Police reports | Mt. Airy News

The most crowded race facing city voters this spring is in the North Ward, where four candidates are seeking to fill the seat now held by mayoral candidate Jon Cawley. After the May 17 primary, the first- and second-place winners will then go head to head in the non-partisan municipal election next November. Each person in the race responded to the same set of questions designed to help voters learn about their backgrounds and positions on key issues to make informed choices. Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates and responses include those of:

Chad Hutchens

Tell citizens a little about yourself.

Answer: I am Chad Hutchens, 45 years old, who has have been a sworn law enforcement officer for more than 24 years. I am presently a sergeant with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office in the School Resource Officer Division.

I have been employed with the Surry County Sheriff’s Office for about 22 years. Before that, I was an officer with the Mount Airy Police Department.

I obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration from Columbia Southern University and a master’s degree in criminal justice/public administration degree from Liberty University. I received my Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) certification from Surry Community College in 1997. In January of 1998, I began as an officer with the Mount Airy Police Department. In July 1999, I was hired by the Surry County Sheriff’s office as a school resource officer and in May 2007, received my Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate. In July 2009, I was promoted to the Criminal Investigations Division as a detective.

In July 2014, I had the opportunity to return to the School Resource Officer Division of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. In July 2019, I was promoted to sergeant of that unit. I serve as a liaison between the Surry County Schools and Surry County Sheriff’s Office. I encourage preventative measures for safety, instruct drug-awareness programs and lead a team of great officers.

In addition to having attended numerous schools at the federal, state and local levels, I have completed training in technology-facilitated crimes against children and protecting children online, presented by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

I have been a public service advocate involved with various organizations in our community. I have served with the Mount Airy Rescue Squad, Surry County Emergency Services, Surry County E-911 Communications, United Fund of Surry, Fraternal Order of Police and Boy Scouts of America. I have received the National Jefferson Award for my contributions through public and volunteer community service.

Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?

Answer: I am running for city commissioner because the great citizens of Mount Airy have made a difference in my own life, and I know that we can continue to make a difference for all citizens in our community. As a public servant, I have had the opportunity to help and influence the lives of the citizens who we are so grateful to serve. I will continue to bring my passion and experience to help everyone within our great community.

I also am seeking office because I have a passion for helping others, and I was raised to believe that community service is a noble exercise of our freedom. However, I also believe that community service must be done for the right reasons. It should be viewed as a personal commitment to better our community, not as a means of personal gratification.

Educated in public administration, I understand the policy issues facing our city. As a public employee myself, I also understand the challenges of providing superior public service.

Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?

Answer: (1) Economic development and (2) community development.

We should strive to promote Mount Airy and our city merchants. We must also balance business development with quality of life. Infrastructure is a subject matter that needs our attention. We should assess our needs and address the issues of aging and outdated water and sewer lines. Recreation is essential to the growth and development of our community. We need to ensure that we have adequate facilities for our citizens to safely enjoy and promote the health and well-being of everyone.

We need a citizens-driven approach to government. Citizens should be at the forefront, as they best understand our city’s dynamics, cultures and history. We need to have citizens involved in identifying issues and measuring performance. We should be encouraging citizen participation and working to develop partnerships among our citizens. Buy-in and participation are of great importance, as our citizens are the stakeholders of our community.

The bottom line is that I care about Mount Airy, and I care about working hard for you. The critical issues to you are those same issues that are important to me.

I will work to grow our community while also preserving our small-town charisma.

Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?

Answer: I have developed many useful skills through my education and life experience as a law enforcement officer and community volunteer. I have experience ranging from policy regulations to strategic planning. I have a positive track record in leadership as both a volunteer and paid public service professional. I understand that there are different perspectives on issues in the city regarding regulations for financial and fiscal management. I have always been focused on those we serve and their families. I will always strive to represent the public’s best interests, and I am committed to that priority.

I genuinely love Mount Airy. I sincerely appreciate its beauty, charm, history, award-winning schools and all our city activities and events. I have been an active member of our community through volunteer public service and serving as a law enforcement professional.

I have been involved with the Mount Airy Rescue Squad for the past 27 years, with which I have served as a member, chief and now as a board member. I have the confidence and support of our great sheriff, Steve Hiatt, in serving as a sergeant supervising our School Resource Officer and DARE officer unit. I have served with numerous service organizations such as the North Carolina High School Athletic Association; the Boy Scouts of America, of which I am an Eagle Scout; and the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Teresa Leiva

Tell citizens a little about yourself.

Answer: My name is Teresa Davis Leiva. I am 37 years old. My husband, Carlos, is a software developer by profession and we have two children who attend Mount Airy City Schools. I grew up just outside the city limits in Sheltontown and graduated from Mount Airy High School in 2002. I work as an advocate for high-risk children at Jones Intermediate and Mount Airy Middle schools, and taught piano lessons from my home until the pandemic hit in 2020.

I’m also an active member of my church, serving as the children’s music conductor and an adviser in the Compassionate Service Program, providing care to those in need. I am a former school board member for Mount Airy City Schools, serving on an interim basis from July 2019 to Dec. 1 2020, through the start of the pandemic.

In my free time, I volunteer for multiple programs in our community, such as Surry Animal Rescue, where we foster cats and dogs (more than 150 fosters collectively) and assist with adoptions and fundraisers. I proudly serve as a board member of the Greater Mount Airy Ministry of Hospitality over The Shepherd’s House and Helping Hands Foundation of Surry County, and I am the president of the Board of Directors for The Redemption House-Surry, a long-term men’s recovery program located right outside the city in Toast.

As the adviser over the High School Interact Club, whose motto is “Service Above Self,” I work to cultivate the next generation of service-oriented individuals. Because of the scope of my community-based activities, I believe that I am in the best position to reflect the wants and needs of those who would be my constituents.

Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?

Answer: I feel called to serve our community. I can’t change the world, the United States or even the entire state of North Carolina, but I can help to cultivate a thriving community here in Mount Airy. On a daily basis I work with children who will need jobs when they grow up, affordable housing and positive activities, and I would like to be in a position where I can do the most good for them and for all of us who live here.

This is my home, and I understand the history of Mount Airy because it is my history. We have a really wonderful town, with strong, kind individuals who deserve to be supported and to be heard. I want to be able to provide the opportunities for growth, while balancing a fiscally conservative approach and utilizing local networks as well as local partnerships to set us up for future success. I would like to support the continuance of responsible growth while maintaining the rich, vibrant history and culture we already have. Mount Airy is a great place to live, and I want to keep it that way.

Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?

Answer: While there are some who would say jobs and housing are the two biggest issues, I would select workforce development and poverty as those I see a need to address. Jobs and housing both fall under these categories. Though proper workforce development and utilization of community programs that already exist, such as career and technical education programs, along with partnerships with the city and Surry Community College, Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools, NexGen, etc. and proper marketing we can increase development, without necessarily spending money to fix problems.

As we build stronger partnerships and grow our workforce, we provide opportunities for those struggling with poverty to rise above their circumstances. A stronger workforce cultivates a stronger economy, which entices more housing developers and businesses to choose Mount Airy.

There are many other needs our community has, but I believe that once we have focused our efforts on these issues, we will have time and tools necessary to address the other needs plaguing our community. A stronger economy generates more sales for local businesses, more enticement for tourism and more opportunities to be able to recover from addiction, just to name a few of the needs we have here in Mount Airy. I would support the endeavors that grow our workforce and encourage the retention and success of our citizens.

Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?

Answer: My experience of being a former school board member sets me apart from my opponents running for the North Ward seat. As someone who already learned how to work alongside elected officials overseeing all facets of a large-scale community program such as the educational system, I understand why it is important to be fiscally responsible and how to allocate funding appropriately.

This experience has taught me exactly why it is imperative that officials listen to their constituents, respect differing perspectives and be willing to adapt as the needs of the community change and grow. Through my experiences in multiple community programs, I know and work/volunteer alongside an amazing network of individuals here in Mount Airy who are already striving to decrease poverty, build houses, grow our economy and help with substance-abuse recovery, as well as those who are putting in the effort to provide wholesome activities through parks and recreation, downtown development and the vital network of public safety.

As the youngest candidate and the only candidate with school-age children, I would also bring the perspective of young families with me to this position. While we have some great city commissioners, there is no representation of young families, or diversity. My young, multicultural family sets me apart from my opponents and grants me a broader view of all the people we are striving to serve.

John Pritchard

Tell citizens a little about yourself.

Answer: I’m a retired commercial banker and have lived here 30 years. I’m a senior citizen outside but only 39 inside, graduated from East Carolina University, where I studied business and economics, and have spent my entire career working with businesses large and small.

Before being transferred here I worked in other North Carolina towns, so between those places and here I’ve been involved with various chambers of commerce, Habitat, Rotary, Lions and other civic clubs, as well as Central Methodist Church. After retirement I started a management-recruiting business to locate banker candidates for other banks across the Southeast. I sold that business in 2021.

Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?

Answer: I’m a candidate for city commissioner because I think our city should adjust its direction and priorities. I want to help that happen. Our downtown is the envy of others. We have unique tourism that has kept us going during tough spells. Record-setting city spending over the past nine years has created big improvements downtown and at Spencer’s. We hope they will repay us over time. That’s been a huge kickstart and it’s now time to take off the taxpayer-paid training wheels and have private developer money move that area forward. This is what the city promised originally, so let’s get back to that plan. We need to turn more attention to the rest of the town.

Most people know I’ve closely followed our city government for years, much like others might follow Duke/Carolina basketball. From speaking up at city forums to letters to the newspaper, I’ve shown citizens my long-term sincere interest in good stewardship of taxpayer monies. That’s what a commissioner should do. We’ve all seen lots of changes over the past few years and more will come. As your commissioner I’ll make sure those changes meet the common sense test and are the best ones for all citizens.

Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?

Answer: Our two biggest issues are a lack of good-paying full-time jobs and our almost zero population growth.

We have surplus city water and land. Our workforce is great, but much of it commutes out of town daily. Our school system is strong, as is our community college. Cost of living is moderate. Quality of life is tops. We’ve got a lot to offer. Jobs and population are directly connected and new full-time jobs can solve both problems.

Macy’s chose China Grove for a distribution center with 2,800 jobs. Just one recent year in the state saw 157 new announcements and 19,700 new jobs. Seventy percent of that went to small towns in rural counties. We didn’t get a shot at Macy’s or the 157 new job announcements. I say we weren’t trying hard enough; it wasn’t the priority it should have been.

City expenses increase over time, but our population has stood still since 2010, so each citizen will pay more taxes — unless we grow. Tourism is frosting on the cake, but real jobs form the cake itself. Real jobs are what give young people the confidence and security to marry, buy homes and raise families. We need that.

As a commissioner I’ll work to have the right people, the right priorities and the right business-recruiting plans to let the world know we are the real thing and we have everything they could want in a new location

Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?

Answer: That’s an easy one for me.

I’ve attended 90 percent of city council meetings for many years. Most candidates don’t start attending meetings until they file for office. They’ll need a lot of on-the-job training, but I can make a meaningful contribution from day one.

Attending all those meetings taught me a great deal. I understand city operations and procedures. I know past and present issues, I know the city budget and I know business. I know Mount Airy.

My priorities are: solid full-time jobs to grow the city, fairness and openness with all citizens, common sense and good stewardship of taxpayer money to lower taxes.

I’ve spent years speaking up for the silent majority and I’m talking with lots of them on front porches as I campaign. Many recognize me from my longtime focus on city government. I’ve spoken countless times in the public forum portion of our city board meetings. I’ve written numerous letters to the newspaper. Most of you know who I am and what I stand for — now I’m asking you to show up for me at early voting that’s going on now and especially at the primary polls on May 17.

Joanna Refvem

Tell citizens a little about yourself.

Answer: My family and I moved to Mount Airy in 1996. I became licensed as a school counselor in 1999 and as a licensed professional counselor in 2001. I have worked for Mount Airy City Schools and have had my own private practice. I have served as a board member for the United Fund of Surry and also as a committee member for Young Life of the Foothills. My husband, Bill, is an orthopaedic surgeon and joined Surry Orthopaedics in 1996. He later went on to form Blue Ridge Orthopaedics, and since then has been employed by Northern Regional Hospital.

All five of our children attended Mount Airy City Schools, and all graduated from Mount Airy High School. Each has gone on to complete a higher education and all have successful careers

I was born in England and raised in the United States, so as a naturalized U.S. citizen I take voting and civic responsibility quite seriously. Recently I was challenged by a friend to think about serving our city in an elected capacity. Running for city commissioner has so far proven to be interesting and informative. I have met with a number of city leaders, and I am extremely encouraged by the status and future of this community.

Question: Why are you interested in serving as a city commissioner?

Answer: I have always been interested in community development, and I have witnessed tremendous growth and progress in this city over the last 26 years. I would consider it an honor and a privilege to help navigate this great city forward to an even brighter future for all constituents. I believe that in order to be an effective leader, it is crucial to be available and accessible to respond to queries and concerns.

Not only do I commit to being approachable, I will also do the research necessary to fully understand all sides of pressing issues. Rather than pursuing my own agenda, I want to be a conduit by which the voices of the great people of Mount Airy are heard.

Question: What do you consider the two most important issues now facing Mount Airy and how will you address them?

Answer: Growth while retaining the inherent charm of the area is quite important. As an avid watcher of local real estate, it seems there is a shortage of available and affordable housing. As city commissioner, I would explore ways to alleviate this shortage, consulting with local Realtors and developers to understand barriers to more housing becoming available. As a homeowner I am keenly aware of a shortage of contractors to work on new or existing homes. Consulting with local educators to explore ways to encourage more people to enter the area of construction and development could prove helpful.

Secondly, aiding and promoting the development and improvement of our downtown area is crucial. I have attended a couple of the meetings where a consultant described ways to accomplish a myriad of goals to bolster our downtown, not only for local citizens but the many visitors we welcome each year. For instance, the Spencer’s buildings are a key project and opportunity for revitalization downtown. I am hopeful that this will bear fruit economically and also bring many more visitors to our community.

Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?

Answer: I will dedicate myself to viewing issues from all sides. While I firmly believe that all my competitors are more than competent, I am confident I can bring a fresh approach to this public office. With my goal of being available to listen, and indeed my training professionally in listening well, I believe I would provide a level of accessibility that many I have spoken with say is vital.

This community has been extremely good to me and my family, and a chance to serve as city commissioner would be only a small token of my appreciation.


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