At a time when candidates are tossing their hats into the ring for elected offices across Surry County, one present official is exiting the fray.
Dwight Atkins, who is completing his first four-year term as Pilot Mountain mayor, announced Thursday that he has decided not to run for a second.
“It has been a privilege to serve as mayor,” said Atkins, who before being elected to that office served one term on the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners.
“And I truly believe I always put the best interest of the town first in every decision that came before me and the board,” Atkins added.
The candidates’ filing period for municipal offices in Pilot Mountain, Dobson and Elkin is now a week old, and Atkins had indicated beforehand that his plans for seeking another term were in doubt.
And that has now been made official.
“The decision not to run, I made actually a couple of months ago, but I just shared it at that time with my family and a few close friends,” Atkins said.
“I think the town has made a lot of progress since I’ve been serving as commissioner and mayor.”
Atkins said his decision to step away from Pilot Mountain government reflects a need to free up time to pursue some personal goals.
For one, he is entering his third year as a member of the mathematics faculty at Wake Forest University. Atkins is retired from Surry Community College, where he chaired the math division.
He also wants to devote more time to a consulting business he has operated for about 10 years, which specializes in management systems and statistics.
“Also, I’ve had a longtime goal of getting my flight instructor certificate,” Atkins, who’ll turn 64 next month, said of another pursuit. With all the time spent on local governmental affairs, “I’ve had to kind of put that on hold.”
Atkins said he might again seek elected office in the future.
“I think the town will continue to make progress with new leadership.”
On Monday, Gary Bell, who has served as a member of the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners for seven years, filed to run as mayor. Along with the mayoral post, Bell’s commissioner seat is up for grabs in the 2018 municipal election cycle along with that of fellow board member Linda Needham.
Scott Needham, Linda’s son, filed to run as a commissioner last Friday, when he said that his mother might not seek another term.
This year’s municipal election process in Surry County additionally includes three offices in Dobson, now held by Mayor Ricky Draughn, who filed for his fifth four-year term Monday, and town commissioners Wayne Atkins and John Lawson.
The seats of present Elkin commissioners Jeffrey Eidson, Cicely McCulloch and Terry Kennedy also are at stake.
Matthews seeking re-election
Another elected body involved in the present filing process is the Mount Airy Board of Education, for which longtime incumbent Tim Matthews filed Wednesday for re-election to his at-large seat.
“It’s just something I have quite a bit of passion for, the educational system and making sure we’re moving it forward,” said Matthews, who first joined the city school board in 1996.
The 60-year-old resident of Barrington Drive is excited about initiatives launched in recent years, including effective programs to support teachers and staff development.
Matthews also mentioned efforts to expose Mount Airy students to a “global environment,” which he believes will pay dividends on the local scene.
He has worked as a pharmacist for 30-plus years.
Matthews will face opposition in his re-election bid from at least one challenger, Greg Perkins, who filed Monday for the at-large school board post.
Perkins, 52, said Thursday that he was not motivated to run for that office due to concern about any educational issue in particular — but to follow the footsteps of a family member.
“It really boiled down to my dad serving on the school board back when I was in school,” the candidate said of Bob Perkins.
“So I wanted to do it while my kids were in school,” explained Perkins, who has two children in the city system.
Perkins is not trying to target Matthews in any manner. “I’m not running against anybody,” he said, as opposed to a calculated desire to unseat the incumbent.
“It’s always something I wanted to do,” Perkins said of seeking a school board seat.
He is associated with Perkins & Associates Insurance Specialists in Mount Airy.
In addition to the office now held by Matthews, the school board seats of incumbents Ben Cooke, who serves District B, and recent appointee Kyle Leonard, District A, are affected by this year’s election.
The candidates’ filing period ends at noon on Aug. 3.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.