A1 A1
Municipal races culminate Nov. 2

Voting for North Wilkesboro mayor, two North Wilkesboro commissioner seats and two Wilkesboro Town Council seats culminates Nov. 2 (Election Day).

Early, one-stop voting continues until 5 p.m. today, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Wilkes Board of Elections office in the County Office Building in Wilkesboro. Registering to vote and voting are simultaneously allowed in early, one-stop voting.

Prior voter registration is required to cast a ballot Nov. 2, when voting is from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. All municipal elections in Wilkes are non-partisan.

Polling sites open on Nov. 2 are:

• Wilkesboro Civic Center on School Street for voters in Wilkesboro I and III precincts;

• West Wilkes Middle School for voters in parts of the Cricket, Reddies River and Millers Creek precincts in the Wilkesboro town limits. State law requires a separate polling place for voters in a satellite (non-contiguous) portion of a town;

• North Wilkesboro Elks Lodge at 803 Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro, for voters in North Wilkesboro and portions of the Cricket, Fairplains and Wilkesboro 2 precincts in the North Wilkesboro town limits.

Low turnouts and close results are common in Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro elections. There was a nearly 21% voter turnout in both Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro in 2017.

The 430 people in Wilkesboro who voted in 2017 included 128 in early, one-stop and 13 by mail. Voter registration totaled 2,283 in Wilkesboro as of 11 a.m. Monday, up 8.76% from 2,099 on Election Day (Nov. 6) 2017.

Voter registration increased 8% in the same period in North Wilkesboro, from 2,211 to 2,389. In 2017, the 460 ballots cast in North Wilkesboro included 139 in early, one-stop voting and 21 by mail.

State law allows candidates to request a recount in municipal and other races governed by a county board of elections:

• in multi-seat elections if the difference is less than or equal to 1% of votes cast for the two winning candidates;

• in single-seat elections if the difference between the votes for the requester and the winning candidate is less than or equal to 1% of total votes cast in the election.

North Wilkesboro candidates

Candidates for the two North Wilkesboro commissioner seats are Otis W. Church, Joseph A. Johnston and incumbent Angela J. Day, seeking her second four-year term. Johnston was a North Wilkesboro commissioner for six years before not seeking reelection in 2019.

Jonathan Swift filed and his name is on the ballot, but Swift later said he was withdrawing as a candidate. North Wilkesboro Commissioner Debbie Ferguson is up for reelection this year but didn’t file.

Candidates for North Wilkesboro mayor are William Hamby, Michael Cooper, Marc R. Hauser and incumbent Robert L. Johnson, seeking his fourth four-year report.

Cooper ended the fourth campaign finance reporting period, with an Oct. 25 reporting deadline, with $22,059 in contributions and $16,107 in expenditures.

These are the largest amounts in memory in a North Wilkesboro mayoral race. This and the affiliations of some of Cooper’s out-of-county contributors have attracted attention, as reflected in letters on this newspaper’s editorial pages.

Wilkesboro campaign issue

Wilkesboro Town Council candidate Russell F. Ferree said Saturday that he filed a complaint with the State Board of Elections over three weeks ago over about eight “Vote for Lee W. Taylor” banners.

Ferree, Taylor and Nellie Hubbard Archibald are the three candidates for two Wilkesboro council seats. Ferree and Archibald are incumbents, with Ferree seeking his third consecutive term and Archibald seeking her second consecutive term. Archibald was also elected to the Wilkesboro council in 2009, but didn’t seek reelection when that term ended.

Ferree said his complaint was that the Taylor banners, put up over three weeks ago, lacked information saying who funded them. He said they were large enough (about 7 feet long, 3 feet tall) to require this.

State Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon said Monday that board officials can’t comment on election complaints that are under investigation.

Also on Monday, Taylor said he learned from a state board official that because he didn’t authorize and wasn’t aware of the banners in advance, he wasn’t responsible for whether they had required information. Taylor said the state official told him he wasn’t responsible for reporting the banners as expenditures to the Wilkes Board of Elections for the same reasons.

Wilkes Board of Elections Director Kim Caudill said last week that preliminary information from Taylor indicated he would exceed a $1,000 threshold resulting in having to file a detailed report of campaign contributions and expenditures on or by Monday. Taylor filed a report by then but only for $250 from himself.

By Monday, the “Vote for Lee W. Taylor” banners had additional language stating “Paid for by Ron Cohn” and “Not authorized by candidate.” Cohn said Monday that he was responsible for the Taylor banners, put on properties he owns. Cohn said he added the language saying he funded them without prior authorization.

Under state campaign finance law, expenditure for a candidate without the candidate’s prior knowledge are “independent expenditures.” Expenditures of $100 or more must be reported to the elections board by the person who made them.

Effective Dec. 1, 2021, only billboards (any displays greater than 50 square feet) must have language stating who funded them. The new law excludes flags or banners from the definition of billboards. Until then, signs larger than 3-by-5 feet generally must have the information.

Opening reception for a Wilkes Art Gallery exhibit of Ward Nichols’ paintings and Nick Schneider’s ceramics was Friday evening. The exhibit ends Dec. 17. From left are Dr. Susan Moorefield, Ward Nichols, Ashley Barton, gallery executive director; and Ed Stike of Charleston, W.Va., who collects Nichols’ paintings. Moorefield was interim pastor for two years at North Wilkesboro Presbyterian Church, which is Nichols’ church. For more on Nichols, see page C1.

Opening reception at gallery

'Trailblazer' in education in Wilkes dies

Editor’s Note: A full obituary for Coleen Triplett Bush is inside.

Coleen Triplett Bush, affiliated with the Wilkes County Schools for 50 years as a teacher, administrator and finally as a member of the Wilkes Board of Education from 2004-2012, died in Hickory on Oct. 22. Bush was 84.

Her funeral was Tuesday at the First United Methodist Church of North Wilkesboro with Rev. Jim Sanders, Rev. Steve Snipes and Dr. Steve Laws officiating. Burial followed at Friendship United Methodist Church Cemetery in Watauga County.

Laws was Wilkes school superintendent from 2003, a year before Bush was elected to the Wilkes school board, through 2009.

During the funeral, Laws spoke about Bush’s love of education; her desire to support people in performing their life’s calling; and her remarkable care for those she loved, including so many she hardly knew.

He also used the story of “packing the parachute,” which is about Navy Jet pilot Charles Plumb, to make the metaphorical point that Bush packed his parachute and the parachutes of many others.

Peggy Martin Halsch, who served on the school board with Bush and had a long career as a Wilkes educator, said in an interview that Bush was a “trailblazer in Wilkes” in the education field.

This included becoming the first female principal of a modern school in Wilkes in 1975, when she was named principal at Moravian Falls Elementary School.

“She paved the way for other people,” said Halsch. Bush was the type of person “who just got the job done well” with little fanfare. “I know she tried to do what was right — and to do it with kindness.”

Bush was born and raised in Watauga County and moved back there after her husband died in 1962. A year later, she began teaching fifth grade at North Wilkesboro Elementary School. She soon met the late A.M. “Buster” Bush, who helped coached at North Wilkesboro Elementary School early in his long career as North Wilkesboro recreation director, and they were married in 1965.

Bush taught for nine years at North Wilkesboro Elementary School and later served as a supervisor with the North Wilkesboro City School system. After the city and county schools merged in 1975, she became principal at Moravian Falls Elementary.

She later served at C.C. Wright Elementary School and then finished her career as a principal at Woodward Middle School in 2002. She was elected to the Wilkes school board two years later and served as chairman.

As a principal, she mentored and trained many women and men who went on to become successful in education. She was also the first woman to attend the Principals’ Executive Program at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Bush’s professional honors included Teacher of the Year, President-District 3 Associations of Classroom teachers, President- North Wilkesboro and Wilkes County NCAE, President-Beta Eta Chapter-Delta Kappa Gamma. She was named Wilkes County Principal of the Year three different times.

Bush was a member of the First United Methodist Church in North Wilkesboro. She also was a member of the North Wilkesboro Rotary Club, served on the Wilkes Community Foundation and volunteered at MerleFest.

Humane society animal shelter proposed
  • Updated

A Humane Society of Wilkes request for county government assistance with building an animal shelter received a positive response during the Oct. 19 Wilkes County commissioners meeting.

The proposed 6,000-square-foot facility would include space for 14 large dogs, 12 small dogs and 48 cats, said Katie Parsons, chairman of the humane society’s foster-adoption committee. It would also have dog isolation and animal exercise areas, offices, storage space and a meet and greet area.

“We would like to build on our partnership with the county” with the donation of one to two acres of county-owned land as a shelter site, said Parsons. County assistance with grading the site also is requested, she added.

Fundraising for building a humane society shelter is underway and has strong support, she said. An architect has been engaged and other humane society shelters in the area were toured.

She said the Wilkes Animal Control Department spent about $160 per animal at the county animal shelter on Call Street in Wilkesboro in 2019-20. It euthanizes about 2,700 animals per year.

“We work closely with the county shelter to reduce the need to euthanize adoptable pets” and reduce county expenses by finding homes for adoptable animals.

Parsons said the proposed facility would allow the humane society to find homes for 200 or more additional animals a year. This would cut county government costs even more, she said.

“The Humane Society of Wilkes pulls as many dogs and cats as we can from the animal shelter, but we are limited by the number of foster homes that we have for these pets until they can be adopted as well as available cage space at PetSmart and in the Humane Society building at Cub Creek Park.”

This year, the organization has secured homes for 184 dogs and puppies, 229 cats and kittens and three other animals (such as rabbits and pigs) for a total of 516.

The most since 2015 was 565 in 2019, when 186 dogs and puppies, 351 cats and kittens and 28 other animals were adopted for a total of 565.

She said the humane society typically has about 10 foster homes at any one time and it usually takes a week to as long as six months to get foster pets adopted.

Doug Morris, also a leader of the Humane Society of Wilkes, said the organization hoped for an indication of commissioner support to help it with planning.

Settle told Morris he didn’t think any of the commissioners would disagree with giving a lot near the county animal shelter to the humane society, but added that he hadn’t heard anything about county help with grading until that night.

Morris said it will take much longer to get the shelter built if the human society is responsible for grading.

Settle said a step in the right direction was taken, but no action would be taken that night. “We’ll work together” on the project, he added. Settle said they’ve always worked together well.

When Settle asked how the humane society shelter would be staffed, Parsons said would it have both fulltime paid and volunteer staff.

Commissioner Keith Elmore said having the proposed humane society shelter and the county facility near each other would be advantageous. He said the Iredell County and humane society shelters in Statesville are physically connected.

Parsons said the Humane Society of Wilkes has steadily grown since it was established 25 years ago, improving its policies and implementing programs to support pets and pet owners in Wilkes.

These include its foster adoption program, the Hidden Oaks Dog Park and nearby small building at Cub Creek Park and its spay-neuter program with discounted prices for dogs and cats belonging to low income people.

Right to life resolution to be presented

The Nov. 2 meeting of the Wilkes County commissioners has been moved to the Wilkes Agricultural Center’s main meeting room in anticipation of a large crowd for presentation of a resolution in support of right to life of the unborn.

The purpose is to “take a stand and bring the issue of sanctity of human life to the forefront,” said the Rev. David Dyer, who will present the resolution. Dyer, pastor of Fairplains Baptist Church, said Monday that it’s part of establishing a “culture of life” in Wilkes.

“This is an opportunity for churches to be heard,” he said. At least 18 churches in Wilkes representing at least five denominations are involved in the resolution effort, he added. “This isn’t a political issue. The church is much bigger than politics.”

Speakers will include Dyer and Susan Sturgill, executive director of the Wilkes Pregnancy Care Center in North Wilkesboro. The center is a non-profit, non-denominational organization offering positive alternatives to abortion, while providing care, compassion, information and support to women facing unintended pregnancies.

Dyer said thousands of signatures in support of the resolution will be included when it is presented with a request for board approval at the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m.

In preparation for presenting the resolution to the Wilkes commissioners, hundreds of people attended a meeting with prayer and hymn-singing at North Wilkesboro’s Smoot Park on Oct. 18. Speakers there included Eddie Settle, chairman of the county commissioners.

Settle said Monday that he expected attendance at the Nov. 2 board meeting to exceed the roughly 200 on hand when commissioners unanimously approved a resolution declaring Wilkes a “Second Amendment Constitutional Rights Protection County.” This was the most in recent memory at a Wilkes commissioners meeting.

The Second Amendment resolution said county government will respect and defend rights of citizens to keep and bear arms. The county board’s normal meeting place is on the ground floor of the Wilkes County Office Building.

Dyer said right to life resolutions similar to the one to be presented to the Wilkes County commissioners were already approved by the Yadkin and Davie county commissioners and are in the process of being presented to commissioners in other North Carolina counties.

He said the resolutions are tied to a movement initiated by Centerville, Tenn.-based Personhood Alliance, which encourages churches to present such documents to county and municipal governing bodies in their communities.

According to the Winston-Salem Journal, the resolution approved by the Yadkin commissioners in August 2019 recognized “the full humanity of the unborn child” and declared the county a “strong advocate for the preborn” that will defend the dignity of all humans, starting with conception.

The Journal reported that a draft resolution the Yadkin commissioners received from a minister in Yadkin County included the word “sanctuary,” but was stricken upon the recommendation of Yadkin County Attorney Ed Powell.

The draft version called for making Yadkin County a “sanctuary city” for “pre-born children,” but this raised legal concerns.

On Oct. 5, the Davie County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution similar to what was approved in Yadkin County.

In Texas and some other states, local governments have enacted ordinances declaring municipalities or counties “sanctuaries for the unborn” and as such outlawing abortions within their jurisdictions.

The U.S. Justice Department sued Texas in September over a new state law banning most abortions, arguing that it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.” The Texas law, known as SB8, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity — usually around six weeks.

Courts have blocked other states from imposing similar restrictions, but the law in Texas differs by leaving enforcement to private citizens through civil lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutors.