It’s not every day someone has a scholarship named for him or her, and David Beal was understandably surprised upon learning that a $7,000 one in his name will aid city police recruiting.
Beal had shown up at the station Tuesday afternoon for a meeting of the support group Friends of the Mount Airy Police Department and unknown to him, plans were in the works for a scholarship surprise.
The meeting was interrupted briefly so Beal, a former chief of police and city commissioner, could be informed of it by Joan Phillips, a local family nurse practitioner.
In announcing the formation of the scholarship that will begin with the initial $7,000 and “hopefully” grow from there, Phillips said it stemmed from recent concerns about ongoing police department vacancies.
“The need is great in this area,” Phillips said.
The police force has averaged around seven openings (of its full capacity of 41 sworn officers) at any given time over the past couple of years, and in January this led to the city commissioners approving a new incentive plan.
It essentially involves the municipality paying the Basic Law Enforcement Training costs for recruits and a stipend while they attend classes as a temporary municipal employee. In exchange, they agree to work for the city at least two years.
“This is part of that recruitment initiative,” Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday of the new scholarship.
Phillips said that in being aware of the need for new officers and wanting to aid the situation, she and three of her siblings decided to form the scholarship in honor of Beal and his longtime involvement with and support of law enforcement. He also is their uncle.
In addition to serving as Mount Airy’s police chief during the late 1960s. Beal, now 75, was an agent with the State Bureau of Investigation and a longtime clerk of Superior Court for Surry County.
He also was a city commissioner for 10 years and a city Board of Education member for seven.
“He has been a servant of this community his whole life,” Phillips said in announcing the Beal scholarship. It will be used for uniform and other costs in addition to BLET classes, providing recruits “the tools to be successful.”
“We just wanted to honor him through young people who also want to serve our community,” she continued.
“And now there is a pathway to get that done.”
Phillips said Beal and his wife Millie have been like a second set of parents to her and her siblings over the years, which is another reason the four wanted to launch the scholarship.
In addition to Phillips, they include Gina Brannock, Alyson Shelton and Frank Shelton.
“The first installment is $7,000 in your name and this scholarship is just the beginning,” Phillips told Beal when making the surprise announcement at Tuesday’s Friends of the MAPD meeting.
“I have contacted some of my friends and hopefully they will be giving, too.”
Once he got over the surprise of the scholarship, Beal seemed extremely grateful, saying he couldn’t envision any greater way to be honored given his longtime involvement with law enforcement and concerns over the recent manpower shortage.
“For the family to do this for us is great,” Beal told Phillips when she announced the scholarship.
“Through this your legacy is going to live a long time,” she replied.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.