“Veranda pirates” are a problem on site


DOBSON – The first day of an application deadline is usually accompanied by a lot of activity, which was the case in Dobson this week.

“We had a very busy day on the Surry County Board of Elections (office) with 14 people applying for office,” announced District Returning Officer Michella Huff late Monday. That was the first day those searching various local seats in Mount Airy and elsewhere in Surry could officially throw their hats in the ring for the 2022 election season.

However, one of them, Will Pfitzner – a nominee for a North Ward seat on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners – has since retired from the race.

Joanna Refvem has also applied to serve as North Ward Commissioner.

Meanwhile, three people who had announced their intention to run for mayor also came forward on Monday: Jon Cawley, Teresa Lewis and the man who now holds that office, Ron Niland.

Cawley, 59, the longest-serving member of the city council since 2008, announced in July that he would run for Mount Airy’s highest elected position, while making it clear that he believed Niland is doing a good job.

His decision to run for mayor dates back to the resignation of David Rowe, who previously held this office, in October 2020 for health reasons.

Cawley said he wanted a different role in the city administration. However, while the mayor has no voice in his actions – other than to break a tie – that person can “tell our story,” Cawley said in July. The mayor is the face of the city and its most visible representative, he believes.

Niland, 66, made an official announcement last Thursday that he would run for mayor during a council meeting, and followed suit with his filing on Monday.

“This is a transformative time in the history of our city,” said Niland on Thursday, adding that he would like to continue the “great work” already started and be part of Mount Airy’s vision on a number of projects.

Lewis also announced her candidacy for mayor months ago.

As a former Grand Commissioner at Mount Airy, she is a retired local businesswoman who has long been associated with the recruitment firm WorkForce Unlimited.

Lewis, 63, has cited her past experience in the city administration – including her key role in launching their recycling program about 10 years ago – as reasons that enable them to return to public office.

She has also served on the boards of various community organizations over the years.

Submitting the three candidates on Monday will force a Mount Airy mayor primary in March. This is necessary when three or more candidates are aiming for a particular office.

Mount Airy elections are impartial.

Commissioner Race

Since Cawley is not allowed to run for office and the commissioner seat he now occupies this has opened the door for others to submit to the North Ward – where Cawley has never encountered opposition in three re-election offers.

And Pfitzner and Refvem did not waste any time on Monday, when the application deadline for candidates began at 12 noon.

However, Pfitzner, 28, said Tuesday that his candidacy was short-lived and that he would withdraw his name from the process sometime this week.

“I didn’t know Joanna was going to propose,” he said of Refvem, one of his neighbors on Montclaire Drive and a friend of Pfitzner’s family.

“I really think Joanna will do a great job,” Pfitzner said, hinting that he didn’t want to apply against someone who was so close to him.

Owner of a company called LazerEdge Designs, his reason for looking for public office was to add another element to the city council.

“I wanted to bring the youth into the lead,” said Pfitzner, who signaled that he was just postponing his plans for the time being. “I will be running for some kind of city tour in the future.”

Refvem, 67, a half-retired counselor at Mount Airy High School, mentioned Tuesday that her family has lived in the town since 1996. And she wants to do something to “help the community that has done us so good,” the candidate said.

She has no particular concerns about the city government’s activities that motivate applications for office.

“At this point I have absolutely no agenda,” said Refvem, who wants to assess citizens’ concerns and how she could help in the event of an election. “I think I want to be a good student of the community.”

Other submissions

Candidates for party district offices were also submitted on Monday, including:

• Surry Sheriff Steve Hiatt, 58, a Republican who is running for his second term in the office he was elected to in 2018;

• Acting Clerk Neil Brendle, 45, who is also seeking a second consecutive term for the GOP ticket;

• A challenger to Brendle, Republican Melissa Marion Welch, 41, of Dobsonian;

• Walter D. Harris, 68, ran for a seat in the Mount Airy District on the Surry County’s Board of Commissioners now held by first-term incumbent Republican compatriot Bill Goins;

• Tessa Saeli, 48, a resident of Elkin seeking a seat on the district board of longtime incumbent Eddie Harris (both Republicans);

• Mamie M. Sutphin, 44, of Pilot Mountain, a Democratic incumbent on the Surry County Board of Education who represents District 2 on that board;

• Brent Long, 56, also a resident of Pilot Mountain, a Republican who wants to depose Sutphin;

• Jessica George, 33, of Shiloham, a Republican attempting to fill Early Coe’s recent vacancy on the District 3 School Board;

• Republican TJ Bledsoe, 40, a Dobson resident, is running for District 4 on the Surry County Board of Education, now occupied by Terri Mosley, chairman of the board.

The registration deadline for candidates ends on December 17th at 12 noon.


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