City councilman Scott Graham dies

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

January 2, 2014

A member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners known for “cutting to the chase” on issues has died.

Scott Graham, 63, lost a battle with cancer Thursday morning, a development that Mayor Deborah Cochran called “news that makes us cry,” referring to members of city government.

“It makes the city cry,” the mayor added.

Graham, a retired businessman who resided on Grace Street, was at the midway point of his first four-year term as the at-large representative on the board of commissioners, which has five members in all. While campaigning for that office in 2011, he was proud of having “zero” political experience.

Instead, Graham relied on a distinguished business background that included serving as the owner and president of Virginia-Carolina Paving Co. He had received a degree in business administration from Elon University before enrolling in the Executive MBA program at Wake Forest University.

That background and a no-nonsense way of looking at the issues served the municipality well, colleagues say.

Jon Cawley, a fellow board member, used words such as “solid” and “honest” Thursday afternoon to describe what Graham brought to city government.

“He always did his due-diligence on the issues,” Cawley added. “I thought he was the perfect commissioner.”

Cochran also applauded the way Graham approached his job as a councilman.

“He was an outstanding cut-to-the-chase commissioner,” the mayor said while fighting back tears. “He was a man’s man.”

Graham was the least-vocal of the five members on the city board. But when he spoke, “the words meant something,” Cochran said.

She credited him with taking the lead role on efforts that resulted in Mount Airy becoming a certified retirement community, as well as rejoining the North Carolina Main Street Program to aid its downtown area, and other efforts to enhance the central business district. Graham also had a love for sports and undertook various facility improvement projects to the benefit of local youths.

“His vast business background was an asset and gave him insight to comprehend the complex issues,” Cochran said.

Fought With “Courage”

Graham had been battling his illness for about a year, which began as lung cancer and spread elsewhere. Yet he had managed to fulfill his duties as city commissioner, attending meetings of the council diligently until last month, when Graham missed both its December sessions after being hospitalized.

“He faced the truth with courage and determination,” Mayor Cochran said.

With municipal officials still reeling from news of Graham’s death, there was no word Thursday afternoon about plans for his replacement.

“There’s been no discussion by the board on that,” Cawley said. When commissioner vacancies have occurred in the past and left unexpired terms, the remaining members have appointed replacements, using varying methods.

But one thing was certain Thursday: the void Scott Graham’s passing has left which fellow officials say won’t be easy to fill.

“There is a void not only on the board, but in our hearts,” the mayor said. “He was not only a commissioner, but a friend.”

Cawley agreed.

“Scott was, in my opinion, an outstanding commissioner — and he was a better friend.”

Graham leaves behind his wife of 43 years, Christie, as well as a son and daughter and two grandchildren.

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