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Safe Routes coordinator gets Galax on path to wellness

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By Shaina Stockton, Staff

When Linda Mock started her new position as coordinator of Galax’s Safe Routes to School program on Nov. 4, one of the first commitments she made was to ditch her car during work hours and walk around the city instead.
“I’ve spent a lot of time walking everywhere, because if I’m going to talk the talk, I’m going to walk the walk,” she said.

So far, she’s already learned that it only takes her 10 minutes to get from her office to the schools on foot.
Mock will play a key role in continuing the project, which is primarily focused on improving sidewalks around the city’s elementary, middle and high schools; encouraging kids to ride bikes and creating fun and healthy programs to encourage students to spend more time outdoors.
One of her objectives was to introduce herself to the community.
On a Thursday, she visited the Main Street Bike Shop downtown, where she browsed for a bike to take out on the nearby trails so she could get in shape in order to keep up with some of the events she is planning.
Earlier this year, the program’s funding was amped up with a grant totaling more than $54,000, made possible by funds from the Federal Safe Routes to School Program, along with federal and state partners, including the United States Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.
The money was budgeted for the Safe Routes coordinator position, while the rest went to the purchase of 30 bicycles and helmets for a bike safety training and “lending library” of bikes, consultant services to develop a Galax School Zone Plan with a uniform traffic control plan and traffic vests and lighted wands to enhance safety for police crossing guards.
Mock first heard about the position when she set out in search of work after moving to Hillsville in July. Although she was initially looking to serve in a part-time position, the description of the Safe Routes coordinator position fit her perfectly. “I contacted the city, and told them that I’ve had similar experience working along the coast, and would love to have the opportunity to increase walking and bike riding in the area,” she said.
Mock, who moved to the area from Georgetown County, S.C., brings a colorful resume to the table for the position. After she finished college, she worked as a TV reporter for about 12 years, where she gained experience with anchoring, producing, reporting and photography.
“I enjoyed [journalism] very much, but I decided to switch gears,” she said. She went from working in the newsroom to working as a real estate agent for the next three years, then switched gears again when she was asked to be the executive director of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce.
“My tenure there encompassed small business development, industrial development, tourism and education,” she said. “I tried to improve the infrastructure and worked with all of the different governments in the area.”
Later, she accepted another position with a non-profit economic development group called Murrells Inlet 2007. “It was during that time period when I helped to create bike paths, boardwalks, parks and a lot of other elements that a city needs to really move forward,” she said. “That’s a lot of what I see here, which was why this job was so intriguing.”
Her last position before moving to Virginia was Georgetown’s county auditor, where she remained for two terms.
Her husband, Mike Mock, got a job as emergency services director for Carroll County. After she finished her term, she followed him to the Blue Ridge mountains.
“I was thrilled with the area. It’s beautiful here and the people are very friendly and accepting. The climate, I’m having to adjust to it a little bit, but everything else is great,” Mock said.
She gestured towards a palmetto plant in the corner of her office. “I still have a little piece of home here to look at,” she smiled.  
With cold weather approaching, Mock believes that she came in at a perfect time to get projects started. “I’m still in a planning and introductory mode,” she said.
The majority of her focus at this point includes meeting with school and government officials, as well as other local businesses that she thinks could be involved with future projects; and identifying potential projects. “The city and the schools are trying to get young people out to walk and ride to school, but the bigger picture involves parents and the rest of the community getting out and taking advantage of the beauty and the compactness of Galax,” she told The Gazette.
The city is already working on infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks and road crossings for students. “My big goal is encouraging education by holding safety clinics, along with another Walk to School Day — perhaps even weekly walking and biking events for students,” she said.
Although she couldn’t divulge anything too specific, Mock alluded to giving these events a unique twist in order to keep things interesting. “We’re going to make it fun. It’s not going to be dreary and boring. Every walk will be interesting, with some fun educational moments, games, nature observations and maybe some interesting musical and artistic people leading the groups,” she said.
David Nelson, director of the Galax Parks and Recreation Department, believes that the city made a wise choice in hiring Mock. “Linda has a lot of qualifications, and has hit the ground running. She’s on it and doing a great job. We’re glad to have her,” he told The Gazette.
As she continues to hear positive feedback about the new position, Mock is as excited to work with the project as everyone else. “Everyone is saying that [the project] is wonderful... The city is definitely moving along the right path, and I’m excited about it,” she said.

For more information about these events or other outdoor events offered by the recreation center, visit
www.galaxparks-rec.com.