Elon’s outgoing mayor Jerry Tolley was showered with honors this week as he retired from the board after 38 years of service, 24 of which were spent in the mayor’s seat.
In total, Tolley received five honors, with the most prestigious being a second awarding of The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor given by the state, which was presented by state senator Amy Galey on behalf of Governor Roy Cooper.
Tolley was also recognized by senator Thom Tillis, congressman Ted Budd, and state representative Dennis Riddell, the latter of whom gave the mayor a flag flown over the state capitol building in his honor.
Rounding up the recognitions was an engraved plaque and bicentennial print given by town staff, which fellow outgoing board member Davis Montgomery also received.
Meanwhile, Graham’s annual tree-lighting ceremony Sunday night took on even greater significance when the occasion was used to surprise outgoing mayor Jerry Peterman with a presentation of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor that can be accorded by North Carolina’s governor.
Members of Alamance County’s legislative delegation – state senator Amy Scott Galey, and state representatives Dennis Riddell and Ricky Hurtado – helped arrange the honor.
The nomination of Peterman was apparently instigated, and the presentation made, by Graham’s former city manager Frankie Maness, who now serves as county manager in Montgomery County.
Maness began his career as assistant city manager the same year Peterman became mayor and served as city manager during the eight years between 2012 until he left in February, all while Peterman was mayor.
Peterman, a Navy veteran, spent a career in the Graham fire department before becoming a councilman and then Graham’s first elected mayor; prior to that, Graham’s council selected the mayor from among its five members.
Peterman will preside over his last city council meeting Tuesday night, before he and his wife Jan plan to move to Mesa, Arizona, to be near their only son and grandson.