Citizens speak out about mayor’s arrest

By Michael Howlett Staff Writer

September 11, 2013

Two residents of Hillsville took the opportunity to address Mayor Greg Crowder’s pending trial during the Citizens to be Heard portion of the Town Council meeting on Sept. 9. One spoke in support of the mayor, one against.

Crowder and his wife, Rebecca Louanne Crowder, were arrested on Aug. 23 in Bristol and each was charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer. Their court date was originally set for Sept. 5, but was continued and is now scheduled for Nov. 14 in the Bristol General District Court. The charge carries a fine of up to $2,500 and up to one year in jail.

“Unless it’s changed, anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. Mr. Crowder is innocent until proven guilty,” said Joyce Davis. “I feel the mayor, council and Police Chief (Greg) Bolen have done a good job for our small town.”

Sheila South, a kindergarten teacher at Laurel Elementary School, questioned the example Crowder’s arrest set for children.

“We spend a lot of time talking about character and how to be a good citizen with the students,” said South, who is the wife of former Hillsville Town Manager Larry South. “Children are taught the attributes of trustworthiness, caring, respect, fairness, responsibility and citizenship. Mr. Crowder is lacking in several of these areas.”

With that in mind, South said students and adults alike are wondering if “Mr. Crowder is above the law. Is Mr. Crowder doing what is best for him by remaining mayor or doing what is best for the town by resigning as mayor?”

Even if Crowder is convicted of impersonating a law enforcement officer, the decision of whether or not he remains as mayor will most likely rest with him. Since the charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor, Crowder cannot be forced to resign unless so ordered by a circuit court judge.