With her retirement approaching, Shirley Wallace was the guest of honor on Friday, Nov. 29, where she was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award for her 44 years of service as Ashe County’s Register of Deeds.
“We’re here to celebrate a fantastic 44 years of service; it’s amazing when you look at the enhancements made over the years,” said Ashe County Manager Dr. Pat Mitchell.
“Thank you all for coming today. I can’t say enough good things about my staff; what a wonderful group to work with,” said Wallace.
During the reception, former N.C. Representative Cullie Tarleton presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award to Wallace. Before presenting the award, Tarleton, also a recipient of the Long Leaf Pine Award, told a story about meeting Wallace for the first time.
After seeking advice about how to win as a Democratic candidate in a largely Republican district, Tarleton was instructed to meet Wallace, who was repeatedly elected, despite being a lifelong member of the Democratic Party.
“She’s been a dear friend ever since we met for the first time,” said Tarleton. He also said “she’s the number one Democrat in Ashe County.”
“This is just amazing,” said Wallace after accepting the award. “I hadn’t even though about receiving the Long Leaf Pine award; it’s such an honor,” said Wallace.
According to N.C. Governor Beth Purdue’s website, the award is “presented to outstanding North Carolinians who have a proven record of service to the state. This certificate is most often presented when a person retires.”
“A State Employee may be awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine if he or she has 30 plus years of exemplary service to North Carolina. Others who have demonstrated a lifetime of service to the state may also qualify,” said the website about the award.
Melba Jones, the head to the Democratic Party, said Wallace continually winning elections as a member of the Democratic Party “meant a lot” and Wallace was “a very strong member of our party.”
“She has been very active in the Democratic Party but still did her job. She didn’t play politics when it came to doing her job as the register of deeds,” said Jones.
Wallace also received a plaque of appreciation from the Ashe County Board of Commissioners presented to her by Mitchell.
After presenting the plaque to Wallace, Mitchell told a story about a youth group that once met with Wallace to learn about leadership.
After the meeting, a member of the youth group told Mitchell “you know, I just didn’t know people served the public like that.”
Wallace was also presented with a self-portrait from Josh Roten, the owner of Badger Funeral Home. Roten said the portrait would hang in the register of deed’s office in remembrance of Wallace’s service.
As the reception came to an end, Wallace was presented with a resolution from Wayne Rash, the former president of the N.C. Association of Register of Deeds.
“We think the world of Shirley Wallace and even though it’s a loss to the association, we wish her a happy retirement,” said Rash.