Caring for Kernersville’s children

On July 11, 1988, Dr. G. Kirk Walker began working as the first pediatric doctor at Forsyth Pediatrics Kernersville, now known as Novant Health Forsyth Pediatrics – Kernersville. This year, Walker is celebrating 35 years of practice in Kernersville.
Walker was born in Mountain City, Tennessee but moved to Kernersville with his family when he was 12. He graduated from Kernersville Wesleyan Academy in 1975 and then attended UNC Chapel Hill, where he majored in biology and psychology. Walker then attended Bowman Gray, now known as Wake Forest University Medical School, where he graduated in 1985. He graduated ninth in his class.
“Being a pediatrician wasn’t my intent,” he said. “I was always very interested in, I thought at the time, surgery. As a matter of fact, up to almost the end of fourth year, I had decided that I wanted to be an ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeon. Then I started to realize that it was not so much what I was doing, but the people that I was seeing. I was enjoying working with the kids way more than I did adults.”
When Walker realized that he wanted to pursue pediatrics instead of ENT surgery, he immediately told the head of the department at that time and his wife, Sandy.
“It was a good decision. I come from a family of teachers. My mom was a teacher, grandmother was a teacher, my great grandfather was a teacher. My grandfather used to say that if you wanted to be successful, always do something with alcohol, tobacco or children. So, children seem to be the more socially acceptable, I guess,” Walker joked.
Walker was offered a job in Kernersville by Jim Earnhardt, Bill Sayers and Mike Rogers. This was the first satellite office of Forsyth Pediatrics. At the time, there were only two pediatricians in Kernersville, Dr. Steve Levin and Dr. Jerry Bennett.
“We started in 1988 and it just opened all sorts of doors and grew. When we started here, it was me and two nurses and a front office person,” he said. “And about 150 patients that identified themselves as Kernersville residents. Now, we have five offices and 20 providers.
In 1996, Novant Health took over the practice.
Walker insists that three and a half decades doesn’t seem that long at all.
“It doesn’t seem that long. I think it was like yesterday, but it certainly has changed. What we do at the office level really hasn’t changed, but certainly medicine has changed with different organizations and everything. But the way we practice and the structure of our practices is the same as when I first started,” he said. “I think the key to our success is that where a lot of practices are just sort of a practice within the town, we’ve tried to maintain ourselves as the practice for the town. Each of our offices is associated with a specific community.”
Walker explained that Novant Health Forsyth Pediatrics has offices in Walkertown, Oak Ridge, Union Cross and a new one is about to open in Summerfield.
“I think to continue to identify ourselves as sort of the community practice is really important and one of the key factors for our growth and that’s part of it too,” he said.
Walker said many people have played a significant role in his life and helped him get to where he is today.
“There are so many people here that were influential in the direction that I went and helped me get through school. I was thinking about it, my minister, he sat on the board of Baptist. He was always dropping my name when I was trying to get into medical school,” he said. “There’s one physician who lives here, Dr. Hopkins, who’s a pathologist who’s retired now. He likes to say he was the reason I got into medical school. I was working in the labs at Baptist at the time and he was the one that got me in. So, I let him continue to say that. At the time, it was certainly an expensive proposition.”
Although his celebration of serving 35 years has come and gone, he explained that there wasn’t much of a party. He shared that he celebrated his 35 years by working.
“I have a wall at the office where they posted a lot of pictures from along the way. So, all the parents get to help me celebrate,” Walker said. “It’s been a week long sort of thing. What’s really been great for me is that I’ve been here long enough that I’m taking care of a lot of my former patients’ kids. Most of my patients are the children of kids that I took care of. By default, I’ve become sort of, everybody’s grandpa or something, and it makes it easier since I’ve known many of these families. It’s a generational thing…that trust that’s been built up over a long period of time.”
He shared that being in this practice as long as he has, has created a wonderful and unique opportunity to take care of multiple generations and to see many children grow and mature through young adulthood and even further.
“I think that’s what makes pediatrics unique. I get to see them all the way along the line. We take care of the kids through college,” Walker said. “I get to see them when they were yelling and screaming and biting me and I get to send them off to college and see where they ended up. I feel like along the way, you’re more than just the provider. You’re sort of part of their family too, a very large family.”
Walker said there is no way he could possibly calculate how many patients he has seen through the years, but he estimates that it is over 175,000 children, not including babies in nurseries or children in hospitals.
Walker shared that in the next five years of his career, he is most looking forward to continuing to work and doing what he does best.
“If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life, right? I can’t imagine me doing anything else and I’m enjoying it as much as I ever did. So, I don’t really need to slow down or stop,” he said.
Kernersville is a great place to live and raise kids, Walker said. This area has expanded and grown so much.
“The support the town has for us has always been tremendous. The staff that we have here, as a matter of fact, two of the nurses that I started with still work for us,” he explained. He continued to share that many nurses and other providers have been with the practice for a long time.
“I think continuity has been important and certainly made it a really great place for me to be,” Walker said. “We continue to grow and be invested in the practice and the people that are here have been here for a good bit, and we’re constantly bringing on new providers as we continue to grow. So, we’re just expanding our family.”
Novant Health Forsyth Pediatrics – Kernersville is located at 240 Broad Street in Kernersville.

K9 Knox retired

The Kernersville Police Department (KPD) has officially retired eight-and-a-half-year-old K9 Knox, who has been with the department for over seven years.
Knox’s only handler during his time at the department is KPD Officer Brandon Wemlinger. Knox will live out the remainder of his retirement with Wemlinger.
Knox is a male Belgian Malinois and Shepherd mix and was born in Hungary. He is trained to detect narcotics, search and locate articles and evidence, conduct building searches, human tracking, tracking lost objects and criminal apprehension. Wemlinger explained that he could basically do anything except detect bombs. He was also trained in obedience.
Wemlinger received Knox when he was only a year-and four-months-old during a six-week handler school at Southern Police Canine. After his initial training, he was released to Wemlinger to train 16-20 hours a month to help improve his skills for his in service to the KPD community. Knox holds a North Carolina Police Dog Association (NCPDA) certificate that is renewed yearly.
Knox first joined the KPD in April 2016 and officially retired on Friday, July 1.
Wemlinger explained that the retirement is “due to his age and to help him have some time to act like a dog and enjoy his retirement. With working dogs, there is a lot put on them, so hopefully he can enjoy some time in his kennel and doing whatever.”
Since Knox’s retirement, Wemlinger has applied for and been granted another K9 position and he will return to K9 school in October of this year. Once he has trained with his new K9, he will then return to the KPD.
“K9 Knox aided in the seizure of 1,562 grams of narcotics valued at over $52,000.00 and the apprehension of 21 suspects during his 7 years of service,” said a statement from the Town of Kernersville.
Wemlinger explained that ever since he received Knox, they would work night shifts together and he would be used up to eight times a shift depending on what was needed of them at that time.
“He was used a lot and had other opportunities where we could use him. He was definitely a great tool and protector for myself and the Kernersville Police Department over the years,” he said.
Wemlinger has been with the KPD since fall of 2015. He was with the Winston-Salem Police Department from 2009 until his time at the KPD.

Trail Sisters Piedmont Triad

The Trail Sisters Piedmont Triad Group is a local running group that is part of a national Trail Sisters group. This national group is a women’s running trail community that is all inclusive and open to community members.
“The mission of the group is to ‘increase women’s participation and opportunity in trail running and hiking through inspiration, education, and empowerment.’ The Trail Sisters community also welcomes and encourages inclusion from all who identify as women, no matter their pace, size, shape, experience level, whether hiking, running or racing,” said Jennifer Eminger, Trail Sisters Piedmont Triad member and group leader.
There are around 175 regional and local Trail Sister groups throughout the United States. Within North Carolina, there are local groups in areas such as Charlotte, Lake Norman, Raleigh-Durham and Asheville. Many of these groups that are geographically close to one another are even able to host and work together to create meetup events.
“Trail Sisters Founder Gina Lucrezi started the nonprofit organization to ‘constitute for an equitable outdoors both recreationally and throughout the (running) industry. Female voice and representation are essential in the future of our outdoors, impacting the role we play both on and off the trails,’” Eminger said. “(Lucrezi) also started the group to break through the long-standing barriers. The nonprofit generates educational content and resources, while fostering an inspirational community that encourages self-advocacy and life-long friendships.”
Lucrezi began the Trail Sisters group in 2016 and the Trail Sisters Piedmont Triad chapter began a little over two years ago.
“I first started the group as a women’s only Facebook trail running group, but after applying to become a chapter with Trail Sisters, we officially joined the group,” Eminger said. “Anyone can find our chapter on both the Trail Sisters website and on Facebook.”
Many of the groups are located regionally or within cities. The Piedmont Triad group covers a large area, including Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, and every small town or city in between.
“I started the chapter as a group leader because I wanted to find other like-minded women to run with and many women feel safer running with another person or in a group,” she said. “As women, we have to always be aware of our surroundings when we are alone, whether hiking or running. Being in a group not only allows for safety in numbers, but also allows women to have deep conversations and develop lasting friendships.”
In 2023, Sarah Cronin and Michele Brooks were added to the Piedmont Triad group as leaders.
“Trail Sisters Piedmont Triad, with our new leaders, has really just gotten started. So far this year, we have held about 4-5 events. Our upcoming events include a group run at Hanging Rock on July 15 at 9 a.m. The run is open to both runners and hikers and is a no-drop run, meaning no matter what pace you run, you will not be left behind,” Eminger said. “Depending on if there are different paces in the group, we sometimes will break off into smaller groups, but as leaders, we make sure our members are never left behind. There will be two distances at Hanging Rock, including 5.8 miles and 10.5 miles. Our next event will be held on July 29 at 8:30 a.m. at Bur-Mil Park, running the Owls Roost Palmetto Trail. There will be two distance options – 5 miles or 8 miles.”
There is no cost to join the Trail Sisters or the Piedmont Triad Trail Sisters group. People who are interested in joining can go to www.trailsisters.net and join the Piedmont Triad group as well as join the group Facebook page by searching the group name “Trail Sisters Piedmont Triad.”
“There is no cost to be a member of Trail Sisters or Piedmont Triad Trail Sisters,” she said. “All group runs are free; however, it is required that women sign a waiver and sign in and out. This is only required of Trail Sisters’ official group runs. It is not required of any gathering made on the Facebook page or Trail Sisters website to just go running with a friend.”
The Piedmont Triad Trail Sisters Facebook page has about 315 members and on their website they have about 44 members. Events and runs are posted on both platforms.
“One of my favorite things about the group is just running, the conversations, and learning from the other ladies,” Eminger said. “Sometimes you cry, sometimes you laugh, and you learn that you can do hard things. Hitting the trails not only allows you to see some beautiful and exciting things, but for me, running keeps my mind clear and happy.”
She shared that although they are trying to grow their members on their platform and move more members to their website, there is a lot more activity for some groups on Facebook pages. Not only do they post events but it is a great place to ask questions, find running spots and find a running buddy.
“Another great thing about the group is that if you are traveling and want to go running, all you need to do is look up the local Trail Sisters group in that area and find a running partner(s), who will not only make you feel safe, but also show you where the best running trails are in that area,” Eminger said.
If anyone wants to learn more about the Piedmont Triad Trail Sisters running groups or wants to learn more about running, get into the sport, support other women within the running community or to make some friends, people can find this group on their Facebook page and website, https://trailsisters.net/.

Fisher’s Mini Donuts

Opening a business is no easy feat especially for an 11-year-old. Fifth grader Fisher Carter opened Fisher’s Mini Donuts food truck a little over a year ago and hopes to open more businesses in the future.
The inspiration for this business came from his time in Boy Scouts when he was selling popcorn for his troop. Selling came naturally to Fisher and he believes that is what inspired him to open this business to begin with.
“I feel like donuts would be a good thing because you don’t really see that many donut businesses around. It’s just like Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts and those aren’t really around that much,” he said.
Fisher explained that he has a lot of time over the summer and that is another reason he wanted to start this business.
“It’s a sweet treat and no one can really say no to donuts,” he said. “It’s like a mixing of ice cream. You want it, but a lot of the time you just don’t get it and it’s not really around that much.”
When Fisher told his family that he wanted to start his business, his family was shocked but they were supportive all the way through the process.
For Christmas, Santa gave him a donut machine that would help him make his dream of opening a business come true. The food truck was given by a friend of Fisher’s dad, Clint Carter.
“I told him, ‘look, I’ll finance this for you and I’ll pay for it up front and when it’s done, we’ll talk about how you’re going to pay it back when we got it done,” Clint said. “I sat him down and I said, this is what we spent, and everything. I told him as we went, you know, look, this is how much this cost and this is how much it’s going to cost to do this.”
Although his parents helped pay for this project, most, if not all, decisions were made by Fisher himself.
“As far as building it and then after we got done, I sat him down, I said, ‘this is our total of what you have in the trailer and you can make payments, you can set your own payment at what you want it to be,’” Clint said. “So, he told me that he wanted to make payments at $200 a month. So that’s what we set the payment at and he’s almost got it paid off.”
It took almost a year to complete the truck to repair it and make it fully functional for Fisher’s business.
“I had an idea of it when I was younger but it wasn’t really this big, it wasn’t donuts,” Fisher said. “All I had dreamed was me selling a product, basically becoming a business (owner). But not specifically donuts or that sort of food.”
He shared that he is most excited for the future of his business and expanding it and maybe even becoming a worldwide business.
“It feels like an achievement but it’s just a lot harder at my age because you have to worry about school,” Fisher said. “So, for anyone who really wants to start a business at a young age, you have to make sure that school comes first because if you don’t go to school, you can’t really become a business (owner). You need to learn the basics of school before you do anything.”
Clint explained that his son is very independent and self-sustained with his business practice and he is very proud that he wanted to support himself at this young of an age.
“He’s just got good work ethic and he’s never really minded helping out at home and stuff like that,” he said.
The first year of business for Fisher has been an achievement and he has even already bought a second donut machine and wants to start the process of making another trailer. Fisher is thinking of maybe even franchising it out to his brother, Hunter.
“When they get to talking and they talk percentages, I just stay out of it,” Clint laughed. “I told him, ‘you can franchise it to your brother and your brother can pay for his own.’ His brother is 16.”
Even though the business is year-round and has multiple events that they attend throughout the year, Clint explained that Fisher has full control on what events he would like to do; however, he hasn’t turned anything down so far.
“Young people who want to sell or to make a business need to have work ethic. Our generations depend on you but they don’t depend on them themselves, not other people and other generations,” Fisher said. “So, what I have seen is our generation is not wanting to work, they need to work and try to be successful.”
To learn more about Fisher’s Mini Donuts, go to facebook.com/FishersMiniDonuts.

Endurance Run

Brittany Grubbs, 35, ran her first ever 100-mile event on April 1 and 2 at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run in Raleigh.
“I wanted to complete a 100-mile event mostly to see if I could do it,” Grubbs said. “This distance adds a lot of elements and unknowns that are not really factors in shorter distance races. Also, one of my running friends, Judy, basically talked me into signing up for this particular race because she was going to do it as well. It was nice to have a running partner at the race, as well as our friends and family who came to help pace us at the race and provide support as our race crew.”
Although this was Grubbs’ first 100 miler, this was not her first ultra-marathon, which is any distance over 26.2 miles. Prior to this race, she used a 24-week training program that allowed her to prepare for the race. She participated in multiple 50K and 50-mile events. Her official time for the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run was 28:42:45.
“I definitely had a lot of time to think,” Grubbs said. “I tried to keep my thoughts positive, but there were definitely times when I was wondering why I signed up for this race. I also thought a lot about how cool it was that I was actually there, running the 100-mile race and how crazy it was that it was actually happening. Toward the end, I was thinking about my pace and wanting to make sure I was going to finish before the time cut off.”
The Umstead 100 Ultra race is considered an endurance run through the William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh. The race has a time limit of 30 hours to complete.
“It was a challenging course,” she said. “The back side of each of the 12.5-mile loops was quite hilly and the terrain caused terrible blisters on my feet. I had never gotten blisters nearly as bad as what I experienced at this race. This definitely made it challenging to keep going.”
Grubbs enjoys running because of the way it makes her feel.
“I enjoy the stress relief aspect of running as well as the camaraderie of running with my running friends,” she said. “I also have gotten to see some pretty cool locations by running races there.”
One of her motivators in this race was her friend, Judy, who was also running in the race.
“We were also allowed to have pacers run with us after we got past the 50-mile mark, so we had some friends and family who graciously offered to run laps with us in the dark,” Grubbs said.
Her biggest supporter for her running is her husband.
“My husband, Patrick, has been my biggest supporter, especially when I would get home from a really long run on Saturday and pretty much only feel like lounging around the house the rest of the day,” Grubbs said. “He was also an excellent crew member at my race, making sure I had everything I needed and taking care of my blistered feet each time I came into the aid station.”
Grubbs has lived in the Kernersville and the surrounding area her entire life. She works as a solution expert at Volvo Financial Services in Greensboro.
The 28th Annual Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run is scheduled for April 6-7, 2024. Registration begins on Sept. 13, 2023 at 8 p.m.

Puddle Proof Shoes

Martha Howell, instructional technology facilitator at Cash and Walkertown elementary schools, recently wrote and published a first draft of her children’s book titled, “Puddle Proof Shoes.”
Howell said the inspiration for her book came from a friend’s daughter, who she said called her rainboots puddle proof shoes.
What makes this book unique is that Howell used artificial intelligence (AI) to illustrate it. While the story was written years ago, Howell knew she would have to find just the right illustrator to create the perfect book she envisioned. AI did just that.
“I tried for several years to find an illustrator, but I could never find someone to commit,” she said about why she turned to using AI to illustrate her book.
After seeing the illustrations, Howell said she was shocked.
“I was initially shocked, but overwhelmed with joy as AI brought the dream of my book to reality,” she shared.
The book is about a young girl (based on her granddaughters) who loves to jump in puddles but always ends up with wet socks and shoes. She wears a special pair of “puddle proof” shoes that keep her feet dry no matter how much she splashes in the water. The story incorporates rhyming and repetition and includes a sweet message to adults.
To illustrate the book, Howell used AI software that allowed her to create custom illustrations based on her written descriptions of the characters and scenes. This approach gave her more creative control and flexibility than traditional illustration methods. Howell credits Dall*E with the beautiful pictures it generated based on lines from the story and instructions to illustrate with impressionism.
“I’ve always been interested in exploring the common lines where technology and creativity intersect,” said Howell. “Using AI to illustrate the book was a challenging but rewarding experience, and I’m excited to share the final product with young readers.”
The book has already received positive reviews from close friends and educators alike, who praise the engaging storyline and vibrant illustrations. It has also been used as a teaching tool at Cash and Walkertown elementary schools. Howell is using it as a platform for students to write their own class books this year. In Mrs. Shrewsbury’s first grade class at Walkertown Elementary, students are writing about Shrewsbury pies and in Miss Belsterling’s class, first graders are writing about their teacher’s magical collection of sterling silver bells.
As she uses AI in the classroom, Howell said the students are excited about it.
“The excitement is grand,” she remarked. “Students have the best way to show and share joy when they get to create something real.”
While, for some, AI may seem like something out of a science fiction movie, it is very real and Howell feels that it is important to share the knowledge about AI with students.
“We are in the beginnings of learning about artificial intelligence, but our students are resilient and want to learn everything they can,” she said. “Many of them were ‘born’ with devices in their hands and they have so much to teach us.”
“Puddle Proof Shoes” isn’t the end for Howell, as she shared that she has another book in the works.
“My next book title is ‘Baseball Cat.’ It is a book about a little orange tabby cat that visits my grandson and his team every day at the Sandlot in Kernersville,” she said. “I am looking forward to getting his input in helping me write and illustrate this next project.”
Howell started in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district in 2009 at Union Cross Elementary School as the computer education specialist and has always been well regarded by her peers. Her hard work and dedication to education is stellar. Howell was awarded Certified Instructional Support Person of the Year this year at Walkertown Elementary. Howell has always been able to adapt to changes in technology and the times. During the pandemic, several teacher friends from Union Cross contacted her immediately to help guide them as they worked together and determined how to adapt the Canvas Learning Management System to elementary students. “Martha is an incredibly talented educator, and we’re lucky to have her on our team,” said Jennifer Swofford, Cash Elementary School principal. “Her book is a testament to her creativity and dedication to helping children learn in innovative ways.”
“Puddle Proof Shoes” will soon be available for purchase online. With its unique approach to storytelling and illustration, it’s sure to become a favorite among young readers and educators alike.

New police chief named

The Town of Kernersville introduced the Kernersville Police Department (KPD) Chief Jason Tilley, a former KPD patrol and SOD (Special Operations Division) commander, at a short ceremony on Monday at 2:30 p.m. at the Kernersville Police Station.
Tilley, a former captain at the KPD, is taking over the position from former KPD Chief Tim Summers, who served as chief from Jan. 31, 2017 until Monday afternoon. Summers replaced former KPD Chief Scott Cunningham. Cunningham was named KPD chief in June 2008.
Kernersville Town Manager Curtis Swisher explained the extensive process of how the Town made its decision on who would be the new police chief, and then introduced Tilley as the new KPD chief in front of dozens of KPD officers, as well as Mayor Dawn Morgan, Kernersville Aldermen John Barrow and Joe Pinnix, and Kernersville Town Attorney Edward L. Powell.
Tilley first thanked “Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior because none of this would be possible without him.” Tilley thanked the community for its tremendous support and stated the work of the KPD would not be possible without community support. Lastly, Tilley thanked his fellow officers and the civilian employees of the KPD.
“This profession is one where you can’t be successful on your own. You have to have a lot of support, and I want to thank all of you for your support over the years,” said Tilley.
Tilley has been with the KPD for 19 years and was promoted to captain in 2017. He feels very honored to be named chief and acknowledged the KPD chiefs before him.
“I am really excited about it. I am humbled. There is a long history here of great men as chief. We had Grady Stockton, Neal Stockton, Scott Cunningham and Chief Summers. Those are some big shoes to fill, and I am honored to come behind those great men,” Tilley said.
While he is excited to serve as Kernersville’s new police chief, Tilley will miss working for and with Summers.
“He is a great leader. He genuinely cares about this community and this Town, and with every police department employee he has their best interests at heart. He is a great mentor and a great friend,” said Tilley.
Summers was happy to see Tilley named chief and believes it is a testimony to the KPD itself.
“I think when your top two candidates for chief come from within, obviously we are doing something right. I think Jason Tilley has worked extremely hard to prove himself, and this promotion is well deserved,” Summers said.
Swisher stated that there were 20 applicants for the chief position, and some of them were out of state. The applicants were whittled down to three, two of which were internal from the KPD and one that was external. The application process included a written test and much more. After the field for the position was whittled down to three applicants, they went through four scenarios that they had to deal with in one day, with accessors keeping tabs on their progress.
Swisher said one of the required presentations was a 45 minute to one-hour presentation to the Board of Aldermen, represented by three assessors, where the applicants had to make a compelling case for boosting the number of KPD employees and negotiate pay raises.
Another exercise was to hold a community meeting arguing to keep the KPD in charge of SROs (Student Resource Officers) in town. The assessors at the meeting represented the Forsyth County sheriff, a Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board member and a police lieutenant. Swisher said what made this part of the application more difficult was that the assessor playing the part of the Forsyth County sheriff actually was Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby F. Kimbrough, Jr.
“When we were done, Sheriff Kimbrough wondered ‘if he might have been too hard on the applicants,’” Swisher said.
The last part of the application process was a one-on-one interview with Swisher.
“For me, that was the easiest part, but maybe not for them,” Swisher said.
Swisher stated that in all aspects of the hiring process, the top two candidates were internal candidates.
Tilley acknowledged the application process was difficult, and he was happy with the results.
“It is very difficult. It is probably one of the hardest things I have done. I think some of the challenges were not only the process itself and the work that was involved, but also not letting people down and not letting the department down. I wanted to do well for everybody here,” Tilley said.

Chief Summers retiring

Kernersville Police Chief Tim Summers has announced that he will be retiring from the Kernersville Police Department (KPD) in the very near future. The Town will begin its search for a new police chief, and as soon as that is concluded, Summers will retire. He expects it to be in mid- to late-May or June and stated he would be as involved in the hiring process “as much as the town manager needs me to be.”
Summers will have served in the KPD for over 31 years when he retires. Summers replaced former KPD Chief Scott Cunningham. Cunningham was named KPD chief in June 2008 and served until Jan. 31, 2017. Summers’ first official day as KPD chief was Feb. 1, 2017.
“This is one of the toughest decisions I have had to make as far as a lifestyle decision because I worked for so many good people in the past and I work with so many good people currently,” Summers said. “The unfortunate truth is in the police department you are kind of forced into retirement with the way it works. Once you get to 30 years, you have to start thinking hard about how much longer you are going to stay because the retirement is affected by everything you do. It has been a great job. Every year goes by faster. It has been very rewarding. I did not get here on my own. A lot of people were responsible for getting me in the role as a chief, and I owe it all to them.”
Summers is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. He moved to Kernersville because he had family here and quickly grew to love the town. He has been married for 31 years and has two daughters.
“Obviously, I am biased. Kernersville is the greatest community in North Carolina, but that is not to say we don’t have our issues,” said Summers.
Summers actually started his career in the KPD as a dispatcher.
“There were a lot of people that wanted to join the KPD then. There were only two police department spots open. Those got taken by veteran officers from other police departments, so I took the dispatcher position until something was open,” Summers said.
Summers was a dispatcher for nine months and then was part of the KPD Patrol Division for four years. He joined the KPD Narcotics Division in 1997 and stayed there for six years. In 2003, he became a detective in the Criminal Investigation Division and stayed there for five years. He was promoted to lieutenant of the Narcotics Division in 2008 and was later promoted to captain.
Summers has an associates degree in criminal justice and has received numerous awards and certificates during his time on the force, including his Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate and his Criminal Investigation Certificate. He has also received a Master Certification Service Award and a Tactical Award for his performance on the job. In addition, Summers has received multiple Commendation Awards for Exceptional Meritorious Service.
Summers never expected to be the KPD chief, but he had the support of many in the department and had two excellent role models in former KPD Chief Neal Stockton and Cunningham. Stockton was the KPD chief from 1984 to 2009.
“I was never expecting to be the chief at all. I think I applied for it because of everyone at the KPD that wanted me to be the chief. I would say I was brought up under and hired by Chief Stockton. He promoted me to lieutenant. Cunningham promoted me to captain and assisted me with the chief of police process and really showed me how the administrative side of law enforcement works,” said Summers.
A team-oriented police department has been part of Summers’ and the KPD’s success over the years.
“It is a good department that strives to work with the community and partner with the community. I think that it is a team environment that we have really worked hard to cultivate. As the chief, I know I can make decisions, but it is the team dynamic that I feel works best for the department and the Town where we roundtable a lot of the problems and the solutions. I enjoy being a police officer, but like any other profession you have good and bad,” Summers said. “You are not going to make everybody happy. Most of the time when people are dealing with the police they are not having their best day, but I think that is where we empathize with people and make it work. A lot of it is about solving crimes and preventing crimes, but it is about serving the community just as much.”
Summers also praised the school resource officers’ (SRO) contributions.
“We have an excellent SRO program that provides a service. It is not just being at the schools as officers, but being educators as well,” Summers said.
Summers’ approach to law enforcement is reflected by the advice he gives to new officers.
“I always tell my new hires the community deserves to be treated well and they are the ones that make or break the police department. I tell them to be nice until it is time not to be nice. Everybody accepts the culture of the police department, for example like with stopping cars. No one likes having their car stopped, but I don’t want everybody who gets stopped to get a ticket. I want them to get warnings sometimes, but obviously if someone deserves a ticket, then give them a ticket,” said Summers.
Summers has greatly appreciated the support of the community, Town government and other entities.
“You are always going to have some people that hate the police, but I think 90% of the people in Kernersville support us. I would like to say something about the Board of Aldermen (BOA) and previous BOAs that have been so supportive of the KPD and me. (Town Manager) Curtis Swisher has been one of the greatest bosses I have worked for, but I have been fortunate in my career to work for a lot of good people,” Summers said.
Summers also praised John Owensby, who was the managing editor/publisher of the Kernersville News from 1986 until his death on Nov. 4, 2022, for his support over the years.
“John was on the board to select the police chief. He really supported me as the chief of police and always gave me the opportunity to showcase the department,” said Summers.
Summers has seen much in his years in law enforcement and has faced various challenges as a police officer and as the KPD chief. Some of the changes have been good, and some of them not so much.
“The personnel have changed. You don’t have the career dedication with law enforcement that we once had. Obviously, hiring right now is a challenge trying to stay fully staffed,” said Summers. “Fully staffed, we are at 71 and we have 19 civilian employees. We are about five to seven short right now, which is about 10%. Some of the bigger departments are 20% down. Staffing is an issue for everybody right now. That is an internal working challenge.”
He continued.
“Obviously, staying up-to-date with trends and technology is paramount as well so we don’t fall behind and so our service to the community is what it should be and more. You have to keep up with the crime trends and business and commercial issues, where people are stealing or defrauding businesses, and residential issues where people are targeting communities or families. You have scams targeting individuals. You have drug trends. People are worrying about fentanyl, heroin and overdoses. It is the deadliest trend we are seeing, and with the fentanyl, it is concerning for the safety of the officers as well.”
The COVID-19 pandemic was a very unwelcome challenge for everybody, which included the KPD and other police departments and law enforcement agencies.
“I guess as chief one of the biggest challenges I faced was the pandemic. Trying to work around and with different protocols and ideologies was a challenge in and of itself. We are still dealing with the court issues. They have not caught up yet from the pandemic,” said Summers.
The available technology in law enforcement now is the biggest change, and it has been very helpful.
“The technology is consistently changing. We are on the third generation of body cameras. We have the new Real Time Crime Center and we have a drone program. Sometimes with the new technology we are gaining it can make up for other personnel issues we are facing. It can eliminate the need for additional manpower to do the job. For example, the drones have a license plate reader. On one hand the technology is good, so the town manager and the BOA give us the opportunity to acquire technology that is needed for the job. It can cost more upfront, but it pays for itself.”
The future after retirement for Summers is currently open and undecided.
“I have several opportunities. I have not made my mind up on what I am going to do yet,” Summers said.

Moms’ morning meetup

Shawntelle Minear, mom and Kernersville local, made a meet up group at the beginning of the year to help praise women and socialize with other moms in the area.
Minear, who is originally from California, moved here five months ago from Reidsville. She created the group in January 2023 on Facebook and has received lots of praise for creating this group when she did.
“I’m new to the area,” Minear explained. “I have only been living in Kernersville for five months. I work from home and my husband is a stay-at-home dad, so I needed to meet people. I work out of California and there is not a whole lot of options out there for meet ups in the morning, which is really my only time to do anything. It initially started that way and quickly evolved into something a lot bigger, and it became more of like building a community of women.”
The first meet up had an attendance of nine people, along with their kids, making the total almost 20. After the meeting, parents would reach out to her thanking her for putting a group like this together and it has started helping them build friendships in the community.
“That is kind of my goal,” she said. “I want to start creating little micro communities throughout the Triad area where people can go out and meet other moms and get that support. One of the things I constantly hear is motherhood is so lonely. A lot of times as soon as moms have a baby, it’s kind of like they don’t have that support anymore. It’s hard to make friends. It’s hard to go out there and meet people, even other moms like me who are new to the area.”
Minear explained that she is passionate about helping moms build a community together to always help people in need.
“It’s important to me to lift up and support women. A thing that I am very passionate about is helping give women the support they need,” she said. “Once I started hearing more and more women reaching out saying how desperate that they needed this and how excited they were about it, it’s kind of fueled that passion even more.”
Minear said one of her mottos is that “your network is your net worth.” Building a community that people can be around for support or whatever is needed during that time is critical in a person’s life but especially after becoming a parent, Minear said.
“The more time that you get to know people, opportunities can just sort of arise naturally. I love this idea that we all rise together and I think that is all part of it,” she said.
Minear knows that the first step towards joining a group or seeking a community to be part of is hard because she had to do it herself not too long ago.
“One of the things that is kind of important is that I know how difficult it is to put yourself out there. The thing is, we’re all looking for friendship,” she said. “Everybody who comes is looking for the same thing, so it really helps take away that pressure of feeling like that it’s going to be difficult. We make it easy; we’re going to be friendly; we’re going to be inviting; we want you to join; we want you to be a part of our community and keep it pressure free; no judgment. It can be really hard to put yourself out there and we have had plenty of moms that have said they did, it was hard but that they were so glad that they came out, that it was a ton of fun and super helpful for them and their social life and their mental state in general.”
The mom meet up group is held every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. The first and third Tuesday of every month they meet at the West Salem Public House, located at 400 S. Green Street in Winston-Salem. On the second and fourth Tuesday of every month, the group is held at Kyle’s Coffee, located at 126 S. Main Street in Kernersville. At Kyle’s, each member’s first drink is free. This is because the pastor at Citizens Church is donating money towards their group to help support moms.
Minear also holds a meeting almost every Friday morning with different activities, such as a walk at Oak Ridge Town Park or the Quarry and a morning mimosa event. These events vary and can be found on her Facebook page.
An important factor that comes into place when picking these locations is that she wants every location to be kid-friendly. She understands that getting childcare is difficult and expensive so kids are always welcome to tag along at each event. Another important factor is that she wants every event to either be cheap or free so there is no barrier for people to attend.
Minear strongly urges parents or people expecting to become parents soon to get into any community that is accepting and will be there for them during this time of transition.
“You so badly need support because pregnancy in general can be very hard, so just having that support is so helpful,” she said.

Morgan going to Special Olympics

Kernersville’s Claudia Morgan has been actively involved in Special Olympics for 26 years and will now have the opportunity to see and participate in Special Olympics on the biggest stage of them all. Morgan will be traveling with Greensboro Special Olympian Dustin Edmundson, 23, to the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany.
From June 17 to June 25, Berlin will welcome 7,000 Special Olympics athletes and unified partners from approximately 170 nations to compete in 24 sports. The athletes will be supported by more than 3,000 coaches and 20,000 volunteers.
“It is very exciting. I have never been to Germany, so I am really looking forward to that part as well. We are actually going there on June 10. We will run the torch to the Flame of Hope and go to different cities in Germany to raise awareness,” said Morgan. “The coolest thing about it is I get to share the experience with a Special Olympic athlete. What an experience, but especially to go with a Special Olympic athlete. He will run the torch to the Flame of Hope as well. I will represent North Carolina and the athlete side of the Police Torch Run. I am just looking forward to going and the different sight-seeing, like the Berlin Wall. There will be a lot of running, so I don’t know how much I will actually see.”
Being part of the Special Olympics World Games is something Morgan, who recently retired from the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) and now works for them part-time, has wanted to do for some time.
“Before I retired, I was chosen to go to Sweden and then it was going to be in Russia, but with everything going on with Russia, that didn’t happen. There is an application process. You put in for it through Special Olympics. Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) nominates you. Then it goes to Special Olympics International and they make the final decision on who is going,” Morgan said. “Most of the time, they look at how much the state raises for Olympics. It is worldwide, so there will be lots of people from lots of different countries.”
Her career in law enforcement is what started Morgan’s involvement with Special Olympics. Morgan was happy to report that law enforcement in North Carolina raised $1.5 million for Special Olympics in fiscal year 2022.
“I spent 30 years being a police officer and during those 30 years, I became involved with Special Olympics. In law enforcement, most of the time you are not dealing with people because they are having a good day. With Special Olympics, I feel they have given me so much more than I have given them,” said Morgan.
Morgan is in the Special Olympics Hall of Fame and she was the Special Olympics State Director for four years.
“Director is a volunteer position and a big part of the job is to get other law enforcement agencies to contribute. I found that if you can get someone to go to the Special Olympic Games and they see the Special Olympic athletes it sells itself,” Morgan said. “It is just a wonderful organization to be a part of. I have done a lot of things in my life, but this is the one I am the most proud of.”
Morgan filled a variety of roles with the WSPD.
“I worked in the Patrol division. I was a hostage negotiator, and when I retired, I was in the Community Resource Unit. I enjoyed that the most. You are around people that want to be there and you get to see the good. Being a hostage negotiator was pretty difficult dealing with people that are barricaded subjects and have hostages,” said Morgan. “Being a detective was the most difficult. I was in our juvenile division. I was dealing with kids, so that was very difficult. It was difficult when they were victims, and unfortunately some of the crime is being generated from our youth.”
The technology in law enforcement is a challenge now, according to Morgan.
“Mostly the technology is a challenge because I am kind of old school. Over time that is what has changed the most,” Morgan said.
All of the running Morgan will be doing at the Special Olympics World Games is something she has taken head on, although sometimes reluctantly.
“I had never been much of a runner and I never really liked running. The more I am around Special Olympic athletes I have his goal, and I lost 50 pounds. I will think some days I do not want to run, but then I think of all the obstacles the Special Olympic athletes have to overcome and I say, ‘I got this,’” said Morgan. “I tell people it is still a love-hate relationship. Even in rookie school I did not like running, but now I have done a half marathon and I really like it on some days.”
Morgan’s love of Special Olympics and the Special Olympics athletes is matched by her love for Kernersville.
“I was born and raised in Kernersville. I still live on the back of my dad’s farm that was established in the 1800s. When I was younger, I sold produce and things like that. I saw how my dad worked in the fields and I knew I had to do something else. I did not want to work on a farm and start a fire to stay warm,” Morgan said. “Kernersville is my hometown and I will never leave it. My roots have been here. My husband is from Philadelphia and we have a house in Beaufort, so he refers to it as his home. Kernersville is my home and I will never leave the farm. I remember when we just had a Ray’s hamburger place and a Hardee’s, and then a Food Lion. It has changed drastically, but I could not see going anywhere else. I still feel like it has that hometown feel. There is something about a hometown feel you don’t get other places.”