

“Plan on slippery road conditions,” the NWS stated. “The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute.”

In Ashe County, two wrecks were reported in the morning hours of Nov. 12, with one vehicle overturning on Radio Hill, and a tractor-trailer sliding off of the roadway on Buffalo Road, according to Ashe County Chief Deputy Danny Houck.

Due to icy road conditions, Ashe County Schools were closed for the day Tuesday, Nov. 12, serving as an optional work day for teachers and extending students’ three-day weekend to four days.

Ashe County Schools’ “State of the Schools” event has been postponed to 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, due to weather, according to ACS Superintendent Phyllis Yates.

Bridgetree files counterclaims against Hotel Tavern owners

JEFFERSON — Bridgetree Investments filed counterclaims in the Ashe County Clerk of Courts office Monday, Nov. 4, presenting claims of breach of contract, civil conspiracy, unjust enrichment, libel and fraud, among others, against the owners of The Hotel Tavern, according to court documents.

The filing came in response to a complaint filed by Guion & Lyle Enterprises, The Hotel Tavern’s owners, on Aug. 29, alleging that Bridgetree Investments, owned by Mark Beck, as well as Jo Ann Woodie, Billie Jo Woodie, Deborah Woodie Ellis, David Ellis, Sharon Woodie and Woodie Investments, the Old Hotel’s former owners, conducted unfair and deceptive trade practices and breached their contract, among other claims, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

The counterclaims filed by Bridgetree present a total of 10 counts against Guion & Lyle Enterprises, as well as Andy and Pam Guion, Sherman and Beth Lyle and Robert Washburn individually as third-party defendants.

The 10 counterclaims include breach of contract, civil conspiracy, trespass, damage to property, unjust enrichment, abuse of process, libel, slander, permissive waste and fraud, according to the filing.

“We are saddened and disappointed by the claims made and look forward to legal resolution,” Guion & Lyle Enterprises said in a statement.

Falling in line with the answers filed by the Woodies one week prior on Tuesday, Oct. 29, Bridgetree claims that the alleged 2018 lease referenced in Guion & Lyle Enterprises’ initial complaint does not exist, as terms for the lease were still under negotiation at the time of the property being sold, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

“Regarding the 2018 lease, the validity of the lease will be decided by the courts,” Guion & Lyle Enterprises.

In the initial complaint filed by Guion & Lyle Enterprises, it claims that a lease was signed in 2018 with the Woodies for another 10-year period, which also included a clause stating that the lease shall transfer to a new owner if the property were to sell.

Andy Guion then received a signature from Jo Ann Woodie on an alleged draft document of that 2018 lease while trying to refinance The Hotel Tavern, according to the initial complaint document. Guion immediately went to the Ashe County Register of Deeds after receiving the signature to attempt to record the lease, but was denied as the document was not notarized, the initial complaint said.

Bridgetree asserts in its counterclaims that Andy Guion and Robert Washburn, CEO and president of LifeStore Bank, conspired together “to concoct a scheme to dupe the widow Mrs. Jo (Ann) Woodie” into signing a draft document of the lease under the pretense that the document would be used in assisting Andy Guion with submitting a loan application at LifeStore Bank, according to the document.

“Despite the Register of Deeds’ refusal to register the fake 2018 lease, (Guion & Lyle Enterprises) still sued Bridgetree and the Woodies on the basis of this same fake lease, attaching a copy of this fraudulently obtained and unregistered document as Exhibit C to the complaint,” Bridgetree stated in its counterclaims.

Washburn provided no comment in response to the allegations.

In addition, Bridgetree and the Woodies both reference in their responses to Guion & Lyle Enterprises’ complaint N.C. General Statute § 47-18, which states that leases of land for greater than three years must be registered in the county of the leased land to be enforceable against creditors or subsequent purchasers for value, and claim that Guion & Lyle Enterprises’ allegations of breach of contract are barred under this statute as the document was never recorded in the register of deeds.

Regarding the claims of libel and slander, Bridgetree states that Guion & Lyle Enterprises caused defamatory and untrue statements to be published on webpages and social media, including The Hotel Tavern’s Facebook page and the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce’s webpage, adding that the statements led to a loss of employees for Beck, according to court documents.

Bridgetree also claims that Guion & Lyle Enterprises spoke defamatory and prejudicial words to members of the Ashe County residential and business community, harming Bridgetree and Beck’s reputation, trade and business within the community.

“When you speak the truth there is no slander,” Guion & Lyle Enterprises said in their statement, adding that the definition of slander includes “false spoken statements damaging to a person’s reputation.”

Among other counts, Bridgetree claims that the owners of The Hotel Tavern damaged the property, being the Old Hotel, by conducting unauthorized renovations, specifically noting two sets of egress stairs, which it said removed important load bearing walls and exit routes.

Bridgetree also alleged that Guion & Lyle Enterprises used false representations to conceal the reasons why they wanted a signed lease, presenting one count of fraud against them with allegations that Bridgetree was further damaged by “being forced” to defend an action “based on this fraudulent document,” referring to the 2018 lease.

“Regarding the claim that Jo Ann Woodie’s signature was fraudulently obtained, we deny the claim,” Guion & Lyle Enterprises said in their statement.

A court date for the case has not yet been decided between the two parties, Andy Guion later said. Guion & Lyle Enterprises will be seeking a motion for order to show cause and motion for contempt from the court on Monday, Nov. 18, in response to Bridgetree’s eviction of second-floor tenants of the Old Hotel due to what Mark Beck said were safety concerns.

Ashe Post & Times will continue to provide updates on this story as they are made available.

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Honoring Heroes: Ashe County salutes its veterans

ASHE COUNTY — Throughout the week leading up to Veterans Day, Ashe County’s active and retired service men and women were honored during a number of events across the county, culminating on the third floor of the Ashe County Courthouse Monday, Nov. 11.

As of 2018, nearly 1,800 veterans call Ashe County home, according to data provided by Veterans Services Office Darryl Vaughn. Of the some 27,000 residents in the county, that makes nearly 7 percent of the total population.

With no shortage of veterans in the area, Ashe County was sure to provide plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its gratitude for those men and women who chose to answer the call of duty in the various U.S. military operations spanning back to World War II, serving both at home or overseas.

“It doesn’t matter if you served in combat or not,” Vaughn said during the ceremony held on Veterans Day at the Ashe County Courthouse. “You wore the uniform, effectively saying to your country, ‘I give you everything I have, up to and including my life, in defense of this country.’”

Dozens of retired and actively serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces attended the ceremony held at the courthouse, as well as members of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard and a number of other community members.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx and N.C. Rep. Ray Russell were invited to the ceremony but were unable to attend, Vaughn said at the start of the ceremony. Dennis Grady, Russell’s campaign chairman, spoke on his behalf.

Following an invocation from Ashe County Commissioner Larry Dix, speakers shared stories of family members who have served and continue to remain as shining examples of what it means to be an American and enjoy the freedom shared by citizens of the United States.

“We can never say thank you enough,” Ballard said. “Just a simple act of gratitude for everything our veterans face and gave up seems like such a small thing, but it does something that American veterans do not hear nearly as often as they should.”

Ballard added that as a sister of a 19-year Navy Aviation Ordnance officer, she takes great pride in the U.S. military, and that the families of those who support veterans are often forgotten about and also deserve to be appreciated.

“We embrace the realities of your sacrifices, and we teach one another to live by your example — full of integrity, full of grit and full of selflessness,” Ballard said.

Grady, speaking on behalf of Russell, shared stories of Russell’s two sons-in-law who both serve, or served, in the U.S. Army.

One of his sons-in-law, Jeff Kennedy, a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, was deployed three times to the Middle East, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, Kennedy works for the National Security Agency near Washington, D.C., Grady said. Russell’s other son-in-law was killed by an I.E.D. while deployed in Iraq, Grady said.

“I tell you our family story to honor our sons-in-law, but also to say their stories are not unique,” Grady read from Russell’s prepared speech. “Millions of brave men and women have done, do and will do the same for their country. Many of you have done the same for your country.”

Veterans who attended the ceremony were treated to desserts and refreshments following the morning’s speakers. Vaughn also reminded those in attended of the services available for veterans through the Ashe County Veterans Services Office, located on the second floor of the Ashe County Courthouse.

A number of other ceremonies were held throughout Ashe County during the week, including a barbecue lunch at the Ashe Shrine Club, breakfast and ceremony at Ashe County High School and ceremonies at Westwood Elementary, Blue Ridge Elementary, Mountain View Elementary and Ashe County Middle schools.

Vaughn noted during the ceremony at the Ashe County Courthouse that seeing all of the young students at Ashe County Schools honoring veterans throughout the week was emotional, adding that it brought a tear to his eye.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn because they really don’t know, at their age right now, what war is all about,” ACS Superintendent Phyllis Yates said during the ceremony. “They really don’t understand the freedoms that they have and experience today are provided by the folks sitting in this room. We owe it all to them.”

Yates added that the ceremonies are intended to teach students about the sacrifices made by veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Boone Family Funeral Home, Ashe Shrine Club honor vets

Logan Parks / Photo by Logan Parks 

Veterans pledge allegiance to the American flag during the ceremony held at Ashe Shrine Club Friday, Nov. 8. 

Following what has become a yearly tradition, Boone Family Funeral Home and the Ashe Shrine Club recognized hundreds of veterans for its sixth annual veterans ceremony Friday, Nov. 8, featuring songs, stories and Smoky Mountain Barbecue.

Before lunch was served, Ashe Shrine Club President John Brown asked those who had received purple hearts to stand and be recognized. Brown also asked veterans of each war and operation spanning back to World War II to stand for recognition.

Brown then presented the story of the Missing Man Table, which was set up during the ceremony to honor fallen, missing or imprisoned soldiers, followed by an invocation from the Rev. Larry Shepherd.

Following the invocation, veterans were provided barbecue, fixings and dessert from Smoky Mountain Barbecue and fellowshipped with one another before more stories and songs were shared.

Sue Reveals then took to the stage for a telling of the backstory behind Francis Scott-Key’s poem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which ultimately became the country’s national anthem. After the story, Reveals performed the tune.

Various door prizes, including tools, gift cards and certificates for free oil changes, were shared during the event.

“This is something we want to do to show our respect to you,” David Boone, owner of Boone Family Funeral, said to those in attendance.

Veterans convene at ACHS for morning of recognition

Logan Parks / Photo by Logan Parks 

Veterans gather in the gym of Ashe County High School for the ceremony held on Friday, Nov. 8, featuring speakers from the ACHS JROTC program and Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell. 

After two days of Veterans Day ceremonies at the county’s elementary schools, retired and actively serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces gathered at Ashe County High School for a morning of recognition Friday, Nov. 8.

The morning included speeches from Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell, Lt. Colonel David Hollis from the ACHS JROTC program and JROTC cadets, as well as a performance from the ACHS band.

“To each veteran who has offered to protect our country, you have my highest respect and gratitude,” Howell said.

Students of ACHS, local elected officials and members of the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office all gathered in the gym to show their recognition for veterans. Throughout Howell’s speech, he paused a number of times for the crowd to say “thank you” to veterans while talking about what it means to be a veteran and the sacrifices they have made and continue to make.

Howell also described what exactly is Veterans Day, saying that the common definition of the holiday fails to include the most important attribute of any veteran: “Self-sacrifice and the willingness to give their life to protect the rights, constitution and the citizens of America,” Howell said.

“Their legacy is interwoven into every community in Ashe County,” Howell said.

The ceremony concluded after a performance from the award-winning ACHS band and remarks from Lt. Colonel Hollis.