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breaking editor's pick featured
Attorney withdraws from Hubbard case: Cites conflict of interest two years into the case

JEFFERSON — The murder case against Jessie R. Hubbard was in court for the 12th time Monday, Sept. 28, in Ashe County Superior Court, however its future is uncertain following attorney Jak Reeves’s motion for withdrawal from defending Hubbard.

Reeves revealed that after more than two years, a conflict of interest had arisen, meaning he had to withdraw as Hubbard’s attorney. While telling this to the Hon. Michael Duncan, who was presiding, Reeves mentioned that the case was supposed to be “disposed of” at the appearance, referencing Assistant District Attorney Lee Bollinger’s comments about a plea deal he made at the Aug. 31 court date.

Duncan ordered Reeves to reveal more information about the withdrawal in a private meeting, which Bollinger recused himself from. After a brief meeting in the judge’s chambers, Duncan granted the motion for withdrawal, but noted he would not actually make it official until a new attorney is appointed. Duncan added that due to the nature of the case, the decision on who to appoint would have to come down from Raleigh.

Duncan noted a hearing he has in Ashe on Friday, Oct. 2, saying a continuance date can be determined then, with expectations that a new attorney would be appointed by then. Reeves said after the decision that it should be “a while” before the next court date, due to the nature and size of the file.

Hubbard, 61, of Crumpler, is charged with the Aug. 19, 2018, murder of Diane Goss and four counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.

At his court date on Feb. 10, Hubbard was deemed capable to stand trial by Judge Eric Morgan. That came nearly eight months after he was initially deemed incapable to stand trial by doctors from Central Regional Hospital, a state-run psychiatric hospital in Butner.

Less than a month after it was revealed he was deemed incapable, it was revealed Sept. 23, 2019, that Hubbard had been taken from the Ashe County Detention Center to Raleigh for safekeeping, which is done to prisoners as a way to keep either them or those around them from harm, authorities said. Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell said at the time the transport was related to the medications Hubbard was taking.

According to the medical examiner’s report, written by Ashe County medical examiner Stephen Adams and released in March, 2019, Goss died due to blunt force trauma to the back of her head. Adams listed the butt stock of a shotgun found on the scene as the murder weapon.

The murder took place in Hubbard’s apartment on Nathans Creek School Road in Crumpler. According to then-Ashe County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy J.E. “Bucky” Absher, Hubbard was the one who called 911, regarding a break-in at his apartment.

The shotgun at the scene has been identified through a warrant for one of Hubbard’s possession of a firearm by a felon charges.

No activity in the case was made at the legal level until Hubbard was indicted by a grand jury and the case was moved to the superior court level in November 2018.

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

editor's pick featured
Walking for life in West Jefferson

WEST JEFFERSON — The Ashe Pregnancy Care Center held its 25th annual Walk For Life Saturday, Sept. 26, at Backstreet Park in West Jefferson.

According to APCC Executive Director Sherry Edwards, the event raises awareness for the services provided by the center while raising money for it at the same time.

Before the walk began, Edwards addressed the crowd, thanking them for coming and giving some insight into the APCC.

“I would first like to thank you for your prayers and support for the life of the unborn and the work of the pregnancy center,” Edwards said. “Since I came on-board as the director in May, we have had over 50 client visits and those are expectant mothers, mothers with infants and toddlers and in many cases the fathers as well. We are a friend and a mentor to our clients.”

While the 2019 edition saw the largest crowd ever for the event, this year’s attendance dipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Edwards said that was expected, but turnout was still good and she was happy with the support.

Part of the support were local government officials and candidates, including Ashe County Commissioners Todd McNeill and William Sands and candidate Jonathan Jordan.

The walk, which is less than one mile, is a loop around West Jefferson Park. Walkers had an escort from the West Jefferson Police Department, who kept the roads clear, and at the halfway point was a stand with hydration for participants.

After the walk, a door prize drawing was held full of gifts from local businesses such as Bojangles and Pretty-n-Pearls.

According to the APCC’s website, the center works to support people in their preparedness for pregnancy, education about pregnancy as well as a variety of counseling and support options. For more information, visit www.ashelife.org.

Candidates for Ashe County Board of Commissioners answer questions ahead of election

Jonathan Jordan

Jonathan Jordan

ASHE COUNTY — Six candidates are running for three open seats on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners — one incumbent and five challengers. Election Day takes place Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The Ashe Post & Times asked each Ashe County Commissioner candidate to provide a short bio along with responses to a series of questions for publication.

Up for election are the following six candidates: Republican Jonathan Jordan, Republican Jerry D. Powers, incumbent Republican William Sands, Democrat James D. Cain Jr., Democrat Beth Sorrell and Democrat Russell M. Killen.

The Ashe Post & Times fielded eight questions to each of the commissioner candidates via email, whose responses are as follows:

Tell us a little about yourself.

Jonathan Jordan: My name is Jonathan Jordan. I have had a small law office here in Ashe County for many years. I may have helped you or your family purchase or sell a house or property. I may have helped you or your family draw up your wills or business contracts. I may have helped you, or friends or family, in a sticky court situation.

I served eight years in Raleigh representing our area in the State House, where I was a strong advocate for all our citizens. I served as chairman or co-chairman of numerous committees while in the State House and still have a strong relationship with my former colleagues in state government, who continue to remain in the majority at the legislature.

I currently serve on the board of the Ashe County Home Builders Association. I previously served on the boards of directors of the Ashe County Free Medical Clinic, the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, and the Ashe County Pregnancy Care Center. My office is located in Jefferson, just around the corner from the courthouse. My children have for many years attended Ashe County Public Schools. I am invested in our community and am prepared to go to work again for all our Ashe County citizens.

I am applying for the job of Ashe County commissioner based on my record of service and achievement to the citizens of our great county. If elected by the Ashe County voters, I plan to continue my record of “Promises Made, Promises Kept,” in local government as I did in the State House.

Jerry D. Powers: I was born in Ashe County, lived as a child in the Lansing/Helton area, graduated Northwest Ashe High School and have lived here more than 97 percent of my life.

William Sands: I grew up in nearby Surry County, purchased property in Ashe 37 years ago and have lived here over 26 years. I obtained a BS degree in Business Management from the University of Alabama and retired as Manager of Energy Control with Duke Power Company. I am a member of Bald Mountain Baptist Church.

Jim Cain: I was born on July 4, 1946, in Oakland, Calif., and grew up in and graduated from High School in Medford, Oregon. I am a proud enrolled member of the White Earth Band or Mississippi Band, Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, (Ojibway) Indians. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science from the University of the State of NewYork, Albany, September, 1980. I have a Master of Science Degree in International Relations from Troy State University, European Campus, Kaiserslautern, Germany, August 1982. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History, cum Laude, from University College, University of Maryland, European Campus, Kaiserslautern, Germany: September, 1982. I served as Adjunct Professor, History of the War in Vietnam for University College, University of Maryland, European Campus, 1982-1987 MS Equivalent in National Strategic Policy from the National War College, Fort McNair, DC. I am a graduate of the Leadership for a Democratic Society Course at the Federal Executive Institute, Charlottesville, Va.

I was an active duty Army Intelligence Officer from February 1967 until August 1973. During this time I spent two years in Vietnam (1968-1969 and 1972-1973), two years with Chung Kai Shek in Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China and six months in Thailand. I then spent the next 14 years as a Department of the Army Civilian Intelligence Specialist handling Human Intelligence operations as a member of a highly classified intelligence program buried in the bowels of the Army, designed for continuity of human Intelligence operations overseas. During that time I spent two more years in Vietnam (1973-1975), two more years in Bangkok, Thailand, a year in German language school and then 10 consecutive years in Germany. In 1987, I returned to the U.S., was assigned to the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, was promoted to GS-15 (The Senior grade for government Civilian employees) and became the Director of the Army’s Plans, Programs, and Low Intensity Conflict Divisions. In 1991, after graduation from The Federal Executive Institute, I was appointed to the senior executive Service (The top 2000 government civilians, all reporting to political appointees, normally Department heads). I subsequently left the Department of the Army and became the Director of Management and Administration for the Bureau of Indian Affairs: Department of the Interior a job much like a County Commissioner but for members of the 623 Federally recognized tribes of American Indians and Alaska Natives in America. In September 1997, I retired from government service after 33 years.

From 1997-2007, I worked for Computer Sciences Corporation when it was one of the “Big Three” computer corporations in America. First I worked as a senior consultant in their Federal Consulting Center, doing Business Process Reengineering for a variety of Defense Department agencies and then I was asked to become the New Business Developed for the Department of Interior and Agriculture, managing approximately $480 million a year. I left CSC to pursue Small Business Development and have owned several businesses one of which I still own today. I am a Mazter Mason and a member of a variety of veteran organizations to include the Military Officers of America and Vietnam Veterans of America.

Beth Sorrell: I grew up in Asheville, went to Appalachian State, discovered my love of working and volunteering in the community, so I joined the Peace Corps. I spent three years in East Africa and saw the importance of good public health and community-based solutions. I came home and earned an MA in Public Health Education. In 2000, I moved to Ashe County and fell in love with the people and the place.

Russell Killen: I am 59 years old and have been married to Diane Roland Killen for 35 years and we have two daughters and two grandkids. We attend Jefferson United Methodist Church. I have worked public jobs from self-employment to retail and held management positions since I was 15 years old. I have been a North Carolina licensed auctioneer since 1987 and the owner and President of Mountain Auction Company Inc. I graduated from Ashe Central High School in 1979 and Mendenhall School of Auctioneering in 1987. Some of my community involvement is that I am a member and Past Master of Ashe Lodge #594, 32 Degree Scottish Rite Mason in which I am a lifetime member, a member of The Oasis Temple and Past President of the Ashe Shrine Club and a member of Jefferson Lodge No 38 of the Odd Fellows. As many of the residents of Ashe know, I have assisted through my auctions free of charge to help many people in need because of health and or accident situations in which I have done with pride and no regrets.

Why do you want to be an Ashe County

Commissioner? What qualifications make you a good choice?Jonathan Jordan: I am asking for your support to become an Ashe County Commissioner because I want to continue to help and give back to our community in any way I can. I was honored to represent our county in Raleigh for 8 years in the state House of Representatives. I still have strong contacts in Raleigh, which is an important way I can call in help or resources when we need them. While traveling back and forth from our capital, I earned a strong conservative record for my support of the ideals articulated in the U.S. Constitution: limited and transparent government, individual rights, personal responsibility and a healthy culture. I am glad to present this record as my credentials for why I want your support to serve on the team of county commissioners who direct our local government. You don’t have to guess; you know from my record that when I promise something, I keep that promise.

Jerry Powers: Most of my life’s usefulness has been spent as a farmer, growing conifer transplants, strawberry transplants and vegetables, which my wife is quite good at selling(if I leave her alone). I served as a county commissioner here 26 to 30 years ago and as my life is hopefully going to slow down some, I think with experience as a past commissioner and my knowledge of the unique characteristics of Ashe County, I can still be of service to my county.

William Sands: I have been commissioner for 10 years and served two years as Chairman. My education, experience in management and as commissioner supplies me with knowledge in operating county government. I have always been involved in community affairs as a volunteer; starting as a firefighter in college, then rescue squads, civic organizations and have spent over 20 years volunteering with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office (most of those years as a full-time detective). I know our county, our people and their needs.

Jim Cain: For the 20 years that I have lived full-time in the county I have seen the same group of problems which never seem to disappear or be solved. These are:

1. Unemployment, underemployment, and a lack of technical jobs in the county.

2. Uneven distribution of healthcare to County residents

3. A higher than average number of residents living below the poverty level.

4. Lack of broadband support and cell phone coverage throughout the entire county.

5. Continued problems with drug and alcohol abuse in portions of Ashe County.

Realizing some of our problems are shared to a varying degree by the other rural areas of the U.S., not being able to eradicate all or a significant portion of these problems in 20 years or more seems indicative of the need to try some different approaches.

For most of my adult life I have been in Senior Management; Senior Leadership, and Special Management positions. I have gained a reputation as a person who asks a lot of questions in an effort to solve problems and I am a business Process Reengineer and a Change Manager.

While I have heard many people in Ashe County talk of their desire not to have to change, the fact of the matter is that change is inevitable. Failure to change puts us farther behind.

Many Ashe problems that I described are the same that I faced across the Continental U.S. and Alaska. Let me help you make improvements in Ashe County. I have the tested training, skills and experience to do exactly that.

Beth Sorrell: After working and volunteering in many places and differing capacities I’ve learned how to work with people from all walks of life and more importantly, how to listen. I’ve seen the spectrum of how people live here, from broken-down trailers to million-dollar “cabins” and I believe I have some perspectives that others may not have. I’m driven to find solutions and solve problems so that everyone can have a better quality of life here.

Russell Killen: I would like to be one of Ashe County’s commissioners as to have a voice in what is happening within the county. I feel we need some common sense in this office. I am not running with a political agenda. I am running to hopefully be an asset in helping with the decisions involving the citizens of Ashe County as a whole, not just a few. I feel that my dealing with the public for over 40 years and being a lifelong resident of the county helps me to qualify for this position.

What are some issues facing Ashe County that the Board of Commissioners can address?Jonathan Jordan: I want us to be ready to deal with the changes coming our way from the widening of Highway 221. We want to protect our community, and keep us safe, while at the same time welcoming the economic prosperity that will come with increased visitation and folks moving here. We can’t satisfy ourselves with just reacting to things.

I want to work with our fine sheriff to keep our citizens safe. We may need to increase resources to law enforcement. I appreciate his leadership.

I want to work with our school board to insure a strong budget, but also help make sure we spend money on the right things. My children have gone to school here in Ashe for many years — it means a lot me.

Also, I support bringing more jobs to our area, but we have to have the citizens to fill those jobs, who have the skills and experience that can be accomplished through workforce training programs with our community college. And those citizens need places to live — and housing is a big issue here.

These are just some of the issues I’d like to address.

Jerry Powers: With opportunity comes responsibilities, education, police protection, regulation that fosters a better community while not putting undue restrictions on those who are trying to build a better Ashe County.

William Sands: The main issue we face at this time is COVID-19 and its results. Businesses are hurting due to being closed or operating on a part-time basis. Many citizens are unemployed. Our schools, hospital and all businesses must work toward returning back to normal. Our county government should continue in making every effort to see this happen. We are in the process of building a new middle school and expanding Wilkes Community College. We must continue to be progressive while providing services to our citizens without increasing taxes.

Jim Cain: Unemployment, underemployment and the lack of enough technical businesses and technical jobs in the county. Ensuring access to education and training, which will lead to good paying jobs. Better health care for significant portions of county residents and providing help for individuals with drug and alcohol dependencies. The substandard or lack of affordable housing across the age and income spectrums. The lack of broadband and cell phone coverage in significant portions of Ashe. The continuing need to develop more small businesses and entrepreneurs in Ashe County. Continued development of Ashe County as a year-round tourist destination with the businesses and jobs tourism brings.The effects of ongoing climate change to our agricultural business in the County and planning for “The New Normal” if and when COVID-19 settles down a little.

Beth Sorrell: Affordable housing is a huge and growing issue here. Through my work with Ashe County Habitat for Humanity, I’ve witnessed the great need for safer, affordable housing and the challenges that come with providing that, but I know that we can do better. The need for good-paying jobs is also a priority. I have ideas for how to work with our community college and companies to prepare our workforce for 21st century work. I believe that our biggest potential is in our outdoor economy. We can create jobs and generate revenue while creating recreational opportunities that will draw people here for the beauty and make everyone healthier.

Russell Killen: We here in the county have homelessness and also need more affordable housing, along with making sure that all citizens have access to food.

What would you say your role would be as a member of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners? In your view, what is the board’s role as a whole?Jonathan Jordan: Ashe County commissioners are our elected board of directors for our county government. They make policy decisions that affect our community and direct the expenditure of public taxpayer funds. The board of county commissioners directs these matters to bring a fair and prosperous environment where all our citizens who work and apply themselves can succeed, and contribute to our overall economy. And of course, part of that job is to provide things our citizens cannot do for themselves, such as roads and law enforcement, among others.

Jerry Powers: I would hope to be a voice of reason, as I hope I was perceived in my prior term, with no interest in dictating Ashe County’s future.

William Sands: My role will be to provide our people with needed services, while operating county government as economically as possible. We have dedicated, experienced employees and also volunteers who provide over 1,000 hours in serving our county each day. We should work in keeping morale high. Our role as a board, should be to work together in solving issues and improving the quality of life for our citizens, without increasing taxes.

Jim Cain: As I have done for quite a few years, I would lead or actively participate in discussions, planning opportunities and areas such as Change Management. I would also uses high technology to improve business processes and other areas where I have quite a bit of experience and could contribute.

Accordingly, I would always be a willing team member, following the lead of other commissioners as long as progress of our actions and efforts are helping improve the life of Ashe County residents.

Following the example of other county governments, I would see an Organizational Vision as follows:

• Ashe County will be the best local government service provider in the mountain counties of North Carolina.

•We will maintain a local government that is effective, efficient, responsible and accountable. We will actively seek to establish partnerships between government, private sector, nonprofit organizations and the faith community to bring together people from diverse backgrounds to ensure our county is resilient and able to address and solve the problems of various communities in our county. We will through land use planning, strategic capital investments and change management plans ensure a good and improving quality of life in our communities.

Beth Sorrell: The BOC does more than just decide how to spend the county’s money, however this is the most important job and it is crucial to have community input on how our tax dollars are used. They should listen to the people and work hard to create a better place for everyone to make a living and reach their fullest potential. I will be a voice for the hardworking, struggling and disenfranchised people while also working to protect our natural environment. I also believe we need a Strategic Plan and I will work with all the stakeholders to create that plan.

Russell Killen: My role, as any of the commissioners should be, is to serve the citizens of Ashe County as a whole and not for my benefit. The commissioners’ role is to see that the county runs smoothly and to help bring and keep industry and businesses in the county. We are a tourist destination and we need to help make the citizens of Ashe proud of the place in which we live.

If elected, what are you hoping the Ashe County Board of Commissioners will achieve by the end of your term?Jonathan Jordan: Should I be elected to serve on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, it would be my hope to end that term as a good steward with the county continuing to remain on a sound financial footing, with strong financial reserves, a low tax rate for our citizens, and continued economic opportunity and progress. I would hope to strengthen our relationship with state government and continue to obtain our fair share of state tax revenues.

Jerry Powers: Allowing those who have ideas and personal funding to enhance our county, while assuring that citizens are not adversely affected by such activity.

William Sands: My hope will be to get our businesses going again, more jobs, less unemployment, schools operating as in the past, and the completion of our Middle School and the Wilkes Community expansion. I want very much to meet the needs of our people.

Jim Cain: Starting with the 40-plus acres recently purchased by the Ashe County Government upon which to start a new Industrial Park, I would like to see built and developed a High Technology Teaching and Service Center with several key businesses tied into ASU, Wilkes Community College, Ashe High School and supported by one or more large contractors like Lowes and Vannoy Construction, where we could truly start training of our local working population in technical, 21st Century skills with higher wages and more job opportunities. Development in a wide variety of technologies across abroad spectrum of industries would be the goal.

With climate change here now, we need to do a county or regional agricultural assessment to better prepare our farmers to continue our largest income producer for the county. Changes often mean opportunities.

Beth Sorrell: My personal vision is to grow the outdoor economy by partnering with other organizations and investing in more outdoor recreation like greenways, bike paths, public access points on the New River and a public swimming pool. Look at the amazing greenway systems in Wilkes and Watauga Counties. Not only do these assets contribute to the quality of life in the county, they lead to healthier people and reduced chronic health problems. I would also like to see more opportunities for youth, including after-school and summer parks programming that they will want to participate in and make them proud to be part of this community.

Russell Killen: As stated, I am not running with an agenda. I just hope that at the end of my term I can proudly say I served the citizens of Ashe County to the best of my ability and go to sleep at night knowing I did my best.

What is your philosophy regarding making decisions for the county using taxpayer money?Jonathan Jordan: It’s not my money; it belongs to the hard-working citizens who paid it in taxes. It should therefore be used for things beneficial to the public at large, or for things that individuals cannot do for themselves (roads, other infrastructure, economic development programs to improve our overall economy, etc.) or to help those who are truly deserving.

Jerry Powers: All monies used in government have only recently been some taxpayers’ money, some donated to a good cause and most taken without the blessing of the contributor.

William Sands: As commissioner, in spending the taxpayers’ money, I have always tried to make wise decisions and justify spending with information I have at that time. I look ahead at what the results of the spending may be. I also do this with my personal spending.

Jim Cain: I am a trained, certified and experienced manager of taxpayer and federal government money and have planned and executed those expenditures wisely and for their intended purposes for more than 30 years. Whether it was intelligence operations in some far flung part of the world, analysis of the five core infrastructural areas of the Egyptian government for the U.S. Embassy: Cairo, or building the River Flood Forecasting System in Central America for NOAA. The planning execution and follow up were always the same, ensuring valid expenditures to reliable vendors, proper receipting and total visibility. Taxpayer funding in local communities is also personal for me since it is my money too that is being expended. When I manage other people’s money there is no such thing as fraud, waste or abuse.

Beth Sorrell: Again, we have to listen to the people which means we need to find better ways to engage the community in that decision-making. We also need to consider the long-term impact and try to make informed decisions that will improve the quality of life for more people. I will try to understand all sides of the issue and learn as much as possible to make a decision that is best for the future of Ashe County.

Russell Killen: We as commissioners should look at using taxpayers’ money as if it was our own and make common sense decisions based on what the needs of the county and its offices are.

The job of a county commissioner can be thankless work — how do you feel about keeping a level head, handling dissenting views and managing/ resolving conflict?Jonathan Jordan: Well, in matter of fact, that is exactly what I spent eight years doing in Raleigh. Not to mention years as an attorney and counselor at law, working to resolve various disputes, complete real estate closings, handle family estate matters, and represent accused persons as a court-appointed lawyer. It’s become a normal part of my life and I’m ready to put that practice to use as a county commissioner.

Jerry Powers: Popularity should never get in the way of doing what is right. To borrow a good friend’s phrase, “right is never wrong and wrong is never right.” We must be able to live with our decisions, regardless of what others want us to do.

William Sands: I keep a level head, handle dissenting views and manage/resolve conflict very well. I have learned and experienced this from management training, managing people, 20 years working with Ashe County Sheriff’s Office as a detective and 10 years as county commissioner.

Jim Cain: I don’t like to brag but while I worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I was, as one of my duties, the Chief Financial Officer for the BIA, managing all aspects of Finance for a $3.5 Billion a year budget for 623 tribes with requirements decided at seven regional budget meetings a year. Groups of yelling Indians, all from different tribes speaking their own native languages at one time is truly a case of dissenting views. Having survived 49 of those meetings makes me believe I won’t have many problems to face. Additionally, the government spent hundreds of hours ensuring we senior managers and Directors were able to stay in control and manage conflict.

Our goal as commissioners should be a common one: do whatever is necessary to help improve life in Ashe County for each and every citizen.

Beth Sorrell: I will strive to listen to all perspectives and dissenting viewpoints and work with everyone to find common ground or a healthy compromise, when necessary.

Russell Killen: There is usually going to be conflict on decisions that are being made and you are never going to make everyone happy. As long as you make the best decisions and you can go to sleep at night feeling you did your best for the county, that is all that can be expected from anyone.

With the U.S. 221 expansion project nearing completion, more money is expected to come into Ashe via tourism and natural growth. Where do you think that money should go?Jonathan Jordan: The first thing to keep in mind is how much of our citizens’ money we can return to them while making sure we responsibly fund local government. We are required to keep a certain savings level by state law, which my experience in Raleigh demonstrated to be a wise policy choice. While there, we built up several good-sized rainy day funds that have been critical in this pandemic.

Once we have provided for law enforcement and courts, waste disposal, good roads and infrastructure, appropriate health and human services for our most vulnerable populations (especially our elderly and children), and some other public services (don’t hold me to this as an exclusive list), and kept a prudent savings on hand, then we can review other programs that benefit our area and economy as a whole. And I don’t have all the answers, so we should always seek input from others to come up with good ideas to consider.

Jerry Powers: All monies that come into Ashe County’s coffers should be used to provide essential services and to reduce the tax burden on our citizens.

William Sands: I believe that money coming into the county from tourism should be used in assisting small businesses and to make improvements and/or create the things that draw tourist and their money.

Jim Cain: I would love to see Ashe County become a tourist destination of choice and not just the place to come buy a Christmas tree each year. I think to do that we need more hotel space. Possibly some more family style restaurants, and obviously some additional tourist happenings whatever that might be. Having lived outside the U.S. for 20 years I obviously have some ideas and will be happy to add them at the right time. For natural growth and a base problem for the county is affordable Housing. While everything increases in price through inflation Housing prices and availability needs some additional study and help.

Beth Sorrell: I think this will bring great opportunities and also challenges. We have to balance the growth with good land-use policies that will protect the beautiful natural resources we love, including the fragile mountaintop environments and the New River. I will work toward making Ashe County a greener, healthier place to live for everyone.

Russell Killen: First of all, we need to have some kind of study as to what impact 221 is going to have to the county. Extra money should be used to attract other businesses into the county along with assisting the law enforcement, schools and waste management etc. More people always involves needing all of the above.

While planning the budget for the 2020-21 Fiscal Year, the current county commissioners and the county had to take a conservative, cautious approach due to the financial strain of COVID-19. If elected, what actions will you take or would like to see being taken to help the county rebound from the effects of the pandemic?Jonathan Jordan: The Ashe County Board of Commissioners should always take a conservative, cautious approach to budgeting. I don’t consider it a county responsibility to try a lot of different pilot programs; that is more the job of state government. County government needs to get the basic job done for its local citizens with the most efficient use of resources provided by its citizens. Occasionally the county can take on projects funded by the state, if the county can commit to funding those programs in the future when state (and possibly federal) funds will inevitably dry up. We should fight against unfunded mandates whenever possible.

I do think it would be wise to investigate some economic development projects that promise to promote the general welfare, if we have additional discretionary funds to do so. We should continue to invest wisely in our local educational system, prioritizing programs that directly help our students learn and succeed in the classroom. We should also continue to invest in our local healthcare, as I believe one critical service and need our rural area has is to keep a local healthcare provider.

Jerry Powers: It is yet to be determined how the 2020 pandemic will affect next year’s budget, a cost not of our own making but dictated by state and federal mandates. We have been obligated to a debt that we can not yet measure. It must be dealt with much more conservatively that how it was thrust upon us.

William Sands: I was part of the Board of Commissioners that planned the 2020-21 budget. We understood then and are still aware of the unknown future with COVID-19. So far, our county if doing well financially — federal and state money have assisted us in dealing with COVID-19 and our county tax revenue has increased at a faster rate than previous years. But we should continue to be very wise and careful with our spending. There is still much uncertainty in our future.

Jim Cain: As a longtime planner, one thing I would think we need to do is a total analysis, to the maximum extent possible to see how the county has done during the pandemic, in a variety of functional areas. Usually referred to by the military as an “After Action” report, we would then compare it to the “presumptions” the commissioners made as they planned this years County Budget.There appears to be a lot of uncertainty as we go forward and there is some speculation that COVID-19 may be with us for a long time.

Personally, I would begin a Change Management Plan because whatever the new normal is or will be, change is inevitable and with analysis of those plans the commissioners should get a good idea of how and in what areas they need to or can help the county rebound.

Beth Sorrell: This pandemic has put a spotlight on the wide range of struggles that too many people in Ashe County have been living with for too long. Food insecurity, lack of decent, affordable housing, lack of healthcare and the struggle to make ends meet is far too common. It’s true that some people don’t make responsible decisions and save for tough times, but I believe that most people are working hard to support their families and still not able to pay the bills and provide a healthy, stress-free home for their families. Now is the time to find ways to help those people who are struggling. We can start by giving tax relief to people impacted by the pandemic, as well as public servants, like teachers, law enforcement and firefighters. I believe the county is in a good financial position and it will only improve in the coming years as people are drawn to the friendly, healthy, laid-back lifestyle that we enjoy.

Russell Killen: With the COVID-19 pandemic we as a community have seem to adjust to our new norm. I don’t believe we will see normal as we knew it before. Businesses have had to adjust and some have had to shut down. I have been fortunate to manage to grow my business through all this and also hire more people to work. I am very grateful for this. We as commissioners need to be willing to try and help any way we can to help the citizens of Ashe County to adjust and succeed.

breaking editor's pick developing featured
Appalachian State student dies with COVID-19

WINSTON-SALEM — An Appalachian State student has died with COVID-19, the university has confirmed.

Chad Dorrill, a 19-year-old sophomore exercise science major, died Monday night, Sept. 28, at Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, according to a friend.

Chancellor Sheri Everts confirmed the death of Dorrill in an email to campus Tuesday afternoon.

“It is with the deepest sadness that I share with you that one of our students, Chad Dorrill, has died,” Everts wrote. “The hearts of the entire Appalachian community are with Chad’s family and loved ones during this profoundly difficult and painful time. Tributes shared by friends and loved ones show the positive impact Chad had on the communities he loved and called home, which included App State and Boone.”

Everts shared that Dorrill lived off campus and all of his classes were online.

In the email, Everts said the family shared that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month and suffered from later complications.

“When he began feeling unwell earlier this month, his mother encouraged him to come home, quarantine, and be tested for COVID-19,” Everts wrote. “After testing positive for COVID-19 in his home county, he followed isolation procedures and was cleared by his doctor to return to Boone.”

After his return to Boone, Everts wrote that he had additional complications and was picked up by his family and hospitalized.

“His family’s wishes are for the university to share a common call to action so our entire campus community recognizes the importance of following COVID-19 safety protocols and guidelines,” Everts wrote.

A Kernersville-based travel basketball team, the Piedmont Pacers, posted a statement on Facebook Monday, Sept. 28, about Dorrill’s death. Dorrill was a former player for the team.

“The Piedmont Pacers family is devastated to learn of the passing of Chad Dorrill, due to complications from COVID-19,” the post stated. “This awful disease has taken this young man from everyone far too soon.”

The post from the Piedmont Pacers included a statement attributed to Dorrill’s mother.

“As our family suffers this incredible loss, we want to remind people to wear a mask and quarantine if you test positive even without symptoms,” Susan Dorrill said. “You have no idea who you can come into contact with that the virus affects differently.”

Susan Dorrill said her son was “incredibly tired” for two weeks.

“Little did we know it was secretly attacking his body in a way they have never seen before,” Susan Dorrill was quoted as saying. “The doctors said that Chad is the rarest 1-10,000,000 case, but if it can happen to a super healthy 19-year-old boy who doesn’t smoke, vape or do drugs, it can happen to anyone.”

Chad Dorrill and his family moved to North Carolina from Wisconsin in 2013, according to the Piedmont Pacers’ statement. Dorrill attended Ledford Senior High School in Thomasville and played on the Panthers’ varsity basketball team, according to high school sports reports.

Sydney Bell, a sophomore communications major at Appalachian, first became friends with Dorrill in the seventh grade.

“He’s the most selfless, most kind person you’ll ever meet,” Bell said. “He goes out of his way to please everyone and make sure that everyone’s happy no matter what happens to him.”

Every time they would hang out, Dorrill and Bell would eat breadsticks.

“We would always eat breadsticks together, and he knew that was our favorite snack,” Bell said. “Every time we would hang out, he would buy them ahead of time for me because he knew I would probably ask him to eat breadsticks.”

Bell was able to visit Dorrill while he was in the hospital. She said Dorrill went back home on Sept. 22.

“I know he would have wanted me to be there whether he looked like that or not,” Bell said. “I know he would have wanted to see me. And that’s what his mom told me.”

Dorrill took Bell to prom two years in a row. One of the years he did a “promposal” to Bell by hiding in her room and filling it with balloons with a sign that read “it would be poppin if you went to prom with me.”

“It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” Bell said. “He just went all out for me to make me happy.”

Emily Lipe, superintendent of Davidson County Schools, also issued a statement about Dorrill’s death.

“Chad Dorrill was a loved and well-respected member of the Ledford community and the Class of 2019,” Lipe said. “He was an all-conference basketball player during his years at LHS, who was both competitive and kind. He was enrolled at Appalachian State University in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. Our deepest and most heartfelt sympathy is extended to Chad’s family, friends and the entire Ledford community.”

“His quiet, soft-spoken demeanor belied a fierce competitor on the basketball court whose relentless hustle and shooting prowess helped win many games for the Pacers,” the Piedmont Pacers stated on Facebook. “Chad finished as the Pacers’ all-time leading scorer and was a member of the 2018 USSSA National Championship team.”

Kaylie Stadler, a sophomore at App State, first met Dorrill her freshman year at Ledford High School. She said he was one of the kindest people she has ever met.

“I’ll always strive to be more like him,” Stadler said. “He was caring, hard working and genuine.”

One of the fond memories Stadler has of Dorrill is when she adopted a kitten.

“Chad showed up at my apartment with a bag of toys for her,” Stadler said. “He was just that kind of person. He gave without expecting anything in return.”

AppHealthCare currently reports nine deaths due to COVID-19 in Watauga County — including seven associated with a cluster at Glenbridge nursing facility — and 216 active COVID-19 cases. App State reports 159 students who are active COVID-19 cases.

Bell said she wants younger people to take COVID-19 more seriously.

“He was perfectly healthy,” Bell said. “So just to know that this could happen to anybody whether you have underlying conditions or not, he was completely fine. And it just ended up him being the one in a million that it happened to.”

Anna Oakes contributed reporting to this article.