By Harley Nefe
If you were in the crowds observing the Town of Boone’s Fourth of July parade on Monday, you may have seen some familiar faces amongst the cars and floats in the procession. As a continuation of the celebration of Boone and the town reaching a milestone of 150 years, former mayors were invited back to participate in the festivities.
Former mayors including Wade Wilmoth, Larry Keeter, Loretta Clawson, and Andy Ball could be seen in the parade in addition to many former and current town council members and town staff. The Grand Marshal was none other than Rufus Edmisten, an attorney who has served as North Carolina Secretary of State, Attorney General, and was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1984.
Shortly after the parade, the Town of Boone held a Mayoral Reception in the Community Room of the Appalachian Theatre where these important figures spoke and reflected on Boone over the years.
This event was originally supposed to be held at the beginning of the year on January 23 as part of the kick-off party celebrating the town’s official 150th anniversary since its incorporation in 1872. However, it was moved to later in the year when people could gather together more safely.
Around 1 p.m. on Monday, the gathering started with Mark Freed, Director of Cultural Resources, welcoming attendees.
“We’re so happy you’re here,” Freed said. “Even as formal as this ceremony is, we are all a bunch of friends hanging out, and we’re glad that you are here and could be a part of this.”
Mayor Pro Tem Edie Tugman started off the reception by saying, “I am seven months into this, and I am still in awe of the fact that people had enough confidence in our council to vote for all of us as a team.”
She continued, “I think we are all doing really, really well, and we are incredibly proud to be a part of the governance of Boone.”
Tugman then opened the floor to the guest speaker of the event, Rufus Edmisten, who was born and raised in Boone.
“I’m glad to be here and to have been a part of the parade,” Edmisten said. “Boone has always been on my mind.”
He continued, “I respect the local government more than any other government, and I’m glad to be home again. I think very fondly of my hometown and the place I have always called home.”
As a Boonerang himself, or someone who is from Boone and leaves, but always finds their way back, Edmisten was gifted a Boone 150 T-shirt from longtime community member Bettie Bond.
After Edmisten spoke, Wade Wilmoth who served as mayor from 1975-1979, took the floor.
“I like to talk about Boone everywhere I go; it’s my favorite place,” Wilmoth said. “In fact, it’s the best place in the world. You can’t find a better place to live than Boone.”
Next in line to speak was Larry Keeter, who served as mayor from 1985-1989.
“I was fortunate enough to be the first ASU professor elected to the Boone Town Council,” Keeter said.
He then shared the story of how he became mayor and how Hadley Wilson, former mayor who served from 1979-1985, played a part in that.
“Hadley was the mayor at the time, and he was also my family doctor,” Keeter said. “He was calling me in the middle of the night; it was a cold night. And he came in and sat down. He had cancer, and he said, ‘I’m not going to live out my term. I’m looking at the next Mayor of Boone.’ Well, there was nobody else in the room. So, he was speaking to me. I said, ‘I’m an ASU professor full-time. Boone is not going to elect a college professor Mayor of Boone. And Hadley thought for a minute, and he said, ‘I don’t know if they will elect a college professor, but they will elect you.’”
Keeter continued, “I’m proud to have served. I love Boone, and I love what this town has done. Thank you Boone, and thank you for the honor.”
Former Mayor Loretta Clawson, who served from 2005-2013, then had some insight to give to the group.
“It’s great to be here,” Clawson said. “It’s great to sit beside these fine people. You’re the best, and to see the different people here is really wonderful.”
Clawson grew up in the Old Beech Mountain community in Avery County before moving to Boone.
“When I was here, I would always say, ‘This is where I want to be. One of these days, I’ll leave Old Beech Mountain, and I’ll move to Boone.’” Clawson reflected. “Well, my dream came true in 1966, and I was in heaven. It was absolutely wonderful. I’ve been involved in politics for a good while, so I thought I’d run for town council. So many, many years later, here I am. It was a real pleasure for me to be mayor.”
Another former mayor was in attendance: Andy Ball, who served from 2013-2015. He gave some of the final remarks at the reception.
“There’s two groups we really need to thank – former council members that are our partners in this adventure and in governing a town,” Ball said. “There has just been an incredible group of people looking back all these years, all these decades. And they put everything on the line to help out. There’s just incredible leadership that we’ve seen. And town staff – we’ve had incredible folks through the years to help us out. We couldn’t have done it without all of them. I appreciate y’all being here today; it’s an honor to be here.”