Turner takes home $10,000 Lead Through Service Scholarship


Board of Supervisors Chairman Joe Guthrie presents Alex Turner with a frame resolution announcing her as the winner of the board’s Lead Through Service $10,000 Scholarship. Pictured from left are County Administrator Jonathan Sweet, Jack Turner, Supervisor Laura Walters, Alex Turner, Joe Guthrie, Leslie Turner, Supervisors Charles Bopp and Dirk Compson. (Mike Williams/The Patriot)


Pulaski County High School graduate Alex Turner was the big winner Monday night, walking away from a meeting of the Board of Supervisors with a $10,000 scholarship.

Turner, the daughter of Jack and Leslie Turner, was one of seven students who submitted applications for the Lead Through Service Scholarship.

The aim of the scholarship is to foster local leadership development and bolster community and public service in the county.

According to the resolution recognizing Turner, board members understand the importance of developing future leaders within the county and wishes to cultivate a mindset of continued service back to the community.

The scholarship is funded by contributions by the supervisors, county administrator and assistant county administrator and other county employees. This year their contributions were augmented by CARES Act funds with a focus on mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.

Turner will be attending Virginia Tech in the fall and major in biological sciences with the goal of returning to Pulaski County and working in the healthcare field.

It was a good night for another graduate, Ashlyn Kirtner as well who won a $2,500 scholarship for being runner-up in the Lead Through Service Scholarship competition.

Kirtner is the daughter of Tim and Andi Kirtner.

County’s State of Emergency Ends

The supervisors and County Administrator Jonathan Sweet agreed that the county’s State of Emergency due to COVID-19 would end Wednesday at midnight – same time as the Commonwealth of Virginia’s declaration.

Cigarette Tax

The supervisors voted 3-1 to pass two ordinances adding Pulaski County to the Mount Rogers Area Cigarette Tax Agreement.

The county joins the City of Galax, towns of Hillsville, Independence, Rural Retreat and Wytheville and the counties of Carroll, Grayson, Wythe, Smyth, Bland and Washington in the Mount Rogers Area group.

Robinson Supervisor Charles Bopp voted “no” on each, while supervisors Dirk Compton (Draper), Laura Walters (Ingles) and Chairman Joe Guthrie (Cloyd) voted in favor. Massie Supervisor John Travis was absent for the meeting.

The supervisors voted 4-0 to table the ordinance imposing a 40 cent tax on a pack of cigarettes. Tabling the ordinance was advised by County Attorney Tim Kirtner to allow time to coordinate enforcement and collection of the tax with the other 11 jurisdictions in the Mount Rogers group.

Snowville property

The supervisors approved the transfer of the former Snowville Fire Department property to Winfield Covey. The move completes an earlier agreement between Covey and the county to secure the land for the new fire house.


Sweet announced during the meeting that the county has reached an agreement with the New River Valley Fair Association to hold a fireworks show after the Wednesday night festivities at the NRV Fair.

Sweet told the supervisors the fireworks show will be “BIG!”

The fair is set for July 23-26 in Dublin.

Public Comments

Gina Paine urged the board not to make any statements in support of the school system’s Equity Policies, as some in the community want to see.

She continued that documents produced through a Freedom of Information Act request show School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers has “zero respect for the parents and citizens he serves.”

She said Siers had “maligned our faith community, our sheriff’s department, this board and me personally,” and “seeks to ‘marginalize’ the detractors.”

She said Siers had called into question the ability of the sheriff’s office to provide security at school board meetings, and “it is his position that questions posed by me and Billy Williams about school policies are comments that play well at Klan rallies.”

Paine wondered what effect Siers’ comments would have on families considering moving to Pulaski County, what effect will it have on businesses considering locating in the county.

She said she and other “like-minded citizens” she represents have lost all confidence in Siers’ leadership.

She called on the supervisors to make a formal rebuke of our school superintendent.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith noted this week marks a year since he was named to the position.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve been very blessed,” he said.

He said Richmond continues to “squeeze, and squeeze and squeeze” making things more difficult on law enforcement agencies.

“The past year has taught me that doesn’t deter our ability to serve justice,” Griffith said, noting serving justice is crafted on hard work, transparency and doing the right thing.

The things lawmakers in Richmond have done hasn’t deterred the county in serving justice at all, he said.

“Not every case, not every definition of justice demands a lengthy prison sentence,” Griffith said, but he noted that when such a case comes up he and his assistant Dina Branco will be ready.

“Time and time lately, robbers, child pornographers, child molesters – we’re prepared for the two murders we have pending, the four traffic fatalities we have pending.”

Griffith said there are localities across the Commonwealth that do not understand the value of what law enforcement can bring.

He told of how a county in Virginia recently stated they will no longer allow School Resource Officers to be in their schools.

“They plan to develop a training program that will teach staffers, teachers and administrators how to intervene in incidents once handled by School Resource Officers,” Griffith said.

He said the second part of that school district’s plan was for “School personnel to step up to fulfill daily functions that formerly fell to School Resource Officers.”

“I would implore this county to not let a county in Northern Virginia trickle down here on any ideas about School Resource Officers. Our teachers already have a big responsibility now, we can’t also ask them to take on the role of law enforcement officers.”

“It’s my hope no one ever tries to take away School Resource Officers in Pulaski County,” he said.

E.W. Harless said he was very disappointed with two members of the board – Chairman Joe Guthrie and Massie’s John Travis – saying they “walked all over” two sections of the board’s Code of Ethics.

He was speaking in reference to the recent meeting of the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals in which the appeals board overturned a ruling by the county’s zoning director involving a dirt bike track off Hatcher Road near Pulaski County High School.

“You caused harm to my neighbor – you caused harm to children,” Harless said. “You should be ashamed.”

Harless noted that Travis was not in attendance for the meeting – “Most important night of any, voting on the budget.”