Finally, Joel Hicks may get the honor he deserves

VHSL takes control of Hall of Fame

The Locker Room

By Dan Callahan

The Patriot

A major shakeup has taken place and it is long overdue, but hopefully worth the wait. The Virginia HIgh School League will now manage entirely the selection process of inductees for the VHSL Hall of Fame. Any previous nominations can now be re-submitted. The Hall of Fame selection committee will meet Wednesday, June 8 to select the Class of 2016. This process covers coaches, athletes, and others who deserve special recognition for their contributions.

I received a phone call from Pulaski County athletic director Scott Vest Wednesday afternoon and it was the good news I have been waiting on for years. Joel Hicks, and his 301 career victories, will have the chance to receive the honor he so richly deserves. He should have received the honor no later than 2004. I don’t want to rehash something I have commented on numerous times over the years, but Hicks was a victim of a bad system, a poorly executed responsibility, and personalities with power they should not have had.

“The VHSL will assume all responsibility for Hall of Fame inductions,” said Vest. “Mike Smith (Hampton head football coach) has been released of his responsibilities. Many people, not just Pulaski County, believe this change is long overdue. I believe now deserving athletes and coaches that have been repeatedly absent from induction will now receive the recognition they deserve. The process will be conducted by an unbiased group. It would be accurate to say we are very happy with this change at Pulaski County. Coach is a very special  person. This needs to happen,” said Vest.

But it appears now that the most successful athletic coach in the history of Pulaski County will finally be honored with an induction into the Hall of Fame. It is not a guarantee, but a new system is in place, the old one is out, and the people in charge are new. The numbers don’t lie. There is no explanation for why Hicks is not in the Hall of Fame. There never has been. There are coaches in the Hall of Fame whose accomplishments pale in comparison to Hicks. If he’s not in it, it is not a Hall of Fame. But a huge hurdle has been eliminated with this decision. I and many fans in Pulaski County are hoping for a sound and very deserving decision by reasonable people. I’ll be surprised if it does not happen.

The effort to get this accomplished goes all the way back to former Pulaski County Superintendent of Schools, Kenneth J. Dobson, and it has continued over the years only to run into the same roadblock over and over. It was frustrating to say the least, but the effort continued, and if something is right, something that is deserving, is never allowed to go away until the right thing is done, there will be victory in the end. The push for Hicks to be inducted into the Hall of Fame never stopped.

I also want to thank all the people over the years that joined in the effort. There were former rival coaches, former administrators at competing high schools, former players, and a bunch of Cougar football fans and friends who stayed the course, but this last push began at a meeting in Charlottesville between then VHSL executive secretary Ken Tilley and Pulaski County School Board chairman Mike Barbour. Barbour made his feelings very apparent concerning Hicks and the Hall of Fame. Early in the current school term Vest renewed the effort, and with the endorsement of Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tom Brewster, and Barbour the effort began once again. All the materials, and accomplishments were packaged again and sent to the committee, but we had heard nothing until Wednesday, however, the powers that be knew Pulaski County was upset, had been upset for years, and would continue to be upset until a wrong was righted. Apparently, there were problems elsewhere as well.

But all the time and effort is going to be satisfied in this opinion, and all the people over the years that joined in the effort with letters, phone calls, trips, conferences, and continued nominations, I thank you because it is the respect and appreciation that Hicks has long deserved, and it is the respect that the Pulaski County football program deserves, all its coaches and players over the years. It will be a happy and proud day for them as well.

It was on the eve of the state championship game in Richmond in 1992. I had written a Locker Room column during the week prior to the state title game, and stated it again on a regional television station. I said; “Joel Hicks has always coached his team to be a champion, prepared his team to play like a champion, and has required his team to act like a champion. If he gets that state championship tomorrow it is for one reason, and one reason only. He deserves it.” He got it.

I believe that when June 8 rolls around Joel Hicks will receive a landslide vote into the VHSL Hall of Fame. The reason? He deserves it.

Significant premium hikes expected under Obama health law

WASHINGTON (AP) — Insurers will seek significant premium hikes under President Barack Obama’s health care law this summer – stiff medicine for consumers and voters ahead of the national political conventions.

Expect the state-by-state premium requests to reflect what insurers see as the bottom line: The health law has been a financial drain for many companies. They’re setting the stage for 2017 hikes that could reach well into the double digits, in some cases.

For example, in Virginia, a state that reports early, nine insurers returning to the marketplace are seeking average premium increases that range from 9.4 percent to 37.1 percent. Those initial estimates filed with the state may change.

More than 12 million people nationwide get coverage though the health law’s markets, which offer subsidized private insurance. But the increases could also affect several million who purchase individual policies outside the government system.

Going into their fourth year, the health law’s markets are still searching for stability. That’s in contrast to more-established government programs like Medicaid and Medicare Advantage, in which private insurers profitably cover tens of millions of people.

The health law’s nagging problems center on lower-than-hoped-for enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers, and a balky internal stabilization system that didn’t deliver as advertised and was already scheduled to be pared back next year.

This year, premiums for a benchmark silver plan rose by a little more than 7 percent on average, according to administration figures. A spike for 2017 would fire up the long-running political debate over the divisive law, which persists despite two Supreme Court decisions upholding Obama’s signature program, and the president’s veto of a Republican repeal bill.

Of the presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton is the only one promising to build on the Affordable Care Act. She’s proposed an aggressive effort to increase enrollment along with measures to reduce consumer costs. The Republican candidates all want to repeal “Obamacare.” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would incorporate it into a bigger government-run system covering everyone.

The health law is “likely in for a significant market correction over the next year or two,” said Larry Levitt of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “There have been a lot of signals from insurers that premiums are headed up.”

Standard & Poor’s health insurance analyst Deep Banerjee said he expects premium hikes to be higher for 2017 than in the larger, more stable market for employer coverage. Insurers are facing higher medical costs from health law customers, and some companies priced their initial coverage too low in an attempt to grab new business.

“What they are doing now is trying to catch up,” said Banerjee.

Aetna chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini said Thursday the nation’s third-largest health insurer still sees a good business opportunity, but Congress needs to provide leeway for companies to design lower-cost plans tailored to young, healthy people.

“We will see the dynamics of the market get tougher as we go forward if we don’t get those kinds of structural changes,” he said. How that would happen in a politically polarized atmosphere, Bertolini did not explain.

Aetna lost more than $100 million on its health law business last year but hopes to break even this year.

The administration says talk of premium increases is premature and overblown. Initial requests from insurers will get knocked back in some states, officials say, aided by a rate-review process strengthened under the health law.

Most significantly, more than 8 out of 10 customers in the health law’s markets get subsidies to help pay their premiums, and that financial assistance will increase as premiums rise. Many have also shown they’re willing to shop around for lower-priced coverage.

“Marketplace consumers would do well to put little stock in initial rate filings,” spokesman Ben Wakana said in a statement. “Averages based on proposed premium changes are not a reliable indicator of what typical consumers will actually pay.”

Also mitigating the pressure for higher premiums is a one-year moratorium — for 2017 — on a health law tax on insurers, part of last year’s federal budget deal.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the litany of insurer complaints.

Last month, an analysis of medical claims from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association concluded that insurers gained a sicker, more expensive patient population as a result of the law. The “Blues” represent the most common brand of insurance.

Recently, UnitedHealth, the nation’s biggest insurer, said it will radically pull back from the health law markets, citing estimated losses of $650 million this year, on top of $475 million it lost last year.

Many insurers struggled because they didn’t know how much medical care their new customers would use. Some patients had been out of the health care system for years and had been holding off getting needed care. Insurers also say they’ve been hurt by customers who signed up outside the regular enrollment period and then used a lot of services.

Insurers who are more bullish on the program tend to be ones that expanded slowly into the markets and have a lot of experience working with low-income Medicaid recipients.

Slain teen’s dad, stepmom arrested on domestic abuse charges

WYTHEVILLE, Va. (AP) — Authorities say the father and stepmother of a slain Virginia teenager have been arrested after a domestic violence incident.

Wytheville Police Chief Ricky Arnold said Thursday that David Madison Lovell and Terri Surratt Lovell have been arrested and charged with unlawful wounding against each other.

Arnold declined to provide further details about the incident.

David Lovell’s daughter, Nicole Lovell, was found dead in January. Two former Virginia Tech students have been charged in connection with the girl’s slaying.

Karen Akers, clerk of the Wythe Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, said they’re being held at the New River Valley Regional Jail. Akers said a $10,000 bond has been set for David Lovell. A bond hearing hasn’t yet been held for Terri Lovell.

Their attorneys didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

AP Source: Cruz taps Fiorina to serve as running mate


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz has tapped former technology executive Carly Fiorina to serve as his running mate.

The Texas senator plans to unveil his pick for vice president Wednesday afternoon in Indianapolis. That’s according to a Republican with direct knowledge of Fiorina’s selection, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized speak before the official announcement.

“Carly is bright, knowledgeable, brings great financial expertise and she’s a woman,” said Gary Aminoff, the Los Angeles County co-chair of the Cruz campaign. Aminoff said he had also been told Fiorina was Cruz’s choice.

The 61-year-old Fiorina, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, has been a prominent Cruz ally since shortly after abandoning her own presidential bid earlier in the year. She was the only woman in the Republican Party’s crowded 2016 field.

“Of all the people who didn’t make it far in the race, she was one of the best about laying out her plan, talking about who she is and her accomplishments,” said Doug De Groote, a fundraiser for Cruz based near Los Angeles.

It was an unusual move for a candidate who is far from becoming his party’s presumptive nominee, but Cruz is desperate to generate momentum for his struggling campaign. The fiery conservative was soundly defeated by GOP front-runner Donald Trump in all five primaries contests on Tuesday, and he’s been mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination before his party’s national convention in July.

Some Cruz allies praised the selection of Fiorina, but privately questioned if it would change the trajectory of the race. Trump has won 77 percent of the delegates he needs to claim the nomination, and a win next week in Indiana will keep him on a firm path to do so.

Cruz was to appear Wednesday afternoon with Fiorina in Indiana’s capital city, having staked his candidacy on a win in the state’s primary contest next Tuesday. Fiorina’s California ties could also give Cruz a big boost in that state’s high-stakes primary on June 7.

“Carly has incredible appeal to so many people, especially in California,” De Groote said. “She can really help him here.”

Her first major foray into politics was in 2010, when she ran for Senate in California and lost to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer by 10 percentage points. She has never held elected office.

Trump criticized a Fiorina pick as “ridiculous” and “dumb” even before it was announced.

“First of all, he shouldn’t be naming anybody because he doesn’t even have a chance,” the New York billionaire said in a Wednesday interview on Fox News.

“Naming Carly’s dumb, because Carly didn’t do well. She had one good debate — not against me by the way, because I had an unblemished record of victories during debates — but she had one victory on the smaller stage and that was it,” Trump said.

He added, “She’s a nice woman. I think that it’s not going to help him at all.”

Throughout her presidential bid, Fiorina emphasized her meteoric rise in the business world. A Stanford University graduate, she started her career as a secretary, earned an MBA and worked her way up at AT&T to become a senior executive at the telecom leader.

She was also dogged by questions about her record at Hewlett-Packard, where she was hired as CEO in 1999. She was fired six years later, after leading a major merger with Compaq and laying off 30,000 workers.

Democrats quickly attacked the Cruz-Fiorina alliance.

“The best way to describe that ticket is mean and meaner,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who beat Fiorina for Senate in 2010. “He wants to throw people out of the country and she threw thousands of jobs out of the country. Perfect match.”

In an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted in December 2015, Republican voters were more likely to say they had a favorable than an unfavorable view of Fiorina by a 47 percent to 20 percent margin, with 32 percent unable to give a rating.

Among all Americans, 45 percent didn’t know enough about Fiorina to rate her, while 22 percent rated her favorably and 32 percent unfavorably.

By contrast, both Cruz and Trump have high negative ratings even within their own party, according to an April AP-GfK poll. Among Republican voters, 52 percent have a favorable and 41 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Cruz, while 53 percent have a favorable and 46 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

Among all Americans, 59 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Cruz and 69 percent said that of Trump.

Storm threat shifts after day of hail, wind in central US

Storms possible in this area today

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The nation’s midsection prepared for another day of foul weather Wednesday after a series of storms brought huge hail and high winds, but not as many tornadoes as had been feared.

The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center said 60 million people from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest east to North Carolina and Virginia should be alert for strong storms. The nastiest weather was forecast from Houston north into Iowa.

“This type of environment will support supercells capable of all hazards, although large hail appears to be the primary severe threat,” forecasters said Tuesday, looking ahead to Wednesday’s weather.

Hail as big as grapefruit fell in northern Kansas on Tuesday, while winds approaching hurricane force — 74 mph — raked communities from Nebraska and Missouri to Texas. Uprooted trees, downed power lines and roof damage were reported in parts of Texas and Oklahoma.

No deaths were reported. In northern Texas, four people were hospitalized after their vehicles were caught up in a tornado that hit late Tuesday, Howe Police Chief Carl Hudman said.

Forecasters said last week that the nation could have seen significant tornadoes Tuesday, but that conditions weren’t right for the biggest storms.

Still, the hail and high winds were frightening enough.

Hail 4 inches in diameter fell northwest of Marysville, Kansas, and residents of Topeka, Kansas, eyed the sky nervously during rush hour after forecasters warned that a supercell thunderstorm could produce a tornado at any moment.

A tornado brushed fields south of Wichita, Kansas, and another small twister touched down in southwestern Indiana. A storm that cleared Oklahoma City around sunset may have dropped a tornado or two during a 90-mile march to Tulsa. Power was knocked out to thousands.

The core of the bad weather forecast shifts back to Oklahoma and Texas on Thursday and Friday, then Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas on Saturday.

Ahead of Tuesday’s storms, some Oklahoma school districts either shuttered schools for the day or sent students home early, hoping they would remain safe.

In Fairview, George Eischen, 51, spent the morning moving Chevies into his shop and showroom to protect them from hail — “the real enemy of the car dealer.”

Workers at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Missouri, did something similar with airplanes when the skies turned a “mean green” ahead of a line of storms.

“We were able to get most of the airplanes into hangars,” aviation director John Bales said.

Pulaski man arrested for misdemeanor sexual battery, impersonation of police officer

From Pulaski Police Dept.

On April 26, 2016, the Pulaski Police Department arrested Robert Shannon Carr, 73, of Pulaski, VA for misdemeanor Sexual Battery and Impersonation of a Police Officer for an incident that reportedly occurred April 8, 2016, in the Town of Pulaski.

Bobby Carr

Bobby Carr

Pulaski Police were informed of the incident on April 18, 2016 by a 19 year old female victim who is also a Pulaski resident.

It was reported, the incident had occurred in a vehicle that was parked in the area of the 100 block of 4th Street N. W.

As a result of the investigation, Pulaski Police learned that Mr. Carr had identified himself to the victim several times as a retired Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy and displayed a star shaped badge and identification. Mr. Carr had previously worked for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia Department of Corrections, and was not a retired Deputy Sheriff.

A search warrant was conducted on Mr. Carr’s residence in the 100 block of 15th Street N. W. where a Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy Badge and Photographic Identification were seized.

Mr. Carr is a registered sex offender in Virginia from a previous Sexual Battery conviction.

Mr. Carr is being held in the New River Valley Regional Jail with no bond.

No further information is being released at this time as the investigation continues.

Obituary for Ann Ruth Roop Thornton

Ann Ruth Roop Thornton, age 80 of Pulaski passed away Monday, April 25, 2016 at the Lewis-Gale Hospital, Pulaski. Born September 20, 1935 in Montgomery County she was the daughter of the late Millard & Rosie Young Roop. Her husband, Troy Samuel Thornton, Sr., son, Troy Samuel “Sammy” Thornton, Jr., daughter, Debra Archer, daughter-in-law, Linda Thornton and brothers and sisters also preceded her in death.

She is survived by her

Children- Wanda Riddle – Pulaski Kenneth Dean Thornton, Sr. – Pulaski Bobby Martin Thornton – Pulaski Jerry Wayne Mathena – Fairfax

11 Grandchildren- Lots of Great Grandchildren-

Sister- Carolyn Caldwell – Christiansburg

Daughter-in-law- Joy Thornton – Hiwassee

Funeral services will be held 2:00 PM-Friday, April 29, 2016 at the Bower Funeral Home-Chapel, Pulaski . Interment will follow at the Highland Memory Gardens, Dublin.

The family will receive friends one hour before service time on Friday.

To sign the online guestbook, visit

Bower Funeral Chapels, Pulaski is handling the arrangements for the family. 540-980-6160

State Police probe fatality on I-77 in Carroll County

Virginia State Police Sr. Trooper S.M. Phillips is investigating a fatal traffic crash in Carroll County. The crash occurred 4:16 p.m., Sunday (April 24), on Interstate 77 at the 18 mile marker.

A flatbed tractor-trailer was traveling north on Interstate 77 when it ran off the left side of the road into the median and struck several trees. The 67-year-old driver from North Carolina was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. He died at the scene.

The tractor-trailer was loaded with cut lumber.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. The name will be released once next-of-kin is notified.

Brewster Announces Resignation

Superintendent Thomas Brewster announced today his resignation to become the Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at Bluefield College and Director of External Affairs for Communities in Schools of Virginia.

Dr. Thomas Brewster (Pulaski County Schools photo)

Dr. Thomas Brewster
(Pulaski County Schools photo)

Dr. Brewster has served Pulaski County Public Schools for the past ten years as Coordinator of Student Services, Assistant Superintendent, Interim Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, and Superintendent of Schools.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with a dedicated group of leaders and colleagues who continue to amaze me with their knowledge and problem solving skills. Our teachers and support staff have provided a caring and nurturing environment within our schools and classrooms, building relationships that have bettered the lives of thousands of Pulaski County students,” Brewster said.

“I am especially proud of our students who continue to achieve success both inside and outside the classroom, and the Pulaski County School Board for their progressive and student-centered leadership.”

School Board Chairman Mike Barbour stated “On behalf of the Pulaski County School Board, I want to thank Dr. Brewster for his outstanding service to our school system. Tom’s tenure as Superintendent has been highlighted by improved student test scores, higher graduation rates, and our school system receiving statewide and national recognition for having designated Distinguished Title I and Blue Ribbon schools. He also focused efforts on improving access to workforce development programs and dual enrollment opportunities for students seeking technical training for high-demand, market ready careers. We wish Dr. Brewster the very best as he moves forward in his career to other challenges and opportunities.”

Chairman Barbour also said that Dr. Brewster would complete his current contract with the school system, which expires on June 30, and he will assist the School Board in beginning the process of identifying and hiring his successor.

(web) First Community Bank 4-8