Editor’s note: This is a compilation of some of the biggest stories The New Castle Record covered over the past year.
From Jan. 26: Carter Bank closing its doors in Craig
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
The Carter Bank and Trust recently announced they will be closing their doors in Craig County.
On December 27, 2021, a letter was sent to inform bank employees that they will be closing their Craig County location at the end of March, the 31st to be exact, according to Area Manager Lorinda Sigmon.
Wrote Chief Retail Banking Officer Tami Buttery of Martinsville:
“Dear Valued Customer,
After careful consideration, our New Castle office, located at 181 Main Street in New Castle will be closing and consolidating with our Cave Spring office, located at 3132 Electric Road, SW, Roanoke, Virginia. This closure will occur at 12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. Your accounts will be transferred automatically to the consolidating branch. No action by you will be necessary. Please refer to the enclosure for reference on Carter Bank & Trust locations and the digital tools we offer to help meet your banking needs, whether in person or online.”
If you currently have a safe deposit box at the New Castle office, you will receive additional information in a separate mailing.
Any person wishing to comment on this proposed branch closing may file comments with the FDIC, the bank’s primary regulator, at: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 10 Tenth Street NE, Suite 800, Atlanta, GA 30309-3906.
Comments should be received at the FDIC by the proposed closing date, but remember, the FDIC has no authority to approve or prevent this closing.
Brooks Taylor, Marketing Officer, shared their reasons for Carter Bank & Trust moving out of New Castle.
“There are a number of business factors included in any decision to make a change to our branch network. The decision to consolidate is in no way a reflection on our associates or our customers in the New Castle market,” he said. “When we consider the potential to make a change such as opening, closing, or consolidating branches, the bank does a review of potential impacts to the community. This includes, but is not limited to, availability of other Carter Bank and Trust branches in the area and the availability of other full service financial services institutions in the area to effectively serve the community.”
When asked why they chose the bank in Cave Spring to consolidate Craig residents accounts, he replied, “Customers have the choice to bank with any Carter Bank & Trust branch, and there are five other branches in the Roanoke area. Cave Spring was chosen due to its proximity to the New Castle branch. This was included in an insert with the letter. They also have access to and can conduct their banking business through online and mobile banking.”
In reviewing the letter, some clients at the bank questioned this statement in the bank’s letter as it seemed like an avenue that is a waste of time for anyone to write to.
Taylor noted, “This is a requirement by the FDIC in order to ensure that feedback from the community is officially received and shared with the bank.”
The client’s letters ended with, “At Carter Bank & Trust, we appreciate your business! Our goal is to keep you informed of the changes that affect you, and to continue to provide quality customer service. If you have any questions, please feel free to call us at (833) 275-2228.”
Many community members commented on the closing, both those who bank there and those who do not.
Many expressed they are saddened by the closing and hope another bank comes in to have a choice (and competition) as well as another business to provide employment for local citizens.
Sigmon, however, reiterated that they “encourage employees in Craig to apply for any open positions at the bank. Currently, we have several openings.”
Employees are appreciative of the offer, yet agree that for some, traveling with the expense of gasoline, wear and tear on their vehicles as well as adding almost two hours traveling time, adds to potential childcare issues and other concerns.
Others have shared that they believe Craig should have two banking options and are hoping that the County works diligently in making that happen.
From Feb. 16: New cigarette tax to fund EMS in Craig
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
With much discussion and debate at the January Board of Supervisors meeting, the majority of the County Board of Supervisors voted to keep the 40¢ per pack tax that was imposed to start January 1, 2022.
County Administrator, Dan Collins gave a summary on the Cigarette Tax Amendment.
- August 5, 2021, meeting – conducted a public hearing as appropriately advertised
- Following the public hearing, the Board adopted the Cigarette Tax Ordinance at 40¢ per pack
- Ordinance became effective on January 1, 2022
The BOS approved the Cigarette Tax Ordinance to assist in funding Emergency Services with estimated revenues between $94,300 to $104,800.
The Board votes were as followed: Rusty Zimmerman (yes), Jason Matyas (no), Carl Bailey (yes) and Jesse Spence (yes).
“With increased demand for Emergency Services, the estimated revenues from the cigarette tax would offset the increased expenses for operational costs,” Collins shared. “Estimated new cost for emergency services is greater than $78,272, for three additional paid EMS staff.”
During the December 2 Board meeting, a request was made to reduce the tax rate from 40¢ to 30¢ per pack.
Collins noted that the average per pack in the surrounding localities is $37.71 per pack, a 7.71 cents per pack difference.
“As reported by the CDC, approximately 15 percent of all Virginians smoke,” he said. “That would be approximately 760 residents of Craig County (5,064 Population X 15 percent = 759.6).”
Following discussions with both the Commissioner of the Revenue and the Treasurer, Collins determined that the tax rate should remain at 40¢.
“The cost of reducing the rate would be approximately $7,000. In addition, I believe it would be wise to delay any adjustment to the rate until we have a 12-month history to reflect actual revenues,” Collins said. “When cigarettes cost approximately $7.40 a pack, I have doubts that an additional 40¢ would discourage a smoker from purchasing a pack of cigarettes.
It was added that additional cost to fund the additional three EMS positions would be greater than $78,272, including benefits.
“Offsetting funds are the proposed cigarette tax revenues which could be designated for public safety use,” he said. “The estimated annual cigarette tax revenue is $94,000 and $104,000 at the current rate and the proposed 30¢ per pack rate would be $75,000 in tax revenue.
Collins said he asked the Commission of Revenue, Elizabeth Huffman and the Treasurer, Jackie Parsons, how they would go about reducing the tax and refunding the money that had already been paid and the analysis came to approximately $7,000.
Huffman and Parsons submitted very detailed lists of costs from office supplies, Abatement mask setup, BAI abatement program development, training, mailings, audits and travel/lodging/meals. This did not include any possible overtime. Huffman’s estimate was $6,129 and Parson’s was $880. They also explained in great detail what their jobs would entail for each.
Collins continued, “My personal belief and two constitutional officers, the commissions of revenue and the treasurer all agree that we really should have a 12-month history, so we know how these taxes actually work. We barely have a month. Some of these stores and owners pick up the stamps and some are a little delayed. So, the physical impact of the $100,000 would drop to $75,000, as it is per quarter at the tax rate and that doesn’t include the $7,000 impact.”
“My recommendation is that we should have at least a 12-month history before we adjust any ordinance, not just the cigarette tax ordinance and see how it is working. It is another reason why we did it in January instead of making it effective immediately. We will have a half-years by July 1,” he said. “I don’t think that’s enough, so I recommend not to change the rates, however, the amendment does have two things: changing the rate from 40¢ to 30¢ and then adding the tax stamp. The attorney said we would fix that so that the Commissioner of Revenue would select approved stamps so no matter how it changes, she will be able to adopt that. I recommend approving the stamp portion of the amendment but leaving the tax the same.”
The public hearing was open for comments for or against.
Richard Carper presented a petition to the Board with 492 signatures of customers and citizens who requested that the tax be reduced.
“I can tell you that we are only two weeks into this, this week’s cigarette order was about $2,000 less than it typically is. That is just at one store, The Gopher Market,” Carper said. “We usually get about $10,000 worth of cigarettes and this week we got $8,000. We have had multiple customers that since they go to Roanoke anyway, that is where they get them.”
Jesse Spence shared that this was a process the Board started working on last year.
“At that time, we considered adopting the ordinance as a way to help us fund our emergency services costs because those have continued to increase annually,” Chairman Spence said. “Many people may or may not realize that most of the calls are run by paid staff now. Volunteer staff do help some, but the majority of the calls are covered by paid staff. And there really isn’t a lot we can do about that because when people call up and someone needs to be there to help them.”
Spence explained that he viewed the last few budget years.
“It cost the Emergency services ambulatory services $358,000 in 2018-2019 and last year $524,000,” he said. “That is probably not going to drop and likely to continue to increase gradually because we need a couple more people. Therefore, we adopted the ordinance solely with the intent to use the revenue for the emergency services and no one on this board was in disagreement and no one showed up at the public hearing. In July of last year, no one said anything one way or another that I remember.”
Board member Rusty Zimmerman said, “I know the Carpers are concerned of loss of revenue and loss of tax base and so on and so forth. But I know as the board, one of the things we are burdened with is how to pay for stuff and how to fund emergency services and other projects throughout the county. As much as we hate to raise taxes, it is a necessary evil. We come up with this idea as this became recently available due to some other legislation. Dan brought it to us, and we thought it would be a good way to generate some revenue without raising tax base for everything.”
He added, “It is unfortunate and for us as a board determined it was the lesser of two evils. This $100,000 that 40¢ per pack will raise will save us approximately two cents on the dollar on tax base. Yes, it will be an inconvenience and a burden to some, but they have the option not to buy them. But the rest of us that live in the county that pay taxes, it will relieve some burden from that. I personally feel we should keep the 40¢ and revisit at the 12-month.”
Collins did note that he had conversations with the county attorney who represents several towns and counties.
“He said that he knew of two jurisdictions, when they adopted theirs that the convenience store owners were concerned about sales loss,” Collins stated. “He said the managers of those two locations went back one year later and sales were virtually the same. No scientific data, but that is what he said.”
“I think personally a lot of it is education, as Roanoke County just went to 25¢. We are talking a 15¢ difference and Roanoke City and Salem is higher than us. I feel if we educate the public, I personally think it was kind of handled a little bit wrong. We are talking 15¢ and if the public knows this is going to emergency services and to provide for the county, as well as an effort to keep taxes to a manageable base, I think more people would be a little less upset about it,” Zimmerman added. “For the 492 names on there, I think if we could explain to them a little different way, maybe they would be a little less apt to sign that. It’s very disheartening to see things on Facebook bashing these five people when we are trying to make the best educated that we can. Not that I am concerned about Facebook, but people should be educated more before they have a reaction.”
“We did advertise this ordinance last year with our regular budget session,” Spence said. “It was a little bit surprising to see so much reaction after the ordinance has been adopted. I would expect this kind of reaction when we first proposed the ordinance.”
Discussion was made on the avenues the BOS took to advertise: the BOS website, the courthouse, and the newspaper, noting that out of the 492 signatures of Craig County citizens, only a handful frequented the courthouse, unless necessary, or visited the website or read the notices in the paper.
It was suggested that they use more direct avenues such as posters on the Food Country bulletin board, at the convenience stores, etc.; places where Craig County residents who this would affect would actually frequent, stressing that Craig County residents wish to work together on decisions and not create dissension.
It was also noted at the meeting that the merchants have contacted the town to see if it would like to have a tax as the code of Virginia allows them to have a tax, just like the county.
The code states, “Any county cigarette tax imposed shall not apply within the limits of any town located in such county, now or hereafter imposes a town cigarette tax. However, if the governing body of any such town shall provide that a county a cigarette tax, as well as a town cigarette tax, shall apply within the limits of such town, then such cigarette tax may be imposed by the county within such town.”
“So, I would request by the Board by motion for the town to consider putting that provision in their ordinance should the town adopt the cigarette ordinance,” Collins stated. “Without that provision, we cannot have ordinance.”
The Board then made a motion to make a request to the Town of New Castle, that if they adopt the cigarette ordinance that they will allow the county to leave theirs in place.
Collins added, “The administrative cost to run this thing is about $10,000 to $12,000 for the county, but would be less for the town. It is not cost-effective for the town.”
Another issue was the merchants having to individually put a new audit stamp on each cigarette pack which took a long time per pack, for cigarettes already in merchants’ inventory. Carper shared he had 9,634 packs as of December 31 that had to be individually stamped with a special gun.
“The way they are positioned, you can’t even put one on a package easily. You have to manipulate this sheet carefully, so you don’t accidently get two stamps,” he said. “It’s not about paying the money; you can take a check tomorrow for the whole thing for $3,900 for the tax.”
His concern was having to take days to stamp all cigarettes immediately. Also, at the time that many stamps were not available at the courthouse, but Parsons explained that the actual distributors were supposed to buy those and apply them to the packs, which they did not, therefore making our county merchants responsible for having to do this individually which was a much more difficult task with their types of stamps they were provided.
Parsons shared that this information was sent out in October and the stamps were in her office in November so that the distributors could have purchased and placed them on the packs by January 1.
“This distributor did not come to my office and buy stamps, so this is the reason why a couple of these stores have all this inventory with no stamps, because the distributor did not come to us and now the burden is on our local businesses,” Parsons added.
She is also working with the merchants in trying to make their mandatory stamping as easy as possible.
Collins reiterated that there was no grace period to put the stamps on and Spence added that it would take two months to change the rulings to add one.
Huffman took the podium quickly explaining that she thinks there is a way to solve the issue, reading an article in Section 38-349.
She and Parsons will be working closely with the merchants to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
However, moving forward, they shared, “The stamps have to be on the packs. It is the only audit trail without going back and making a huge inconvenience for both the merchants and our offices. To my knowledge, all the distributors that do business in our county have now purchased stamps.”
As of February 10, 2022, the Carpers have noticed a 20 percent reduction in their sales. Food Country added that they also have seen a drastic decrease in sales by an extreme and disappointing 35 percent.
From March 16: New DSS director shooting for the stars
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
Change in administration always brings unknown anticipation in staff. However, it seems the new director of the Department of Social Services (DSS) in Craig has a new light in its corner.
There are many issues that can bring a person to the need of assistance with professionals at the DSS.
The new director, Pat Franklin, understands personal heartache and needs of families, understanding that for some, they just need that boost of assistance to help them during a downfall in personal events of life.
“It’s been ten years since I started working with the Department of Social Services here in Craig County and it has been a real pleasure,” Franklin said. “It’s such a great community.”
She shared that when she first came to Craig, she often heard the expression, “Craig County takes care of its own” and has been seeing it first-hand.
“I heard that phrase from the beginning from Millie, Harrison and Bernie Tripp and many others. It has certainly proven to be true,” she said. “The number of people in the county who have stepped up to be foster parents, the donations we get from all over, and people who pitch in whenever we need, has been such a real joy.”
She added, “I worked in Roanoke City before I came here and I am certain that per capita, Craig County DSS has received more in the way of financial and other donations than Roanoke City did. That has been a real blessing and this staff has been great to work with.”
Franklin currently lives in Roanoke County.
“I have been married for 30 years and my husband and I have two grown children, two dogs and three cats,” she shared. “I love spending time with my family. My husband and I like to take short weekend trips in and around Virginia to take in plays, museums and spend time together.”
Prior to that, she was a homemaker for nine years. When her daughter started kindergarten, she went to Hollins University and earned her bachelor’s degree.
Pat worked 18 years at Roanoke County DSS as a self-sufficiency specialist and worked up to becoming supervisor to both Benefit and Service programs.
Her own experience had been exclusively in services, foster care and child protective services.
Jim Weber, the previous director, explained, “She is very well respected and over the years employees, both former and current, have called Pat for advice on how to do certain things and I have always heard back that she was so friendly, nice and helpful. I know that Angie Huffman from the Board was very pleased with the interview and blown away by Ms. Franklin and we are in good hands and are fortunate to have someone of her caliber.”
“A couple of years ago, I heard that Jim was thinking about retiring and that is when I started looking at Craig County as a career goal. Craig is only a 35-minute commute down 311 with its beautiful scenic views,” Franklin shared. “Craig County Social Service is just the right size, and it is still within my social capital footprint. Meaning I have 18 years of cultivating community partnerships that I bring with me to this job. Being a small agency allows me to continue doing what I love best, and that is working with community.”
When Franklin was asked what she felt like her top priorities in CC-DSS would be, she responded, “I would like to improve the reputation of DSS in Craig. Since I started on February 1, I have been out in the community talking to people and to be quite honest, the DSS reputation seems to be less than pleasing and for that I apologize. DSS should be a place the people of Craig can feel comfortable coming to when they need a helping hand.”
The good news is that DSS plans to open its doors to the public on March 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“DSS is here to help the citizens of Craig. Our phone lines are up and running correctly so you will be able to reach your worker or leave a message,” she added.
It seems there was a glitch in their system which was not directing the calls efficiently.
Her goal is that she and all staff will return phone calls no later than 5 p.m. the next business day during the normal workweek.
“If you have a CPS or APS complaint, I want you call us,” she said. “We will take the complaint. If you need SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Energy or Child Care assistance you can apply in person or online at www.commonhelp.virginia.gov.”
DSS has a Facebook page (Craig County VA DSS) and their office number is (540)-864-5117.
Franklin wishes for anyone who is questionable about receiving any services to please contact their office and just ask.
Her goal is for Craig County residents to know that their DSS is there for them, and they wish to take care of their needs if possible, keeping the Craig County motto of “we take care of our own,” shooting for the stars of making sure everyone possible is enlightened by the system that was initially set up to help community citizens.
“Sometimes we can help and other times the persons may not qualify but we want them to ask. Most of the time we can,” she shared. “We want everyone to know we are here for them.”
Franklin also added, that if anyone is in need of food to please visit the office, “We will be glad to put a bag of food together for you take home from our food pantry.”
From April 6: Scholastic Book Fair returns to McCleary Elementary after hiatus
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
Students of McCleary Elementary School are excited about the upcoming Scholastic Book Fair returning to the school this year. After a two-and-a-half-year absence due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Scholastic Book Fair will be returning to McCleary Elementary School this Spring. McCleary will host the fair on April 11-14. The funds raised from this event will be used to purchase new books for the McCleary library.
“When we look back on our childhood, many of us have fond memories of being read to, of snuggling up and enjoying a favorite story with the people who love us,” said Karen Jones, a librarian and gifted resource teacher at McCleary. “Study after study shows that early reading with children helps them learn to bond with their parents and read early themselves. Those early readers are more likely to find success later in life.”
Jones also noted that evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures.
Jones added, “Connecting kids with stories they love, in whatever format they prefer—from fiction to nonfiction, chapter books to graphic novels, physical books to digital books—has been Scholastic’s mission for nearly 100 years.”
The book fair will offer specially priced books, including popular series like “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Minecraft” books, award-winning titles, new releases, adult bestsellers and other great reads from dozens of publishers.
The fair will also be open on Wednesday April 13 from 4-7 pm so that parents can come and shop with their children. There will be books for all ages, from preschool to adult, picture books, easy-readers, popular series, cookbooks, as well as other fun school supplies like pencils, erasers, highlighters and other small gadgets
Book fair customers may help the school build classroom libraries by purchasing books through the Classroom Wish List program, which students and teachers will have created for their individual classes.
Jones explained that there is an “e-wallet” option available where parents can put money on an online account for their child to spend at the book fair. More information about this can be found on the fair webpage at https://www.scholastic.com/bf/mcclearyelementaryschool.
In addition, the book fair will feature the All for Books program, where students can share the thrill of reading with others by donating loose change to purchase books from the Book Fair for the school library. Scholastic Book Fairs then matches those monetary donations with a donation of up to one million dollars in books from The Scholastic Possible Fund.
“The book fair is one of the most important events in the school calendar. It celebrates and encourages reading, which is vital to every child’s success in school, and in life,” Jones shared. “The fair also gives kids access to good books, which will motivate them to read more.”
She added, “The book fair provides an opportunity for the community to get involved in a universal mission: encourage kids to read every day so they can lead better lives.”
Children’s author Bali Rai has said, “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life, outside of an education. Study after study has shown that those children who read for pleasure are the ones who are most likely to fulfill their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed – it’s that simple.”
From May 18: Field of Dreams continues to expand their vision
Spring is here and the field of dreams is alive with children excitedly playing the all-American sport, baseball (or softball). Recently their newest building, a concession stand, was completed.
“Because of the dedicated work of many in the past couple years, there have been more projects completed and woven together at the Craig Field of Dreams that I can remember,” shared Debbie Snead. “Beginning with the 2500-foot ditch dug by BJ and Grant Oliver to connect the PSA water to the center of the complex to the commercial single phase service installed by Craig Botetourt Electric Cooperative to provide electricity to the complex; to the creation of a new Learning Lab/Concession stand by Bevins’ construction company; to get kids outside learning and earning to professional preparation of the infields by Rob Coulter and expert mowing and field maintenance by Zachary Taylor and a potential conservation plan for erosion control and field beautification by the Mountain Castle Soil and Water Conservation District and Valley Landscaping.”
She added that they are just beginning to construct a commercial septic system to connect to the new building and restrooms enabling a safe and healthy outdoor environment. The work is being provided by Craig’s D&C Excavating with funding from the Craig Economic Development Authority and the Virginia Outdoor Foundation’s Get Outdoors fund.
“The foundation is established to promote the preservation of open space lands and to encourage private gifts of money, securities, land or other property to preserve the natural, scenic, historic, scientific, open space and recreational areas of the Commonwealth,” Snead added. “We are indeed grateful for their funding and support of this critical component of the Field of Dreams making the complex more self-sufficient and sustainable.”
She also emphasized that all of these skill professionals cannot be matched except by their volunteer team of sports experts. “Craig Recreation and Conservation Association Sports Director Sheri Sloss guides the coaches and arranges schedules, referees, equipment and uniforms, works with the kids, volunteers, and parents and handles finances,” Snead said. “The rest of our team who support this work are also CCR & CA board members: Teresa Oliver, president; Joyce Ashley, secretary; and Debbie Boitnott, treasurer.”
If you are interested in working with the board serving as a coach or volunteering for fundraising the CCR & CA welcomes your participation.
You may contact any of the officers to volunteer or for membership. All donations can be sent to treasurer Debbie Boitnott at PO Box 371, New Castle Virginia 24127.
All donations and volunteers are greatly appreciated as we all work together to build a better place for our kids to enjoy.
From June 22: Town businesses grateful to Town Council
By Pam Dudding
Months ago, the discussion of adding a cigarette tax brought some businesses to the forefront of the Board of Supervisors and the Town Council with their concerns.
The Craig County Board of Supervisors chose to impose a tax of $4.00 per carton of cigarettes, hoping to offset the cost of providing two more EMS workers to the force in Craig.
Going from a zero tax to $4 did not settle with Craig County citizens or businesses, as that is one staple that draws customers to the businesses.
Three businesses reported their sales reduced drastically, not only in cigarette/vaping/chewing tobacco sales but in the other staples those customers purchase when stopping in for those items, such as gasoline, drinks, and other fast pickup things.
Mike and Richard Carper, representing The Gopher Market and IGA Express ExxonMobil, along with David Stephens from Food Country expressed their concerns to the Board of Supervisors and later to the Town Council.
The Town chose to impose a $2 per carton tax from the $4 per carton tax, which was either equal to or less than most surrounding counties. This forfeited the $4 per carton tax within the town limits.
Since, businesses have seen their sales increase again, as they could not afford to lose the sales of these items as it helped them afford to pay employees.
“Concerning the Town Cig Tax which went into effect May 30, 2022, I want to thank the New Castle Town Council for taking the time to listen and understand the impacts of a cigarette tax on a town and county,” Mike Carper shared. “Since May 30th, we at Gopher Market have seen an increase in cig sales due to the difference between the $4/carton County Tax and the now $2/carton Town Cig Tax.”
Gopher Market is in the town of New Castle and IGA Express is in the county.
“We were down 30% between IGA Express and Gopher Market in cigarette sales (our#2 sales product, only behind fuel) after the County cig tax took effect on Jan 1, 2022,” Carper added. “The impact the County $4/carton cig tax had on our businesses was huge. We were out of line with surrounding counties, driving not only our cigarette sales out of county, but other purchases these customers were buying.”
The Food Country store manager added, “I would also like to thank the council for listening and helping to protect our businesses.”
“They, the Town Council understood what we (IGA Express & Gopher Market) were saying since October 2021 and did the right thing for their businesses in town,” they all shared. “So again, a “HUGE THANK YOU” to the New Castle Town Council for listening to their businesses and maintaining a competitive tax that will not drive business from the town!”
From July 6: CCPS continues to review safety measures
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
At the June School Board meeting, citizen Brett Stamper spoke on his views on the importance of having a School Resource Officer on campus.
He spoke of the fatal shooting in other schools, killing and injuring students. He also spoke of students in Roanoke and Salem who had drawn a map of the school and posted on social media.
“We have to remember that Roanoke and Salem are only 35 minutes away. Just because we are a small town, we are not immune to extreme violence,” he said.
He spoke of the recent school shooting dominating the news in Uvalde, Texas, where the doors were propped open, giving easy access to anyone who wished to enter. He questioned if “history will repeat itself or get worse if the security of our school doesn’t change.”
“I spoke with students and faculty about the recent shooting at the Craig Botetourt Co-op in 2018, asking about the events that happened in the school while on lockdown during the morning hours in which the active shooter was on the loose,” Stamper shared.
Stamper said that in December 2021, he requested information on the school’s contingency plan.
“Too many times I have heard it is not the school’s job of hiring. I, along with other parents, do not accept this answer anymore,” he declared. “The school must work with the local Sheriff’s Department. There is nothing that you can talk about or spend money on that is more important than this.”
He also suggested the school supplement this position so that there would always be an incentive to keep the job secure.
“We as a community should make sure that this happens at all costs,” he added. “If someone is going to risk their life for the safety of our children and faculty in our school system, they should be well compensated for it.”
He also suggested continuous training for the teachers and staff for a Crisis Response Plan, quoting the Virginia School system’s mandatory drills. Trace Bellassai shared that the Board does speak quite often with Sheriff Trevor Craddock regarding the situation.
He explained that “It is less of a funding situation, as the sheriff does not have a pool of applicants and is having a difficult time filling his needed positions.”
Bellassai added that they have also talked about forming a Safety Committee in the school, including the sheriff and S.W.A.T. team members in the near future. Bellassai noted that the state of Virginia does not allow anyone else other than law enforcement officers to fill that position, however the Board has considered penning a letter or a resolution. “We are requesting our legislators look at that,” he said.
Superintendent Jeanette Warwick added, “We are working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sheriff’s department, including the responsibilities of the sheriff’s department and the school division. We are hoping to have someone from the officers during lunch times to be in the cafeteria with the students, to have a presence and they are in support of that.”
She noted that none of the sheriff’s current staff have the training to be a Resource Officer. They are also organizing an internal committee which would include mental health assistance. Bellassai added, “We have talked about working with Emergency Services to do drills over the summer when the kids are not here, which would be a really good training.”
Stamper added that he and others in the community would be willing to help.
“As we continue to plan with the Safety Committee, we will reach out to the community to see who would want to help,” Warwick added.
From Aug. 31: Old Salem Church potluck brings heritage to life
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
For many people, old-fashioned potluck dinners have always been a favorite.
The Annual Old Salem Church Homecoming Potluck is one of those. This year over 60 people attended, as some thought the weather would rain it out, but it didn’t.
Gleeful chatter was heard from beginning to end and smiles and hugs were of abundance.
The afternoon started with a warm welcome from organizer, Jean Bradley.
The tables were ladened with a smorgasbord of delicious homemade foods and desserts, as everyone seemed to get all they could eat and take some to the elderly who weren’t able to make it.
Many years it has been hot or rainy but this year there was a cool breeze which made the day very comfortable for most.
It has never seemed to bother anyone that there is no water or electricity at the old church, so only a one-seater outhouse is available.
People sat under the trees at tables, while others brought their own chairs to enjoy the outdoors. Some were able to get a seat on the picnic tables under the pavilion.
After dinner, there was a service in the church which was decorated in Black-eyed Susan’s and Queen Anne’s lace was placed in quart canning jars by LeeAnn Mattox.
Jean Bradley’s granddaughters, Kallie and Kammie Fisher, read special devotions.
Bradley reported that they are still working on some things in the church, as donations had come in for more repairs to be able to be done. Also, to pull a tree out and put in a Christmas tree.
She also announced that her project this year was to get pictures of any couples who had been married in the little church. There were two present, Ann Looney and Virginia Veasey who were great friends and seated together at the service.
The ladies tried to remember their dates. Looney was married Sept. 2, 1955 and Veasey got married June 29, 1951.
“I would like to have a 5×7 print of everyone married in this church to put up on the wall,” Bradley said.
Bill Frazier, current pastor of the New Castle Christian Church, delivered a special message.
First, he shared a story about a man who called a church, asking to speak to the head hog at the trough. The secretary responded, “Excuse me?” He repeated himself that he wanted to speak to the head hog at the trough. The secretary wasn’t sure she heard correctly, but said to him, that if he wanted to speak to our preaching minister, you will have to show a little respect and dignity and call him Mr. Frazier or Preacher Bill. The man said again that he wanted to speak to the head hog at the trough. The secretary told the man he couldn’t speak about him like that. The man responded that he had a donation of $10,000 to give to the church. The secretary immediately responded, “Hold on just a second, I think the big fat pig just walked through the door.”
He read in Matthew 13: 44, “The kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovers hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it and went and sold everything that he had to buy the land. Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant who is on the lookout for a choice pearl. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything that he had and bought it.”
He added that the Kingdom of Heaven is “that valuable”.
“We search for so many things in life, but some things are in our own back yard,” Frazier added with another story.
He talked about the Sinking Creek valley and its beauty.
And, he talked about how many churches have now closed their doors in Craig. Churches that were once alive and serving people in the community.
“We sometimes forget about what is most important, souls. All people are precious in God’s sight,” Frazier said. “I remember when I was a part of the rough bunch, but God can do something with any of us.”
He read Matthew 19, which said that Jesus traveled through towns to announce the good news of the Kingdom of God, healing all illnesses. When Jesus saw crowds, He had compassion on them.
“Jesus has compassion on us,” Frazier said. “The most important thing is the relationship with Jesus Christ; therefore, we have to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers into the field to share the Good News.”
He continued, “That is what our job is, to be a witness. To be human as Jesus became when He came to us.”
Frazier quoted the scripture in the Bible that he said he doesn’t like that Jesus said, “When I come back to earth, will I find faith?”
He concluded that all be a part of spreading the Good News so that no more churches close and all will have the opportunity to be saved.
Upon dismissal, people continued to enjoy socializing for quite a while.
Bradley announced that pending the COVID-19 virus in Craig, they will decide in a couple months if they will have the annual Candlelight Christmas Service at the church in December.
From Sept. 14: Speakers share bushels of knowledge with local farmers
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
Craig County is known for its agriculture. The county strives to maintain its agricultural legacy and to train others to become self-sufficient as well as learn the possible availabilities of assistance and better technology.
The Mountain Castles Soil and Water Conservation District hosted a meeting, with a lineup of speakers who gave community members a wealth of knowledge.
A number of board members, Emily Nolen, the agriculture teacher of Craig County High School, and some of Nolen’s students and Future Farmers of America members were present.
The FFA members led the meeting with a prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance and information of what they are doing at the school and the new Land Lab.
The catered meal was provided by the conservation district team.
Each speaker emphasized that they will be the liaisons to help each person work through all the steps.
Abbey Pierson, district coordinator at Mountain Castles, studied at Virginia Tech and settled in New Castle with her husband about three years ago. He is also a pilot who learned to fly at the glider port in Craig. She has worked with Mountain Castles for a year.
“They started serving Craig County in 1945, as Natural Bridge Soil and Water and then in the 80s it split off and was named Mountain Castles named after New Castle and Fincastle and the mountains that surround them both,” Pierson shared.
She noted that they have received a lot of funding from the Virginia Department of Conservation Integration to support crop sharing programs.
“One of our biggest strengths is that we are local,” Pierson said. “We are governed by a local volunteer board of directors.”
She explained that members of the public can sign up for conservation plans field-by-field and not all at once if needed, adding stream exclusion with flexible buffers, including crop sharing, drilling new wells, putting troughs in, stream crossings, nutrient management plans, cover crops, as well as manure pack barn or composting (a convenient way to store the manure) and they can help to put up a pad with an attached manure storage or a pack barn so that it can be spread when needed.
Many other services are available. The district’s office is in Bonsack.
Derek Hancock, district conservationist for Roanoke, Craig and Botetourt counties, shared how he helps with natural resources conservation services that are paid for by the Department of Agriculture.
He is married to his wife, Amanda, and has three boys.
“I am pro-ag and pro-forestry,” he said. “I am all invested and am here to help anyone anyway I can.”
Hancock graduated from Ferrum College with a bachelor’s in agriculture and has been with the conservation district for 13 years. He discussed the importance of “getting your toolbox together.”
“When you start something on your farm you need a toolbox full of these partners here who are present,” he said. “When you are running your errands, include a visit to the offices and know the partners that are available to help each farmer, who can help bring economic development to you and your farm. Our programs have some serious supplements.”
His agency serves in two ways, with technical assistance to answer questions or guide people in the right direction.
“You may have a problem on the farm such as evasive species, the pastures aren’t performing, guidance on how to take a soil sample, crop rotation, how to deal with animal waste or nutrient management,” he said.
He added that some may need financial assistance, giving two programs, the EQUIP and CSP, the Conservation Stewardship Program which is a 5-year program.
“This is like a thank you payment for doing it on your farm and the better that you are the more money that you can make in the program,” Hancock explained. “Other things can help to accentuate this program such as rotational grazing or fertilizing soil samples.”
He emphasized the first and most important thing is for landowners to get him on their land to look at it and evaluate what programs could be of benefit.
He added, “There is nothing that I will be seeing or doing or working with you on that I will report on to anyone, as we are here to help you. We can help design systems and work with you and cater to your operation. It will all be up to you in your decision.”
“You can take the paperwork and just use it in your fireplace if you choose,” he added with a smile. “To go forward and learn about resources that are available to get this done, we start working on your prescription. There is some yearly paperwork that is required, but it always seems to definitely be worth the time for everyone, for the exchange in benefits and assistance.”
Hancock added, “I will show you the one that pays you the best with the least amount of money out of your pocket possible.”
Matt Bumgardner, a Farm Service Agency farm loan specialist, shared that his organization loans money at a low interest to help in working with these programs, when needed.
“I partner with all the banks in the area and back their money up. We have a guarantee program. We also have a youth loan program designed to offer kids from ages 10 to 20 in an agricultural type of project,” he said.
WP Johnson, FSA representative, personally farms 900 acres in Bedford County, including wheat, soybeans, corn, barley, oats, hay and cows.
“You name it, and I will try it,” he said. “My job in economic development is to invest in your community. I am here to try to make your farm more profitable as 90% of my business is to give you money. My methodology is to help you pay the banks off, by increasing your profitability.”
He emphasized that if farmers want to do a project on their property or are struggling with cash flow, they should call, as there are many options available.
He spoke of a few including, disaster assistance.
“We do a lot with crop insurance (floods, lightning strikes, avian attacks from animals that you cannot control legally), those things that attack your animals and your operation we can reimburse you for,” he said.
He gave an example where a farmer put his hay up along the side of a field and the river got up and destroyed it and another example where a barn burned with their hay. Their program can help reimburse that value loss and help in the of natural disaster.
“Hay is a value to your farm. If you have animals and no hay to feed them, you don’t have the income,” Johnson said. “We can help you through all the steps needed to qualify.”
He covered many options including pastures, corn, silage, hemp and financing different equipment with an easier payoff option. There is also a program that helps people who raise Christmas trees, grapevines or fruit trees to replace them when they die.
Denny McCarthy, of the Virginia Department of Forestry, shared that the agency is the state entity in Virginia that serves private landowners.
“Seventy-five percent of all the forest land in Virginia is private land.” he said. “And this forest land contributes about $30 billion a year to the economy in Virginia primarily through timber sales.”
“Our agency was born and bred in 1914 with two primary mandates. The first is to suppress wild land fires, as we respond to fires where the local fire departments hoses cannot reach not reach and the second mandate is to plant trees on lands,” he said.
The agency has several nurseries to support this effort, growing about 48 different species.
“I spend the majority of my time working with individual landowners, visiting their properties, giving them advice and guidance on how to manage their properties to meet their specific goals,” McCarthy shared.
He added that he spends most of his time writing management plans for landowners who have more interest in wildlife management like raising bigger deer, attracting more turkeys, etc. and still brings the Smoky the Bear program to many counties.
He went over the hardwood management program and suggested a fundraiser to the FFA, where they can buy 1,000 trees for .12 each and resell to landowners in small bundles.
He can also provide lists of forest consultants who help landowners to sell their timber.
Scott Stevens, with Bank of Botetourt, shared that they have always been into ag lending, including real estate, equipment or livestock. He added, “My office is my truck and I come to see you!”
It was noted that when people say “agriculture,” they think farming but there were so many different career speakers that aren’t farmers.
Farm Bureau shared many ways that the organization can help communities.
“There is the federation side and then there is the insurance side,” shared Jeannie Dudding. “The federation includes the $40 per year dues that are paid, which much of it is reinvested back into the county through scholarships, ag in the classroom, ag promotion, 4-H and FFA programs.”
Mark Campbell, district field services director, encouraged all in attendance to become a Farm Bureau member to help continue representation in Washington, D.C.
He discussed some of the bills that were proposed in Virginia in 20220. One of the proposed bills mandated stream fencing. Farm Bureau representatives opposed that with other organizations.
“We had members to come as far away as Bristol to speak enrichment against this mandate and it was because of that that it did not pass,” he shared. “I do not believe that there has been a louder voice than the Farm Bureau in promoting funding for soil and water conservation.”
He noted many other grassroots efforts that Farm Bureau is active in, includes legislation in D.C. and Richmond.
Dudding added that members were encouraged to attend the annual producers meeting, where they will have a veterinarian to speak on the tick issue.
She also discussed the Farm Bureau discount app button which will pull up discounts in whatever area individuals live in or are vacationing in.
Leeann Mattox, Young Farm committee chair, shared that they had joined up with a small group from Montgomery County. They are doing projects with them. She said that she is looking forward to learning the ropes of her new position and helping teens to grow in agriculture.
Teens from 18 to 35 are welcome to join the group.
Mary Hunter shared that their goal is to promote the importance of agriculture by helping with fundraisers to help the agriculture department grow and improve.
She added that she was very excited about seeing the new Land Lab up and running and continuing to grow.
“We are now working on some grants to develop the left-hand side of the property,” Hunter added. “We’ll be pleased to have your expertise as well as your time and any donations that you would like to give to help with fencing, additional laughs stock and building up the program.”
They currently have a handmade quilt they are selling raffle tickets to raise funds.
The new Farm Bureau agent, David Brown, introduced himself. He shared that he would welcome a visit to anyone’s home to discuss how he may assist.
Door prizes that were given out.
Derek Hancock, district conservationist for Roanoke, Craig and Botetourt counties, shared how he helps with natural resources conservation services that are paid for by the Department of Agriculture.
Record file photo
From Oct. 12: Fall Festival brings a colorful day of events
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
With vendors aligning Main Street and vintage cars and trucks along the side streets, the Annual Fall Festival in Craig County offered a day of fun on Saturday.
The event was organized by the Craig County Historical Society.
Participants could start their day off at the Old Hotel with breakfast and a tour of the building, as relics were in every room as well as members making rugs and spinning.
Throughout the day, a different music group took the stage at almost every hour and on the other end of the festival, Tim Leftwich provided music with his equipment.
Laughter seemed to permeate the air as people shook hands and hugged. Some were so happy to see high school classmates after over 30 years.
Big smiles seemed to be a natural response from most everyone.
Vendors were happy to serve the ones who visited their booths.
Some served food, while other had raffle tickets and their items to sell.
A newcomer this year was Nathan Menefee, with his Grinnin’ Possum Fishing Lures.
Menefee shared that he drove a tractor trailer for years and when people asked how he was doing, he would respond, “I’m grinnin’ like a possum!”
“They were always wondering what I was up to,” he said with a possum grin.
However, Menefee hurt his arm a while back and had to go on disability.
He had been making lures for himself and his sons to use to fish and decided to start making more and sell them.
“That is how I ended up doing this as I got time to do stuff now,” he said. “I have five grandkids, four boys and another boy I helped to raise. He keeps me on the creek all the time now.”
There were many vendors who had lots of sweets to eat, and other foods including homemade jellies and breads. There were even free back massages given.
This year, the little league Cougar football team had a booth to raise funds to help buy the needed uniform equipment to protect the players. They sold barbeque with sides, cupcakes and hot cocoa. They sold out, which pleased the parents and players.
Raffle tickets to win a kayak, guns, flowers, jewelry, TVs, food and more were sold. Many of the local first responders depend on this opportunity to raise funds to be able to purchase their needed equipment to serve our community.
Midday, there were two dancing contests, a flat-footing and jitterbug.
As people danced, the judges looked upon everyone to see how they were doing. Again, smiles and laughter were of abundance.
Winners of the flatfooting were, Charles Swain who took first, second was Teresa Fisher and third was Tammy Alls. Everyone who danced seemed to enjoy their time.
It was the first year for the jitterbug contest. No adults got up to dance. However, the toddlers and small kids decided not to waste good music and danced the entire dance.
The society decided to make them winners and gave them a medallion. Their grins were priceless.
The Future Farmers of America group had many options for the kids to enjoy including animals to feed and pet, bull roping, a sac race and a raffle.
They also had face painting and Jullian Dooley had his face painted like a skeleton.
The Marshall Reynolds Memorial Car Show seemed to be a big hit as there were so many entries that they ran out of room. “We love seeing all these people bring their vehicles!” Jackie Reynolds Taylor shared.
There were vintage vehicles that had more clearcoat than could be imagined, antique sports cars that brought back memories for many who enjoyed sharing their personal stories with the owners and the huge mud trucks that the kids wanted their pictures taken with.
To end the day at 4 p.m., the vendors lined up to the winners of the many drawings and raffles.
Though the day ended, there were people gathered in little groups chatting and smiling.
As all ended, the street was quickly cleaned up.
From Nov. 9: Fairgrounds dedicates announcer stand in memory of Sammy Huffman
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
When people said the name Sammy Huffman in Craig, most everyone knew the man.
He was bigger than life, with a smile and a heart that matched.
He had been the emcee at the Craig County Fairgrounds derbies for many years until his untimely death two months ago. Many felt the heartbreak of losing him so early in life and were saddened. Facebook was flooded with posts of pictures and memories.
At the annual Fall Demolition Derby on Oct. 8, the Fairgrounds Association dedicated the announcer stand, (or “tower” as Huffman called it), in memory of Sammy Huffman.
They redid the roof and added a huge 8-foot-long metal sign that said, “BIG SAM’S STAND” in memory of Sammy Huffman. The picture on the sign is of Huffman leaning against one of his crashed-up derby cars with the saying, “Play Times OVER!”
Randy Dillon designed and made the sign.
“He had such a great passion for the demo derby,” BJ Oliver shared. “We felt that we wanted to do this.”
At the derby, the association had these words read:
“Today Oct. 8 we gather together as family, classmates, friends, and neighbors to not only have fun and compete in a demolition derby, but to celebrate the memory and life of our dear friend Sammy Huffman.
Big Sam, as he was affectionately known, was a friend to us all.
Some things you could always count on for big Sam was: ready for a road trip whether it was in the woods or hunting for derby cars, a cold beverage, a good story, to paint a #3 on everything you owned, to speak to you when he saw you no other matter where you were or who you were, to treat you like family, to tell you how he really felt as he didn’t hold back and most importantly the love he had for his family.
Today, the Craig County Fairground Association would like to dedicate the announcer stand in his honor and have affectionately named it ‘Big Sam’s Stand’ to forever honor his love, not only for the sport of demolition derby but for the love he showed everyone he knew.
Now as he watches over all of us from up above in his new heavenly perch, let’s all rise for a toast to big Sam!”
Also, Huffman was an artist. He had designed the trophies for the Oct. 8 derby before he passed. They are a metal sign with a pumpkin with a determined look on its face, which had bat wings under it, and cut out letters that said “Fall Brawl 2022.”
The winners were happy they not only had won the derby but had a special trophy in memory of Huffman as well.
As Facebook was flooded with thoughts of “Big Sam,” many shared their heartfelt memories as well.
Some of his derby buddies chose to share their memories for this article.
“He was a great friend! We actually grew up together and had been friends from childhood. He was one year ahead of me, but he lived beside of my granny, and we spent a lot of time together,” Oliver said. “We ran a lot of derby together…I really miss him.”
“Big Sam was a great friend. He might as well have been a brother to me,” shared Donnie Wayne Fisher, a big-time derby man himself.
“We had a lot of great times running derbies all over the place,” he added.
He recalled when “Big Sam” had his first win in West Virginia driving a 1967 Dodge Monaco Station Wagon.
“He loved the sport of derby,” Fisher continued. “We took many road trips to get cars together and talked about everything and would laugh the whole trip.”
Fisher added that Huffman loved his wife and kids.
“I still have the last unopened text he sent me because I won’t get another one,” he emotionally added. “He was a big inspiration to me.”
Fisher said he remembered riding his bicycle down to watch Huffman build cars.
“He was such a true friend and I will miss him as all of his friends and family will because he did not know a stranger,” Fisher shared.
Justin Dudding recalled that his favorite night was at Richard and Jasmine Brown’s wedding derby reception.
“Sammy was the emcee, and I was the D.J.,” Dudding shared. “Well, BJ Oliver left his cooler full of beer at the stage, so Sammy and I emptied it for him. We then tossed the empty cans into a derby car parked close to the stage. LOL, as we talked about derbies of the past and Tom T Hall songs all night as we drank BJ’s beer.”
He added, “I sure do miss the long talks about junk yards we had come across and the phone calls telling me where every Cadillac setting in the weeds he had found were at.”
As one of the younger derby drivers, “Baby Grant” (as Huffman called him), Oliver shared, “Yes, I did know Sammy pretty well!”
“Every time I’d see Sammy he’d talk about his derby days,” he said. “He would tell me about all the 60s and 70s Plymouth and Dodge cars he derbied that are now obsolete. One thing I’ll never forget is him talking about all the friends and family that he made in the derbies.”
Oliver added, “He talked about my grandpa all the time, that I never got to meet, and how he could be the nicest or the most hateful person ever. In fact, I will never forget about the man himself as Sammy Huffman, and me were riding around in my grandad’s Nova and it was the first time it had been taken out in 10 years and he seen us on the road and didn’t say a word, he just shook his finger and smiled!”
Will Huffman, his nephew, used to stay in the stand with Huffman during the derbies and they would chat back and forth.
“It’s just not the same without him here,” Will Huffman shared. “I’ll still come up here in his honor but it’s really tough because I miss him a lot.”
Huffman’s daughter, Hannah, said she had so many memories to share, especially of going to the derbies everywhere.
“Since I was little, he used to sit in the living room and make derby cars out of whooper and raisin boxes and make car noises while he played with them,” Hannah shared with a smile. “He was a character for sure!”
“He still had the same friends he had in high school,” she added. “He taught me to always take the long way or the “scenic route”. We used to go on family vacations to OBX and he and his dad would use walkie talkies and an atlas map to get us there. It would take eight hours but if definitely made an impact on my memories.”
His oldest daughter, Samantha, holds Huffman’s name.
“Derbies were almost everything to dad. It he wasn’t there in person; you better believe he was watching it on TV!” Samantha shared. “He even had a derby video games and we would play it together.”
Samantha added that she and the family really loved the dedication of the announcers stand and the permanent metal plaque that it now on it.
“I know that dad would have loved it too, especially with it being his favorite pictures and all. It definitely made us all emotional,” she shared. “It was very strange for us not seeing him up there or hearing his voice throughout the fairgrounds, but he was definitely with us all that night.”
The memorial announcers stand gives honor to a man who had great passion for life and people, as well as the sport. It also seems to create a deep smile within the hearts of many as they gaze upon the art of the memorial sign.
From Dec. 7: Town Council members ready for 2023
Pam Dudding, Contributing writer
The votes were tallied, and the New Castle Town Council has a new mayor and two new board members.
The new mayor is J.L. (Lenny) McDonald who will be replacing Bucky Johnson.
New Castle Town Council members are Thurman (Tommy) Zimmerman, Robert E. (Eddie) Lee, Robyn Foster and Karen Crush.
“I have been on the town council for three and a half years,” shared McDonald. “During that time, I realized what a treasure our little town is.”
McDonald noted that when the previous mayor, Johnson, announced his intentions of retiring, he assumed that Zimmerman would be the obvious choice for mayor since he was the vice mayor.
“However, Tommy came to me and asked that I consider running as he would not be, and I was shocked and honored that he would feel I could do the job,” McDonald shred. “Before putting my name forward though I wanted to talk to Bucky Johnson to see if he was willing to reconsider his decision and stay on.”
McDonald said that in their conversation, Johnson said that he had served and felt it was time to step away, but he also felt that McDonald would be a good choice for taking the mayoral role.
“Finally, I sought out our secretary, Nina Davis, as I wanted her opinion and I wanted to know if I did run would she be willing to stay on,” he added. “She stated that she would stay on and at that point, I knew that with their support that I would run.”
In being on the council in previous years, McDonald stated that what he learned most about New Castle was its history through the voices of the people who live there.
“I also learned a lot about how municipalities work and how their budgeting works in its own unique way,” he said.
McDonald said that the most important things on the future agenda to address as the new mayor would be to continue the progress that Johnson initiated.
“Our town’s park is set for some great upgrades over the coming year,” he said. “Also, the town and county have partnered in bringing a Farmers Market to Main Street. I want to be sure that we see that project through to its best possible outcome given the budgetary challenges.”
Going forward, McDonald did share that he would like to see a greater participation at the meetings from the community.
He added that he would like to see a greater transparency as well.
“We have the technology available to get the word out when our meetings are being held,” McDonald said. “I also believe that we should stream our meetings on the internet for those who are home bound or unable to attend so that they can be aware of our efforts to improve our town.”
Eddie Lee was newly elected this year as a council member.
“I returned to New Castle in November of 2014,” he shared. “I always wanted to be here in my retirement years.”
Lee was raised in the town of New Castle where his paternal grandfather, father and mother all served as Town Council members.
“My roots go much deeper than that as my great-great grandfather Elisha B. Wagener was the first county surveyor and helped map out Craig County when it was formed in 1851,” Lee added. “I hope that I can contribute something positive to our town.”
“I am slow to accept change and like things the ‘Old Fashioned Way,’” Lee said. “I hope this position isn’t a hinderance in serving on council.”
He also noted that he is not affiliated with any political party.
“I have great pride in my town, county, state and country,” Lee said. “I also have a strong love for history and am very proud of my 12 Craig County ancestors who served in the Army of Northern Virginia during our Second War for Independence (1861-65).”
Lee shared that his “only goal at present as a town council member is to keep the town of New Castle as much like it is as possible.”
“I thank all who showed faith in me and voted for me,” he said. “In addition, I would like to say, I am pleased to see the preservation of the older buildings downtown. My mindset might be stuck in the past, but I admit that progress can bring about positive changes and still preserve history.”
Foster shared, “As a newly elected New Castle Town Council member, I realize I am part of a team. Thanks to the voters for instilling their confidence in me. I look forward to serving starting in January 2023.”
The monthly meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall building. Those interested in getting involved may leave a message at (540) 864-2200 with any questions or connect with a council member via Facebook.
The community is encouraged to attend the meetings and support the council as well as give suggestions to the needs one sees or to offer volunteer support.