JEFFERSON-In the entertainment and tourism business perception is everything.
Ashe County’s time in the national spotlight, however, has brought into question the old adage that “any publicity is good publicity.”
Garnering perhaps the county’s largest audience has been the hit real life crime television show, “Southern Justice,” which returned for a third season on Nat Geo earlier this month.
As with most shows in its genre, the show highlights or focuses on drugs and crime, as well as those individuals who have frequent run-ins with law enforcement.
The county has also directly benefited from the show financially.
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams has previously stated the show has generated approximately $120,000. Those funds, in part, have gone toward the purchase of needed equipment for the sheriff’s office and a hefty contribution toward the future fire training center.
But there are detractors of the show that believe the county’s slot in prime time has come with plenty of drawbacks. Greg Miller, a Sparta based Realtor, is one of those.
Although he is primarily based in Alleghany County, Miller does venture into sales in Ashe County. Often times, Miller said he has caught himself questioning how much revenue Ashe County has lost in property sales, motel rentals and downtown transactions due to the show.
Miller felt his fears realized when a promising real estate transaction fell through.
“Back in the fall, I had clients coming from Florida to buy acreage,” Miller said in an email to the Post. “I was given a budget of a little over $500,000 and was told to find mountain land with water and views. The kind folks were ready to retire and settle into a slower pace of life so they would have been full-time residents.”
Miller said “Southern Justice” changed all of this.
“My client’s travel plans were to visit Boone on Friday and we were to meet in Jefferson Saturday morning,” Miller wrote. “The (client) just happened to be watching the National Geographic channel and came across a show called ‘Southern Justice.’ Long story short, they called me Saturday morning and told me they were on there (sic) way back to Florida. They wanted nothing to do with these mountain folk. It looked like we have a terrible drug problem. They told me they were trying to get away from drugs and violence.”
Miler said he hasn’t the only one who came away from the deal empty handed.
He cited the possible loss of revenue for the county in excise taxes, construction revenue and recurring living expenses as directly linked to the show’s airing.
“My point is, Ashe County traded a dollar for a dime,” said Miller.
Ashe County Sheriff James Williams has previously stated he doesn’t agree with the criticism the show has received. Williams said he has received mostly positive feedback of Southern Justice from viewers from all over the country.
“We get calls, e-mails and people coming by the office that have traveled here from other state that just want to come by and meet the guys and see the county,” Williams said in previous interviews. “They talk about how pretty the county is and that they love the way the law enforcement works here.”
Despite a few negative comments, Williams said many people talk about their love of the show and how they can’t wait for next week’s episode.
Williams addressed comments a few viewers have made about Southern Justice portraying Ashe County in a negative light.
“In my opinion, it shows we got a decent county, crime rate and good law enforcement,” Williams said.
And in December, Williams said he’s even received high marks about the show from international viewers, including calls and messages from the United Kingdom.
“I got a call from a guy in England who watched it on the internet and loved it,” Williams said. “As matter of fact, he’s looking to buy property and move to Ashe County.”
That viewer even went shopping for property in Jefferson, Williams said.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.