Bland County: The year in review - 2016
• The Bland County Board of Supervisors reorganized for the upcoming
year. Karen Hodock was re-elected as chairman of the board; Nick Asbury
was re-elected as vice chairman.
• Jenna Dunn was named the new emergency services/E911 coordinator for
Bland County. The Bland County native will also serve as part-time
dispatcher for the Bland County Sheriff’s Office.
• Bland County High School eighth-grader Hannah Minnix won the Virginia
Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign
Wars. Her essay was submitted as part of the national contest held in
• The Bland County School board re-elected Jerri Harman as chairman and
elected Gerry Schepers as vice-chairman. The board welcomed new board
members Duane Bailey and Bill Crabtree.
• A fire destroyed the home of Rocky Gap firefighter and former
Grapefield Fire Chief Kerry Wright.
• A new program to preserve and pass on the importance of local mountain
music heritage began in Bland County. The Junior Appalachian Musicians
project is a 12-week after school session for qualifying students in
• A month into office as Bland County’s new sheriff, Tom Roseberry
reorganized his department. Among the changes he has made was doing away
with rankings of officers. “It simplifies things,” Roseberry said. “The
only difference it made was stripes on the sleeves of the uniforms.”
• Tazewell County native and Princeton resident Barbara Herald Sadler
started teaching basket weaving classes at the Bland County Library. The
first class, taught in January, was so popular that more classes were
scheduled for the rest of the year.
• A decrease in the demand for medium voltage products resulted in the
layoff of around 30 employees at the ABB Inc. plant in Bland.
• Bland County survivalist Mike Reed changed his company name after
receiving a letter from Survivorman Les Stroud Productions Inc.,
informing Reed that Stroud owns the Survivorman trademark and asking
Reed to change his name. For nine years, Reed operated as the Bland
County Survivorman. His new name is Mike Reed Outdoors.
• Bland County School Board member Gerry Schepers appeared before county
supervisors to address the state of the school system and to express the
school board’s desire to work with supervisors to determine the school
system’s next step. That step, Schepers said, might be the construction
of a new K12 school. Schepers said the decision to build a new school
needs to be made by the people of Bland County, not by consultants. He
said that while school board members agree that continued progress is
needed, the exact definition of what that is must be defined.
• New Bland County Historical Society President Molly P. Thompson said
she wants the organization to have greater community presence again.
“Genealogy will always be a big part of our organization,” Thompson
said. “We have some wonderful members who will continue to do research.
But I would like for us to get back more into the community and get our
membership built back up.”
• Local graphic designer Jessica Looney created the logo for the
official 2016 Wolf K5 T-shirts. Her design also commemorates the 20th
anniversary of the Wolf Creek Indian Village.
• Police looked but were unable to find the driver of a gray Dodge
Charger who led a Bland County deputy on a high-speed chase into Wythe
County. Deputy S.D. Mullins said he was working radar on southbound
Interstate 77 at the 54 mile marker at about noon when he clocked the
car at 102 miles per hour.
• Super speller Addie Nolley made Bland County proud again. The
14-year-old eighth-grader tied for second place in the 43rd Regional
Spelling Bee. Nolley made it all the way to the second-to-last round,
during which she misspelled “acquisitive.” The appearance was Nolley’s
third and final time at the regional spelling bee, and each year she has
improved. In 2015, she placed seventh, misspelling the word “notarize,”
and the year before she was ninth, missing “perennial.”
• Bland County implemented the CodeRED high-speed emergency notification
system and the CodeRED Weather Warning System. The CodeRED system serves
as the backbone for county's emergency planning and communications
outreach to deliver messages to a targeted area or the entire county by
way of a personalized message via voice, email, and text messages.
• Pamela P. Gibson started her job as the victim/witness coordinator for
Bland County’s three courts.
• The Bland County Economic Development Authority hosted a Bland County
Trails business connection meeting to discuss ways to benefit from trail
hikers and other tourists. A Laundromat, a restaurant, a re-charging
station for electronic devices, a secure place for hikers to temporarily
store their backpacks and a sporting equipment supplier were among the
suggestions for improving Bland County’s marketing of the Appalachian
• Arguing that a new Love’s travel stop would harm business at the gas
station it runs across the street, a Texas company has filed a lawsuit
against the property owner who’s selling the land to Love’s. Circle K
filed the suit against Seldon Stowers Jr.
• The Bland County Historical Society established a new scholarship in
memory of two longtime society members. The Nancy Clark Tate and Zareda
Shufflebarger Earnest Memorial Scholarship benefits a graduating Bland
County High School senior pursuing a degree in history.
• The Bland County’s School Board hired its third superintendent in six
years, naming former Giles County assistant superintendent for
curriculum D. Scott Meade the schools chief.
• Former Bland County deputy Jason Ramsey rejoined the Bland County
Sheriff’s Office, replacing Lorin Hanshew who resigned in March after 27
years with the department.
• Bland County High School juniors Jordan Faulkner and Alexa Riggs
placed first in the state in the Serious Duo category at the Virginia
High School League’s forensics tournament.
• Former Wythe County Sheriff G. Wayne Pike was honored by the Virginia
House of Delegates for his 39 years in law enforcement.
• Former Bland County resident Kevin McGuire ran the Boston Marathon in
just over three hours: 3 hours, 2 minutes and 46 seconds.
• Joe McAfee and the late Myra Moler were honored with handmade quilts.
McAfee, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, was honored with an
official Quilt of Valor. Moler, who died in October 2015, was remembered
with a quilt top made by members of Just for Fun Quilters, a group she
• Support from parents and the general community allowed restoration of
the Wagner Auditorium at Bland County Elementary School to progress.
Through various fundraisers by the school, new stage curtains were
bought and hung. They are in the school’s colors of blue with an orange
B embroidered on the valance. The auditorium was painted and wall mats
•The Bland County Service Authority received $2.4 million for water
system improvements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural
Development office in Virginia.
•Paintings by well-known award-winning local artist Eleanor Dillow
opened the first ever quarterly art show at the Bland County Public
• Shannon Bailey, Kelly Cook and Lauri Bowling earned a variety of
awards in the Princeton Camera Club competition. Their winning works
were on display at Mercer Mall in Bluefield, West Virginia.
• Donna Moses and Carey Watters organized a redeye bus trip to New York
City. Proceeds benefited the Bland County Relay for Life and the All for
Amy Scholarship, which honors Amy Sweatnam, who passed away last year.
• Less than two weeks after voting to buy a new school bus, the Bland
County School Board found out that the extra funds it planned to use to
buy the bus were not in the budget after. Instead, the school system
owed penalties on late tax payments. The board paid the penalties and
honored its commitment to purchase the bus.
• Longtime Bland County School Board member Roger L. Morehead, 79,
passed away May 16. A native of Bland, he served on the board for 15
• Bland County Public Schools officials said that using a car to block
off the front entrance of the school board office over the Memorial Day
weekend had nothing to do with recent personnel changes, including the
elimination of Assistant Superintendent Annie Whittaker’s job and the
removal of Temple Musser as the principal of Bland County High School.
Superintendent Scott Meade and School Board Chairman Jerri Harman said
that concerns about break-ins at the nearby football concession stand
prompted officials to move the car in front of the door for the weekend.
Meade also said that the front door lock was faulty and the maintenance
supervisor was unavailable to fix it. Musser eventually accepted a job
as assistant principal at Grayson County High School. Whittaker accepted
a job as supervisor of personnel services with the Montgomery County
• Bland County native Ben Johnson starred in a commercial for Montano’s
Restaurant. Johnson, who works for a production company in Roanoke, is
the son of Chuck and Becky Johnson. In the commercial, Johnson played a
customer who is delighted to dig in into some food because it’s
Saturday. Only it’s really Tuesday. Thus, the slogan, “Montano’s:
Everyday feels like a Saturday.”
• Bland County High School principal Temple Musser resigned. The school
board hired Jessica Barrett as the school system’s new finance and
• Bland County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars received new, bold vehicle
decals. The black and gold design runs across the side of the patrol
cars and says “Sheriff Bland County.” The cars also feature the
department’s new badge. The badge is in the shape of a star with the
words “Sheriff’s Office Bland County, Va.” and “In God We Trust” wrapped
in and around the star, along with the American flag.
• Local veterinarian Tracy Readnour and her husband, Mark, announced
that they plan to open a veterinary clinic in Bland. The clinic logo was
designed by Bland County High School student India Cimino.
•Judge Colin Gibb rejected a claim by Circle K. Stores Inc. that an
existing lease effectively barred Seldon Stowers Jr. from selling
property he owns in Bastian to Love’s Travel Stops, paving the way for
the property sale and construction.
• Flash flooding in the Bastian area washed out part of the road and
damaged a Bland County water line on Bears Trail near the school board
• More than 100 Bland County students gathered for some hands-on lessons
on sustainability and the environment, the theme for this year’s STEM-UP
Summer Program held June 20-24 at Bland County Elementary School. Local
students in grades two through eight participated in the camp, unlocking
their potential in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
• Bland County residents contributed to West Virginia flood relief
efforts in various ways, including donations of money, cleaning supplies
• The Bland County School Board hired a new principal for Bland County
High School. The board tapped Jill Hopkins, the school’s former guidance
counselor, for the position. Before coming to BCHS, Hopkins was the
principal at Narrows High School.
• Bland County High School student Lane Burton competed at the National
High School Finals Rodeo in Wyoming.
• Bastian Union Church sponsored a vigil to support local law
enforcement and government leaders. The gathering came shortly after the
July 7 slaying of five Dallas, Texas, law enforcement officers and
nationwide outrage over the police-involved shooting deaths of two black
• The Bland County Public Library added on to its name to honor longtime
library advocates Harry and Lois Shupe. County supervisors voted July 21
to rename the library branch the Bland County Public Library: Harry and
Lois Shupe Branch. Harry Shupe, who served as a Virginia State Police
trooper for more than three decades, died in May at the age of 85.
• Bland native and country music singer Darnell Miller had a song at the
No. 4 spot on the Top 40 International Singles Chart.
• Miranda Burnette, 11, donated 22 inches of her hair to Wigs for Kids.
• The Bland County Fair celebrated its 90th year this summer with
several new events and more rides than in past years. Thie parade grand
marshal was Martha “Chi Chi” Pauley.
• Bland County wrapped up its annual Relay for Life event with
fireworks, bagpipes and a closing ceremony after having raised more than
$37,000 to be donated to the American Cancer Society. Nine teams took
turns walking or running the Bland County Fairgrounds track for an
• The Eupepsia Family Center held an open house for the community at the
center, 13066 West Blue Grass Trail. Co-founder Hussein (Sushil) Murad
said the center will introduce guests to the breathtaking natural
surroundings of the area and will focus on nature, healthy eating and
living, with a wide variety of planned indoor and outdoor sports
activities, including hiking and horseback riding. The center will offer
26 double bedrooms, a restaurant serving healthy meals, a kids area, a
multi-purpose gym as well as other recreation areas and facilities.
• Bland County High School science teacher Laura Radford was named
Teacher of the Year by the Wytheville-Wythe-Bland Chamber of Commerce.
• Bland County High School started the new school year with renovated
bathrooms outfitted in Bland Bear blue and orange. The school system’s
maintenance and custodial staff worked throughout the summer to overhaul
the restrooms, which had come under fire in recent years because they
were old and worn out.
• Bleachers at the Bland County football stadium went from drab to fab.
Once plain and dull, they now sparkle in Bland County blue and orange. A
group of community volunteers, along with trusties from the New River
Valley Jail, worked to paint the bleachers and strengthen the structural
• Preschoolers and Head Start students in Bland County received new
shoes for the school year thanks to Bland Ministry Center, which
received a grant from the Wythe-Bland Foundation to pay for 160 pairs of
• Visiting the school nurse will take on a whole new dimension for Bland
County students starting in 2017 when they will be able to chat via
video conference with medical personnel at the Bland County Medical
Clinic. When possible, students will be diagnosed and given a
prescription on the spot, saving their parents a trip to the doctor. The
clinic is partnering with the Karen S. Rheuban Center for Telehealth at
University of Virginia Health System to harness the power of technology
to help children live healthier lives. The center is creating telehealth
centers at Bland County’s two schools, along with two schools in
Martinsville. Supported by a four-year $1.1 million grant from the
federal Health Resources and Services Administration, the project aims
to provide children with conditions from autism to asthma better access
to specialists and coordinated care in regions with a shortage of
• The Bland County School Board approved a new logo to go on digital
signs to be erected at Bland County Elementary and Bland County High
schools. Superintendent Scott Meade also announced that Bland County
Public Schools will use the month of October to help raise awareness of
childhood bullying in the two Bland County schools.
• Visitors at the Rocky Gap Welcome Center are now greeted with love,
thanks to a large metal sign out front that spells out the word. The
sign is part of the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s LOVEworks program and
goes hand-in-hand with the state’s iconic Virginia is for Lovers
message. The statewide branding initiative is designed to promote
family-friendly vacation experiences in Virginia and share the message
that love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.
• The Bland County Historical Society sponsored the county’s first
cruise-in to help celebrate Bland County’s Festival of Leaves.
• Johnny Goins, Randy Kiser and Jim Starks became Bland County’s 60th,
61st and 62nd Citizens of the Year.
• Students at Bland County Elementary School were excited to see a new
playground on the premises. The addition of the new playground gave
students three more slides, two new ladders, an extra set of monkey bars
and a fireman pole to play on.
• After six years of planning and working to secure funding, the Rocky
Gap Greenway Project is officially under way. County officials gathered
to kick off Phase I of the project, the construction of a sidewalk that
stretches from Bland County High School to Highway 52. The sidewalk will
feature street lights designed like Victorian-era lamp posts.
Construction is projected to take a little more than six months.
• The owner of the former Rocky Gap Bank site asked the county to
re-zone the property so he can operate a trucking operation on the land.
Lee Hagan purchased the property several months ago from New People’s
Bank. He said he plans to store trucks and equipment there for his
business, Hagan Trucking, which carries corrugated pipe for Lane
Enterprises in Wytheville, along with Pepsi and Gatorade. Eventually, he
wants to build a garage on the site so he can store and work on his
• Local recipients of Wythe-Bland Foundation grants included the Bland
County Ministry Center and Dental Clinic, which received $133,000, and
the school system, which received $100,000 for its STEM-UP program,
which teaches science, technology, engineering and math to students.
• The Bland County Lady Bears Varsity Basketball team sold T-shirts to
raise money for longtime Bland County sports reporter Jerry Scott, who
has been diagnosed with colon cancer.
• At Big Walker Lookout, Virginia Wildlife Center officials released a
golden eagle rescued from the side of a Saltville road in August. The
young and ailing eagle was taken to the center in Waynesboro for
rehabilitation until he was strong enough to fly.
• December has been a month of contrasts for multi-million-dollar
Powerball winner Jack Whittaker. Nearly 16 years ago on Christmas Day,
the then West Virginia resident and businessman claimed one of the
largest Powerball jackpots at the time – nearly $315 million. Two years
later in December, Whittaker’s 17-year-old granddaughter was found dead.
And on Dec. 2 of this year, the contractor in the cowboy hat whose life
after the lottery jackpot has generated headlines in the U.S. and
abroad, watched as flames consumed his Rocky Gap home.
• Accused of gun and property crimes going back to 2013, a Bland County
Sheriff’s Office deputy was indicted on five felony charges. Kevin Dean
Cox, 46, was indicted on charges of obtaining money or property by false
pretenses (two counts), possessing an illegal gun (two counts) and
perjury. He is no longer employed by the department.
• It took nearly a decade, but officials finally broke ground for a
Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store in Bastian. Construction is slated
to begin in the spring. The travel center, which will include an Arby’s,
will employ between 40 and 50 people.
• Bland County’s Bible Club has proven to be a successful after-school
activity. Every Wednesday, students at the elementary school gather
after the final bell to learn the stories of the Good Book. When the
club started in September, organizers were not sure what to expect.
Three months later, attendance averages 85 students a week.
• Bland County deputies and school resource officers Randy Dillow and
Jason Ramsey completed the D.A.R.E. America training program and are
ready to help Bland County students. In addition to hearing about
abstaining from drug and alcohol use, students will also study self
awareness, responsible decision making and communication skills, and how
to handle responsibilities and challenges. The program also fosters a
strong anti-bullying component.
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