A Mount Airy man has been tapped for what often is called the highest civilian honor granted in the state of North Carolina, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.
David J. Beal is scheduled to receive that award during a Thursday meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners which begins at 7 p.m., with tentative plans calling for it to be presented by state Rep. Sarah Stevens. The meeting will be held in council chambers of the Municipal Building.
City officials consider that an appropriate setting for the award presentation, since Beal logged much time there while serving as a member of the board of commissioners for 10 years as part of a long public service career overall.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine recognizes recipients for exemplary service to North Carolina and their communities which is above and beyond the call of duty and has made a significant impact while strengthening the state.
In addition to his service as a Mount Airy commissioner, Beal was Surry County’s clerk of Superior Court for 14 years and a city board of education member for seven. He also is a former chief of police in Mount Airy and agent with the State Bureau of Investigation.
The Cherry Street resident who represented the South Ward on the city board of commissioners served 31 years in various public offices locally.
“We’re excited,” City Manager Barbara Jones said of the award being presented during Thursday night’s meeting, saying that excitement is shared by Mayor David Rowe and the five commissioners.
The schedule calls for Beal to be honored as an Order of the Long Leaf Pine recipient during a ceremony near the start of the meeting.
Halee Ratcliff of the office of Rep. Stevens and a former city government intern, is scheduled to be introduced by the mayor and give a brief history of the award and highlights of Beal’s career in public service.
If her schedule allows, Stevens will present the award to Beal, and those making the award hope the recipient’s brother also will be on hand to lead a traditional state toast in connection with the honor.
Afterward, Mayor David Rowe is scheduled to briefly recess the meeting, which later will resume with other city business being addressed.
Jones, the city manager, can recall only two other times when a Mount Airy resident has been an Order of the Long Leaf Pine honoree.
Longtime downtown Mount Airy businessman Floyd E. “Flip” Rees received the award in July 2005 and actress Betty Lynn in August of this year. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made a surprise visit to the city to present Lynn with the honor on her 90th birthday.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is awarded through the governor’s office, with notable past recipients including Maya Angelou, Dale Earnhardt, Billy Graham, Richard Petty, Michael Jordan, Andy Griffith, Junior Johnson and others.
Since its creation in 1963, the award has honored persons who have a proven record of service to North Carolina or for some other special achievement, and to others as a gesture of friendship and good will.
After Beal decided not to seek re-election as a councilman in 2009, a fellow commissioner, Jon Cawley, mentioned that Beal probably spent more time at City Hall than any of the board members.
“We’ll be losing a man who had his finger on the pulse,” Cawley said at the time.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.