By Debbie Adams
Emotions were running high at the Vinton Town Council meeting on September 6—and for only the best of reasons. Two dedicated Vinton police officers, Scott Hurt and Michael Caldwell, were promoted from sergeant to lieutenant and council recognized Sam Cundiff, a pillar of the community, upon his retirement. Council Chambers were filled with families and friends of those being honored. It was a poignant evening.
Vinton Police Chief Fabricio Drumond and Deputy Chief Tim Lawless conducted the swearing in and badge pinning ceremony for the two officers. Drumond said he had worked with both officers for his entire career with the Vinton Police Department. He noted the personal relationships he has formed with both men in addition to being co-workers. He shared a story from several years ago during the derecho windstorm emergency of 2012 when Lt. Hurt and his family invited him to stay with them while the town dealt with massive power outages and clean-up 24 hours a day.
Hurt was sworn in by Vinton Town Clerk Susan Johnson and pinned by his daughter, Reagan, and his father, Garrett. Hurt expressed his gratitude to the Vinton Police Department and Town Council for their support and encouragement throughout his career. He especially thanked his family, including his wife Dana, his daughter, his sister, his parents, and his in-laws for their unending love, support, and understanding in adjusting to and accepting the life of a police officer—the holidays, special occasions, and important events that were missed in the line of duty. He mentioned the pride they have always expressed in him and his career. He described his daughter as “an incredible young woman” who has adapted to the requirements of his job with grace beyond her years.
Lt. Caldwell was sworn in next by Johnson and pinned by his mother Barbara, Chief Drumond, and Deputy Chief Lawless. Drumond remarked that he and Caldwell had worked together for the police department in Roanoke City before coming to Vinton. He convinced Caldwell to take the position with the VPD and said the town is “beyond blessed to have him on our team.”
Caldwell said that coming to the Vinton Police Department was “the best decision I ever made.” He, too, thanked his family and friends for their support during his career, and their understanding of the demands of his job which caused him to miss special times in their lives.
Deputy Chief Lawless said that it was “an honor and a privilege to supervise these fine officers. I have watched them grow throughout their careers, giving 110% every day.” He congratulated them on the “monumental step” of promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
Vinton Mayor Brad Grose, Vice Mayor Sabrina McCarty, and Council members Laurie Mullins, Mike Stovall, and Keith Liles congratulated Hurt and Caldwell and thanked them for their service to the community and their fellow citizens. Grose commented that the Vinton Police Department is made up of “great individuals” like them.
Next on the agenda was recognition of long-time pharmacist Sam Cundiff, who recently retired after decades of service to the community.
He was presented with a plaque thanking him “for continuing the legacy of Cundiff’s Drug Store for over 62 years” and for “your commitment to providing excellent healthcare to your loyal customers from Vinton, Roanoke, and Bedford County.”
Cundiff has been a beloved member of the Vinton community for his entire life. A huge crowd turned out to honor him with a surprise parking lot party back at the end of June when he closed the doors of Cundiff’s Drug Store.
Upon his retirement, Cundiff sent a letter to his customers saying, “Cundiff’s Drug Store has a distinguished history in Vinton, Roanoke, and Bedford counties. My dad, Wallace, started Cundiff’s Drug Store in December 1959. We started not only as a pharmacy, but as a small department store, including an unbeatable lunch counter. I began working there after school and over the summers, first working as a clerk, then as a delivery driver, before working beside my dad as a pharmacist. I am both proud and blessed to have carried on the family tradition.
“As many of you know, I have had my health challenges during the past 10-plus years, being away for extended periods of time,” Cundiff said. “I wish I could thank each one of you personally for staying with me and my staff through these times. There does, however, come a time to step back from the operation of this business and retire. Please know that I care for each and every one of you. You are my extended family.”
Several of those present during the recognition ceremony described Cundiff as a “walking miracle.”
Council members shared their own stories which involved Sam and the Cundiff family. Councilman Liles, who owns Deb’s Frozen Lemonade, joked that he got his start as an entrepreneur by buying bubble gum at Cundiff’s before school and selling it to classmates.
Cundiff’s wife, Terri, told those present that “Sam loves this place, this town, the people of this town. It was a hard decision for him to retire and close the store. I am so proud of him. He will be so sorely missed.”
Terri, along with Sam’s siblings, commented on the dedication of both Sam and his father to the community—the nights, Sunday afternoons, and holidays that were interrupted by calls for them to come to the pharmacy to fill a prescription. His family noted that when their father left the store, everyone believed “no one could fill his shoes,” but “Sam stepped right up and into the role without missing a beat. He carried on Daddy’s legacy.”
His brother, Bill, said, “Dad loved the Town of Vinton and caring for people and Sam continued that tradition.”
When it was his turn to speak, Sam said that he felt humbled by the recognition from the town and considered it quite a privilege to have served the community—a blessing, in fact. He downplayed the comments about legacy and tradition, saying “we just did what we were supposed to do.” He says he misses his customers, but the time had come to retire.
Council took action during the meeting to adopt a resolution in support of a joint grant application for the Federal Safe Streets 4 All program in cooperation with Roanoke and Botetourt Counties.
Assistant Town Manager Cody Sexton asked council to approve the resolution to formally support the joint application with the two counties to develop a comprehensive transportation Safety Action Plan. This action requires a commitment of funding from the town to meet the 20% match requirement, not to exceed $10,000, with the amount dependent upon the population of the three entities.
The Safe Streets 4 All program offers federal funding to local governments to produce a comprehensive transportation safety plan and encourages collaboration at a regional level. The overall long-range goal is to achieve “zero roadway fatalities.”
Sexton and Town Manager Pete Peters explained that this gives the town access to another funding resource to tap into—this time “a bucket of federal funds.” The Town of Vinton has proven itself over the years to be a master at writing grant applications and subsequently being awarded funds.
According to Sexton, this safety action plan can be used to leverage additional grant funding for transportation projects. It is made available through the federal bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Completing the grant application is the only route to receiving the funding.
Sexton explained that this requires no additional commitment of resources from the town. There is no budget impact. Funding for programs such as this one are already in the budget.