Eight candidates for county commissioner are on Wilkes County Republican ballots for the March 3 primary election, the most since 10 in 2000.
In 1976, 16 Republicans filed for three Wilkes commissioner seats. The GOP primary ballot in Wilkes had 10 county commissioner candidates in 1974 and nine in 1978, with three seats open in both elections.
Voters registered with a political party may only use the primary ballot for their party, but unaffiliated voters may choose one of the following: Republican, Democratic, Libertarian or nonpartisan ballot.
In Wilkes, only Republican primary ballots have county commissioner candidates because only the GOP had enough candidates filing for county commissioner to require a primary.
A party needed at least four candidates to require a primary because three of the five Wilkes County commissioners will be chosen in the Nov. 3 general election. Since only two Democrats filed as candidates for Wilkes County commissioner in 2020, their names are already secured on the general election ballots.
The eight Republicans who filed for Wilkes County commissioner, listed in alphabetical order and as their names are written on the ballots, are Ralph C. Broyhill, 70, of Millers Creek; G. Keith Elmore, 66, of Roaring River; Rachel Carr Jarvis, 45, of North Wilkesboro; Casey Joe Johnson, 28, of North Wilkesboro; Dale Pierce, 73, of Roaring River; Miranda Gray Pruitt, 25, of North Wilkesboro; Eddie Settle, 60, of the Pleasant Hill community; and Bill Sexton, 67, of Hays.
Elmore and Settle are incumbents. Gary D. Blevins, the third current county commissioner up for re-election and also a Republican, didn’t file for office.
The two Democrats who filed for Wilkes County commissioner seats are Chalma W. Hunt, 57, of Wilkesboro, and D. Jerome Watkins, 49, of Wilkesboro.
Nearly all 10 candidates cited the need for economic development and more jobs in Wilkes among their reasons for wanting to serve as county commissioners. Several also mentioned the need for more entertainment and other extracurricular options in Wilkes.
The 10 who filed for Wilkes County commissioner this year, listed in alphabetical order and as their names are written on the ballots, are:
Ralph C. Broyhill
Republican Ralph C. Broyhill stated, “My desire is to see Wilkes County be a county where our children will want to stay. But, we first have to have jobs that pay good wages. We need an education system that can offer the skills that are needed to make our county great again. We need to make sure we have a water system that is available to all citizens.”
He added, “I truly feel that with the right leadership in Washington, D.C., it’s possible to get a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Wilkes for the well deserving veterans. Our veteran population is getting older and travel is an impairment for most of them. We have over 5,000 veterans just in Wilkes County. I would like to know that when it is all said and done, I did my part in making Wilkes County a great place to live and our children have the same opportunities we had.”
Broyhill is a lifelong Wilkes resident. He was born and raised in Moravian Falls, resided for 30 years in the Mulberry community and now lives in Millers Creek. He is married to Malinda Church Broyhill. He graduated from Wilkes Central High School and later in his adult life graduated from Appalachian State University with a bachelor’s degree in business and management supervision.
He served in the U.S. Army from October 1968 to 0ctober 1970. This included spending 13 months in Dachau, Germany, with the 3/37th Artillery, assigned to supply. Broyhill retired a little over a year ago from Wilkes County government, where he worked as Wilkes Veterans Service Officer for 38 years.
In politics, Broyhill served as Republican chairman of the Mulberry Precinct for 28 years and was the Wilkes County Republican Party chairman for four years.
He has been a member of Harmony Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro for 49 years and has served as church treasurer there for 23 years.
G. Keith Elmore
Republican G. Keith Elmore said he first wanted to thank the citizens of Wilkes for their support over the last 16 years. “The reason I am running is I would like to continue building on our success in Wilkes County. We have expanded services while lowering taxes and maintaining a record high fund balance. I bring a unique perspective to being a county commissioner, having spent over 40 years in the private sector and having over 15 years of government experience and training.”
He added, “My insight would be beneficial in striking a balance between providing government services and being responsible to the taxpayers. If re-elected, I would work with the county manager and other commissioners to continue to focus on all facets of government, using technology and common sense to reduce cost and increase efficiency.”
Elmore has lived most of his life in Wilkes and has been married to Mary Beaver Elmore for 32 years. They have a daughter. He graduated from East Wilkes High School in 1971, studied electronics at Forsyth Tech and received an associate degree in business from Wilkes Community College.
Before running for office, he worked 30 years in technology and human resources for Lowe’s Companies Inc., Lovette Co., ConAgra Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride Poultry Co. He now is manager of Foothills Auto Spa in Wilkesboro.
Elmore has served on the boards of the Wilkes Department of Social Services (over 18 years), Vaya (behavioral health), Wilkes Economic Development Corp., Wilkes Transportation Authority, Tax Equalization, Wilkes County Health, Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission, Wilkes Animal Control, Senior Citizen, N.C. Association of County Commissioners Executive and High Country Workforce Development. He was CEO of the Consortium Board, on the WCC Board of Trustees and as WCC liaison for the commissioners. Elmore was also on the Roaring River Fire Department board and is a member of Arbor Grove Baptist Church.
Chalma W. Hunt
Democrat Chalma W. Hunt stated, “Wilkes County is a wonderful place to live, but I believe we are currently challenged by a lack of employment opportunities with attractive salaries, fun and safe extracurricular options for our teens and young adults, viable public transportation options, services and activities for seniors and a broader variety of retail and shopping venues.” Hunt added, “Improvements in these areas would not only serve the needs of our current residents and boost our economy, but has the potential to attract new residents to Wilkes County. Though change tends to be met with resistance, it must be considered to help us stay competitive and prepare next generations for success in a diverse and ever evolving world.”
Hunt was born and raised in Wilkes County, lived in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area for 20 years and relocated to Wilkesboro in 2015. She has a son and a daughter.
She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a bachelor of arts degree in sociology. Hunt works as assistant manager at Chick-fil-A restaurant in Wilkesboro.
Hunt has volunteered as a guardian ad litem for the 23rd Judicial District since 2016, has been youth director at Poplar Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Roaring River since 2016, was Lewisdale Citizens Association Board secretary in 2014 and 2015, was assistant director of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden Aviation Ministry from 2001-2015, was director of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden Employment Ministry in 2013 and 2014 and was a teacher in the First Baptist Church of Glenarden Children’s Institute in 2001 and 2012. First Baptist Church of Glenarden is near Washington, D.C.
Rachel Carr Jarvis
Republican Rachel Carr Jarvis stated, “I have lived in Wilkes County all my life. Honestly, I love this county. Through the years, I have become increasingly concerned about issues we are facing in this area. This has prompted me to get involved by running for county commissioner. As a wife, mother, minister, farmer and taxpayer, I know we have opportunities to improve the quality of life for all residents. To do that, we must address the hard issues such as unemployment and accountability for where our tax dollars are being allocated.”
She added, “Through the years, activities for our youth and families have decreased in our county. Creating a more family friendly environment locally is important. Continued support for our public services such as the local law enforcement, fire departments, paramedics, etc. are essential as they protect the vulnerable and strengthen our communities. Supporting the growth of small businesses and farmers are a priority. Given the opportunity, I will work hard for the citizens of Wilkes County.”
Carr and her husband of 26 years, Burt Jarvis, have three daughters. She is a 1992 graduate of East Wilkes High School, has an associate degree in human services technology from WCC, an associate degree from the International School of Ministry and a ministry license through United Christian Ministerial Association & Oasis Ministries. Her occupation is Jarvis Farm & Greenhouse and she has worked for Our House (Child Abuse Prevention Team); Great State Land & Auction Co. and Ferree, Cunningham & Gray, Attorneys. She is a minister at the Restoration Worship Center.
Carr is involved in all aspects of ministry at the Restoration Worship Center, including “Grief Share” sessions, Trail of Treats and food boxes. She has been volunteer kitchen manager with Tribe Youth Camp (Lift Church) since 2001, is an active member of the Wilkes Central High Band Boosters and has been a volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse, Samaritians Kitchen, Wilkes Ministry of h.o.p.e., hospice and Love Life Charlotte. She also has been a substitute teacher.
Casey Joe Johnson
Republican Casey Joe Johnson quoted Jude 22 from the Bible, “And of some have compassion, making a difference,” and said this is how he has tried and wants to live his life.
“I am running for Wilkes County commissioner because I want to make a difference and serve the people of Wilkes County. If elected I will work hard to encourage jobs/economic development, strengthen our schools, support family recreation/entertainment and will continue to address and bring more of an awareness to the substance abuse issues in our county. I want to continue to make Wilkes a great place to live, work and raise a family,” he added.
Johnson grew up in Hays and is a lifelong Wilkes County resident. He and his wife, Heather Edmisten Johnson, have been married four years and have one son. Johnson graduated from North Wilkes High School in 2009, from WCC with an associate degree and from Appalachian State University with a bachelor of art’s degree in special education, with an add-on licensure in elementary education.
He is a fifth-grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School and is in his sixth year teaching there. Johnson was named Mountain View Elementary Teacher of the Year in the 2018-19 school year and was among the top six finalists for Wilkes County teacher of the year.
He is a member of Bethel Baptist Church in North Wilkesboro, where he is adult choir director, assists in the family/children’s ministry and is the assistant vacation Bible school director.
Republican Dale Pierce stated, “I want to make Wilkes County great again. With my experience and skills that made me successful in business, I could make Wilkes County a safer and better place to live and work, plus help build a better future for my county. If elected a county commissioner, I believe I can have a big impact on the county, make some improvements and give back to the community.”
Pierce was born in Alleghany County, went to Mountain Park Elementary School and Mountain Park High School in Surry County and has lived in Wilkes for 60 years. He is married to Brenda Pierce and has two children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Pierce owns and operates Roaring River Milling Co. He also has driven a school bus for the Wilkes County Schools and has worked as a heavy equipment contractor for the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Pierce has been chief of the Roaring River Volunteer Fire Department for 20 years and has been a member of the department for 43 years. He has been a first responder in the department for 18 years.
He is a member of the Wilkes County Firemen’s Association and has worked with Wilkes Emergency Medical Services on numerous occasions.
Miranda Gray Pruitt
Republican Miranda Gray Pruitt stated, “I have pride to be from a small town with rich moral values, where hard work and dedication are in the hearts of the citizens who live here. As a Christian wife, mother and entrepreneur, I am thankful each day for this beautiful place I call home where I can work, live and raise a family. Over the years, however, we have lost something. We have lost the drive that once made Wilkes County one of the strongest economic communities in our area. As a whole, we have watched jobs leave and families left to bear the pain. We have become complacent with the situation at hand and I believe it’s time for a change.”
She added, “My family has been affected in two ways over the past year by corporations that hold the bottom dollar to a higher threshold than the human lives that make up the company in the first place. My drive to run for commissioner fully stems from my personal experience, and the idea that if you want to make a change then you must get involved to do so. It was then I decided to take a leap of faith and trust God to lead me in a direction that would allow me to try to help my fellow citizens. If elected I would like to serve on the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. to try to bring new industries to our area and help Wilkes thrive once again.”
Pruitt is a lifelong Wilkes resident. She and her husband, Allen Pruitt, have one son. She graduated from North Wilkes High School in 2012. During here junior and senior years there, she was dually-enrolled at WCC in the Artistic Academy and went on to graduate with a cosmetology license in 2012. Pruitt owns and works full time at LaBelle Salon & Day Spa in North Wilkesboro, where she specializes in hair color services and other hair, skin, and nail care. She is a certified Alfaparf Milano hair care educator. Pruitt is a member of Rock Springs Baptist Church and has been a McGrady Fire & Rescue firefighter for nine years.
Republican Eddie Settle stated, “I am seeking re-election as a Wilkes County commissioner because I love the county in which I was born and raised, and would like to continue serving and being a voice for the citizens of Wilkes. As an incumbent, my record proves I can get things accomplished. During my terms we have never raised, but have actually lowered taxes, while funding all the needs of the county. We have managed to raise our per student funding significantly. We (current commissioners) are in the process of opening EMS substations in outlying areas to achieve a 10-minute response time to calls. The commissioners also recently passed a fire department substation assistance program.”
He added, “Financially, Wilkes is one of the strongest counties in the state, maintaining a 38-40% fund balance. During my next term, I plan to focus on economic development and make it a priority for Wilkes County’s growth and improvement.
Settle is a lifelong Wilkes resident. He and his wife, Shelia Waddell Settle, will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in June. They have a son and daughter. He graduated from East Wilkes High School and attended WCC. He has owned and operated a commercial business for 30 years. Settle also has seven cattle farms in Wilkes. He has been a Wilkes County commissioner since first elected in 2012 and has served on numerous boards in that capacity.
Settle is a member of Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church. He has served on various committees, is an active ordained deacon, member of the Brotherhood, and currently is on the finance committee at Pleasant Ridge Baptist. He has been N.C. Agriculture Steering Committee chairman since 2014 and is a member of the N.C. Cattleman’s Association and the Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital Foundation board. He is founder of East Wilkes Youth Football and a Blue Ridge Youth Football board member. He serves or served on the following Wilkes County boards: economic development, social services, library and airport, as well as fire department commissioner. Settle was Wilkes County Republican Party vice chairman from 2008-2012.
Republican Bill Sexton stated, “First, and most importantly, I am a Christian. I have dedicated a majority of my life in service to others. It is my hope to continue my service as your commissioner. There are many reasons that I have chosen to run for commissioner, but ultimately, my love for our county was my driving force.”
He added, “We watch as our loved ones leave our county each day for work opportunities not here anymore. We have the necessary resources, lower tax rates, available land and a willing work force in Wilkes. If elected commissioner, I plan to work with the Wilkes Economic Development Corp. to help make Wilkes an attractive option for businesses looking to relocate and new businesses looking to start up. I will advocate for more family entertainment options, restaurants and recreation to support young families.” Sexton said another topic he is very passionate about is salary and benefit equity for county employees. “We need to take care of those who are taking care of us,” he said.
“If elected, I pledge to seek out advice of successful business leaders as we make decisions in uncharted areas. The inability of the towns to combine forces and work cohesively on projects such as an adequate water intake to supply clean water for our industries and residents is an issue that we need to correct. We need to work together to better meet the needs of our citizens. Sexton said he is a proud supporter of Second Amendment rights.
Sexton, a lifelong Wilkes resident, and his wife, Patty Harrold Sexton, have three children and three grandchildren. He graduated from North Wilkes High in 1970 and works part-time at Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home and as an instructor at Wilkes Community College. He retired after working 30 years for United Parcel Service and 26 years (including reserve, part-time and fulltime) for Wilkes Emergency Medical Services. Sexton is an EMT-paramedic, EMS curriculum level I instructor and firefighter III.
He is a member and deacon chairman at Victory Baptist Church in Hays. Sexton has been president of the Mountain View Fire Department Board of Directors since 2007 and is a firefighter and first responder in the department, with 44 years of service.
D. Jerome Watkins
Democrat D. Jerome Watkins stated, “After living in Wilkes County for the past seven years and seeing businesses close or relocate, the infrastructure of the county crumble and no transportation options other than Wilkes Transportation Authority (WTA), I said to myself that I needed to be more than a voter. I needed to be proactive about the situation. I want to help repair the issues I see. It’s not enough just to vote, I want to tackle the issues head-on, and I think I can do just that.”
He said the citizens of Wilkes should vote for him because he will bring fresh new ideas, help bring alternative modes of public transportation, support small businesses and work to build infrastructure for new job creation. Watkins said he will work to welcome new industry to create new and better-paying jobs. He said these additional employment opportunities will help keep young people in the county.
Watkins has lived in Wilkes for seven years. He and his wife, Julie Goad-Watkins, have four daughters, a grandson and a granddaughter. He graduated from Brookhaven High School in Brookhaven, Miss., majored in electronics engineering at Grantham College and in computer information technology at Surry Community College. He received a certificate in Project Management for IS/IT Professionals and master certificates in IS/IT Project Management and Lean Enterprise Solutions at Villanova University. Watkins also is a Cisco Certified Network Associate and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified.
He was on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps from June 1988 to June 2008. As an advanced aviation electronics systems technician, his military occupational specialty was intermediate level avionics. Watkins also was a technical instructor. He retired as a gunnery sergeant from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. Watkins now is a business systems consultant for information and cyber security and security infrastructure engineering for Wells Fargo.
Watkins volunteers with Wilkes Rescue Group and is a motivational speaker for the Gastonia/Monroe Recruiter Sub Station, Wilkes at Risk Youth and the Eckerd Connects Boys residential program in Boomer.