Hillsville bids mayor a fond farewell

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By Brian Funk, Editor

HILLSVILLE — Mayor Randall Gravley presided over the final regular meeting of his two terms on Hillsville Town Council on Monday night.

Gravley departed to a chorus of kind words from colleagues and fellow council members, who praised his leadership skills and involvement in the community.

His term ends June 30. Bill Tate was elected to the mayor’s post this year, and takes office July 1.

Gravley announced in February that he would not seek another term after eight years on council — four as a member and four as mayor.

The announcement was met with disappointment from many, but the mayor said he only arrived at the decision “after a great deal of thought, discussion and prayer.”

Gravley said he’s moving “somewhere between Lynchburg and Charlottesville” to be closer to his son and daughter, as well as his grandchild and a grandson that’s on the way.

He said he’d be back often. “Nobody will know I’ve been gone.”

Council Member Orba Alderman said he was “sad to see this day come.” After the meeting, he presented Gravley with a plaque in appreciation for his years of service.

Mayor-Elect Tate said he hated to see Gravley go, but wished him the best. “I’ve enjoyed working with you and I’ve learned a lot from you.”

“Randall’s a great leader and a great encourager,” said Council Member Ed Terry.

Both Terry and Council Member Greg Yonce said Gravley encouraged them to run for council and serve their community. “I appreciate all you’ve done for the town — and so do the citizens,” Yonce said.

Gravley has a history of community service, starting with his involvement in the Hillsville Jaycees in the 1970s, shortly after he moved back to town after college and began working as a pharmacist.

In the 1980s, he served the Pine Creek District on the Carroll County School Board, and in the 1990s he helped bring the Carroll Wellness Center into existence.

Gravley said he first ran for council because of a “desire to serve this town and the people who live here. After 30 years as the owner of a business in town, my wish was to repay those who were so loyal to me with an offer of service.”

He said Monday that Ivan Taylor, Tim Clary and Raleigh Cooley encouraged him to run.

Looking back, Gravley said he was proud of how Hillsville Town Council conducted itself over the past eight years. “We attempted to keep business as much in the open as possible. It’s important to have open communication with the town.”

As a parting gift, Gravley presented the town with a Ron Leonard painting of downtown Hillsville at Christmas. “Norman Rockwell is my favorite artist, and it’s always been my vision for Hillsville to be a Norman Rockwell town,” he said.

Gravley said he feels that’s what Hillsville has become. You can walk the streets and see your friends and family, and no one’s afraid to walk the streets at night.

Before bringing down the gavel to close his last meeting, Gravley thanked his fellow council members for their dedication.

“[Council members] don’t really have any power out in the community — it’s only when we’re all sitting here together,” he said. “Even when we’ve disagreed, which wasn’t often, there have never been any hard feelings.”

Gravley also thanked the town staff. “You couldn’t ask for a better group. They make our jobs easier.”

Finally, he thanked the citizens for their confidence in twice electing him to office.

“We work for the people,” Gravley said. “It always bothered me when I went to a meeting and was talked down to. You talk up to the people, because they’re your boss.”

He joked that he might move back to Hillsville sooner than later. “If I don’t find as good a people where I’m going, I’ll be back.”

Tate’s promotion to the mayor’s chair in July creates a vacancy in council’s Sulphur Springs District seat, which will be filled by appointment.

The town received four applications to fill the remaining two years on Tate's term, starting July 1. Applicants include Frieda Jessup, April Guynn, Andy Utt and Billy Walls Sr.

Council members interviewed the applicants on Monday, asking each the same questions.

“All four were very impressive. I encouraged all of them to think about running in two years when the regular election comes up,” Gravley said.

Council will appoint one of the candidates after July 1.

Carroll County Court Clerk Carolyn Honeycutt swore in Tate on Monday, along with council members Alderman (Pipers Gap District) and Terry (Pine Creek District), who were re-elected in May.