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editor's pick featured
Full Circle: from intern to benefactor
David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Splitting her time between Blowing Rock and Naples, Fla., Janet Cone started out as an intern in medical social work for Watauga Medical Center, and now has come full circle as a major benefactor and board member of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

BLOWING ROCK — As a little girl growing up on a farm in Fleetwood, in Ashe County, Janet Cone had very little idea of what the future held for her. Wisdom and insight, it turned out, were part of the package.

“I graduated from Appalachian State University in the late 1970s. My degree was in sociology, with a concentration in social work. I became interested in medical social work and thought of maybe working at a hospital,” said Cone.

It turned out that the timing was right for all concerned.

“I spoke with my professor and she arranged an internship in medical social work for me at Watauga Medical Center,” Cone said. “The lady I was working for wanted to take maternity leave, so when my internship was over she asked if I would fill in for her for a few months while she went on leave. When she came back, she said, ‘I just want to work part-time now. You have done such a good job, would you be interested in a full-time position?’ I said, ‘Absolutely!’ I feel like I was blessed since this was my first job right out of college.”

Social work may not be for everyone, but it fit the new college graduate’s game plan perfectly.

David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Janet Cone is on the leadership committee of the Higher Elevation capital campaign of Appalachian Regional Healthcare as well as a member of the ARHS Foundation board of directors.

“I have always liked working with the elderly. At one time, I thought maybe I would like working with children, but then I realized that I had a real compassion for older people. Plus, I had a professor at App State who had a significant influence after I started taking social work courses. Because of some of the papers I had written, she thought it would be a good path for me and encouraged me to look at social work as career,” said Cone. “Plus, my sister had a friend at the hospital who was a medical social worker and she thought that I would be really good at it.”

Medical social work is a specialized profession.

“We did a lot of discharge planning, meeting with patients when they were getting ready to go home. And that was especially the case with the elderly. We would make sure they had support from family. We would help them line up home healthcare services, physical therapy and arrange for any type of equipment they might need. If appropriate, we would make nursing home arrangements and that included all of the calling and the paperwork,” Cone said. “In discharge planning, you are making sure the patient will be OK when he or she gets home.”

Cone said that she worked in that position for almost six years, but by that time had met and married Larry Cone, known in the High Country as a successful businessman.

“I was pregnant with my daughter so it was time for me to quit. That decision was made easier with the knowledge that my husband had several successful businesses in town. I decided that I could work part time, helping him, and raise my children, too,” Cone said. “At one time, Larry had the Subaru dealership and a recreational vehicle dealership, as well as other businesses, too. This was around 1986.”

Cone was called to be on the hospital foundation board in the 1990s.

“That was when the Paul Broyhill Wellness Center was built. There was a lot of growth at that time,” she said.

Something else, even more personal became a factor in her volunteering, too.

“My mother had gone on dialysis, which she was on for 10 years,” said Cone. “When we first started taking her, we had to go to Lenoir, three days a week. But when Watauga built their dialysis center, my late husband’s family helped fund it. She was able, then, to go to Watauga for nine of those 10 years. So I kept a pretty strong connection with the healthcare system up here.”

Fast forward to now, and 2021 finds Cone living in Naples, Fla., six months out of the year.

David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Janet Cone is a new board member of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System Foundation and a key member of the leadership committee for the ARHS Higher Elevation capital campaign.

“When this capital campaign for the new hospital building and cardiology facility was started, somebody from Blowing Rock suggested to the campaign organizers that I might be a good fit for their core leadership committee, since I had some experience with the hospital. Rob Hudspeth, the ARHS senior vice president for system advancement, called and asked if I would like to be on the capital campaign board. And I initially said, ‘No., I am only here for six months and six months in Naples and I have two grandchildren. I just don’t have time to do it,’” Cone recalled.

But then, after thinking about it, she called Hudspeth back.

“I said, ‘You know, Rob, I think it is great what the hospital is doing, so if I can help in any way, I would be glad to.’ He said, ‘I knew it!”

That positive response was soon reinforced. Her good friends who similarly split time between Blowing Rock and Naples, Ken and Donna Lewis, played a major role, both before and after Ken’s very secret gift to Donna. He purchased the naming rights of the new cardiology center in her name.

“Rob had me help him call all of the people that Ken wanted to be at the announcement event, which they put together at the Lake House of Blowing Rock Country Club. It was the Higher Elevation Campaign’s major kickoff event for about a $12 million goal. Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer had already made a very large gift the week before, I think. And Ken’s naming gift in Donna’s name, which she knew absolutely nothing about, was a second large gift. This was a great opportunity to make an impression on the several potential large donors who were at the event,” said Cone.

Lewis, the former president, CEO and chairman of Bank of America, told the audience that night that he did not intend to speak after the gift was announced, but Cone remembers very vividly the message he offered because he did speak, and quite candidly to an audience comprised mostly of his friends.

“Ken was speaking to his friends, a roomful of people who are mostly seasonal residents, like us. We enjoy our time in Blowing Rock during the summer and fall, but really claim somewhere else as a permanent residence. Ken pointed out that while most of them live in more urban settings and there they have access to some of the best healthcare facilities in the world. And yet, when they spend half the year in Blowing Rock, those great facilities at their permanent residences might as well be in China. He very adroitly told the audience members that their help was needed to help Appalachian Regional Healthcare System develop just as good of facilities in the High Country,” said Cone.

“We don’t get to choose where we have a heart attack, a stroke, or get sick,” said Cone. “People will tell me, ‘Well, we are going to Charlotte or back to Florida.’ But if something happens to you while you are in the High Country, we need quality healthcare in the mountains. And that message resonates with so many people, once you put it in those terms.”

Cone had even more inspiration from a Blowing Rock friend, too. The late Dennis Quinn, who passed away a little more than a year ago, actively served on the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System board for several years, most recently as the board’s chairman.

“Dennis is someone our entire community admired and respected. I feel honored to be able to continue his legacy of service. I believe it’s important to continue to keep Blowing Rock connected to healthcare in our community,” said Cone.

Cone said that her family has been impacted over the years by the improving level of care found right here in the High Country.

“We have used the cancer center, the dialysis center, cardiac care, and orthopedic care a couple of times. My sister just fell and broke her hip a few weeks ago. She lives in Tennessee, but wanted to come to Watauga and had a good experience. Larry Imeson can’t say enough good things about his experience with Dr. Anderson at App Ortho and a hip replacement,” said Cone.

For a woman who has come full circle in her involvement with the healthcare system, from intern fresh out of college to a key position in not just the capital campaign for the new facilities, but on the ARHS Foundation board of directors, Cone summed up her journey in one word.

“It is very fulfilling,” said Cone. “The hospital took a chance on me right out of college and my social work career really helped me with different aspects of my life. It is my turn to give back, if and where I can.”

editor's pick featured
2021 Candidate Review
David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Left to right, Doug Matheson, Nancy Pitts Collins, Pete Gherini, and Melissa Pickett, are the four candidates for three open seats on the Blowing Rock Board of Commissioners in 2021..

BLOWING ROCK — Before early voting gets too far along, we offer our version of a “Candidate Review” as an aid to voters. Our emphasis is on the contested race for Blowing Rock town commissioners where there are four candidates for three open seats.

Rather than asking them to speak about how they stand on current issues, our four questions focus on the candidates’ preparation and qualifications for assuming the responsibilities of elected office, of becoming a representative of the people in what is essentially a legislative role.

Our format is simple. We have four questions and, for easy reader comparison, present all of the candidate answers for each question, question by question. We hope our readers find these as illuminating as the Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Oct. 4, as well as the videotaped Q&A sessions hosted by Blowing Rock Civic Association. The order of candidate answers was determined alphabetically, by last name, in ascending order.

Editor’s Note: The candidate responses have only been edited for uniform formatting, not for punctuation or grammar. In all cases, their words are their own. We offered no guidance regarding brevity nor restrictions on length of the answers.

Should you get elected, what have you done to prepare for the position?Nancy Pitts Collins

Foremost, I have prayed about this position. I have communicated with citizens about town concerns. I have reviewed the role of a council member. I have reviewed the budget and town ordinances. I have attended council meetings. I feel the knowledge of working with state government will help me in understanding the differences of local issues.

Pete Gherini

Over the past four (4) years I have prepared myself to better serve Blowing Rock and its citizens by:

  • Attending all Blowing Rock Town Council meetings to listen and learn about the issues before Council, how those issues are raised and handled and how the Town Manager, Mayor and Town Attorney interact to complete Town business. I have also observed how Council solicits and treats input from citizens and taxpayers and believe we can do a better job in this area.
  • I have read completely the Town budget and have had multiple conversations with the Town Manager about the sources of revenue and the discretionary and non-discretionary expenditures.
  • I have solicited input from the citizens of Blowing Rock about issues they feel are most critical to them. This has led to the establishment of lines of communication that will serve me and the citizens going forward.
  • I have introduced myself to and have continuing communication with our Town Manager, Shane Fox and Planning Director, Kevin Rothrock, Mayor, Charlie Sellers and several current Council Members. This contact helps me balance input from citizens with the many unseen external challenges that often face Council in their decision making.
  • I have involved myself by volunteering for Boards and organizations which will be outlined later.
  • I have attended any and all meetings, report sessions, retreats, in person or virtually, where topics important to the Town are discussed.
  • My business experiences over the past forty (40) years of starting and managing multiple businesses has provided the opportunity to listen and learn from experts with a broad spectrum of expertise. Details regarding that experience are available at my website petegjr.com for those interested.

Doug Matheson

What I have learned serving as a council person has prepared me a lot for the position. Listening to the people of Blowing Rock has really prepared me for making decisions and I have also worked to be involved with educational opportunities to help me better understand the issues and represent the people of Blowing Rock. Most recently I have completed the UNC School of Government Advanced Leadership Corps, the League of Municipalities Diversity and Equity program, Board and Council Roles and Responsibilities (NCLM), and the UNC-SOG Effective Communication Course. And I am still more of a listener than a speaker.

Melissa Pickett

I have faithfully attended Blowing Rock Town Council meetings, at Town Hall and virtually, for several years. This has enabled me to keep current with issues impacting our town and to contribute where appropriate. I have been appointed to serve on and chair not only a Town Commission, but also the boards of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Blowing Rock. These have given me wide access to input from citizens that in turn have driven initiatives. Furthermore, when issues arise that require clarity, I continue to rely on our town staff who have always graciously shared their knowledge and expertise.

Leading up to this election, what Blowing Rock volunteer boards (BRAAC, ABC, TDA, Planning) have you served on and why are those service roles relevant to prospective service on Blowing Rock town council?

Nancy Pitts Collins

I have not served on any Blowing Rock boards due to the timing of retirement and Covid-19 becoming an issue. I feel the boards are necessary because it gives a public perspective, based on current ordinances , to provide necessary guidance for the town council to make rational decisions.

Pete Gherini

  • For the past four (4) years I have served on the Blowing Rock Planning Commission, the past two (2) years as it’s Chairman. One of the most controversial and spotlighted areas of concern when it comes to balancing preservation of our village atmosphere and the progress needed to provide for families to live and grow in Blowing Rock is our Land Use Code. Outdated Code can actually lead to unintended outcomes. For four (4) years I have read and studied the code, application forms and proposals. This is a critical area of importance to citizens but it is complex at times. To be without a working knowledge of the Land Use Code would likely put a member of Town Council at a disadvantage or at least require significant time dedicated to the study of this important body of knowledge.
  • I am a member of the Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee charged with recommendations for how Town properties would be designated for recreational needs. The obvious relevance here is the use of our Town property to maintain the village atmosphere and use for Blowing Rock families.

I will list other Blowing Rock civic organizations of which I am a member and just say that collectively these organizations are informative to me and the role I would play as a member of Town Council.

  • Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce
  • Blowing Rock Historical Society
  • Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation
  • Blowing Rock Art and History Museum
  • Blowing Rock School Scholarship Fundraiser- Village Foundation

Doug Matheson

Blowing Rock and Watauga County Parks and Recreation Commissions, Blowing Rock Volunteer Fire Department Executive Committee, and the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority. Serving both Parks and Rec agencies helped me to understand the different ways of looking at funding for recreational things that people would like to have available. Over thirty years with the fire department and several years as chief taught me the importance of management decisions and prioritizing budget items that are needs and not just wants. Serving on the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority Board is very relevant to being on the town council because the TDA is at the center of the difficult balance between how residents feel and supporting a major part of the town’s local economy.

Melissa Pickett

I have served on and currently chair the Blowing Rock Appearance Advisory Commission (BRAAC) where we work to promote and enhance the natural beauty of our mountain landscape. Our objective is to help preserve and protect our publicly maintained spaces. We do this by providing input and advice to Blowing Rock staff and Town Council. Since I have served on BRAAC, it has evolved from a volunteer organization to a town-appointed commission. As such, this experience has informed me of the processes and procedures that are necessary to bring issues before Town Council for their consideration, such as ordinances, policies, and proposals for public/private partnership projects.

What civic organizations or municipal agencies have you served on or in, in other jurisdictions and why is that service relevant to service on Blowing Rock town council?Nancy Pitts Collins

I served in Pender County disaster relief. I served with our church’s food bank. Sunday School teacher for Special Needs. Special Olympics volunteer. Bereavement committee for families of lost firefighters, law enforcement and first responders. I feel these are relevant to serving on Blowing Rock town council because these agencies allowed me to serve with various individuals from all walks of life, while obtaining collective goals.

Pete Gherini

I’m going to take the second part of this question first as the relevance is common with all of my other experiences. Each of the Civic and Municipal organizations I have served have themselves served to educate me by allowing me to learn and grow from being exposed to a great many experts over a variety of industries and endeavors. I have worked with expert economists and law enforcement, business and marketing, educators and politicians. The sum of these experiences is what I bring the Blowing Rock Town Council.

  • President, Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce
  • National Council on Vocational Education
  • Commissioner, San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission
  • Chairman, Santa Barbara Downtown Organization
  • Commissioner of Housing and Community Development for the State of California
  • Milton Marks Commission ( Little Hoover) on California State Organization and Economy
  • Vice Chair Santa, Barbara Airport Commission
  • President Santa Barbara Sherriff’s Council
  • Board, Alaska Visitor’s Association Marketing Council

For those interested, more information is available at my website petegjr.com.

Doug Matheson

a. Serving as Secretary on the Board of Directors for the High Country Council of Governments is relevant because I have been fortunate to build many relationships that we can call on to help Blowing Rock in knowing how other towns are handling their problems. Being elected to the at-large member of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina League of Municipalities has been very helpful to serving Blowing Rock. The funding, grants, and financial information and examples from 561 other towns in the State are always good to know and relevant to serving on Blowing Rock Council.

Melissa Pickett

I have served or currently serve on the Archive, the Artist in Residence, and the Events committees of the Blowing Rock Historical Society; the Community and Government, the Economic Development, the Event and Tourism Development, and the Membership committees, as well as the Executive Board of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce; the Finance and the Governance committees of the Hunger and Health Coalition; and the Rotary Club of Blowing Rock as chair of the IMPACT club.

Serving these organizations over the past twenty years has taught me, first and foremost, the importance of listening as well as the virtues of patience, compassion, and commitment and how they all contribute to effective plans, policies, and solutions.

What do you feel are the three biggest challenges facing Blowing Rock currently, and why for each one?Nancy Pitts Collins

a. 1. Covid-19 Mandates- I feel the decision to terminate the dedicated town employees due to not obtaining the vaccines or testing is unreasonable. The Covid-19 testing in my opinion is not the issue. There are many individuals that cannot take the vaccine for whatever reason. That should be their decision. We still live in the land of freedom of choice. The town employees earn sick days, therefore, these sick days should be allowed for whatever the illness. Our town employees also wear masks and socially distance. Disciplinary actions should be left up to the town manager. There should be other alternatives than dismissal.

2. 24-7 Ambulance Service- this continues to be an issue. This is controlled by the county commissioners. It is imperative that the town council work in conjunction with our county commissioners to establish a good model for all of Watauga County. We must understand that there will not always be a 24-7 transport stationed in Blowing Rock due to being pulled for standby once another unit has to leave the county or, is out of service, on another call. We have very capable Fire EMT/Paramedics that are able to sustain the patient until a transport ambulance arrives. My thoughts are to have a Quick Response Unit for the town that can arrive with all equipment but cannot transport.

3. Public Safety- Parking is an age old problem, along with pedestrians on Main Street. The pedestrians walking in undesignated crosswalks needs to be addressed. Main Street needs more legally marked and posted crosswalks. It is not safe to drive down Main Street due to the inattention of pedestrians. This is a public US highway that must remain open to everyone. In my opinion on days of high volume, there needs to be an additional presence of law enforcement. We have a wonderful BRPD. This is an issue that can be resolved without raising taxes by merely adjusting work schedules.

Pete Gherini

1- Parking- this is an issue at the top of so many people’s concern list. This issue must be solved and fairly quickly. I believe most everyone knows what needs to happen so it’s a matter of making the best choice decisions to get this done in the near term.

2-EMS/ Medical Transport- there is intense pressure being placed on Blowing Rock Town Council to pay for services that are essentially the responsibility of Watauga County Commissioners. Taxpayers in Blowing Rock already pay significantly higher property taxes to Watauga County based on assessed property valuations. The reason this issue is so important is the decisions made in addressing the EMS are likely to set precedent for how Blowing Rock and the Watauga County Commissioners engage on future matters. There should be some accountability for what the North Carolina legislature has authorized the county to provide if the County is to maintain the taxing authority for that service.

3- Main Street Infrastructure- water/sewer lines on Main Street are scheduled to be replaced next year. The likely useful life of that installation may be fifty (50) years. Whether to bury the overhead cable, electric, telephone lines etc. while we have open access is the question. The supposed cost is the issue. The sources of funding to offset Town costs are yet uncertain. As Mayor Charlie Sellers recently said, tourists may 50 years from now be coming to Blowing Rock to view our antiquated overhead power lines. This is a very large issue and it has a very long tail if not managed properly in the short term.

Doug Matheson

Infrastructure and Services

Even though we passed a bond to start on some of these neglected problems, we have only made a dent in our problem of aging water and sewer lines. Updates to our water and sewer plants are needed and storm water drainage continues to be a problem with the type of rains we are having now. We need to continue to make sure we are doing everything we can to support our town departments as our visitors and residents numbers increase so that we keep our high level of services that Blowing Rock is known for. This includes continuing to work to get the ambulance service that our area needs.

Parking and Traffic

Lots of people say that parking in Blowing Rock is a good problem to have. I think this is true until it’s not. If we don’t take steps to solve the parking and traffic problems then the experience of coming to our town will become a bad experience for many and they will choose somewhere else next time. We have to invest in creating policies, enforcement, and parking area solutions to make sure this problem stays a good problem to have.

Kind Respectful Collaboration

Working together will be the only way we can really be successful as a community. Every citizen or group’s ideas have some details that are valid. Not everyone agrees about all of the details. But we can listen to each other and find the things we agree on and get a lot done. I believe that the division between groups and individuals and attacking each other will slow us down and that’s not what Blowing Rock is about. We’ve always had different groups of people and some real different individuals in Blowing Rock and they have always agreed and disagreed with kindness and respect.

Melissa Pickett

More than likely, a poll would expand a prioritized list of the biggest challenges currently facing Blowing Rock beyond the count of three! If elected to serve on the Blowing Rock Town Council I would like to work with our residents, Town staff, our town manager, fellow Council members, and our Mayor to address the following issues.

We must maintain our momentum to update and maintain our town’s infrastructure in order to support our quality of life and to minimize costly disruptions.

We need to advance initiatives to develop strategies and tactics to implement near and long term plans in order to achieve solutions to issues impacting both full and part-time residents as well as visitors to our community. These include way-finding, vehicular and the pedestrian traffic, and parking.

Occasionally well-intentioned proposals are raised without the benefit of widely generated input. It is imperative that we achieve a more united working relationship between Town Council, town staff, community organizations, and individuals so that we can first recognize and agree upon the big picture; that is, what we need as residents of and for the Town of Blowing Rock. This will surely establish a greater springboard for proposals and plans.

editor's pick featured
Speed and noise highlight town council meeting, land purchase approved
David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Blowing Rock Police Chief, left, gave nearly a one-hour report about speeding on U.S. 321 and Valley Boulevard, as well as fielded questions about vehicular noise at the Oct. 12 meeting of town council.

BLOWING ROCK — Tuesday night’s regular meeting of the Blowing Rock town council included a lot of business accomplished, but among the more dramatic revelations occurred during a statistics laden report by Blowing Rock Police Chief Aaron Miller about speed enforcement along Valley Boulevard.

Two numbers stood out: that over a 2.8 million vehicles traveled down the U.S. 321 Bypass, AKA Valley Boulevard, in 2019, and an estimated 2,200 vehicles exceed the posted speed limit on the thoroughfare every day, on average. This is in spite of the fact that the 7 radar-certified officers have issued 1,893 speeding citations so far in 2021.

“That is a huge number,” said Miller, “especially with only 7 officers certified to run radar. “We are on track to hit roughly the same number as last year with our (low) staffing levels. We hope to get more, but to get more that would mean being full staffed with all officers radar certified. That is the only way we get that number up. And we rarely get through a 12-month period with a full staff.

Miller said that with that much traffic, many people in violation of the posted speed limit, and with only a small police department, writing traffic citations alone is unlikely to solve the speeding problem.

The longtime police officer also pointed out some logistical problems beyond the department’s control, reporting that just this past week one of the newer officers was supposed to receive radar training, which Miller said is very difficult to get, but the training session was canceled at the last minute because of a paperwork glitch at the community college.

He reported that the town was installing a digital radar sign at each end of U.S. 321 near the entrance to town, showing a vehicles speed as well as the posted speed limit. Installation of the signs, Miller said, is somewhat dependent on working with Blue Ridge Electric.

“Hopefully, these signs will remind motorists that it is a 35 miles per hours speed limit,” Miller said.

David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Left to right, town manager Shane Fox, mayor Charlie Sellers, commissioners Albert Yount, David Harwood, Sue Sweeting, Doug Matheson, town attorney Allen Moseley, and (foreground) town clerk Hilari Hubner.

The police chief also explained some of the considerations that come into play in allocating the department’s scarce resources in terms of radar-certified officers, only some of which are on duty at any given time. He provided samples of traffic analysis gleaned from a radar sign that monitors every vehicle passing by it. Although the posted speed limit is 35 mph, Miller said that there are a large number of vehicles that are recorded as “low risk,” or running above 35 mph between 36 and 45 mph.

“That includes a large number of vehicles that might be going 36-39,” said Miller.

David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Several citizens were on hand to listen in on the Oct. 12 meeting of Blowing Rock town council.

He indicated that where the officers tend to concentrate are those motorists going between 45 and 55 mph, which they classify as “medium risk.” He stated that it is rare to find vehicles exceeding 55 mph, which would put them in the “high risk” classification.

Miller also reported that so far in 2021, there have been 28 crashes along the U.S. 321 corridor, 5 of which were near the Speedway convenience store by the Tanger Outlets and speed was a factor in just 5 of the 28. Three crashes resulted in a patient being transported to the hospital, but there were zero instances of a life-threatening injury.

During the earlier public comments portion of the meeting, Lorry Mulhern, a manager of the Green Park Inn, submitted a petition signed by residents demanding that the town increase its efforts to reduce noise and speeding along Valley Boulevard, especially near the intersection with Green Hill Road.

In response to a question from Commissioner Sue Sweeting asking what else the department can do to help alleviate not only speeding, but also noise, Miller said that “traffic safety” is the No. 1 priority and he hoped to have a proposal to bring before the town council at the January retreat.

“The noise issue is much, much tougher. I don’t think the noise issue will be solved by law enforcement intervention. We have reached out to the state highway patrol about motor carrier enforcement. One of my questions of them was, ‘How do you regulate truck noise?’ The answer from the North Carolina Highway Patrol was, ‘We don’t.’”

Miller added that he asked the Highway Patrol supervisor if there was anything that could be done about truck noise that the Blowing Rock Police Department was currently not doing, and his answer was, “No.”

In answer to a question by Commissioner David Harwood, who suggested that noise from speeding itself is probably not the source of most noise but things peculiar to individual vehicles, such as modified muffler systems and jake braking by trucks, Miller said, “That is fairly accurate. Where we have the most noise complaints is from people living near the intersection of U.S. 321 and Rock Road and Green Hill Road, and Gideon Ridge, especially about trucks. From a public safety standpoint, I think it would be a mistake for us to ask trucks to turn off their j-brakes because of that area’s history of traffic fatalities involving trucks. And as you get past that intersection, below Gideon Ridge, you are beyond the Blowing Rock town limits and into Caldwell County.”

David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Police Chief Aaron Miller reported that U.S. 321 Bypass sees more than 2.8 million vehicles each year. He estimates that 2,200 motorists each day are exceeding the posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour.

Miller said that there is a state law on the books that requires passenger vehicles to keep their exhaust systems to the manufacturers’ standards, not modified, and that if they witness those that are modified, they can write a citation. As far as the trucks to, however, there are also federal, interstate commerce rules that apply.

“We have stopped cars and cited them for modified exhaust or muffler systems,” said Miller.

Counting the Q&A portion, Chief Miller’s report consumed almost the first hour of the town council meeting’s time. It included his descriptions of how radar works, and some of the shortcomings or challenges in heavy traffic where an officer may have difficulty distinguishing which vehicle is actually speeding vs. one that is going slower, among other subjects.

In other town council business:

  • The board of commissioners passed, 4-0, a motion authorizing town engineer McGill & Associates to design new bathroom facilities for Memorial Park and solicit bids.
  • The board of commissioners passed, 4-0, a motion authorizing the repair of a severely deteriorated culvert near Tanger Outlets and the town wastewater plant.
  • Heard the official report of Ramey Kemp Associates on the Green Hill Road Traffic Study earlier in the summer.
  • The board of commissioners passed, 4-0, a motion to replace a pressure reducing valve (PRV) near the intersection of U.S. 221 and Green Street. The council also heard a report by McGill & Associates about the critical need for replacing PRVs at four other locations, including 322 Dogwood Lane, Laurel Park at Dogwood, Hill Street, and Possum Hollow.

The council went into closed session at approximately 8:39 p.m. to deliberate on an acquisition of property. When they came out of closed session, they voted, 4-0, to approve the purchase of a 2.2 acre parcel near the fire station on Valley Boulevard from Barry Buxton. The terms are subject to review and approval by the Local Government Commission, a unit of the North Carolina Treasurer’s Office. The proposed terms are a purchase price of $1 million at zero percent interest, self-financed by Buxton and repaid in five equal installments of $200,000 per year.

Town manager Shane Fox reported that the use of the property will be discussed at the town council’s January retreat.

editor's pick featured
OBITUARY: Paul Hunt Broyhill, 97

Paul Hunt Broyhill, 97, was born April 5, 1924 and passed away on Oct. 5, 2021. He was a noted furniture industry icon and philanthropist, who grew up in Lenoir but had significant influence in Blowing Rock

Paul Hunt Broyhill, age 97, furniture industry icon and philanthropist, passed away Tuesday, October 5, 2021, at Caldwell UNC Health Care.

He was born April 5, 1924, in Lincoln County, N.C., because Lenoir at that time did not have a hospital, to the late J.E. and Satie Hunt Broyhill. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his wife, Faye Arnold Broyhill; a sister, Betty Broyhill Gortner and her husband Will; and a brother-in-law, William Stevens.

Paul grew up attending Lenoir public schools, walking to and from the family home on College Avenue, the current site of the Caldwell Arts Council. He played first-chair flute in the Lenoir High School Band. During the 1930s, schools had only 11 grades. For a fourth year of high school, he attended Culver Military Academy, then enrolled in Virginia Polytechnical Institute.

Before classes began at VPI, his close friend from Lenoir, Rooster Bush, convinced Paul to transfer to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While he was at UNC, Uncle Sam interrupted his education. He was drafted into the United States Army and served as Technical Sergeant.

After returning from the Army, Paul finished his degree in business at Chapel Hill and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and the Phi Delta Theta business honor society.

From college, Paul returned to Lenoir and joined his father’s furniture business, beginning in the factories and working his way into management. During the 1940s and 50s, he gained more responsibility until he became President and CEO of Broyhill Furniture Industries.

When he assumed the reins from his father, the company employed approximately 1000 workers. Over Paul’s tenure, Broyhill Furniture increased to a workforce of nearly 7,500. Sales soared, doubling on average every seven years. The company grew to six million square feet of modern manufacturing facilities.

Throughout the industry, Paul Broyhill was known as an innovator in management, production, distribution, and marketing. The Broyhill management style centered on the belief that employees were the company’s most valued asset. Routinely, both J.E. and Paul visited the plants to give personal “at-a-boys.” An internal program called “Broyhill U” trained leaders to manage effectively. Paul was an industry pioneer in creating an employee stock option plan (ESOP) for every worker. One of his most remembered quotes is, “More than just building plants, I like to think I built people.”

Unafraid to deviate from the status quo, he often traveled offshore to study new designs and to purchase state-of-the-art equipment. With this equipment and creative techniques, he revolutionized furniture production. He developed distribution methods so that the product was available quickly in all parts of the country.

Referred to in the trade magazine Furniture Today as a “game-changer,” he was the first to market his product in national home magazines like Life and Look, and on television game shows such as The Price is Right. From a cadre of 20 salesmen in 1948, Paul eventually built a sales force of greater than 300. Under his leadership, Broyhill became the most recognizable name in home furnishings.

In 1946, Paul and his father began a charitable fund that would help children of their employees go to college. That fund grew over the years in financial worth and areas of interest into the current Broyhill Family Foundation. The foundation has given millions of dollars to support higher education, medical research, and other charitable endeavors. Endowment funds at numerous universities and hospitals provide ongoing support of programs and research.

Paul and his brother, U.S. Senator Jim Broyhill, were instrumental in establishing Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. Paul believed that students who did not want to attend a four-year college needed career education alternatives. Over the years, the Broyhill Family Foundation has continued to be a primary supporter of that institution. Today, appropriately, a new building on the campus bears his name: The Paul H. Broyhill Center for Advanced Technologies.

Paul fashioned and donated to the City of Lenoir a beautiful Japanese-themed walking park built on the site of an old rock quarry used by the Civilian Conservation Corps. A botanical retreat, the park continues to draw people of all ages and conditions who want to enjoy nature and the outdoors.

At the company’s height, Paul sold Broyhill Furniture Industries and the Broyhill name to Interco, Inc. With the proceeds he structured a fund, BMC, that he managed on behalf of the Broyhill family. Paul Broyhill stayed involved in business and in humanitarian efforts until just before his death. He was vital and engaged with a sharp mind, a sense of humor, and a heart for others.

Over the years, Paul received innumerable local, state, and national awards, recognitions, commendations and honors including: Honorary doctorates from Gardner-Webb University, Appalachian State University, Lees-McRae College, and Lenoir Rhyne University; Furniture Today Lifetime Achievement Award; The North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry Hall of Fame; The American Home Furnishings Association Hall of Fame and Distinguished Service Award; State of North Carolina Order of the Longleaf Pine; and Masonic Veteran’s Master Service Award.

He was a friend of U.S. Presidents, Congressmen, and other leaders. Yet, his heart warmed when random people would approach him, thanking him for the opportunity he provided them at Broyhill Furniture. While he devoted most of his time to business and to the foundation, Paul also participated in various church and civic activities. A lifelong member of First Baptist Church of Lenoir, he served in capacities including Sunday School teacher, member and Chairman of the Board of Deacons, and Life Deacon. He served as Trustee of the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest University and Tomorrow’s America, which operates five Broyhill Leadership Camps for youth.

In addition, Paul Broyhill served on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Dallas Market Center in Dallas, Texas, and the Board of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association in High Point, North Carolina. He served on the Board of Directors and advisory councils of various colleges and universities.

Quoted as saying, “Business is my fun,” he mixed business with pleasure by entertaining his customers on his boats or on the golf course. Many a business deal started with a par and a handshake. He owned and flew all kinds of planes including a Lear jet until he was well into his eighties. He accumulated over 13,000 flight hours. Early on, he justified his air forays to his father by claiming the need to visit Broyhill customers all over the nation.

He credits his flying with meeting Faye Arnold, the reigning Miss North Carolina and third runner up to Miss America. Some local businessmen asked him to fly to Raleigh and pick up Miss NC to judge a local beauty contest. Despite a scary ride, they connected. He and Faye were married for 46 years before her death in 2002. A source of pride for Paul is that his son, Hunt, is also a pilot.

Survivors include his wife, Karen Rabon Broyhill; one son, Hunt Broyhill and wife LeAnne; two daughters, Caron Broyhill and Claire Broyhill; his sister, Allene Broyhill Stevens; his brother, retired United States Senator, James T. Broyhill and wife, Louise; two step-children, Chris Hall and wife Stephanie, and Jenny Hall Robeson and husband Mark; seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Graveside services will be private at the family cemetery, Broyhill Memorial Park, with Rev. Dr. David Smith and Rev. Josh Hughes officiating.

Serving as pallbearers will be John Knox Wilson, Paul Hunt Broyhill II, Michael Jacobs, Tim Greene, Marcus Darby, and Chris Hall.

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests memorial contributions be made to Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, Broyhill Campus, PO Box 338, Thomasville, NC 27361 or to the charity of one’s choice.

Online condolences may be left at www.greer-mcelveenfuneralhome.com.

Greer-McElveen Funeral Home and Crematory is assisting the Broyhill family.