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Jefferson sees new faces as town prepares for new manager

JEFFERSON — As new adjustments come to the town of Jefferson, positions are being filled and others are being sought after following the retirement of town manager Cathy Howell and finance officer Anna Brooks.

The recent news that Howell and Brooks would be retiring hit hard for the town, according to Mayor Bluferd Eldreth. They have begun the search for new assets to take the place of the two employees, but have found troubles as their previous work is irreplaceable.

“It’s a big blow to the town,” said Mayor Eldreth. “Cathy and Anna have done a great job. They were two very good employees.”

Alderman Charles Caudill stated that it has been hard to lose employees who have been with the town for a long time.

Howell had been working for the town for 32 years and Brooks was with Jefferson for nearly 11, something Caudill and Eldreth said was impossible to replace.

Alderman Mark Johnston commented on the current realignments and how the town will move forward.

“Cathy did a great job,” said Alderman Johnston. “Her and Anna both were too young to retire, but now they’re able to spend more time with their families. Their knowledge is something you can’t fully replace.”

Johnston said Howell has a love for camping and being at home and with the recent retirement, he hopes she can live her life for herself now rather than the town.

For the moment, former county manager Dan McMillan has stepped in to be the interim town manager until a replacement is found. The town said they have received several applications.

“It’s a waiting game on finding new people,” said Mayor Eldreth.

Kayla M. Jones will be taking the role of finance manager, which has been seen as a great addition according to the Jefferson aldermen and the mayor.

Before stepping into Brooks’ shoes, Jones worked for First National Bank for eight years.

“Her addition to the town is wonderful,” said Caudill.

The Ashe Post & Times will continue to contribute as new updates arrive.

Continuing mission: ACS and community receive first and second doses in mass vaccination clinic

WEST JEFFERSON — On March 26, the teachers and staff from Ashe County Schools held a remote learning day as those who participated became eligible for their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The Ashe County Arts Council partnered with ACS and AppHealthCare for another mass vaccination clinic, holding about 850 first and second dose appointments for not only staff, but community members as well.

The parking lot to the Civic Center had been filled to the brim as the event began at 9:30 a.m., filling back up after a short break at 1 p.m. At least 350 teachers and staff who received the first dose on Feb. 26 were among those also receiving their next dose and those experiencing the vaccination for the first time.

Executive Director of the Arts Council Jeff Fissel said that the volunteers for the event have made way for a smooth clinic, much like the first. The stage had been set up for 13 vaccination stations and once the shots were put into arms, the individuals were then asked to wait for about 15 minutes before leaving.

“There were 500 appointments just this morning,” said Fissel. “The health department has done an excellent job and we have great volunteers. Everything has gone as smoothly as it can.”

Volunteers brought by food and drinks to ensure the well-being of the health department staff, something Fissel said had been helpful in the process.

Dr. Eisa Cox, superintendent of ACS said that the event has created excitement throughout the community and among those who have been and will be vaccinated.

“With the first one, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation,” Cox said. “Today, people are coming in with a different perspective and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re especially excited to welcome back more students into the classroom on Monday, March 29 in middle and high school. This is a great way to begin that new adventure on Plan A.”

All three vaccinations, Pfizer, Moderna and the newly released Johnson & Johnson were available to those getting vaccinated.

According to Cox, some staff and community members who were unable to attend the first dose vaccination clinic were now able to receive their first dose or single dose.

“I’m excited that we have enough doses and are able to accommodate the requests of our community.”

Cox remarked on how those who are being vaccinated have been genuinely happy to receive a shot, something she hopes can continue as more vaccines become available.

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Cooper announces all adults can get COVID-19 vaccine starting April 7

RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper announced March 25 that all adults 16 and older in North Carolina will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning April 7.

“It varies in different localities, but our overall success has been good in the states ready to open vaccine access to more adults,” Cooper said. “We’ve been faster and have gotten more supply than we’ve anticipated.”

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine authorized for 16 and 17 years old.

Cooper said he was pleased the state could open up the vaccine to all eligible adults well before a May 1 goal that President Joe Biden challenged states to meet earlier in March.

The governor also announced the rest of Phase 4 will be eligible for a vaccine starting March 31. Originally those in Phase 4 were set to become eligible on April 7.

That group includes a range of essential workers identified by the federal government such as people working in retail businesses energy plants banking, financial services, construction hotel sanitation public infrastructure and others. It also includes those who live in certain congregate settings like university residence halls.

“We’re not there yet, but in the next couple of months, we’ll have enough supply for everyone who wants a vaccine,” Cooper said. “When that happens, each of us is going to have to talk with our friends and family who are hesitating about getting vaccinated and convince them to do it, because the vaccine is our path to recovery. It is the road to normalcy.”

Cooper said once a significant portion of the North Carolina population is vaccinated, fewer COVID-19 restrictions will be imposed.

Mandy Cohen, secretary for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said the goal is to get as many North Carolinians vaccinated before thinking about lifting more restrictions.

“We have to remember the wild card in all of this is that the virus changes,” Cohen said. “We have variants already. It is likely that this virus will change more. Those are the kinds of things that we need to take into consideration as we think about what the future holds but what I can say is getting a vaccine is our way out of this pandemic.”

Art projects highlight student work and add color to Lansing Creeper Trail Park
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LANSING — Greater Lansing Area Development has kicked off a major revitalization and beautification project for the town of Lansing, which is set to take years to complete.

GLAD is a nonprofit organization that is committed to the revitalization and economic development of the town and townships of Lansing. The organization completes its efforts while honoring Lansing’s local history and maintaining its culture.

One of the first steps in their beautification efforts was a barn quilt project. A barn quilt made by local students with the help of their family members is now mounted on the historic barn in Lansing Creeper Trail Park.

The quilt hanging on the barn features a cardinal with mountains in the background and is noticeable for miles due to the bright red, green and blue paints used.

A second barn quilt can be found on the wall of the park’s restroom facilities.

Both were mounted by David Powers.

These barn quilts are the work of Dawn Richardson and her twin daughters Carlee and Bailey, along with Rianna Barker of Silas Creek Barn Quilts and her grandson Luke Neaves.

Another project located in the park was created by the hands of Ashe County students.

This past fall, Ashe County High School CCP students in WLD 131 designed and assembled a fish sculpture. Each student worked on different sections of the trout, stamping their initials next to their work.

Recently the sculpture, which is located near the parking area, was painted and has become a popular attraction at the park.

“We are proud of our young adults bringing life to our cultural heritage with the barn quilts and sculpture,” said GLAD project manager Rene Shuford. “They now have a home within a certified community wildlife habitat where they can be enjoyed by everyone.”

Dawn Richardson is a math teacher at Ashe County Middle School who also serves as the vice president for GLAD.

The idea of creating barn quilts resulted from a conversation she had with her family during one of their many walks in Lansing Creeper Trail Park. When they were there almost two years ago, she made a comment about how great a barn quilt would look on the barn in the park.

Her husband, Travis, teaches science at ACMS and at the time Carlee and Bailey were students at the middle school. She immediately started thinking about ways she could get students involved in the project.

According to Richardson, she presented the idea at a GLAD meeting to gather opinions about the project. After the committee expressed interest, Richardson began exploring funding options.

She had previously received a Bright Ideas grant in the past and found the project to be a perfect candidate for the grant, which is through Blue Ridge Energy.

According to Richardson, she had applied for the grant in fall 2019 and was awarded money to complete two quilts. One quilt was for the barn and the other for the restroom facilities. The purpose of the grant was to include students in the planning and execution of the project.

Richardson lined up local historian Jim Parsons and Rianna Barker of Silas Creek Barn Quilts to assist in the project.

The initial plan was to include history lessons about the area and allow students the opportunity to select, plan, draw and paint.

“I wanted the students to learn about their town and take pride in where they come from,” Richardson said. “It was my hope to have students learn to think about the history of an area and make connections to create meaningful artwork with the hopes of them taking this and spreading their newfound talents to other communities in the county.”

According to Richardson, a lot of the plan quickly changed due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which occurred just as they were getting started.

She was unable to include the students due to restrictions and had to form new plans. Barker and her grandson, along with Richardson and her daughters set out to ensure as much of the project was completed as possible.

Richardson described Barker as wonderful to work with because she volunteered countless hours and was a great teacher who quickly became a close friend.

According to Richardson, after the two barn quilts were complete for Lansing Creeper Trail Park there was enough money left over to purchase several smaller squares. It is planned for these purchased squares to be used by ACMS students during the 2021-22 school year.

Barker and Richardson have plans to expand on student involvement in the near future by teaching students how to create their own barn quilts.

“We are going for the same goal at the end but are having to get there in a totally different way than planned,” Richardson said. “I look forward to working with Rianna and teaching these students an art that they can use and maybe pass on to future generations.”

To learn more about GLAD and their efforts, follow them on Facebook @GLAD501C3.