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Four people are running for two Wilkesboro Town Council seats in this year’s election.

The four candidates, listed with their names and in the order as they appear on the ballot, are:

• Jimmy Hayes, 72, Laurel Road, self-employed selling classic cars and real estate;

• J. Gary Johnson, 66, Spring Valley Road, owner of Max Express LLC, owner of a courier service that provides delivery service to the poultry industry;

• Gregory A. Minton, 57, Skyland Drive, dean of public safety at Wilkes Community College;

• Andrew “Andy” Soots, 68, College Street, owner of Nature’s Way Environmental Services.

(More details on each candidate are in this story where it continues on Page A3.)

Election Day is Nov. 5 and the deadline to register to vote then is Oct. 11. Completed voter registration forms must be turned in to the Wilkes Board of Elections office in the Wilkes County Office Building in Wilkesboro by 5 p.m. Oct. 11 or postmarked by Oct. 11 if mailed.

Election Day polling sites for this year’s Wilkesboro election include the Wilkesboro Fire Station and the Wilkesboro Civic Center. Residents of the portions of Wilkesboro in Cricket, Millers Creek and Reddies River precincts will vote at West Wilkes Middle School.

Those who miss the Oct. 11 voter registration deadline may register and vote at one stop early voting with proof of residency. Early, one-stop voting is Oct. 16 to Nov. 1, on weekdays only from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Wilkes Board of Elections office.

A person must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 to register to vote. If a person has been convicted of a felony, the right to vote must have been restored to register and vote.

To vote in a municipal election, a person must have lived in that municipality at least 30 days by Election Day. Beginning in 2020, North Carolina voters must provide a photo ID when voting in-person or absentee-by-mail, with some exceptions.

Oct. 4 is the first day the board of elections may mail out absentee ballots and the board is taking requests for them now. The deadline to turn in completed ballots in person is 5 p.m. Nov. 5; the deadline if mailed is 5 p.m. Nov. 8. The deadline for the office to receive mailed absentee ballots from military personnel or people overseas is 5 p.m. Nov. 14. All mailed absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 5.

Jimmy Hayes

Hayes is seeking his fourth consecutive four-year term on the council. He has lived in Wilkesboro all his life. Hayes and his wife, Brenda Hayes, have three children and six grandchildren.

He graduated from Wilkes Central High School, Wilkes Community College and Forsyth Tech in Winston-Salem.

Hayes is a member of Oakwoods Baptist Church, Blue Ridge Opportunity Commission Board and High Country Council of Governments Board.

J. Gary Johnson

Johnson is seeking his second consecutive term on the council, but earlier served two terms on the council. He has lived in Wilkes County all his life and in Wilkesboro for 20 years.

Johnson graduated from Wilkes Central High School and attended Wilkes Community College. His wife is Madelene Johnson.

Before his current occupation, Johnson had a 28-year career with Tyson Foods Inc. and was a plant manager when he retired. He has advanced training as a Certified Management Trainer for all levels of poultry managers.

Johnson is a member of Fishing Creek Baptist Church, a founding member and former president of the West Wilkes Medical Center Board and current member of Wilkes Economic Development Corp.

Gregory A. Minton

Minton, a first-time town council candidate, was chairman and vice chairman during a four-year Wilkes County commissioner term. He is a Wilkes native and has lived in Wilkesboro for four years. Minton and his wife, Lee Ann, have two children.

He has a doctor of education degree in leadership and policy analysis from East Tennessee State University, a specialist in education degree with a concentration in post-secondary leadership from Appalachian State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in law enforcement management from the University of South Carolina, a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from ASU and an associate in arts degree from Wilkes Community College.

He served as a security specialist (security forces) in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged.

Before his current position at WCC, Minton was chair of public safety and before that director of law enforcement training at WCC. He was hired as a deputy at the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office in 1984 and worked there, except for one year apiece at the Wilkesboro and Hickory police departments and seven years as a special agent II at N.C. Crime Control & Public Safety. He retired from the sheriff’s office in 2011, when he was chief deputy.

Minton is a regional director for the N.C. Association of County Boards of Social Services and the Wilkesboro Zoning Board of Adjustment. He previously was on the Wilkes County Comprehensive Transportation Plan Steering Committee, High Country COG Rural Transportation Advisory Committee, Wilkes Public Library Advisory Board, Wilkes Council on Aging Advisory Committee and Wilkes Juvenile Crime Prevention Council.

Andrew “Andy” Soots

Soots was a councilman from 2013-2017, and ran unsuccessfully in other council elections. Except for when he was in the U.S. Merchant Marines, Soot has lived in Wilkes all his life. He has lived in Wilkesboro 48 years. Soots and his wife, Sue Ellen Soots, have two children and two grandchildren.

Soots is a graduate of Wilkes Central High School. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marines for 18 years and was an officer.

He attends Union Grove Christian Church, is president of the Wilkes County Cruisers, member and past master of Liberty Masonic Lodge, past president of the Wilkesboro Business Men & Professional Club and member of the WCC Horticulture Advisory Board, Wilkes Civitan Club, the Gospel Voice Group and National Rifle Association. Soots also coached T-Ball baseball for 10 years.

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