October 2022 ReCOGnition

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High Country Council of Governments

Newsletter of the
Vol.45 | Issue 2 October 2022

Executive Board Members

Minority Representative

Alleghany County

Bill Osborne, Chair, Commissioner Wes Brinegar, Mayor, Sparta

Ashe County

Todd McNeill, Chair, Commissioner Mark Johnston, Alderman, Jefferson Jim Blevins, Alderman, Lansing Tom Hartman, Mayor, West Jefferson

Avery County

Dennis Aldridge, Commissioner Brenda Lyerly, Mayor, Banner Elk Kelly Melang, Council Member, Beech Mountain Eddie Yarber, Mayor, Crossnore Joel Whitley, Mayor Pro Tem, Elk Park Derek Roberts, Mayor, Newland Gunther Jöchl, Mayor, Sugar Mountain

Mitchell County

Steve Pitman, Chair, Commissioner Charles Vines, Mayor, Bakersville Rocky Buchanan, Council Member, Spruce Pine

Watauga County

Larry Turnbow, Commissioner Doug Matheson, Mayor Pro Tem, Blowing Rock Tim Futrelle, Mayor, Boone Larry Fontaine, Mayor, Seven Devils

Wilkes County

Eddie Settle, Commissioner Kevin Reece, Commissioner, Ronda

Otis Church, Mayor Pro Tem, North Wilkesboro Mike Inscore, Mayor, Wilkesboro

Yancey County

Jeff Whitson, Chair, Commissioner Bill Wheeler, Council Member, Burnsville



Todd McNeill

Vice Chair

Doug Matheson


Dennis Aldridge Treasurer

Larry Fontaine

Advisory Committee

Dennis Aldridge

Wes Brinegar

Larry Fontaine

Tim Futrelle

Tom Hartman

Mike Inscore

Brenda Lyerly

Doug Matheson

Todd McNeill

Eddie Settle

Charles Vines

Jeff Whitson

What’s Inside HCCOG 47th Annual Banquet The 47th Annual Banquet was a time to celebrate regionalism and collaboration, HCCOG member governments and partners, and the organization’s service to the region. During the event, local elected officials, government employees, and board members were recognized for exemplary leadership and service. 4 Building Outdoor Communities Program Launch: Mitchell Co. ........... 9 Reborn: North Wilkesboro Speedway to Host 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race ..................................................................................... 10 Regional Highlights ...........................................................................................12 Œ New Bakersville Area Welcome Center Now Open Œ Town of Beech Mountain Wins First Place at NCRWA Water Taste Contest Œ Watauga County / Boone and Blowing Rock, NC Selected for the 2022 Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative Œ Notable Retirements and New Hires in the Region Area Agency on Aging Š Department Highlights and Projects ............................................................... 16 Š NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature Transforms in 2022 .................................. 19 Š Medicare Open Enrollment Starts October 15........................................... 20 Š National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month................................... 20 Š Nearly $600,000 in Federal Funding Awarded to Appstate and AAA for Falls Prevention....................................................... 21 Economic Recovery and Resilience Š Department Highlights and Projects ............................................................... 23 Š GREAT Grants Awarded in Multiple HC Counties........................................ 24 Š HCCOG Receives Funding from Dogwood Health Trust & NCARCOG........ 24 Planning and Development Š Department Highlights and Projects ............................................................... 25 Š Town of Burnsville Awarded $12 Million for Infrastructure Projects ....... 27 Š PARTF Project Awards ............................................................................ 28 Š Draft 2024-2033 State Transportation Improvement Plan ................... 29 Workforce Development Š Department Highlights and Projects ............................................................... 31 Š myFutureNC: Closing the Education Attainment Gap in NC ................. 34 Š NCWorks NextGen: Your Future Starts Here ......................................... 35 Š Success with NCWorks ........................................................................... 37

HCCOG 47th Annual Banquet

On September 9, 2022, High Country Council of Governments held its annual awards ceremony at the Grandview Ballroom on Appalachian State University’s campus to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions by elected officials, local government employees, and advisory committee members. High Country Council of Governments (HCCOG) is a regional entity that serves and supports local governments in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey Counties.

Award winners were nominated by elected and appointed officials from the seven-county region. HCCOG Executive Board Chair and Ashe County Commissioner Chair, Todd McNeill presented the first three awards.

NCDOT Board of Transportation Member, Cullie Tarleton, was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Rural Transportation Advisory Committee (RTAC) member by his fellow board members. This award recognizes an individual’s contribution to the region as a whole and their knowledge of the region’s transportation needs.

Mr. Tarleton was appointed by Governor Cooper to the NCDOT Board of Transportation as the Division 11 representative in 2017 and has served on the High Country Rural Planning Organization (RPO) with excellent attendance. He is an engaged member of the committee and is very interested in addressing the region’s transportation needs and improving the local transportation network. In addition, he served in the N.C. General Assembly from 2007 to 2010 and is also a veteran of the N.C. National Guard and the U.S. Army Reserves.

Mr. Tarleton works effectively with other RTAC members, NCDOT staff, RPO staff, and supports the efforts of the High Country RPO to plan for and continue to improve the region’s transportation network. He is a resident of Blowing Rock, N.C. and always makes time to stay involved in the RPO’s work program and projects.

Avery County native, Rachel Deal was recognized posthumously as one of this year’s Outstanding Senior Tar Heel Legislature members. This award honors remarkable service and contributions to the older adults in the region.

Ms. Deal was admired throughout the entire state and was loved in our mountain community for her lifetime of service to others. As a dedicated volunteer for many causes over the course of several decades, Rachel Deal leaves behind a huge legacy. In addition to the Senior Heel Legislature, Rachel gave time, energy, and talent to many causes including, but not limited to the Avery Humane Society, the Rural Transportation Coordinating Committee, WAMY Community Action, Crossnore School, Crossnore Presbyterian Church, Dellinger Memorial Park, and Avery Senior Services.

Ms. Deal’s service to the aging community of our region and North Carolina was lengthy and robust. Rachel was an original member of the Senior Tar Heel Legislature, serving for almost 30 years starting in 1993 when the organization was founded. Her tenure and efforts contributed to many accomplishments that have improved the lives of countless older adults throughout the entire state. Her dedication as a volunteer was honored with many awards including the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

At the most recent statewide Senior Tar Heel Legislature meeting, the entire group of almost 200 people sang one of her favorite songs, God Bless America, in her honor. This fitting tribute left everyone with a smile on their face thinking about Rachel’s dedication to community.

2022 Outstanding RTAC Member: Cullie Tarleton. Photo courtesy, NCDOT. Maggie Lauterer. Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography. 2022 Outstanding STHL Member: Rachel Deal at the 2018 Annual Banquet.

HCCOG 47th Annual Banquet (cont.)

Mitchell County native, Charles P. Duncan was recognized posthumously as this year’s second Outstanding Senior Tar Heel Legislature member.

2022 Outstanding STHL Mem ber: Charles Duncan with wife, Norma.

Charles Pippin Duncan was born and raised in Spruce Pine, North Carolina and dedicated his entire life to serving the families and residents of Mitchell County. While attending Harris High School, Charles met the love of his life, Norma, and the two married after he attended Lees-McRae College. Throughout their 64 wonderful years of marriage, Charles and Norma raised two children and welcomed four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren to their growing family.

Mr. Duncan’s entire adult life was spent in service to others. First, Charles served two terms in the United States Army, then continued his service as a church deacon, where he served as a volunteer with youth services as a teacher, leader, and bus driver. Charles was also a long-time member of the Spruce Pine Optimist Club, being awarded a lifetime membership in 1977 and playing an instrumental part in establishing the Brad Reagan Memorial Recreation Park. Charles was also heavily involved in Little League Youth Programs and volunteered as the clock operator for Harris Middle School and Mitchell High School football games. He was a lifelong Tar Heel fan and could often be found traveling to Chapel Hill for games.

In his spirit of service to others, Charles served as a volunteer with the Senior Tar Heel Legislature alongside his beautiful bride, Norma, for over 12 years. He rarely missed a meeting and always contributed thoughtful suggestions on improvements to aging services in North Carolina. Needless to say, we will miss his presence within the High Country. His strong will, grace, and determination to make our community better made Charles someone we all should attempt to emulate.

Mr. Duncan’s wife, Norma Duncan accepted this award in Charles’ honor.

Norma Duncan. Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography.

HCCOG Executive Board Vice-Chair and Town of Blowing Rock Mayor Pro Tem, Doug Matheson, presented the next five awards.

Felicia Culbreath-Setzer, Regional Operations Director – Northwest Prosperity Zone for N.C. Department of Commerce and Lynette Orbovich, member of the State Employees Association of N.C.(SEANC) were selected by fellow board members as this year’s Outstanding Regional Workforce Development Board Members. This award recognizes service and effort given to the region and its citizens in workforce development, and this year there was a tie.

Ms. Culbreath-Setzer and Mrs. Orbovich have been board members for more than a decade combined. Ms. Culbreath-Setzer is employed by the NC Division of Workforce Solutions and Mrs. Orbovich is retired from Appalachian State University.

Mrs. Orbovich currently serves on the board’s Executive Committee, which reviews grant applications and request for proposal submissions among other regional workforce issues including NCWorks Career Center operations. Ms. CulbreathSetzer is actively involved in partnering with the workforce development board staff and has provided essential leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic to the career center staff in the region.

2022 Outstanding WDB Member: Felicia Culbreath -Setzer.

Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography

Ms. Deal’s niece, Maggie Lauterer accepted this award in Rachel’s honor.

HCCOG 47th Annual Banquet (cont.)

Both women have shown a commitment to excellence as well as a commitment to the Board – through committee work, engagement, and leadership.

Blowing Rock Town Manager, Shane Fox was recognized by the region’s managers/administrators, and local elected officials, as this year’s Outstanding Local Government Manager in the High Country region. The award acknowledges the contributions a manager has made to local government through his/ her professionalism, leadership, and accomplishments as manager or chief administrator.

Mr. Fox has managed with leadership, honesty, and integrity in a community that has faced the challenges of a global pandemic, business shutdowns, and a local health crisis. He brings a “can-do” attitude to even the most challenging situations.

2022 Outstanding WDB

Member: Lynette Orbovich. Photo courtesy, Victoria Oxen tine.

During his 3 years as Town Manager, he has successfully executed the completion of many projects including the Bass Lake sidewalk project, which was started well before his tenure, completed the Sunset streetscape project, implemented and completed several crosswalks in town, secured a $500,000 PARTF grant, completed the new playground project, secured $4.8 million in state funding for water and sewer line replacement on Main Street, plus much more.

Mr. Fox’s success as a leader in local government is in part because he has worked in so many roles over the course of his career, from fifteen years in Public Accounting to Executive Director of the High Country Council of Governments to CFO and Assistant County Manager for Cleveland County. He has been a fully credentialed manager through the International City/County Management and North Carolina City and County Manager Associations, and brings knowledge and professionalism to everything he does.

His support for town staff is unwavering. He is approachable and treats his employees as if they are partners. His desire to maintain high levels of employee productivity and morale cannot be matched, due in part to his dedication to this town.

Mr. Fox is also fully engaged as a citizen of the community he serves. He serves on the Children’s Council, the North Carolina Housing Coalition, and the Blowing Rock Village Foundation. Outside of work he can be found spending time with his family. He is heavily involved with watching and coaching his sons in sports and supporting his daughter’s passion for dance.

Jessica Welborn, GIS Planner was recognized as one of this year’s Outstanding Staff Members at High Country Council of Governments. This award recognizes an individual’s willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty, contributing to a positive work environment, and promoting a healthy image of the COG in our region and this year there was a tie.

Mrs. Welborn has been a dedicated employee for almost 15 years.

She is known within the organization, the region, and even internationally for her technical knowledge, expertise, and for her thorough, high-quality work. She is a tremendous asset to the region as evidenced by the many positive comments made by the region’s elected officials, local government staff, and COG staff.

2022 Outstanding HCCOG

Staff Member: Jessica Welborn.

Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography.

2022 Outstanding Local Gov ernment Manager: Shane Fox. Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography.

HCCOG 47th Annual Banquet (cont.)

Mrs. Welborn was described by staff members as “intelligent, hard-working, professional, and invaluable.” Another noted that she is always willing to help, extremely proficient at her job, and plays a vital role in almost every project within the department.

It was also noted that Jessica “has a positive attitude and a kindness that radiates from her.”

Victoria Oxentine, Communications Manager was also recognized as one of this year’s Outstanding Staff Members at High Country Council of Governments.

Mrs. Oxentine is said to always go above and beyond to help everyone she works with. She does so with a “positive attitude and a smile on her face.”

Another staff member noted that Victoria seems to be doing the work of more than one person as she wears many hats while supporting the organization.

Mrs. Oxentine has also been recognized for the quality of her work by those throughout the region and throughout the state. Samples of her work have been featured in statewide presentations.

2022 Outstanding HCCOG

Staff Member: Victoria Oxentine.

Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography.

Mrs. Oxentine has been a tremendous asset to the COG and has made numerous contributions in a short period of time.

HCCOG Executive Board Chair and Ashe County Commissioner Chair, Todd McNeill presented the final two awards.

Town of Sparta Mayor, Wes Brinegar was selected as this year’s Outstanding Local Elected Official in the High Country region. This award honors outstanding service and leadership to the community.

Mr. Brinegar is an Alleghany County native and graduate of Alleghany County High School. After graduating high school, he proudly joined the United States Marine Corps. He has been employed by the United States Postal Service for 27 years and has served as mayor since 2017.

2022 Outstanding Local Elect ed Official: Wes Brinegar.

Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography.

Mr. Brinegar serves on the High Country Council of Governments’ Advisory Committee and Executive Board, Alleghany County Rescue Squad Board of Directors, Sparta Alleghany Earthquake Relief Fund Board of Directors (and founder), and currently serves as the Marine League Commander for Alleghany County Detachment 1298.

As stated in one of his nominations, “Mayor Brinegar has been instrumental in recovery efforts for the earthquake that not only impacted Sparta and Alleghany County but also Ashe, Wilkes, and Surry County. He connected with Representative Stevens and Senator Ballard immediately after the event to initiate conversation about the needs for recovery which ultimately yielded $24M in recovery funds from the state legislature that has aided the affected 4 county area. He also setup a non-profit disaster assistance fund to aid residents that were impacted by the earthquake with utility and housing assistance. This fund paid out in excess of $30,000 to local residents in Alleghany County. Additionally, he was able to secure $7M for the Town of Sparta for roadway improvements. These are only two of the multitude of efforts Mayor Brinegar puts forth on a daily basis to serve those that elected him and the region in which we live.”

The High Country Council of Governments’ Executive Board chose Eddie Settle, Wilkes County Commissioner, as their Outstanding Executive Board Member. This award honors service and effort in promoting cooperation among local governments in the region and the state.


HCCOG 47th Annual Banquet (cont.)

Mr. Settle is a native of Wilkes County. He graduated from East Wilkes High School in 1978 and attended Wilkes Community College majoring in Business. In 1979, he went into the family business that his dad started in 1970, Nu-Line Printing, Inc. As a side venture, he started Settle Cattle Company in 1990. In 1994, he bought Nu-Line Printing, Inc. from his father and continues operating both the printing and cattle companies today.

He has been married to his wife, Shelia Settle for 41 years, they have two children Melissa Settle and Matt Settle. He and his family attend Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, where he has been a Deacon for over 13 years. Mr. Settle has been a Wilkes County Commissioner since 2012 and has served as Chairman for 4 terms and Vice-Chairman for 3 terms.

He also serves on over a dozen committees and boards throughout Wilkes County, the High Country region, and the state. Mr. Settle has served on the High Country Council of Governments’ Executive Board and Advisory Committee for almost 2 years.

Mr. Settle is currently running for the North Carolina State Senate to represent District 36.

2022 Outstanding HCCOG Executive Board Member: Eddie Settle.

Photo courtesy, Natural Craft Photography.

He was a founding member of the Blue Ridge Youth Football League in 1994. He has served as head football coach at East Wilkes Middle School for 25 years. His time with local youth showed him that kids need positive role models who will support and encourage them to work hard and reach their goals. Christian, husband, father, business owner, public servant, youth advocate are the words that best describe Mr. Settle.

HCCOG would like to congratulate all award recipients and thank them for their dedicated service to High Country citizens.

47th Annual Banquet Photo Gallery Click Here

Building Outdoor Communities Program Launch: Mitchell County

The WNC: MADE X MTNS (Made By Mountains)

Partnership has launched the Building Outdoor Communities Program that is focused on capacity building, technical assistance, training, connectivity, and education for communities seeking to advance their outdoor economy goals. Mitchell County has been placed at the top of the list and is one of the first five counties to start the program along with McDowell, Burke, Wilkes, and Rutherford. For the next seven months Mitchell will be organizing their core committee members and stakeholders, discovering what infrastructure they need, how it impacts their economy, how to activate it among their workforce then brand it and make it another component for Mitchell County tourism. Mitchell County Economic Development Commission Director Matt Ward said, “We were told that the State of Maine and many other communities across the country are envious of the highly concentrated natural beauty and outdoor activity that already exists in WNC and the potential for even more to come to our area. We hope to capture the manufacturer of the various outdoor items and perhaps the enthusiasts to relocate here because of it.”

Building Outdoor Communities Program (BOC) on Septem ber 19-20, welcoming over 100 attendees for an introduction to its two-year outdoor community economic development initiative. Photo/article courtesy, Our Local Community Online.

Vital partners in this work are Appalachian State University’s Center for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, six regional Councils of Government, and West Virginia University’s Brad & Alys Smith Outdoor Economic Development Collaborative. Outdoor Communities Program teams will start a seven month dive into data collection from September 2022 through August 2024 to strategically assess and prioritize outdoor infrastructure and economic development goals and create an outdoor economic impact toolkit, so community leaders can be equipped with data to leverage future projects.

Communities that successfully participate will gain the crucial user data needed to advance their outdoor recreation planning goals and will be eligible for technical assistance funds through a matching grant program to advance their top priorities.

Matt Ward, from Mitchell County EDC said, “We would like to graciously thank Phil Trew at HCCOG, Kyle Case at ARC, Ann Bass NC Department of Commerce, Main Street, Jennifer Barnhart at Pisgah National Forest Appalachian District Ranger, Sherry Adams at NC Main Street, and most importantly Mandi Polly at Mitchell County Chamber and Starli McDowell Toe River Valley Watch who enacted the idea and Bradley Spiegel at WNC Made X Mtns Initiative of Building Outdoor Communities. This new initiative ties back to our Economic Development plan (Mitchell Works) from 2016 and has been recently boosted by creation of Outdoor Recreation Economy Strategic Plan last year.”

Ward noted that, “Both our outdoor recreation and original economic strategic plan recommend tapping into the outdoor recreation economy to expand our tourism and job base. Fortunately, components of both plans are alive and are in the right hands so that our community can determine our infrastructure needs and how to get those implemented and built.”

About the WNC: MADE X MTNS Partnership: The WNC: MADE X MTNS (Made By Mountains) Partnership is working to expand the outdoor industry and economy across North Carolina’s Appalachian region and catalyze rural development by building vibrant outdoor communities, driving outdoor industry growth, and empowering regional storytelling. The Partnership includes Outdoor Gear Builders of WNC, Mountain BizWorks, and the NC Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, as well as numerous stakeholders including regional universities, rural communities, economic development, and conservation organizations. With support from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Dogwood Health Trust, the WNC: MADE X MTNS Partnership celebrates, supports, and builds a stronger sense of pride around our region, our people, and the extraordinary outdoor recreation industry and culture that these mountains have made. For more information, visit madexmtns.com or @madexmtns on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin.


Reborn: North Wilkesboro Speedway to Host 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race

The NASCAR Cup Series will make a stunning return to a revitalized North Wilkesboro Speedway next season, visiting one of its original tracks for the 2023 edition of the NASCAR All-Star Race during NASCAR’s 75th anniversary season.

Officials from NASCAR and track ownership group Speedway Motorsports met in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday morning to officially announce the invitational event’s new venue. On hand were North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Steve O’Donnell, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith and Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., who participated in Late Model Stock competition during the track’s revival of short-track events there last month.

The dignitaries attending the announcement at the North Carolina Museum of History in the state capital indicated that the All-Star event is scheduled to highlight a three-day racing card on May 19-21, 2023. A full schedule for All-Star weekend will be announced at a later date, and tickets will go on sale later this fall.

“There’s something about it, it’s just got a special place in our history,” Earnhardt said. “And I’m so excited to see what can happen beyond this. The All-Star Race is a great thing, but going forward, but North Wilkesboro can continue to contribute to our lives and to our family’s lives.”

The 0.625-mile oval – which has deep ties to the sport’s moonshining roots – was part of NASCAR’s foundation in its earliest years, joining the Modified Division schedule in 1948. The track hosted the year-ending race for the Cup Series – then called Strictly Stock – in its first season in 1949. It became an annual stop on the schedule, hosting two races a year starting in 1951.

North Wilkesboro Speedway was shuttered after its most recent Cup Series event on Sept. 29, 1996. Speedway Motorsports had purchased one half of the track’s ownership shares and took one race date to Texas Motor Speedway. Bob Bahre had bought the other half and moved the other Cup Series date to his track in New Hampshire (which is now a Speedway Motorsports property).

The track sat mostly dormant – save for a brief revival 12 years ago – until an $18 million allocation from the federal American Rescue Plan moved through the N.C. state budget. Those funds – combined with grassroots efforts from Wilkes County and Earnhardt Jr. himself – were designated for infrastructure improvements and helped to rejuvenate the track this year. An agreement was also struck for an additional $4M grant from the general assembly for additional facility upgrades for the All-Star weekend.

“There’s a lot of work to be done. There’s a lot of details that we won’t have today, but we’re going to we’re going to get there,” Smith said. “I expect this to be a NASCAR All-Star week of activities.”

Racing returned to North Wilkesboro last month with regional and touring series, which included support and participation from several current and former NASCAR national series drivers. Ryan Newman won the opening night feature for tour-type Modifieds, and Earnhardt helped to promote the Late Model Stock event, finishing third in that race last week. Earnhardt was also among those helping to clean up the track in 2019 for its scan into the iRacing simulation platform.

The track still needs updates for basic amenities for fans and competitors. August events there used portable toilets, and concessions were augmented with local vendors in food trucks and stands. The track is also without a working scoreboard and energy-absorbing SAFER barriers for the retaining walls, and the

Photo courtesy, Chris Owens I HHP.

Reborn: North Wilkesboro Speedway to Host 2023 NASCAR All-Star Race (cont.)

former press box facilities and restrooms were inaccessible.

None of that stopped fans from packing the well-worn seats that still line the historic facility during the August races, which were held on weekday nights under temporary lighting. XR Events, the promoter for those races, had intended to convert the venue into a dirt track for an October racing slate, but the group announced Wednesday that those plans had been abandoned, citing the time needed to complete the transition. Earnhardt indicated that speedway ownership intends to keep the asphalt as-is. Newspaper records show the track was last repaved ahead of the 1981 season.

“North Wilkesboro is going to remain historic, and it will remain authentic, but it will also be modern, and that will be a great thing to see,” Earnhardt said. “So I’m excited to see the progress, all the things that will be happening there over the next couple of months. The rebuilding and so forth is going to be a lot of fun to watch, and then to finally go there in May, just can’t get here fast enough.”

North Wilkesboro will become the fifth host of the NASCAR All-Star Race, which will stage its 39th running next spring. The invitational event has been hosted by Texas Motor Speedway the last two seasons. Charlotte Motor Speedway was its longtime home, hosting 34 All-Star Races – the first in 1985, then a continuous run from 1987-2019. Bristol (2020) and Atlanta (1986) have also hosted the event one time.

The full NASCAR Cup Series schedule is expected to be announced soon, but the 2023 slate already has a handful of recently added wrinkles. The series will compete on the streets of downtown Chicago for the first time next year, and the season-opening Busch Light Clash exhibition will return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the second straight year.

“But as you look at evolving your schedule,” O’Donnell said, “you can’t forget about your past.”


Regional Highlights

New Bakersville Area Welcome Center Now Open

The new Bakersville Area Welcome Center opened earlier this month with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and grand opening. The center is located at 8 S. Mitchell Ave. in the center of Bakersville.

More than 50 people attended the grand opening and Aaron Young, president of the Bakersville Area Merchants Association presided.

“Our mission is to engage the business community while saluting the best of this area of Western North Carolina,” he said. “We celebrate our vision as the Gateway to the Roan, Home to the Arts and Playground to the Great Outdoors. More importantly, we celebrate our visitors, new residents and those who have lived here their whole lives.”

The Welcome Center is the product of work done by think tanks and studies that helped create a strategic plan in the 1980s and 1990s. A partnership has been established in the past two years among the Bakersville Area Merchants’ Association, the Mitchell County Commissioners and the Town of Bakersville.

BAMA collaborated with the commissioners to rent the space that houses the Welcome Center. Other partnerships fueled the project, including one with the Mitchell County Economic Development Commission Board that first believed in BAMA by making a $5,000 grant to help produce the first BAMA map and business rack cards. Bakersville Mayor Charles “Chuck” Vines and the Bakersville Town Council have also played a key role.

Commissioners, the Town of Bakersville and BAMA leadership, members, and businesses attended the ceremony. They were joined by representatives from the Mitchell County Historical Society, Bakersville Community Foundation, North Carolina Rhododendron and the arts community. Several interested citizens were also on hand.

Representing the Mitchell Commissioners were Vice Chair Harley Masters and Commissioners Jeff Harding and Brandon Pittman. County Manager Allen Cook joined them.

Vines, Vice Mayor Charlie Nash and Councilmen Andy Palmer and Matthew Staton represented the Bakersville Council.

Trained volunteers will provide information to guests at the Welcome Center. It will be open Wednesday through Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Guests will enjoy historical exhibits about the Rhododendron pageant, the arts community, BAMA business members and the outdoors. Special events will be featured to invite the region to attend. Maps and rack cards will provide directions and places to visit.

Bakersville Mayor Charles “Chuck” Vines and Bak ersville Area Merchants Association President Aaron Young (center) cut the ribbon on the new Bakersville Area Welcome Center. They’re joined by a host of locals.

Town of Beech Mountain Wins First Place at NCRWA Water Taste Contest

The North Carolina Rural Water Association has announced that the Town of Beech Mountain, N.C., won first place in the water taste contest on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 that took place at the NCRWA 45th Annual Conference and Exhibition held in WinstonSalem, NC.

The NCRWA water taste contest is open to all North Carolina water systems that are members in good standing with North Carolina Rural Water Association (NCRWA) and have no current violations for bacteriological or contaminant monitoring. Water samples must be collected by a North Carolina “Certified Operator.” The certified operator is also certifying that the water sample was taken from a “representative tap” located in the system and has received no further treatment before or after the collection of the water sample. The water sample is tested on a grading scale for taste, odor, color and clarity. The first-place winner of this contest will be invited to compete at the national level at the National Rural Water Association’s Great American Water Taste Test held in February in Washington, D.C. The second-place winner of this year’s contest is Sampson County.

The North Carolina Rural Water Association was established in 1976 and is a member-owned, non-profit, trade association based in Welcome, North Carolina. Originally formed to be the collective voice of the water and wastewater systems across the state, NCRWA has played an active role in state and federal advocacy for the past four decades. In addition to advocating on behalf of our members utilities, NCRWA is also the recognized leader in on-site technical assistance, source water and wellhead protection planning, and training for professionals across the industry. For more information about NCRWA, visit www.ncrwa.org.

Watauga County / Boone and Blowing Rock, NC Selected for the 2022 Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative

Appalachia’s gateway communities — towns bordering on publicly owned lands, like national and state parks and forests — often find themselves caught between promotion and preservation. Promoting nature and culture is key for economic growth, especially for areas experiencing economic distress and transition. Too much use, however, impacts the preservation needed to maintain trails, waterways, crafting traditions, and more for future generations.

To help communities develop thoughtful strategies around some of Appalachia’s most treasured assets, The Conservation Fund launched the Appalachian Gateway Communities Initiative (AGCI) in 2007 with support from ARC and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Smart, Sustainable Planning

During the three-day workshop, participating teams hear from national and regional experts, exchange ideas with other teams, and ultimately develop action plans for their communities. Before, during, and after the workshop, teams receive targeted technical assistance, community tourism assessments, small grants for project implementation, and more.

To date, AGCI has supported 12 regional and place-based workshops, issued 46 grants, and engaged teams representing 51 counties across 12 Appalachian states.

The 2022 Gateway Communities Workshop will be held from October 25-27 in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.


Notable Retirements in the Region

Joe Furman, Watauga County’s Planning & Inspections and Economic Development Director will be retiring at the end of the year. Joe attended Appalachian State University where he received his Bachelor of Science. After working off the mountain for a few years Joe came to work for Watauga County in 1984 as the Planning & Inspections Director. Over the years, Joe has helped with the development of most of the County’s ordinances. In 2003, Joe saw a need for the County to take a more active role in economic development for the area. He helped establish the Economic Development Commission, open the Appalachian Enterprise Center, and increase the exposure of the County throughout the world. In the last few years, he has worked with the Middle Fork Greenway to obtain funding/grants for construction of trails along the Middle Fork. Joe is looking forward to retirement so he can spend more time hiking, fishing and playing pickleball!

Watauga County Planning and Inspections and EDC Director, Joe Furman. Photo submitted.

Debbie Powers, Seven Devils Town Manager will retire in mid-December. Debbie first served as the Town’s Finance Officer beginning in April of 2008. She was then hired as Town Manager in December of 2015, and earned her Certified Zoning Official (CZO) to serve as the Town’s Zoning Administrator. During her tenure as Town Manager Debbie has completed many projects including, creation of a new category of “Parks” on the Town’s zoning map, thus allowing seamless annexation of Blue Ridge Conservancy into the town, helped the Town receive Tree City USA designation and host annual Arbor Day Celebrations, facilitated the Town Council’s goal of purchasing and relocating Town Hall to the new location of 157 Seven Devils Road at Hwy 105, and repurposed the old Town Hall as the Seven Devils Community Center. Debbie hired a Parks & Rec Tech to help implement the goals of future parks and outdoor recreation and seasonal activity for the town. Debbie has also managed town staffing and served the public without disruption during the entire COVID-19 pandemic. Best wishes to Debbie on this future endeavor!

New Hires for the Region

Watauga County has recently hired Samantha Jones as Finance Director and Eric Smallwood as Parks and Recreation Director.

The Town of Newland has recently hired Bill Bailey as Town Administrator and Gary Lewis as Public Works Supervisor.

Seven Devils Town Manager, Debbie Powers. Photo submitted.

New Hires for the Region (cont.)

The Town of Boone has completed its search for a new Town Manager. Amy Davis, Finance Director for the Town of Boone, was named interim Town Manager during the March 8th, 2022 Boone Town Council meeting. After an extensive nationwide search, the Town of Boone has officially named Amy Davis as the new Town Manager of Boone, during the September 7th Special Meeting of the Boone Town Council.

“Thank you for the opportunity and confidence you have shown in me. We have the best staff in town, period. Thank you for giving me this time during transition, and for allowing me to go forward,” stated Amy Davis, newly appointed Town Manager.

Boone Town Manager, Amy Davis. Photo courtesy, Town of Boone.

While the town of Boone has had multiple female elected officials, and two women elected as Mayor, Amy Davis will serve as Boone’s first female Town Manager. Amy has served as the Finance Director for the town since 2004 and has worked for the Town for 22 years. During this time, Amy is excited about working toward the completion of the Howard Street project and working on town facility needs. Additionally, Amy will be focusing on sustainable initiatives throughout the town of Boone, as well as working on issues regarding employee recruitment and retention.

“Amy, thank you so much, and we look forward to continuing to work with you,” Mayor Tim Futrelle stated. Mayor Pro-Tem Edie Tugman also thanked Human Resources Director, Dale Presnell, and Town Attorney, Allison Meade, for their time and expertise they gave during the Town Manager search.

Article from HCPress.com.

A new town manager was hired during the Tuesday evening, Oct. 4, meeting of the North Wilkesboro Town Board of Commissioners.

Holly Minton, 39, of North Wilkesboro, by a 4-1 vote, was given the nod for the job of town manager. Minton will be sworn in on Monday, Oct. 17, North Wilkesboro Mayor Marc Hauser told The Wilkes Record.

Minton has a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Appalachian State University and Boone, and a Bachelors Degree in Political Science from UNC-Asheville. She has been the manager of David’s Car Care Center in North Wilkesboro since her father, David Minton passed away. About Minton, Mayor Marc Hauser said, “She has a good business sense and she’s a hard worker and lives in North Wilkesboro.”

“I’m really excited,” Minton said during an interview with The Wilkes Record. “Right now we have so much momentum in our community and I can’t wait to move it forward. Our slate of commissioners and our mayor are really strong players. I think we have a bright future ahead of us.”

Minton added, “North Wilkesboro is my hometown. Because I’m from here, this job is not a stepping stone. I’m taking the job because I love this town.”

Article from The WIlkes Record.


Area Agency on Aging Staff

Zack Green Director

zgreen@hccog.org ext.122

Lola Benfield

Family Caregiver Support Specialist lbenfield@hccog.org ext.113

Kristina Calhoun Caregiver Program Coordinator kcalhoun@hccog.org ext. 139

Stevie John

Long Term Care Ombudsman sjohn@hccog.org ext.126

Tim Price Aging Programs Compliance Officer tprice@hccog.org ext.140

Kristina Calhoun!

With enthusiasm, we are excited to announce Kristina Calhoun is joining the Area Agency on Aging team as the Caregiver Program Coordinator. Kristina brings several years of experience in the Aging network from both Ashe County and most recently Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services. Kristina has worked for several years as an intake specialist in this busy Gaston County office, helping direct people in need, including older adults, to the right area for services and support. We are excited for the knowledge and experience that she will bring to the team!

As Caregiver Program Coordinator Kristina will be primarily responsible for administering the Lifespan Respite Program. This valuable program supports unpaid family caregivers through the administration of respite vouchers. This program serves hundreds of families throughout the state each year and helps supports those carrying the heavy burden of caring for loved ones.

Kristina Calhoun, Caregiver Program Coordinator.

16 Welcome,
Department Highlights | www.highcountryaging.org |
lifespan@hccog.org (828) 265-5434 ext.139 highcountryaging.org Contact: Caregiver Program Coordinator

New Family Caregiver Support Specialist at the High Country Area Agency on Aging

Lola Benfield stepped into the Family Caregiver Support Specialist role in September 2022, after serving as the Caregiver Program Coordinator with the High Country AAA since December 2021. In her new role, Lola works to support unpaid caregivers in the High Country region. Lola is a graduate of Appalachian State University where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Political Science. With experience in supporting caregivers across the state of North Carolina, she is excited to continue the incredible work of the Family Caregiver Support Program to serve caregivers in the seven county region. The Family Caregiver Support Program offers tailored services to unpaid caregivers of older adults with significant care needs and caregivers of adults living with dementia or severe memory loss. Lola also administers the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program, which offers supportive services to older adults who are raising children or adults with disabilities.

For more information regarding the Family Caregiver Support Program, please visit our website: highcountryaging.org.

Lola Benfield, Family Caregiver Support Specialist.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program Celebrates Two Years of Serving Families in the High Country

Since its creation in September 2020, the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program has worked to reach families who have taken on the challenging task of parenting a second time around. While it is called the ‘Grandparents’ Raising Grandchildren Program, we support a variety of caregivers, including grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts or uncles, family friends, and other extended family members.

In the past two years, we have had the opportunity to work one-on-one with families, build relationships with clients, and see their families thrive with community support. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allowed the opportunity to offer more services, including educational support options for families, assistance with clothing and shoes for children, and extracurricular enrichment activities. These supports help allow kids to be kids and help reduce the financial burden for the caregiver. The importance of these supports cannot be overstated, as nearly half of all grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are 60+ years old, and 1 in 5 live below the poverty line. Many of these families face difficult decisions every day. We are honored to help support these families by providing a little peace of mind during challenging situations.

At the beginning of October, Sarah Price transitioned from her role as the coordinator of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program to her new role within the High Country Council of Governments’ Recovery and Resiliency department. It will be difficult to fill Sarah’s shoes, but we are excited to see everything she accomplishes in her new role. When asked about her time with the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program, Sarah stated, “It has been the honor of a lifetime to be entrusted with each family’s intimate stories, challenges, and aspirations over the past two years. I am excited to pass the torch to Lola Benfield, and I am confident she will be a great ambassador for the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Program.”

Lola originally joined the High Country AAA team working with caregivers through the Lifespan Respite Program. Lola has a wealth of experience and is ready to begin building relationships with clients and administering services to support them. Lola is a native of the region and has years of experience working within Appalachia. She understands the concerns and needs of caregivers, and is empathetic towards the obstacles they face to provide quality care for their loved ones. Not only is she an outstanding teammate, friend, and community member, but Lola is also exceedingly kind. We are excited to see the amazing things she will do as she continues to serve caregivers throughout the High Country.

Want to learn more about our programs? Visit our website at highcountryaging.org or by contacting Lola Benfield, Family Caregiver Support Specialist at caregiversupport@hccog.org or 828-265-5434 ext. 113.


As of September 2022, the Lifespan Respite program has awarded a total of $34,000 in respite vouchers to support unpaid family caregivers across the state of North Carolina in fiscal year 20222023. The Lifespan Respite program is thrilled to have received double the amount of voucher applications compared to this time last year. As a result, the program has awarded caregiver directed respite vouchers to 70 North Carolina caregivers in just three months. So far this year, the program has served caregivers from 32 counties, with ages ranging from 21 to 86 years old. Care recipients range from 3 months old to 99 years old.

Respite is a temporary break, and a key component in protecting the health and well-being of a family caregiver and their care recipient. The NC Lifespan Respite Program offers $500 reimbursement-based vouchers that help a caregiver pay for their loved one’s care – while they take care of themselves. The program is designed to support caregivers who are not able to be served by other publicly funded respite or care programs.

Applications must be submitted by a referring agency. More information regarding eligibility and the voucher application can be found on our website: highcountryaging.org.

For questions, please contact the Caregiver Program Coordinator: 828-264-3592; or 828-265-5434 x 139; or lifespan@hccog.org Lifespan Respite | High Country Area Agency on Aging (highcountryaging.org)

Lifespan Respite vouchers are brought to you by the NC Lifespan Respite Project and administered by High Country Area Agency on Aging. Funding is made possible by a grant to the NC Department of Health and Human Services from the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Check Your Meds!

Pharmacists, physicians, and healthcare providers are excited to promote October 21st as National ‘Check Your Meds’ Day!

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services established National Check Your Meds Day in 2017 as a day to remind patients to meet with local pharmacists to discuss the effects of each medication, to ensure they are taking each medication appropriately, and to ensure they are using the most effective and affordable medication options. To take part in National Check Your Meds Day, follow these steps:

Step 1: Contact your pharmacist and set an appointment to review your medications.

Step 2: Gather ALL your prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements or natural products, vitamins or minerals, and any lists of medications and vaccinations you have.

Step 3: Place all the items and information in a bag and bring it with you to the appointment.

Step 4: A pharmacist will help you complete an updated medication list to take with you. They will ask how and when you take each medication and record that on the medication list.

Step 5: Always have your updated medications list with you for visits to your doctor, pharmacist, hospital, or any healthcare professional.

To learn more or if you have questions, please reach out to your pharmacist or medical provider for more information.

An Exciting Start to Fiscal Year 22-23 for the Lifespan Respite Program

NC Senior Tar Heel Legislature Transforms in 2022

Since its creation in 1993 through 2019, the North Carolina Senior Tar Heel Legislature (NCSTHL) met three times a year in person to conduct its important work of advocacy with the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) on behalf of the aging population. The membership is comprised of residents age 60+, with a delegate and alternate from each of NC’s 100 counties appointed by the state’s 16 area agencies on aging.

Immediately following the NCSTHL’s October 2019 General Session in Raleigh, COVID arrived. A group that operated with in-person meetings, phone calls, fax, mail service, and occasional emails for communication, was unexpectedly thrust into the digital world of the internet, WiFi, email, virtual meetings, PDFs, and video downloads. It was a season of adapt or falter, because in-person meetings could literally be fatal to this body of older adults. While many NCSTHL members were already digitally adept, many would struggle with the need to learn technology quickly. Some rural parts of the state do not have broadband access, requiring a drive to the local library or senior center to access the internet. Cell phone service is unreliable in many areas. However, this group is defined by their grit and determination, and faltering is not how they roll. The hallmark of this age 60+ group is that they have been technology adapters for a long time: from washtubs to showers, outhouses to toilets, wood-burning stoves to air fryers, land lines to smartphones, typewriters to tablets, and vinyls to Spotify, these elders continued to adapt once again. While 2020 was a year of adjustment, 2021-22 saw the complete transformation of the STHL to digital communications and meetings.

There is a new NCSTHL rising in 2022 from the calamity of COVID. The bylaws were amended to accommodate virtual operations. Members affirmed a new logo and brand early in the year, building momentum with new brochures and materials for advocacy. The public relations standing committee overhauled the NCSTHL website and social media sites. The PR team created a media contact list and communications plan, distributing press releases to 125 newspapers across the state announcing the inductions of new members and proceedings of the March and June General Sessions. Most recently, the release of a six-article series described the work of each of the issues committees, which parallels the function of the NCGA’s Senate and House committees.

Just like the NCGA, the NCSTHL operates in two-year cycles to develop its best recommendations for legislative action. The summer of 2022 was the season of identifying the issues facing older adults to determine which ones are most critical. The resolutions standing committee received a record number of 67 proposals from the delegates and alternates. The six issues committees convened in virtual meetings to discuss the merits of each proposal, sharing screens and using chat to condense the 67 suggestions into 16 key proposals. Many members commented that being able to “Facetime” via Zoom was a great improvement over how it was done before.

The first week of October, the NCSTHL will convene in Raleigh to choose the top five proposals that will then be drafted into resolutions to submit to the NC General Assembly for legislative consideration. The NCSTHL members will continue advocacy outreach to the NCGA in the fall, with specific effort toward legislators newly elected in November. When the NC General Assembly convenes in January 2023, the Senior Tar Heels will be ready! They are online, energized, and transformed from the challenges of COVID into a force dedicated to keeping North Carolina a great place in which to grow up and a great place in which to grow old!

For more information about NCSTHL, visit www.ncseniortarheellegislature.org.

Press Release Compiled by Allison Brown, PR Chair, NCSTHL.


Medicare Open Enrollment Starts October 15th

This year, Medicare open enrollment runs from October 15th through December 7th. Medicare is a federal health insurance program that serves adults aged 65+ and people with disabilities. During this seven-week open enrollment period, Medicare beneficiaries have a chance to review their coverage and make any changes to help best utilize the program.

People often have questions about Medicare - the Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is here to help! SHIIP provides free counseling about Medicare and can help folks apply for programs to improve care and reduce costs. SHIIP has trained experts who provide individuals with free, unbiased information and counseling about Medicare, Medicare supplements, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Part D, and long-term care insurance. SHIIP can also help prevent Medicare billing errors, fraud, or abuse against seniors.

To chat with a SHIIP counselor, call 1-855-408-1212 or email ncdoi.ncshiip@ncdoi.gov. You can also reach out to one of our local providers for more information about SHIIP:

Alleghany County: 336-372-4640

Ashe County: 336-246-4347

Avery County: 828-737-0221

Mitchell County: 828-688-4811

Watauga County: 828-265-8090

Wilkes County: 336-667-5281

Yancey County: 828-682-6186

National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month

October is National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices many long-term care (LTC) residents have made to better our community and to call attention to the rights of residents in long-term care facilities.

Being a part of a community is essential to our wellbeing. Throughout the pandemic, residents of long-term care facilities were disconnected from the resident and staff communities within their facilities when activities and group dining were limited. Residents were disconnected from the broader local community when visitation was restricted, and many residents were unable to leave their facilities to participate in outside activities. This year’s Residents’ Rights Month theme - Inspiring Unity within Our Community - emphasizes the importance of fostering meaningful community within the facility and encouraging residents’ connection to their local community.

Residents’ Rights Month is an opportunity to focus on and celebrate awareness of dignity, respect, and the rights of each resident. The federal Nursing Home Reform Law guarantees residents’ rights and places a strong emphasis on individual dignity, choice, and self-determination. The law also requires nursing homes to “promote and protect the rights of each resident”. Residents’ Rights Month is a time to raise awareness of these rights and celebrate residents.

Celebrate and acknowledge these rights by participating in Residents’ Rights Month events and calling on your elected officials, community members and local facilities to show their support by attending or organizing activities.

During Residents’ Rights Month, we recognize our local long-term care ombudsman program staff and volunteers, who work daily to promote residents’ rights, assist residents with complaints and provide


National Long-Term Care Residents’ Rights Month (cont.)

information to those who need to find a long-term care facility. In this area, the ombudsman program serves 26 long term care facilities.

Our community is also served by a citizen advocacy group, the Community Advisory Committee for Long Term Care, that advocates for improved quality of care and quality of life for those who live in long-term care facilities.

As the High Country celebrates Residents’ Rights, I encourage community members to connect with those they know who live in long-term care facilities, participate in Residents’ Rights Month events, or inquire about becoming a volunteer long-term care ombudsman. Your assistance and attention help to ensure that the voices of long-term care residents do not go unheard and demonstrates to residents that they have not been forgotten.

If you would like additional information, please contact the regional ombudsman, Stevie John at (828) 265-5434 Ext. 126.

Nearly $600,000 in Federal Funding Awarded to Appalachian State University Institute for Health and Human Services and the High Country Area Agency on Aging to Prevent Falls Amongst Older Adults

[Boone, NC] Appalachian State University Institute for Health and Human Services (IHHS), in partnership with the High Country Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA), was awarded over $550,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Administration for Community Living (ACL) to help reduce falls and the risk of falling among older adults and adults with disabilities in order to maximize their independence support evidence-based fall prevention programs throughout the seven-county region (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Wilkes, Watauga and Yancey Counties). These programs are proven to reduce the risk of falling and safeguard the independence of older adults.

In addition to supporting evidence-based fall prevention programs this grant will also be used to support the Interprofessional Clinics’ Aging Well Program. The Aging Well Support Program is a collaboration between Appalachian State’s Blue Cross NC Institute for Health and Human Services and the High Country Area Agency on Aging, along with numerous other community collaborators for various projects. The goal of the Aging Well Program is to work with other community partners to support healthy aging in adults throughout the High Country.

The ASU IHHS’ collaboration with High Country Area Agency on Aging creates the opportunity to enhance access to fall prevention programs within the local community. More than 1 in 4 adults over the age of 60 suffer from a fall each year. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults 65 and older and are very costly. In our High Country region, there are approximately 47,000 adults over the age of 65, making it imperative that proven and sustainable fall prevention programs are implemented to benefit our community, caregivers, and health care system. As our population ages, ASU IHHS, Interprofessional Clinic the High Country Area Agency on Aging remain committed to supporting the health and well-being of older adults in the High Country rural region and adults over 60+.

“The Interprofessional Clinic at Appalachian State University’s Institute for Health and Human Services is dedicated to growing support around healthy aging and fall prevention while connecting students and giving them an opportunity to work with community members in an interprofessional manner,” said Bryan Belcher, director of the Interprofessional Clinic.

Appalachian State University Institute for Health and Human Services, the Interprofessional Clinic, and High Country Area Agency on Aging will use these funds to support evidence-based community fall prevention programs, collaboration, and sustainable program delivery throughout the seven-county region. Throughout


Nearly $600,000 in Federal Funding Awarded to Appalachian State University Institute for Health and Human Services and the High Country Area Agency on Aging to Prevent Falls Amongst Older Adults

the three years of this grant, the Interprofessional Clinic at IHHS will conduct pre/post assessments of each program on-site, educate and receive referrals from medical providers, and continue the work of the Aging Well Program.

The program objectives include increasing the number of Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention and A Matter of Balance instructors, classes, and participants, engaging medical providers to receive referrals to the Aging Well program and fall prevention programs, and increasing awareness about fall prevention, and enrolling over 1,000 new participants in evidence-based falls prevention programs and measuring increases in self-efficacy among program completers.

In addition to those objectives, this project will increase collaborations and communications between local communities, ASU, the HCAAA and community-based services. These programs are proven to reduce the risk of falling and safeguard the independence of older adults. The goal is to increase the number of evidence-based fall prevention programs offered throughout the region, offer free assessments, and keep our High Country Falls Free.

Through the three-year cooperative agreement, Appalachian State University and the High Country Area Agency on Aging aim to (1) Significantly increase the number of older adults, especially in the underserved rural areas in the 7 county Appalachian Mountain Region, who participate in evidence-based fall prevention programs to reduce fall risks; and (2) Create a sustainable structure to provide ongoing assessments of older adults with referral to fall prevention programs and follow up. A large focus of this grant will include developing the infrastructure to engage community partners to lead the program past the grant end date.

“The High Country Area Agency on Aging couldn’t be more excited to partner with Appalachian State University’s Institute for Health and Human Services to expand fall prevention and health promotion activities throughout our region. This expansion of available classes throughout our seven counties will make a strong positive impact on the health and well-being of countless older adults and their families said Zack Green, Director of the High Country Area Agency on Aging. “Fall prevention is a cornerstone of aging well and remaining in one’s home as long as possible. Additionally, these classes are fun, challenging, and a great way to join a community!”

The High Country Area Agency on Aging (HCAAA) and ASU Institute for Health and Human Services (IHHS) and Interprofessional Clinic are committed to supporting older adults in the High Country through education, wellness programs, quality medical care, support, and services.

If you are interested in learning more about Appalachian State University Institute for Health and Human Services (IHHS), the Interprofessional Clinic, and/or the Aging Well Program please visit https://ihhs.appstate.edu/clinicalservices or call 828-262-8658.

The work of this new grant will be complimented by and expand on the existing work being done by the HC AAA’s very own statewide Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention (TCAFP) Instructor Training Academy. This work is a continuation of several federal fall prevention grants supporting the TCAFP Instructor Training Academy at the High Country AAA and in partnership with the NC Center for Healthy Aging at UNC-Asheville.

The High Country AAA has been coordinating the statewide TCAFP Instructor Training Academy since 2017. Over the past five years, the academy has supported over 60 Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention instructors through 11 trainings and recertifications, offering ongoing monthly skill builders, and actively working to build and expand our TCAFP instructor community and mentorship.

This statewide effort has resulted in over 200 Tai Chi for Arthritis and Falls Prevention classes being held throughout NC and a total reach of almost 3,200 older adults and people living with a disability accessing classes.

We are grateful for the opportunity to continue this great work throughout the High Country.


Economic Recovery and Resilience Staff

Sarah Price Steps into New Resiliency Planner Role

Sarah Price joined the Economic Recovery and Resilience department in the new role of Resiliency Planner at the beginning of October. In this role she will be working closely with the region’s local governments to assist them with grant administration, long-range planning, project implementation, and sustainability efforts. Sarah has spent the last two years at the High Country Council of Governments as part of the Area Agency on Aging team where she was instrumental in developing the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren (GRG) Program. The GRG Program is designed to help older adult caregivers of minor children or adult children with disabilities and is flexible to help families with individualized needs.

addition to managing client relations and service administration for older adult caregivers of children, Sarah has also spent the last year managing a COVID-19 Vaccine Outreach grant throughout our seven-county region and has spent the last two years managing the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) grant. Sarah brings to the role experience in grant administration and community development. Sarah is a proud Mountaineer with a Master of Public Administration and a BS in Sustainable Development from App State. She is excited about this transition and looks forward to serving the High Country in this new role

Cory Osborne Director cosborne@hccog.org ext.142 Sarah Price Resiliency Planner sprice@hccog.org ext.141 Department Highlights | www.hccog.org
Sarah Price, Resiliency Planner.

GREAT Grants Awarded in Multiple High Country Counties

The North Carolina Department of Information Technology has announced over $260 million in grants to expand high speed internet service in the state through the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Grant Program. Using funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the GREAT program provides matching grants to internet service providers and electric membership cooperatives to expand high-speed internet service to unserved areas of the state.

GREAT grants were awarded to internet providers in five High Country counties: Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Wilkes, and Yancey. As part of the GREAT grant eligibility requirements, all internet service provider applicants must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which provides eligible low-income households a $30 per month discount on high-speed internet service or provide access to a comparable low-cost program. Applicants must agree to provide high-speed service, defined as a minimum of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) download and 20 Mbps upload, scalable to 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload on or before December 31, 2026. Applications that included a match commitment from a county’s State & Local Fiscal Recovery Funds received additional points in the review process.

The GREAT program is one of several funding opportunities developed by the Department of Information Technology and will have future rounds of funding available. The upcoming Completing Access to Broadband (CAB) grant also promises to further close the broadband grant in rural areas of the state. Please reach out to staff with High Country COG’s Department of Economic Recovery & Resiliency or the NCDIT Division of Broadband and Digital Equity if you would like more information on the programs.

HCCOG Receives Funding from Dogwood Health Trust & Association of Regional Councils of Governments

Dogwood Health Trust recently awarded a grant to High Country COG to enable the organization to increase its capacity to provide technical assistance to local governments in Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey counties. The assistance will consist of help with administering funds deriving from the American Rescue Plan Act, administration of other grant funds, assistance with identifying funding opportunities and writing grant applications, and developing long-term planning documents and studies targeted at fostering resilient local governments and communities.

The COG also received funding from the State of North Carolina via the Association of Regional Councils of Governments to carry out efforts to build regional capacity related to disaster recovery. These funds will be used over the next two years by COG staff and contracted experts to provide training on financial administration of disaster recovery funds and to carry out other tasks including assistance with FEMA grant applications, administration of FEMA funds, creation of a regional resiliency map, detailed assessments of emergency management capacity, training about the role of land development regulations in hazard mitigation, development regulation review, stormwater mapping, and stormwater plan development.


Phil Trew

Director ptrew@hccog.org ext.121

Michelle Ball

Regional Planner mball@hccog.org ext.115

Planning and Development Staff

Kelly Coffey

Senior Planner kcoffey@hccog.org ext.114

David Graham Transportation Planner dgraham@hccog.org ext.135

Tatiana Magee

GIS Tech & Planner tmagee@hccog.org ext.138

Drew Plettner

Regional Planner dplettner@hccog.org ext.118

Jessica Welborn

GIS Planner jwelborn@hccog.org ext.134

Department Highlights | www.hccog.org/planning

2022 High Country Land Use Plans

The HCCOG worked with three municipalities this year to develop comprehensive land use Plans. These municipalities include the Town of Banner Elk, the Town of Sparta, and the Town of West Jefferson. According to North Carolina General Statutes, municipalities must adopt and reasonably maintain comprehensive land use plans in order to exercise certain development regulations. While these plans serve to meet a legal requirement for Towns, the process of developing them is often very productive and informative. To that end, the High Country Council of Governments worked closely with Town Staff and Planning Boards to develop plans that took into account each Town’s specific conditions, goals, and needs. The results were comprehensive plans that are tailored to each Town and designed to guide decisions relating to land use for the next 10-15 years.


Town of Burnsville Sewer Mapping

The HCCOG contracted with the Town of Burnsville to create comprehensive mapping products for its stormwater, sewer, and water systems. Burnsville’s stormwater system mapping and deliverables were completed in 2021, with mapping of its water system scheduled to begin in November of 2022 after the completion of its sewer system. The purpose of this mapping project is to provide an ArcGIS Web App containing centimeter level accuracy of sewer networks structures. This Web App will be accessible to all Public Works staff to not only provide location and attribute data of the sewer system, but to allow them to make note of any changes or new findings to continually provide up-todate data.

Structures found in the Web App include manholes, clean outs, pump stations, taps, control valves, and wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) as well as gravity mains, pressurized mains, and lateral (service) lines. Attributes of these structures include pipe material, pipe diameter, invert depth of the manhole, invert presence, condition of manhole, and more. The location and attributes of these network structures and lines were retrieved through primary data collection in the field alongside staff from Burnsville’s Public Works Department. Additionally, the collection and recording of this data will assist in the improved understanding of inflow and infiltration (I&I) areas of interest, and prioritization for future projects and grant applications. I&I is excess water from either stormwater (inflow) or groundwater (infiltration) that makes its way into the sewer system. This is largely caused by aging infrastructure (cracks and holes in sewer lines), storm drain cross-connections with the sewer system, low lying manholes in floodplains, and holes in manhole covers. Burnsville is aware of I&I issues in its infrastructure due to the influx in flow during high rainfall events at its Pine Swamp WWTP. I&I can also be observed through the data collection process when manholes show excessive amount of flow. The primary data collection alongside Public Works provides the staff the opportunity to check on all parts of the Town’s sewer system and repair things as needed (e.g., uncovering buried manholes, testing for chlorine content in high flow manholes, etc.).

Burnsville’s sewer system serves all residents and businesses within Town limits as well as areas outside its extent towards both its WWTPs. The Town is responsible for one WWTP that is located west of Town (Pine Swamp WWTP) and helps maintain a WWTP east of Town (East Yancey WWTP) on a contract basis through Yancey County. In its 1.59 mi2 town limits alone, Burnsville’s sewer system consists of approximately 240 manholes, 429 clean outs, and 18 miles of sewer line. Value from this project not only comes from the deliverables that are created, but from the field work and the future value to new hires. As the Town’s Public Works Staff phase into retirement, this project ensures that Town knowledge is not lost with them and allows new hires to have a detailed understanding of the systems that they maintain. Additionally, conducting field work for data collection has uncovered instances of I&I, safety issues, needed maintenance, and more that was handled and fixed day-of that otherwise may not have been a known issue.

Shane Dale, Public Works Director for Burnsville, NC.

The Town of Burnsville was recently awarded a $1,284,591 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration to fund water and sewer extensions to a new business. The benefiting company is Little Leaf Farms, a greenhouse grower of lettuce, who will create 100 jobs and invest $86 million in the construction of new greenhouses. The site is located on Hwy 80 near the former Hickory Springs manufacturing facility.

Town of Burnsville Awarded $12 Million for Infrastructure Projects

In the Operations Appropriations Act of 2021 (S.L. 2021-180) the state of North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $1,690,000,000 from the state’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for drinking water, wastewater, and storm water investments to be administered by the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The State made direct allocations of the ARPA funds to specific local governments and public entities in the amount of $836.9 million, leaving $758 million to allow DEQ the opportunity to offer grant funding in the place of the usual low-interest loans within its Clean Water and Wastewater Revolving Fund program.

On July 27, 2022, Governor Roy Cooper announced $626.2 million dollars in ARPA funding was awarded to North Carolina communities for Water and Wastewater projects. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) received more than 700 applications for a spring funding round of their Clean Water and Wastewater State Revolving Fund program and funded more than 354 statewide, including over 100 construction projects with ARPA Funds.

The program provided from $400,000 to $15,000,000 for local governments to address their water and wastewater infrastructure needs and provide safe drinking water. Application submissions included planning grants, merger studies, and construction projects.

The Town of Burnsville was awarded grants for five construction projects totaling $12,169,494.

The Town received ARPA funding for the following water and wastewater projects.

• Replacement of the Bakers Creek Pump Station


• Rehabilitation of the Main Sewer Interceptor (East side of Town) $2,153,570

• Replacement of waterlines along Main Street, Bennett Street, Ramsey Street, and lines in the western Glendale Avenue area $5,849,527

• Replacement of waterlines from the Bolens Creek Intake and the Cane River Intake and rehabilitation of the Cane River pump station $2,221,191

• A loan conversion to a grant for a project to make improvements to the Water Treatment Plant $1,345,706

Town of Burnsville Awarded EDA Grant

PARTF Project Awards

The North Carolina Parks and Recreation Authority approved $17 million in funding from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) for 39 local parks and recreation projects across the state this year. Four of these awards were for counties in the High Country region, including Mitchell, Yancey, Watauga, and Ashe. Two of these four awards, Yancey, and Mitchell, were for applications submitted by the HCCOG.

Funding amounts for each project are as follows:

• Mitchell County: $500,000

• Yancey County: $350,000

• Watauga County: $500,000

• Ashe County: $500,000

Mitchell County plans to use the funds to help with the cost of a new recreation complex in Bakersville, which will include a new gymnasium, a full-size baseball field, an indoor and outdoor walking track, and a substantial amount of public parking. Yancey County will use the funds to make improvements to Ray-Cort Park in Burnsville, which will include a new recreation center, a resurfacing of the basketball court which will now double as a pickleball court, a repaved parking lot, and a new pedestrian bridge at the northern end of the park. Watauga County received funds for Boone Gorge Park, a section of the Middle Fork Greenway, and Ashe County received funds for an expansion to Ashe County Park.

The High Country Council of Governments planning department is pleased to have played a role in these projects being funded. We look forward to submitting more applications in the future and helping to expand recreational offerings throughout our region.

Draft 2024-2033 State Transportation Improvement Plan

The Draft 2024-2033 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) was released by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on August 4, 2022. The following transportation projects in the High Country Rural Planning Organization (RPO) region are considered funded and scheduled for delivery in the Draft 2024-2033 STIP:


US 221 (R-2915E): US 221 Bypass to US 221 Business/NC 88 in Jefferson

Description: Widen to four lanes divided

Construction: Under construction

NC 88, NC 88 to NC 194 (R-5832) – Ashe County

Description: Upgrade roadway Construction: 2025

American Emergency Vehicles Lane, Northwest Drive (HA-0006): NC 88 to Benfield Drive and American Emergency Vehicles Lane from Northwest Drive to American Emergency Vehicles Facility – Ashe County

Description: Widen roadway and install signal at NC 88 and Northwest Drive Construction: 2024


State Transportation Improvement Plan


NC 194/US 19E Intersection (R-5911) – Avery County

Description: Construct right turn lane from US 19E northbound to NC 194 eastbound Construction: 2022

NC 105 (R-2566B): Clarks Creek Road to NC 105 Bypass – Watauga County

Description: Widen to multi-lanes from Clarks Creek Road to NC 105 Bypass in Boone. (Includes R-2566BABridge over Watauga River at Broadstone Road and R-2566BB – Realignment of intersection with Old Shulls Mill Road)

R-2566B Construction: 2024

R-2566 BA Construction: Under construction

Section BB: 2023

US 421/US 321 (R-2615): US 321/US421 Junction Near Vilas to 105 Bypass – Watauga County

Description: Widen to Multi-Lanes Construction: 2031

SR 1522 (Deerfield Road), State Farm Road to SR 1523 (Wilson Ridge Road) (R-5830) – Watauga County

Description: Upgrade Roadway Construction: 2025

Bamboo Road (SR 1514); Wilson Ridge Road (SR 1523), US 421/US221 to Deerfield Road (SR 1522) (U-5810) – Watauga County

Description: Widen Roadway to 12-foot lanes with 4-foot paved shoulders Construction: 2024

NC 115, From US 421 to 2nd Street (R-5759) – Wilkes County

Description: Widen Existing Roadway Construction: 2024

NC 268 (R-2603): NC 18 to Airport Road – Wilkes County

Description: NC 268, Multi-lanes east of NC 18 to SR 1966. Widen to multi-lanes Construction: Under Construction

SR 1001 (Oakwoods Road), From US 421 to NC268 (East Main St.) (R-5772) – Wilkes County

Description: Upgrade Existing Roadway Construction: 2027

US 421 (U-5312): Yadkin River Bridge to Westgate Drive – Wilkes County

Description: US 421, NC 16 to US 421 Business. Convert existing roadway to superstreet and add service roads Construction: 2023

NC 268 (R-5906), From SR 1966 (Airport Road) to Four Lanes West of SR 2026 Austin Traphill Road – Wilkes County

Description: Modernize Roadway Construction: 2029

Draft 2024-2033

State Transportation Improvement Plan


Yancey County Transit Facility (TA-6723)

Description: Construct office, training, maintenance facility

Construction: 2023


Middle Fork Greenway Section I From Blowing Rock along US 321 to the Blue Ridge Parkway (EB-5924)

Description: Construct Greenway along US 321

Construction: 2023

US 421 Multi-Use Path from Grove Street to Brookshire Road (EB-5983)

Description: Construct multi-use path

Construction: 2025

Ashe County Airport (AV-5848)

Description: Construct apron expansions

Construction: Under Construction

Wilkes County Airport (AV-5894)

Description: Extend runway to 7,000 feet

Construction: 2024


More information for the Draft 2024-2033 STIP can be found at https://www.ncdot.gov/initiativespolicies/Transportation/stip/development/Pages/resources.aspx. NCDOT Division 13 held a public drop-in session for comments on the Draft STIP from September 19-23 at the NCDOT Division 13 office located at 55 Orange Street in Asheville. The Division 11 public drop-in session is scheduled for October 17-21 at the NCDOT Division 11 office located at 801 Statesville Road in North Wilkesboro. The Final 2024-2033 STIP is anticipated to be presented to the Board of Transportation for approval in the Summer of 2023.

30 Draft 2024-2033

Misty Bishop-Price


misty.bishopprice@highcountry wdb.com ext.119

Workforce Development Staff

Rebecca Bloomquist

Communications and Business Services Coordinator rebecca.bloomquist@highcountry wdb.com ext.136

Finance and Compliance Specialist

debra.foxx@highcountrywdb.com ext.120

Welcome New Workforce Director, Misty Bishop-Price!

The High Country Council of Governments (HCCOG) and the High Country Workforce Development Board have selected Misty Bishop-Price to lead workforce development initiatives and programs in its seven (7) county region. As the High Country Workforce Development Board (HCWDB) Director, she will be responsible for over $1 million in funding provided to the High Country Local Area of Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes, and Yancey counties in northwestern North Carolina under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

In addition to overseeing the appropriate use of funds, Bishop-Price will assist the HCWDB with implementing plans to further the mission and goals of the board.

HCWDB Chair Jeff Dreyer said, “I’m so excited to see Misty in this new role. Her dedication to and experience with workforce in the High Country will no doubt equal success for all.”

Workforce Development Director, Misty Bishop-Price.

A native of Wilkes County, Bishop-Price received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Appalachian State University. She most recently served as the NCWorks Operations Manager for the HCWDB as well as the regional NCWorks Online Super User and Co-Chair of the NC Youth Leads committee. She enjoys time with her family with weekends consisting of ball games and rodeos with her two daughters.

Julie Wiggins, Executive Director for the High Country Council of Governments stated, “Misty steps into this role with a wealth of knowledge and experience as well as a clear commitment to the workforce needs of our region. She has been an integral member of the workforce department and the COG organization for over 21 years.”

Department Highlights | www.highcountrywdb.com |

Farewell to Charity Patterson Hamber

NCWorks Career Center Manager and Operator, Charity Patterson Hamber, celebrated her last day with the High Country on July 15th. During her four years she served the High Country counties of Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, and Wilkes counties. Charity will be staying within workforce development, assuming the role as Director for the Western Piedmont Workforce Development Board. Thank you, Charity, for your dedicated service to the High Country!

NCWorks in the Community

NCWorks and the Watauga Back 2 School Festival

NCWorks staff attended the Watauga Back 2 School Festival on Saturday, August 13th where they engaged with the community regarding employment and training opportunities. This year the event served over 1,600 students providing a variety of supplies from backpacks to new shoes! Additional event information can be found online at Back 2 School Festival.

Wilkes Leadership Visits the NCWorks Career Center

Members of the Leadership Wilkes program, sponsored by the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, visited the NCWorks Career Center of Wilkes as part of their tour of local resources in serving the community. During the visit, local leaders heard from staff regarding services available to assist job seekers and employers. Designed to develop and enhance leadership for Wilkes County, class members engage in informative presentations, educational facility tours, and are enlightened to the resources available in their community.

NCWorks Interim Center Manager, Phil Pope, speaks with the Wilkes Leadership Group on Aug. 22nd.

Charity Patterson Hamber (front left) and the NCWorks Team. Clockwise from top right: Allen Osborne, Mary Jolly, Anna Chapman, and Kim Anderson.

Wilkes NCWorks Participates in Recovery Rally

Staff from the NCWorks Career Center participated in the 6th annual Recovery Rally, sponsored by Wilkes Recovery Revolution, that was held in downtown Wilkesboro on September 3rd. As part of the Recovery Month event, NCWorks provided a Community Resource booth during the event to share information on employment and training resources. The event celebrated recovery and encourages individuals with substance use disorder and/or mental health struggles to strive to achieve a healthy, happy life. Substance use disorders can affect anyone, including people in Wilkes County. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), 107,622 people suffered an overdose that resulted in death in 2021, and North Carolinians made up an estimated 3,146 of those deaths. The NCWorks Career Center of Wilkes and the High Country WDB have been designated as Recovery Friendly partners with Wilkes Recovery Revolution.

NCWorks Participated in Re-entry Simulation

NCWorks staff participated in a re-entry simulation on Friday, September 30th, which was held as part of Recovery Month awareness in partnership with Watauga County LEAD. During the event participants experienced the first month of post-release life tasks that must be accomplished in order to avoid the risk of being re-arrested for noncompliance with the requirements of his or her supervised release. As part of the event, expo tables from local agencies that work with people returning from incarceration were available, along with speaker Jeff Walker from Wilkes Recovery Revolution. Staff felt the experience was valuable in assisting them in providing services to this population.

NCWorks in the Community (cont.)
From L to R: Kim Anderson, Cynthia Holman, and Mary Jolly. From L to R NCWorks staff: Veda Johnson, Cynthia Holman, and Anna Chapman. NCWorks staff participated in activities to simulate re-enter society after incarceration.

myFutureNC: Closing the Education Attainment Gap in NC

The myFutureNC Commission is a statewide organization focused on educational attainment and is the result of cross-sector collaboration between North Carolina leaders in business, education, philanthropy, faith-based and nonprofit communities, and government. The goal is to ensure that by 2030, 2 million North Carolinians have a high-quality credential or a postsecondary degree.

Most of North Carolina’s new jobs require education beyond a high school diploma; however, fewer than half of North Carolinians ages 25-44 have a post-secondary degree or credential. In addition, those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately affected as far fewer earn post-secondary credentials than students with more economic stability. As a result, the education system and economy become unbalanced with job seekers struggling to find jobs and employers struggling to find talent to fill openings.

On the myFutureNC website (www.myfuturenc.org ) data and resources can be found specific to counties:

• Data unique to each of NC’s 100 counties

• Highlights of county and regional performance on key indicators

• Lists of specific opportunities for improvement that will ultimately lead to increased attainment

• Facilitates decision-making on LOCAL priorities

• Uses data to identify three (3) actionable opportunity areas to improve future attainment outcomes.


NCWorks NextGen: Your Future Starts Here

Abigail from Mitchell County Abigail (Abby) Cook is a Marketing Assistant intern with BAMA (Bakersville Area Merchants Association). She started her internship at the end of May, and it will continue through the end of November. She has been assisting with various events for the town of Bakersville, which includes its big event: The Rhododendron Festival. She has assisted in organizing several other smaller events as well. She works with the local merchants to help promote the town.

The Town of Bakersville has been working on creating a Welcome Center with local history and area information for visitors. Abby has been assisting with this project and has been helping in the Welcome Center since it opened. Sharon Rowland, her supervisor, has always bragged on how well she has done and how much initiative she has.


Abby was undecided on what she wanted to do and had been interested in careers in emergency services. She loves what she is currently doing and is very good at it! She discussed her marketing experience and how well she is doing in this field with her Career Advisor. They discussed how she can use these skills for fund raisers for the local volunteering fire departments.

Below is a link to a newspaper article in the Mitchell News Journal about the new Bakersville Area Welcome Center:https://www.mitchellnews.com/local-news/new-bakersville-area-welcome-center-now-open?fbcli d=IwAR2vFfPxGuveLTqZIN1M0Ig9L758x_q28RKghPeJc1txOCUjD48WmQVgHPk

Chase from Mitchell County

Chase began working with NCWorks NextGen after being referred by the Basic Skills program. After dropping out of school during his senior year and experiencing several bumps in the road, he was ready to move forward with working on his GED and gaining some work experience. Chase began an internship with L&L Furniture where he received mentoring and building of his self-confidence while learning work readiness skills. L&L Furniture owner, Walton Shepherd, wrote the following:

“We are very fortunate to have Chase join our team here at L&L Furniture in Spruce Pine, NC. At L&L Furniture our mission is ‘God and Family First, Sell Quality Products at a Value Price, Serve the Community, Build Trusting Relationships with Employees and Customers.’ Chase has fit right into our mission and also with our values of honesty, work ethic, and teamwork. Chase has strived daily to meet all expectations with his coworkers and family here at L&L, and we could not thank him or NCWorks enough for the opportunity to have such a good young man. L&L Furniture has gained a huge asset and friend with having Chase join our team this summer. We are certain that Chase has a bright future and excited for any employer to have Chase in his future endeavors.”

Jacob from Mitchell County

Jacob enrolled as a dropout with a goal to complete his Adult High School Diploma. Determined to be successful, he quickly completed the requirements while increasing his testing scores and completed his diploma in April 2022. He quickly obtained full time employment in a job that he loves and helps supports his family! Through NextGen, Jacob received case management services, assistance with testing fees, and an incentive for his credential attainment.

Jacob. Chase. 35

NCWorks NextGen: Your Future Starts Here (cont.)

Matthew from Alleghany County

Matthew came to NCWorks with poor work history seeking new opportunities with an interest in working outside (with physical labor). Based on his career assessments, his Career Advisor established a work experience at a local building supply store where he has excelled in time management skills and work ethic, always willing to pitch in and do extra work. Matthew learned valuable work readiness skills that will assist him in moving forward in his career path.


Myia from Ashe County

Myia enrolled with NextGen with limited work history with a goal to attain her Cosmetology license. Working with her Career Advisor, Myia began a work experience with a local business as a salon assistant that allowed her to gain skills in salon operations and customer service. Myia met all program goals and successfully obtained her cosmetology license in May 2022. While enrolled she received career guidance and assistance with testing fees.



Aubrey from Yancey County

Success with NCWorks

Aubrey is a 33-year-old woman who had limited work history. She came to NCWorks for assistance in starting a career after being out of the workforce for four (4) years due to some health issues. Having come through her trying experience she was looking for a job that would allow her to work in an office setting, and NCWorks found her a position with Mountain Electronics as the invoice clerk/ office administrator. She has done amazingly well there and has been a great fit for the Mountain Electronics team. Aubrey is gaining invaluable experience with Quick Books and other buildable office skills.

Baltazar from Yancey County


Baltazar’s parents moved here from Mexico when he was just a toddler. He has worked as a farmworker and has had a couple of factory jobs that just weren’t a good fit for him. He decided he wanted to be a truck driver being very eager to learn a trade that would help him find a better job. With WIOA assistance, he attended truck driver training at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute and completed it on 8/2/2022. When Baltazar brought in his completion certificate to the Yancey NCWorks office, staff had recently listed a job for Appalachian Truss: a crane operator with CDL license. She contacted the employer and offered On-the-Job-Training (OJT) training (reimbursement of 50% of a new hire’s wages for up to six months) if they would consider hiring Baltazar. Baltazar started working for the company through OJT on 9/6/2022. He is happy to be learning another skill while getting some experience as a truck driver. Everything is going great so far! Both Baltazar and his employer are happy with the placement.


Katelyn from Yancey County

Katelyn is a 21-year-old woman who had been working as a pre-school teacher for the past two (2) years. She worked her way up to Head Pre-school teacher and was making $10.75 an hour. She loved her job, but the low wage made life difficult. Plus, she had no more room to move up in the field. She wanted to make a career change with better wages, and mostly she wanted to learn new things. NCWorks found a place for her at Yancey County Department of Social Services as a processing assistant. Katelyn has been there for a short while and is being promoted to an Income Maintenance Caseworker at the beginning of October. She is accomplishing and learning so much!


38 Notes

Administration Staff

Wiggins Executive Director

Caroline Briggs Finance Technician

Meeting Schedule

High Country Council of Governments

Executive Board Meeting

7:00pm on the 3rd Monday of the month (except January and September)

Area Agency on Aging

Regional Advisory Council on Aging Meets Quarterly

Senior Tar Heel Legislature Meets in March, June, and October

AAA Provider Meeting Meets Quarterly

Julie Page Finance Officer

Victoria Oxentine Communications Manager

Workforce Development

Workforce Development Board

on the 2nd Thursday in January, March, May, July, September, and November

Planning & Development

RPO Rural Transportation Advisory Committee

on the 3rd Wednesday in February, May, August, and November

RPO Rural Transportation Coordinating Committee 10:00am on the 3rd Wednesday of February, May, August, and November

Administrative Staff and Meeting Schedule www.hccog.org | (828) 265-5434
jwiggins@hccog.org ext.125
cbriggs@hccog.org ext.103
jpage@hccog.org ext.109
voxentine@hccog.org ext.101
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