December 9, 2021. It has recently come to the attention of the Watauga County Board of Elections that modems were removed from ballot-counting machines used by the Board in county elections. Before being removed, these modems had never been used. Given the importance of a fair and transparent election process, the Board wishes, with this press release, to make relevant information promptly available to the public. Since 2002, the Board has used M100 ballot scanners to count ballots. The Board voted unanimously to purchase this equipment. The scanners were purchased from Printelect, a North Carolina company. The Board owns 31 M100 ballot scanners. They have been used in every election since their initial purchase. On November 9, 2021, Karen Brinson Bell, the Executive Director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, hosted a Microsoft Teams meeting with election staff from the six counties that still use M100 ballot scanners.
December 7, 2021. With 2022 primaries just three months away, candidates started filing to run for office in North Carolina on Monday. Interested individuals have until noon on December 17 to run for election in 2022. Locally, four people have filed to run for the Watauga County Board of Education: Ron Cutlip, Dustin Cole Kerley, Jennie Hanifan and Chad Cole. Sheriff Len “L.D.” Hagaman, a Democrat, has riled for re-election. David B. Searcy has filed to run for sheriff on the Republican ticket. Searcy ran against Hagaman in 2018. Two incumbent Watauga County Commissioners have filed for re-election so far. Democrat Billy Kennedy is running again for his District 3 seat and Democrat Larry Turnbow is running again for his District 4 seat. Republican Braxton Eggers file to run for the District 3 seat and Democrat Angela Laws King filed to run for the District 1 seat. By Nathan Ham
December 6, 2021. The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Monday morning issued an order temporarily suspending candidate filing for all U.S House of Representatives, N.C. Senate, and N.C. House contests. By order of the court, the county boards of elections may not file candidates for State House and State Senate until further notice: Download the court order (PDF). Likewise, the State Board of Elections may not file candidates for U.S. House until further notice. Filing will continue for all other contests as scheduled. This is a temporary stay to permit the parties to submit arguments to the Court of Appeals. The court then will decide whether to continue the suspension or lift it.
November 3, 2021. Voter turnout in Watauga County this year mirrors that of 2019, according to unofficial vote totals from yesterday’s election. In 2019, official voting totals showed 2,131 votes were counted in the municipal elections for Boone, Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain and Seven Devils. That was 10.87% of the eligible voters that went to the polls in 2019. According to Matthew Snyder, Watauga County’s Director of Elections, there have been 2,136 votes counted for this year’s election with another 83 provisional ballots to be counted on Friday. The unofficial vote total, not counting the provisional ballots, accounts for 12.19% of the eligible voters this year. Final voting totals will be made official during the county canvas on Tuesday, November 9, at 11 a.m. “We are happy for everyone that came out and voted over the last few weeks and we are very grateful to all the folks who were willing to be a candidate and serve their community. It takes a lot of time and effort to do that and congratulations to the candidates that won. I hope they have a successful time in office, I know they have a lot on their plate with a lot of issues facing the High Country,” Snyder said. By Nathan Ham
October 29, 2021. Early voting continues to be at a slow pace for Tuesday’s upcoming municipal elections in Watauga County. As of the end of the day on Thursday, 335 people have voted early at the Plemmons Student Union location on Appalachian State’s campus and 299 people have voted early at the Watauga County Administration Building on King Street. A large portion of the early votes have been in the Boone Town Council and mayoral races where 592 people have voted early and 18 others have voted by mail in Boone. There have been 38 early votes and 10 absentee votes for the Blowing Rock Town Council and mayoral races. Three early votes have been counted for the town council race in Beech Mountain and so far zero early votes have been cast for the Seven Devils town council race. Early voting will continue through Saturday, October 30, at both locations: Watauga County Administration Building, Commissioners Board Room, 814 W. King Street, Boone, 28607, and at the Appalachian State University Plemmons Student Union, Blue Ridge Ballroom, 263 Locust Street, Boone, 28608. By Nathan Ham
October 25, 2021. Nine candidates are vying for five spots on the Boone Town Council as early voting continues through October 30 with Election Day falling on November 2. Eric Brown, Christy M. Cook, Rebecca Nenow and Edie Tugman are running for two unexpired terms where each seat will be held for two years. Todd Carter, Jon Dalton George, Benjamin Ray, Virginia Roseman and Eric Woolridge are running for the other three spots on the Boone Town Council. The top two vote-getters will receive four-year terms while the person that finishes third will get a two-year term. Adrian Tait has withdrawn his name from the race. Through interviews and the “Meet the Candidates Forum” put together by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, each candidate shared some information on their background, their time in Boone and what they would bring to the Boone Town Council. By Nathan Ham
October 25, 2021. A total of 324 people have voted so far during the early voting period for Watauga County Municipal Elections, according to Matthew Snyder, Watauga County’s Director of Elections. Two years ago, there were about 900 voters that cast their ballots during the early voting period for town elections. “It has been a bit of a slow start but we’d love to see more people come out and vote,” Snyder said. Watauga County has two early voting sites, one at the administration building and the other at the student union on Appalachian State’s campus. This year, unlike in years past, those voting totals are nearly identical. Snyder said that historically, voting totals are typically twice as more at the on-campus location as there is at the administration building. In the last municipal election period, just 1,394 votes were counted, roughly 10 percent of the registered voters that could vote in town elections according to Snyder. “We focus a lot on national elections, especially presidential elections, but really the elections that impact voters the most are their local elections,” Snyder said. “As we have all seen the last few years there has been a lot of change in the High Country with a lot of people moving up here. We have a lot of challenges moving forward on how to deal with that, whether it’s from a traffic basis or an infrastructure basis. The folks that you elect locally are the ones that make those decisions.” By Nathan Ham
October 7, 2021. Candidates running for the Boone Town Council as well as mayoral candidate Tim Futrelle took part in the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Candidates Forum on Tuesday night. The forum was held virtually and streamed live on Facebook, YouTube and was broadcast on the radio for listeners to hear what the candidates felt needed to happen most for the town. Tim Futrelle is running unopposed in November to be Boone’s Mayor. Futrelle said he is looking forward to serving in the position and is excited to get back into public service. “The mayor’s position is a unique position where I can work as a sounding board for the community and community members that have very important issues that they want handled,” Futrelle said. “I can put the word out there, I can get support for that and hopefully, I can help shape some of the policy that the council sees and votes upon.” By Nathan Ham
July 6, 2021. There is still time to file the paperwork to run for office in multiple municipal elections coming up this November. Candidates have until noon on July 16 to put their names on the ballot for the upcoming election on November 2. Candidate filings for races in Boone, Blowing Rock, Beech Mountain and Seven Devils officially began on July 2. So far, nine candidates have filed to run for office. In Boone, Tim Futrelle has filed to run for mayor. Virginia Roseman is seeking re-election to the town council. She was appointed to the council following the retirement of Loretta Clawson on January 31. Jon Dalton George has also filed to run for the Boone Town Council. Joan Brook and Edie Tugman have filed to run for an unexpired term seat on the town council left open by the resignation of councilperson Dustin Hicks. Hicks announced his decision to step down from the council in May, effective July 31. Town councilperson Connie Ulmer has announced that she will not seek re-election this fall. By Nathan Ham
April 23, 2021 After serving as an assistant clerk of court for 30 years and the Superior Clerk of Court for the last 10 years, Diane Cornett Deal has decided to retire at the end of May. Judge Gary M. Gavenus has appointed Charles M. Haynes to complete Deal’s term of office. Haynes will take over effective June 1 after spending eight years in the clerk’s office serving as an assistant clerk and deputy clerk. “I have had the honor and privilege of serving the people of North Carolina and the citizens of Watauga County first as an Assistant Clerk for 30 years and then as Clerk of Superior Court for the past 10 years. These 40 plus years have flown by and there are no words to say how much I have enjoyed working with each of you through these many years,” Deal said. “I now find myself at a place in my life where I need to begin a new chapter; therefore, I am announcing that I will be retiring at the end of May 2021. As I near this retirement date, I want to express my appreciation to all the people, way too many to name, who have been so supportive of me through the years.” By Nathan Ham
December 17, 2020 North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced on Monday that all non-essential North Carolina Court proceedings will be postponed for 30 days due to the rising cases of COVID-19.“In light of the recent surge of new COVID-19 cases in North Carolina and in our courts, this pause is necessary to protect the health and safety of our court personnel and the public,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “Throughout the pandemic, we have moved an unprecedented amount of court work online, including hearings. Those efforts will allow us to limit in-person proceedings for the next few weeks while making sure our courts stay available to serve the public.” More than 80 counties are experiencing substantial or critical community spread of COVID-19. This recent surge in COVID-19 cases, percent positivity, and hospitalizations have strained court operations. Since the onset of the pandemic, Judicial Branch officials and employees have reported 291 confirmed positive cases, and over half of North Carolina’s county courthouses have been partially or completely closed due to COVID-19. By Nathan Ham
December 9, 2020 Democrats now hold every spot on the Watauga County Board of Commissioners after incumbents John Welch and Charlie Wallin as well as newcomer Carrington Pertalion were sworn in at the board’s most recent meeting on Monday, December 7. Welch ran unopposed to secure another term on the board while Charlie Wallin defeated Bart Keller, 53.4 percent to 46.6 percent. Pertalion defeated Todd S. Castle, 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent to take the seat vacated by Republican Perry Yates, who chose to not seek re-election. Welch was re-appointed as the board’s chairman and Billy Kennedy was reappointed as the board’s vice-chairman. By Nathan Ham
November 4, 2020 If you are a Democrat in Watauga County, chances are you had a pretty solid showing at the polls on Tuesday night as voting totals were released. The county commissioner races were an especially big win for the Democratic Party, as they will now hold down all five seats on the board of commissioners. Democrat John Welch ran unopposed and easily held his commissioner seat with 20,456 votes. In the two contested races, Democrat Carrington Pertallion received 15,807 votes (52.3 percent) while Republican Todd S. Castle tallied 14,431 votes (47.7 percent) in the District 1 race to replace Republican Perry Yates who chose not to run for re-election. In the District 5 race, incumbent Democrat Charlie Wallin received 16,087 votes (53.3 percent) to defeat Republican challenger Bart Keller who received 14,069 votes (46.7 percent). Welch, Pertallion, and Wallin will join Billy Kennedy and Larry Turnbow to round out the five Watauga County Commissioner seats. Kennedy and Turnbow will be up for re-election in 2022. By Nathan Ham
August 17, 2020 The Boone Town Council will be in session for two meetings this week, first on Tuesday, August 18, and again on Thursday, August 20. The first item of importance on Tuesday’s agenda will be George Santucci with the New River Conservancy providing updates on Phase 2 of the South Fork Restoration Project, the Winkler Creek Restoration Planning Project, and the Peacock Lot/Boone Creek Daylighting Project. Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include the engineer selection for replacement of the water tank on Deck Hill Road and consideration of the creation of a “police committee” that was originally approved unanimously at its June 18 meeting following protests that exploded nationwide following the killing of George Floyd. The committee will be made up of council members, the mayor, and six residents of Boone to discuss police practices in Boone. By Nathan Ham
July 17, 2020 Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced on Thursday that anyone inside county courthouses throughout North Carolina must wear a face covering. “I have issued several emergency directives calculated to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina’s communities,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “Consistent with the Governor’s recommendations and the clear guidance of public health experts, requiring face coverings in courthouses is necessary to keep our courts open while protecting court personnel and the public.” In addition to the face-covering decision, Beasley said that all jury trials will be delayed at least through September. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts has started crafting a detailed plan on all of the specifics that must be in place before jury trials can resume. By Nathan Ham
June 1, 2020 There are numerous board meetings coming up in the next two weeks, most of which are centered around discussion of the Watauga County budget as well as town budgets for Blowing Rock and Boone. Watauga County Board of Commissioners Meeting June 2. In order to maintain the safety of County residents, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners Meeting scheduled for 8:30 A.M. on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, will be conducted electronically. The Board Packet, including the agenda, is available on the County’s website at: http://www.wataugacounty.org/App_Pages/Dept/BOC/boardpacket.aspx
May 18, 2020 The Watauga County Commissioners, and Boone Town Council are meeting this week with Phase 2 of Governor Roy Cooper’s reopening plan expected to take place in the next few days. While there is no guarantee that North Carolina will enter Phase 2, the initial timeline for taking the next step to reopening could happen as early as May 22. Gov. Cooper will have a media update at some point this week to discuss when the state will enter Phase 2. The changes that Phase 2 will allow are much more significant than the previous phase. Restaurants and bars can reopen for limited indoor seating. Fitness centers, salons, and other personal care services can reopen as well. Public playgrounds will be opened up and entertainment venues can open at a reduced capacity. Locally, county commissioners had hoped to put forward a centralized and consistent set of protocols and restrictions going forward. However, Boone Town Council is considering their own sets of reopening regulations. By Nathan Ham
March 23, 2020 Watauga County has elected to close all of its county buildings to the public effective today with the hope of limiting any potential spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. According to a memo sent out by Watauga County Manager Deron Geouque, all county departments and operations will continue to work normal hours and there will be staff members to speak to by email, telephone or by appointment if necessary. All essential services will continue to operate such as the sheriff’s office, 911 call center, EMS, and sanitation. This action has been taken to protect the health and welfare of our employees and residents of Watauga County and to encourage social distancing. Contact information for county and state agencies are included below.
March 20, 2020 United States Senator and former U.S. House District 5 Representative Richard Burr is on the hot seat after news broke that he sold off $1.7 million in stocks after receiving briefings about the potential impact that the coronavirus was going to have on the United States economy. The story was first reported by NPR and included audio recordings of Sen. Burr speaking at a luncheon at the Capitol Hill Club. He cautioned people at the luncheon about the dire circumstances of the spread of the virus and how bad things could get. However, he made no such mention of any of these warnings in an op-ed featured on FOX News. Sen. Burr is the chairman of the Senate Intelligent Committee and was instrumental in the writing of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA), which details how the federal government would respond to such pandemics. Sen. Burr released a statement on Twitter Friday morning in response to the recent financial disclosure of his stock selloff. By Nathan Ham
March 4, 2020 Bernie Sanders was the most popular presidential candidate in Watauga County, earning 46.9 percent of the votes (4,516 votes) well ahead of second-place Joe Biden at 23.22 percent (2,236 votes). President Donald Trump received 3,576 votes, which was 91.76 percent of the Republican votes counted in the presidential primary. Thom Tillis and Cal Cunningham won their respective U.S. Senate primary races. Tillis is the incumbent and he received 76.81 percent of the Republican vote while Cunningham was the top among four Democratic challengers with 5,626 votes, which was 64.35 percent of the votes. In the one local contested primary race on any of the ballots, North Carolina House of Representative Ray Russell earned 87.19 percent of the votes (4,533) to secure the Democratic nomination of challenger Turner Doolittle who got 12.81 percent of the votes (1,117). Overall, Watauga had 13,654 total voters cast their ballots, which is 29.98 percent of the registered voters in the county. By Nathan Ham
March 2, 2020 During the 13-day early voting period in Watauga County, 5,915 votes were counted across the seven early voting locations inside the county. The Plemmons Student Union location saw the most votes with 2,811. The county administration building on King Street had the second most votes with 1,532. Blowing Rock had 469 early votes, followed by Deep Gap with 347, Western Watauga with 331, Meat Camp with 240 and Foscoe with 185. Democratic ballots were the overwhelming majority of votes cast in the primary with 4,636. Republican ballots accounted for 1,241 early votes while the Libertarian Party had 34 votes, the Green Party had two votes and the Constitution Party had two votes. Tuesday should still be a busy day for voting across the High Country. The polls will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. at the 20 precincts across Watauga County. By Nathan Ham
February 27, 2020 Appalachian State graduate Dustin Hicks has been on the Boone Town Council for a short period of time but is already excited to be a part of productive and innovative ideas for residents and students. “My first impression is that we have a great team of council members and incredible staff who care deeply about the town and its future, and are committed to finding ways of going into our unknown future with dignity and grace,” said Hicks. “There are productive tensions between council members that I hope will allow us to make the best decisions for the town, even in the face of a state that wants to limit local governments’ powers as much as it can. I’m really enjoying this work and looking forward to doing it collaboratively to the best of my ability.” Hicks joined Nancy LaPlaca as newcomers to the Boone Town Council following November’s elections. By Nathan Ham
February 26, 2020 Nancy LaPlaca, one of two new Boone Town Council members elected last November, has a lot she would like to see done to ensure a bright future for the town. Many of her ideas involve cleaner energy initiatives, addressing tax revenue issues and doing a better job of taking care of the beautiful environment we are blessed with in the High Country. LaPlaca has had plenty of new things to get used to as well including learning about zoning and land planning and being able to coordinate what the council wants to do with town and county officials. “As a regulatory policy analyst, these issues are new to me, so I’ve had a steep learning curve,” she said. “The staff is outstanding and other council members are very helpful so learning is just a matter of doing a lot of reading and asking relevant questions.” One of the most recent concerns includes the tax revenue disparity that has forced the Town of Boone to file a lawsuit against Watauga County, which was announced in a statement from the town last Friday. By Nathan Ham
February 12, 2020 The in-person early voting period for the 2020 primary election begins Thursday, February 13, and ends Saturday, February 29. Watauga County will have seven different early voting locations: Watauga County Administration Building – 814 West King Street, Boone, ASU Plemmons Student Union, Blue Ridge Ballroom – 263 Locust Street, Boone, Blowing Rock Town Hall – 1036 Main Street, Blowing Rock, Deep Gap Fire Department – 6583 Old 421 South, Deep Gap, Meat Camp Fire Department – 4797 NC HWY 194 North, Meat Camp, Western Watauga Community Center – 1081 Old US 421, Sugar Grove, High Country Vacation Homes – 520 Church Road, Foscoe. Each location will have the same voting hours. February 13-14 voting times are 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m., February 17-21 voting times are 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m, February 24-28 voting times are 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. and the final day for early voting will be on Saturday, February 29 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.
December 20, 2019. Filing for the 2020 government elections ended at 12:00 Noon on Friday, Dec. 20 and dozens of candidates from the area filed for Federal, State and local offices, including sixteen for county-wide government seats that will be open in Avery County. For Clerk of Court, Interim Clerk of Court Teresa Benfield filed, along with Theresa Lewis King, Lisa Vance and Linda Webb. Benfield has served in the interim role since the retirement earlier this year of longtime Clerk of Court Lisa Daniels. All four candidates have worked in various capacities in the judicial system. By Tim Gardner