Stokes County Republicans set up their Walnut Cove campaign headquarters on Friday afternoon to give voters a place to pick up signs and learn more about the candidates.
Virginia Smith, chair of the county’s Republican Party for the past 18 years, said it’s important, more now so than ever, to get out and vote.
“We didn’t see enough come out last time and we need that to change. I know people care in our county, and they need to do their part. We have a great group of candidates that live here, support our community and I’m behind them 100 percent,” Smith said.
Candidates were given an opportunity to introduce themselves and share why they’re running for office.
Longtime assistant district attorney Tom Langan filed for District Court Judge and has served Surry and Stokes counties for nearly 18 years as a prosecutor.
“I’ve been a Republican my whole life and I pledge to be firm as a judge, fair and constitutional. I’m going to follow the law. I’m a conservative Republican and I have been my whole career,” he said.
Langan’s opponent, Gretchen Hollar Kirkman, was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper in January of 2018 to the seat previously held by Charles Neaves, who retired last year. In a forum held in April, Kirkman said she switched parties last Memorial Day and had first registered to vote as a Democrat because that is what her parents were. She said what she liked about the GOP platform are family morals, God, country, and being a conservative.
Rep. Kyle Hall told the group it’s been an honor to serve the 91st District since 2015 and he hopes to continue for two more years.
“We’ve been able to help secure funding for the broadband initiative and revitalization grants for Walnut Cove and King. I want to continue to make sure that Stokes County is taken care of and that the people in Raleigh take Stokes County seriously,” he said.
Rick Morris and Andy Nickelston, both running for county commissioner seats, thanked local Republicans for their support during the primary.
Morris served as the county manager for nine years and is a retired Army colonel with 26 years of active duty. On Friday, he spoke in favor of creating an environment for economic development that has a strong school system, access to medical services, access to internet, all of which will make businesses come to Stokes County.
“I look forward to representing this county and bringing economic development to the area,” Nickelston said. “You’ve got my promise that I’ll work just as hard for this county as I have for our companies in the past by doing everything 100 percent.”
With three seats open for county commissioner, the two will face Jamie Yontz, the top vote-getter in the primary, and retired EMS director, Democrat Greg Collins.
Incumbent Pat Messick, who currently serves as the vice chair on the school board, is running for reelection. As a former teacher with 40 years of experience, she understands the needs in a classroom.
“I want our schools to be safe and secure and I want us to continue hiring and retaining quality educators and administrators,” Messick said. “I’m a fourth generation Stokes County resident and I’m proud of that. Thank you for the support you’ve given me over the years.”
Executive Director of Operations for Stokes County Schools, David Burge, recently announced he’ll be retiring in November to run for a seat on the school board.
“I want to bring the knowledge I learned as a past school board member and what I’ve learned as my time as director of operations,” he said. “I have grandchildren in the schools so I have a vested interest.”
Business owner Dwayne Bryant said he may not have the experience Messick and Burge offer, but he understands the importance of vocational type classes and would bring a fresh perspective to the board.
“We need to make some changes. When kids come out of school they need to know how to make a living because not every student will go to college. Let’s give these kids a chance and give them something they can use,” he said.
Three seats are open on the school board and the top two vote-getters in November will earn four-year terms. The third-highest vote-getter will receive a two-year term. Candidates include Messick, Burge, Bryant, Adrian Ramsey, Mike Rogers, Allen Brown, Zach Burton and Katie Tedder.
John East and Dowell Lester are running for the county’s soil and water conservation district supervisor.
The Republican headquarters is located on Main Street in the parking lot across from El Cabo in Walnut Cove and will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. In King, political signs along with stickers, pamphlets and other handouts for local campaigns may be picked up at 310 Kirby Road.
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.