DOBSON – The first day of an application period is usually a lot of activity, which has been the case this week in Dobson.
“We have had a very busy day at the Surry County Elections Council (office) with 14 people applying,” County Electoral Officer Michella Huff said Monday evening. It was the first day those seeking various local seats in Mount Airy and elsewhere in Surry could officially toss their hats in the ring for the 2022 election season.
However, one of those who filed, Will Pfitzner – a candidate for a North Ward seat on the Mount Airy Commissioners Council – has since withdrawn from the race.
Joanna Refvem also applied to become Commissioner of the North Quarter.
Meanwhile, three people who had announced their intention to campaign for mayor also filed on Monday: Jon Cawley, Teresa Lewis and the man who now holds the post, Ron Niland.
Cawley, 59, the longest-serving member of city council who has served since 2008, announced in July that he intended to run for the highest office of Mount Airy’s elected officials while making it clear he believed that Niland was doing a good job.
His decision to run for mayor dates back to when David Rowe, who previously held the post, resigned for health reasons in October 2020.
Cawley said he wanted to have a different role in city government. While the mayor doesn’t have a vote in his actions – except to break a tie – one thing that person can do is “tell our story,” Cawley said in July. The mayor is the face of the city and is its most visible representative, he believes.
Niland, 66, officially announced he would run for mayor at a council meeting last Thursday and followed up with his case on Monday.
“This is a time of transformation in the history of our city,” Niland said Thursday, adding that he wanted to continue the “great work” already started and be part of Mount Airy’s vision for a number of projects. .
Lewis also declared his run for mayor months ago.
A former commissioner general at Mount Airy, she is a retired local businesswoman who has long been associated with staffing firm WorkForce Unlimited.
Lewis, 63, cited her past experience in city administration – including playing a key role in launching her recycling program around 10 years ago – as reasons that made her qualified to re-occupy a public service.
She has also served on the board of directors of various community organizations over the years.
Filing the three candidates on Monday will force a March primary for the mayor of Mount Airy. This is required when three or more applicants apply for a particular position.
The election in Mount Airy is non-partisan.
Since Cawley is not allowed to run for office and for the commissioner seat he now holds, this opened the door for others to file in the North Quarter – where Cawley never met a opposition in three candidatures for re-election.
And Pfitzner and Refvem wasted no time doing so on Monday when the candidate submission period opened at noon.
But Pfitzner, 28, said on Tuesday his candidacy was short-lived and that he would withdraw his name from proceedings this week.
“I had no idea Joanna would make a statement,” he said of Refvem, one of his neighbors on Montclaire Drive and a friend of Pfitzner’s family.
“I really believe Joanna will do a great job,” Pfitzner said while indicating that he did not want to campaign against someone so close.
Owner of a business called LazerEdge Designs, his reasons for seeking public office included adding a different element to city government.
“I wanted to bring young people into the leadership,” said Pfitzner, who signaled that he was only postponing his plans for now. “I will be running for some type of municipal leadership in the future.”
Refvem, 67, a semi-retired counselor at Mount Airy High School, mentioned Tuesday that her family has lived in that town since 1996. And she wants to do something to help “the community that has been so good to us,” the candidate noted.
She is not particularly concerned about the activities of the municipal government which motivate the candidacy for the post.
“I have absolutely no agenda at this point,” said Refvem, who plans to assess citizens’ concerns and find out how she might help them if elected. “I think I want to be a good student in the community.”
Candidates for partisan county offices also filed on Monday, including:
• Surry Sheriff Steve Hiatt, 58, a Republican who will campaign for his second term in the office for which he was elected in 2018;
• Current court clerk Neil Brendle, 45, who is also seeking a second consecutive term on the GOP ticket;
• A challenger to Brendle, his fellow Republican Melissa Marion Welch, 41, of Dobson;
• Walter D. Harris, 68, who ran for a Mount Airy District seat on the Surry County Council of Commissioners, currently held by the first-term incumbent and his Republican colleague Bill Goins;
• Tessa Saeli, 48, an Elkin resident running for the Southern District seat on the Eddie Harris County Board of Directors (both Republicans);
• An incumbent Democrat of the Surry County School Board, Mamie M. Sutphin, 44, of Pilot Mountain, who represents District 2 on that board;
• Brent Long, 56, also a resident of Pilot Mountain, who is a Republican who seeks to overthrow Sutphin;
• Jessica George, 33, of Siloam, a Republican looking to fill the District 3 County School Board seat, recently vacated by Early Coe;
• Republican TJ Bledsoe, 40, a Dobson resident running for District 4 seat on the Surry County Board of Education, currently occupied by Terri Mosley, the board chairman.
The application period ends on December 17 at noon.