DOBSON — The Surry County commissioners are trying for the second time to have a portion of U.S. 21 named after a distinguished native of Surry County.
The highway would be named after Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who grew up in Elkin. At their meeting last week, the commissioners approved a letter to be sent to Arnold Lakey, Department of Transportation board member from District 11, regarding the highway naming.
The board of commissioners adopted a resolution in 2007 to name U.S. 21 from Interstate 77 to the Wilkes County line in honor of Metz. The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Road and Bridge Naming Committee rejected the resolution, saying the Blue Star Memorial Highway program was responsible for naming highways after generally recognized military officers.
“I didn’t understand the response we got from the state,” remarked Dr. Jim Harrell Jr., commissioner, who represents the Elkin portion of the county.
He believes the county’s resolution is not in conflict with the Blue Star Memorial Highway’s policy of honoring military officers. Harrell said an area should be able to name a road or bridge after a distinguished person from the region regardless of his or her career field.
“I thought he was in that company and that he deserved it,” he explained.
Harrell initially suggested the highway naming. He brought the idea up again a few months ago as the board was working on naming a section of highway after singer Donna Fargo.
According to County Manager Dennis Thompson, the letter was mailed to Lakey on Aug. 18. He said such letters are often then brought before the Department of Transportation board.
Metz grew up across the street from Harrell, and they played football together. Metz went on to join the United States Army in 1966, after which he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He later earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Metz earned the Expert Infantry Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, Ranger Tab, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge.
Harrell said, “I think not many counties have people who have risen to the success in the military that he has.”
While Metz has completed many military assignments, he is currently the director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) in Arlington, Va. This organization coordinates Department of Defense efforts to eradicate improvised explosive devices, commonly used by terrorists.
Harrell said many people would probably recognize Metz from watching him give updates on Operation Iraqi Freedom each night on CNN a few years ago. According to the JIEDDO website, Metz led more than 100,000 troops as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2004 to 2005.
“It’s something the county can be proud of ... He’s an outstanding person,” Harrell noted.
He said that Metz will be retiring to this part of the country in the future. He hopes the Department of Transportation will accept their request this time.
Harrell said, “I think we made a good case.”
Contact Meghann Evans at email@example.com or 719-1952.