In the News

Article Published: Aug. 18, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Leavell resigns for health reasons

After more than 16 years on the bench, District Judge Bill Leavell has resigned for health reasons.
A process is under way to find a judge to complete the remainder of his four-year term, but he and those he worked with in the 24th Judicial District are already feeling a sense of loss from his unexpected departure.

"I've loved the people I worked with. I loved the lawyers. I even loved the defendants," Leavell said. "It's been interesting work, it's been meaningful work, and I wish I could keep doing it."

Leavell was educated at the Florida State University School of Law and practiced in Spruce Pine for about eight years. His small-town location allowed him to serve clients with almost any type of case, and he represented more than 1,000 people during that time, he said.

He was first elected as district court judge in 1994 and said he actually enjoyed campaigning, earning re-election four times. He ran unopposed for the nonpartisan seat in 2010.

Leavell has championed the guardian ad litem program, which allows trained volunteers to advocate for the best interests of neglected or abused children.

He and his wife, Cyndi, have two adoptive children: 11-year-old Moses and 6-year-old Miriam. He spoke on several occasions of how Moses moved through the guardian ad litem system.

Outside of work, Leavell played in a bluegrass band, where he was dubbed "the upright man on the upright bass." He created a rhyming election jingle the band would play as they traveled the region and penned an anti-litter ditty called "Trashy Roads" to the tune of "Country Roads."

A relatively recent diagnosis sent Leavell into medical leave about six weeks ago, and doctors' analysis that his condition would not improve led him to resign effective Aug. 1.

He said he has tremendous help at his home in Bakersville from his wife and mother-in-law, both former nurses.

Members of the bar in the 24th Judicial District will meet at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Yancey County Courthouse to select three nominees for Leavell's seat. Those names will be sent to Gov. Bev Perdue, who has 60 days to appoint one nominee to complete his term.

ASU police officers complete crisis training

University Police officers Lt. Rick Matheson and Sgt. Scott Mash from Appalachian State University completed Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) held at Mayland Community College's Avery Campus.

They were among 16 participants, including officers from the Avery County Sheriff's Office, Boone Police Department, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Caldwell County Sheriff's Office and Marion Police Department who completed the training.

The training is designed to increase law enforcement's knowledge about mental illness and provide information about community resources, ways to connect mental health clients to the appropriate services and how to avoid incarceration and involuntary commitments when appropriate.

Class participants toured Cannon Hospital Behavioral Health Unit and Cranberry House, met with staff, observed a group therapy session and interacted with the residents.

The 40-hour class was sponsored by Smoky Mountain Center for Mental Health, Mayland Community College, High Country NAMI, New River Behavioral Health Care and Avery County Sheriff's Office.

Matheson and Mash received certificates from Mayland Community College and Gold CIT pins. Capt. Todd Corley and Lt. Johnny Brown from University Police completed the training last year.

Flapjack fundraiser

WAMY is hosting a pancake breakfast fundraiser Saturday, Aug. 20, from 7 to 10 a.m. at Applebee's in Boone, located at 2036 Blowing Rock Road.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children ages 12-5 and free for those 4 and under. Tickets are available at the door and in advance by calling (828) 262-4050.

Visitor spending rises in 98 of 100 N.C. counties in 2010

Gov. Bev Perdue announced this week that 98 of the state's 100 counties saw increases in visitor spending in 2010, including 13 counties that had double-digit increases.

Data from the N.C. Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development showed that three counties had more than a billion dollars in visitor spending in 2010 (Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford), while Dare, Buncombe, Forsyth and Durham counties all had more than half a billion in spending.

Domestic visitors to and within North Carolina spent a record $17 billion in 2010, an increase of 9 percent from 2009. Visitor expenditures directly generated 183,880 jobs and nearly $4 billion in payroll income within North Carolina in 2010. Visitor spending in the state also directly generated close to $1.5 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments in 2010, up 10 percent from 2009.

"North Carolina has invested in education, transportation and infrastructure, helping create a terrific quality of life," Perdue said. "That progress is attracting people and businesses to move here, and, as we see from this data, it also is drawing more tourists and visitors each year, fueling the tourism industry, a critical economic driver in North Carolina."

The visitor spending figures are the results of an annual study commissioned by the Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. The study uses sales and tax revenue data plus employment figures to determine the overall impact of visitor spending in North Carolina. Highlights include:

Mecklenburg County received more than $3.7 billion in domestic travelers' expenditures to lead all of North Carolina's 100 counties. Wake County ranked second with more than $1.5 billion, followed by Guilford County with more than $1.0 billion.

All but two counties saw increases in visitor spending from 2009 to 2010 (those two counties saw less than 1 percent decline; Northampton -0.7 percent and Columbus -0.1 percent)

Three counties had more than a billion in visitor spending in 2010 (Mecklenburg, Wake and Guilford), while Dare, Buncombe, Forsyth, and Durham counties all had more than half a billion in spending.

Mecklenburg County directly employs the most tourism employees with more than 41,000 and has the largest total payroll ($1.3 billion). Wake (18,430), Guilford (11,440) and Dare (11,260) each have more than 10,000 direct tourism employees.

Emergency exercise Aug. 27

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will be participating in an emergency exercise on Saturday, Aug. 27.

System representatives said this is only a practice exercise and will involve the following local agencies: Blue Ridge Parkway Rangers, Blowing Rock Police Department, Watauga County Emergency Management, ARHS Police, Watauga County Sheriff's Office, Watauga County Rescue Squad and Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue.

Residents and visitors in the High Country may see emergency vehicles entering the property (via Summit Meadow, between U.S. 321 and the Blue Ridge Parkway), but otherwise the exercise should not interfere with the normal Saturday morning activities in the area.

Gillian Baker, vice president for corporate communications for ARHS, said, "Practicing our hospitals' responses during a disaster is a requirement from the Joint Commission, but also a necessary part of what ARHS does to ensure that our staff are always ready for the unthinkable."

This Emergency Exercise will provide exercise participants the opportunity to evaluate current emergency response concepts, medical surge response operations and law enforcement response to a location. The exercise will also emphasize emergency response coordination, resource integration, problem identification and resolution between agencies.
For more information, visit

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