Montreat Minute 12/2/22

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Town Hall. Public Works helped put up the new tree. Thanks guys!!

Town Council Thanks Volunteers

Martha Campbell, Grace Nichols, Gill Campbell

The Montreat Town Council held a “Thank You” reception recently for volunteers who generously provide their time and talents to Town commissions, boards and committees. More than 45 volunteers serve on eight different bodies. Interim Town Manager, Ben Blackburn, commented that he has never seen a town our size with the level of community volunteerism that we enjoy. Truly, the work of Montreat could not be accomplished without these dedicated volunteers. For a full list of Committees and volunteers serving on those bodies, CLICK HERE.

Hugh Alexander, Dr. Paul Maurer, Commissioner Mason Blake
Dan Dean and Nancy Midgette

In the photos above, volunteers include: Martha Campbell, Landcare; Grace Nichols, Landcare; Gill Campbell, willing volunteer; Hugh Alexander, Audit Committee; Paul Maurer, Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee with Commissioner Mason Blake; Dan Dean, Planning & Zoning; Nancy Midgett, Landcare, Firewise and “Did You Know?” author contributor to the Montreat Minute. We are extremely grateful to these volunteers and others not pictured that do so much for our Town.

Montreat Family Wins BIG!

When Montreat residents Walter, Ruth Ann and daughter Elizabeth “Lissy” Somerville drove through the gate on their way to the Grove Park Inn with their entry for the National Gingerbread House Contest, they had no idea they would be returning hours later with a coveted Third Prize ribbon! Their prize winning entry was so very fitting for Montreat: Santa being treed by bears! It was quite an accomplishment, as contestants came from all over the United States, with a large number of them being professional bakers and pastry chefs.

The Somervilles are not new to the National Gingerbread Contest. Lissy entered the Youth and Teen division eight times from ages 10-18, always placing in the top 10. This was the second time as an adult. However, it was a family affair, with Walter and Ruth Ann very involved in the planning, resourcing and building of the entry. The Tiny Farm Bakers (as they call themselves) began planning the entry in August, with construction starting in September. They estimate they put in more than 600 hours planning and building. Much time was spent in experimenting with materials and coming up with solutions like a combination of chopped parsley and cilantro for the grass, carved Rice Krispie Treats for the rocks and boulders, and rosemary leaves for the pine tree leaves. In fact, Ruth Ann hand “glued” approximately 8,000 rosemary leaves on the pine tree branches. Lissy worked for 17 hours straight, pulling an “all nighter” the night before the entry deadline. The level of detail in the gingerbread house is incredible.

Listening to their story about how the gingerbread house came to be is fascinating and indescribably creative. Three cheers for our very own National Gingerbread House winners and check it out at the Grove Park Inn.

Town Council Meeting December 8, at 7:00pm

The Montreat Town Council will meet for its monthly meeting next Thursday, December 8th,  at 7:00pm in the Town Hall. For a copy of the agenda, CLICK HERE. The meeting will be live streamed and recorded. For information about streaming the meeting, CLICK HERE. The Public Forum will begin at 6:30pm. Everyone is invited.

Meet Tom Widmer,  Montreat Town Commissioner

We regularly profile a Montreat Town staff member or Town Council member. This month we are featuring Commissioner Tom Widmer. Special thanks to resident Susan Wiser for authoring the profile.

Tom and Rosie

Tom was born in Schenectady, NY, but owing to frequent moves with his family in childhood and then as an adult, he has lived for significant periods of time in 15 different places including Missouri, Illinois, Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, and Tennessee.  Tom has been married to his wonderful wife Katie for 46 years. They have two kids (Corey and Kylie), six grandkids (5 girls and 1 boy) and one of Montreat’s cutest dogs (and she knows it), Rosie.  

Tom’s career was largely spent in hospital administration and healthcare consulting, where he worked to improve the quality of care for patients in hospitals around the nation.  He retired in 2018 , and has remained busy, spending time with friends and family and pursuing favorite activities like fly fishing, woodworking, cooking, and walking Rosie.  He is also working on a memoir of his father’s naval aviator experiences during WWII which interweaves content from a recently discovered trove of 300 of his father’s letters from that time with Tom’s personal narrative.

Tom and Katie discovered Montreat back in 1989 while living in Signal Mountain, TN through the pastor of their church (also their good friend) who had a longtime family connection to Montreat.  After visiting Montreat for years on weekends, holidays and to attend conferences, in 2010, Tom and Katie bought and renovated a lovely circa 1903 Montreat cottage and moved here full-time in 2016.  They named their cottage “Halfway Home” because Montreat is just about halfway between their two kids’ locations in Richmond, VA and Chattanooga, TN.

Tom deeply enjoys active engagement in his adopted community and you will find him working on behalf of Montreaters in his various roles as Town Commissioner, Mayor Pro Tem, Board Member of the Presbyterian Heritage Center, and Member of Montreat College’s President’s Advisory Council.  He and his fellow Montreat Council members are delighted to have been able to “ramp up” communication and transparency of town information to Montreaters, including the weekly online Montreat Minute (since 2018), providing written summaries of monthly Council meetings (dispatched within 24 hours of those meetings), and offering streaming for most Town meetings so that any Montreater, no matter their location, can attend virtually.    

When asked what Tom enjoys most about living in Montreat, he said unequivocally, “it’s the people,” noting how kind and willing to help one another Montreaters are, the high level of volunteerism, and the diversity of interests among community members.  If asked what this interviewer enjoys most about Tom, she would point to his warmth, kindness, humility, easy good humor, and that his teensy dog has him wrapped around her little paw. 

Updates and Reminders

  • Montreat College held a very informative community forum on November 22 providing an overview of the master plan and process. They are offering one additional forum on Tuesday, December 13, from 6:30-7:30pm in Gaither Fellowship Hall. CLICK HERE to register for the event.
  • The Montreat Annual Sanitation Calendar will be mailed next week. Additional copies are available in the Town Hall.
  • The Texas Road Bridge Aesthetics Committee will meet on Tuesday, December 6th, at 2:00pm in the Town Hall Community Room. All are invited to attend.
  • The Montreat Landcare Committee will meet on Wednesday, December 7th, at 9:00am in the Town Hall Community Room. All are invited to attend. CLICK HERE for meeting and streaming instructions.
  • The Hillside Development Sub Committee of the Planning & Zoning Commission will meet on Thursday, December 8th, at 10:00am in the Town Hall Community Room. All are invited to attend. CLICK HERE for meeting and streaming instructions.
  • Know someone who doesn’t receive the Montreat Minute? Tell them to email [email protected] and ask to be put on the Sunshine/Montreat Minute list.


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!!