Serving the community he grew up in has been a life dedication for Elkin’s retired fire chief, and that sense of service is what led him to file for candidacy to run for a chance at one of two seats on the Elkin Board of Commissioners.
“I just always felt like I liked being involved in the community,” said Tommy Wheeler. “I love Elkin, and I want to be part of it.”
As a former employee of the town and a retired department head, he said he has more than 20 years of experience in the budget process. “I attended budget workshops and project update meetings,” Wheeler said. “So I have knowledge of the process that goes on with the town.”
Wheeler has spent the majority of his life in Elkin. While he was born in Raleigh, his father took a job out of college with Chatham Manufacturing and Wheeler and his mother joined him shortly after he was born. “I grew up here, I say I’m from Elkin,” he said.
Through his years in town, Wheeler has been involved in many aspects of the community. He was on the board of directors of the Yadkin Valley United Fund; is a member of the Elkin Masonic Lodge; is president and charter member of the Elkin-Jonesville Shrine Club; is a member of the Elkin Rescue Squad; is elder and choir member at Elkin Presbyterian Church; was on the board of directors for the Foothills Theatre and served as chairman; and prior to being full-time with the town for 41 years of which 20 he was chief, he served as a volunteer firefighter for five years.
“I feel like I really have something I can offer to the citizens of Elkin,” he said of his desire to “continue his service to the community.”
“I think like everybody else, we have to work on economic development and attract new businesses, but I want to maintain the quality of life our citizens have become used to,” Wheeler said of what he wants to see accomplished by the board of commissioners.
“We need to work on fixing our infrastructure, some of our water lines are over 100 years old,” he continued. “So we need to work to secure funding to replace those lines. With the state continuing to cut the funds to local governments, it has become a challenge to come up with the funds to keep things going.”
Continued work with the Elkin Valley Trails Association is something Wheeler believes will benefit the town as well. “It has shown to be something that will spark an interest in the Elkin area and I think it is something we need to continue to support,” he said.
Watershed NOW, a local conservation group, is another community organization Wheeler said needs continued support. “I think Watershed NOW is something the town needs to be involved in. We are dependent on our river and creek for drinking water and recreation, so I think it is important for the town to support that.
“We’ve got one of the best hospitals in the state and obviously one of the best school systems in the state, and I think the town needs to continue to work with them to do what’s best for them. We need to continue that relationship and enlarge it if possible,” said Wheeler.
“I don’t think we need to make a lot of changes as far as the town and local government. In working with all the staff through the years, I think the town’s got one of the best staffs of anywhere,” he said. “I think we need to continue the progressive stance they’ve taken.”
One project he would like to see move forward is one to extend the town’s water lines into eastern Wilkes County, which would benefit both the Elkin residents and the residents in Wilkes, he said. “We have the capability to make more water than we are using, so it benefits the town and the people in eastern Wilkes who don’t have access to city water.
“For years, we developed a water system to supply manufacturing facilities, and now much of that is gone, we have a surplus of water, so it makes sense for the town to supply water to areas nearby that don’t have access to it,” Wheeler said.
Another project he said needs consideration is a new fire station. Now, the fire station is just off of downtown near Elkin Municipal Park, but he acknowledged the town continues to grow north and east. “There is a need there to expand that service, so I feel it is something we need to look to be doing,” he said.
“I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Elkin,” said Wheeler of his candidacy. “I’m so glad this is a situation where you are not running against somebody, but for a seat on the board. I have a lot of respect for all of the candidates running, and I’m sure we’ll remain friends afterward.”
He said leading a life of service to those around a person provides great satisfaction. “I want to continue to be able to service the people I’ve grown to care about.”
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.