Montreat Minute 03/25/22

“Thank You” from the Public Works Staff

The Public Works (PW) staff expresses gratitude to everyone for their patience and cooperation in dealing with the Assembly Drive detour last week. PW spent the week assessing and mapping trees and removing dead and dangerous trees along the Town right-of-way along Assembly. Thirty-one trees were removed, clearing the way for better growing conditions for existing trees and eliminating hazards of the unhealthy trees.

Last week the Montreat Minute announced that the Town earned Tree City USA status from the national Arbor Day Foundation for the seventh consecutive year. One of the primary criteria for receiving the designation is how a community cares for its trees. Public Work’s dedication of a week in caring for our trees illustrates why Montreat was awarded the Tree City USA designation. Thank you to Public Works and everyone who endured the inconvenience.

Meet Ben Blackburn, Interim Town Administrator

We regularly profile a Montreat Town staff member or Town Council member. This month we are featuring our new Interim Town Administrator, Ben Blackburn.

Although he has always lived approximately 60 miles away, Ben Blackburn had never been to Montreat until he interviewed for the job of Interim Town Manager in January. He now loves our community and feels fortunate to be working here.

Ben was born in Gaston County and raised in Cherryville, NC. In fact, with the exception of attending Appalachian State, Ben has spent his entire life in Cherryville. Even today, Ben commutes from Cherryville to Montreat.

After graduating from Appalachian State with a degree in Political Science, Ben married his college sweetheart, Robin, and began his government service career in the Watauga County Tax Office. Nine years later, after serving as a Witness Coordinator in the State Attorney’s Office, Ben landed a position as City Planner in Cherryville. From there, he became the Cherryville City Manager. He left Cherryville  but stayed in Gaston County to become City Manager in Lowell, NC. But in 2012, Cherryville lured Ben back, where he again served as City Manager until his retirement in 2018. Ben was a dedicated public servant for 33 years when he decided to leave it behind. But, he didn’t leave it behind for long. In January, friends urged Ben to look into the interim job at Montreat. Ben has agreed to serve as Interim Town Administrator until a permanent manager takes over.

After marrying early in his career, he and Robin started a family, having a son, Alex, and a daughter, Emily. Alex, also a city planner, and his wife blessed Ben and Robin with a grandson, Spencer, age two. Daughter Emily is a geologist and will add more excitement to the Blackburn household with her marriage in August.

When not engaged in town government, Ben loves to travel with Robin. “I’ve been to 48 states,” Ben proudly stated. “I’m missing Alaska and Hawaii, but hope to get there!” Ben loves the diversification in geography, geology, and the people in the USA. “I love America,” Ben commented. Other hobbies include history and genealogy, but not necessarily tracing back on his own family tree. He described his interest by stating, “How’d you end up where you are? What’s your migratory story?” But his unrivaled favorite hobby today is spending time with grandson Spencer.

Although Ben had never been to Montreat, he certainly was aware of it. He had heard about it from his Presbyterian friends and of course knew of it as the home of Billy Graham. What were Ben’s first impressions? “My overwhelming opinion is how proud everyone is of Montreat. You can see it in the faces and property of the residents,” Ben commented. “I have never seen it to this degree before- the way people exude pride. And they are very protective of their town.” The other first impression was how clean the town is. Ben said, “The public spaces are so clean and I see very well maintained residences. There is an aesthetic appeal that Montreat offers. I understand why people clamor to come here!”

We are glad Ben is providing his significant experience and expertise in the interim and will miss him when he leaves. Thank you, Ben, for coming out of retirement to serve us.

Updates and Reminders

  • The Town joins Montreat College in grieving the tragedy that occurred on Wednesday. We embrace the entire College community as our own, and pray for students, faculty and staff as well as the family of the deceased.
  • The Board of Adjustment met on Thursday, March 24th, to conduct administrative business.  The agenda also included a variance request, which was deferred to the next regularly scheduled meeting. The meeting was recorded and may be viewed by CLICKING HERE.


Do you have Town-related questions you would like answered? If so, please send them to Angela Murphy at [email protected] and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Have a great weekend!