By Debbie Adams
Vinton Town Council welcomed a new police officer, a new Administrative Manager/Clerk, and a new Financial Administrator at the meeting on Feb. 7.
The meeting opened with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Boy Scout Troop 235. The Scouts attended to meet one of the requirements for their Communications Merit Badge.
Vinton Police Chief Fabricio Drumond introduced Jair De Jesus Ponce, who was sworn in by Town Manager Pete Peters as Vinton’s newest police officer.
“Jair De Jesus Ponce is what I call the example of the American dream,” Drumond said. “Similar to my own journey, Jair is a first-generation immigrant. Born in the San Luis Potosi, a city located in central Mexico, he came to the United States in 2001. This particular year was a tough year for our nation, but also a year that illustrated that we, as American citizens, come together during difficult times. What a time to come to our nation and witness Americans unite after a tragedy and see citizens lean on faith, family, and American pride.
“Like many others before him, Jair and his family moved here for a chance at a better life and a chance for opportunity. Because in this nation, no matter where you’ve been or where you are from, if you work hard, if you believe in yourself, you can dream and be anything. Because, after all, our nation was built on an American dream. From this nation’s inception to today, it is Americans like Jair that shape this country and make it exceptional. Undoubtedly, Jair’s journey, like many others, had many challenges as you get accustomed to your new home.
“Jair first established a home in Texas, then North Carolina, and ultimately found home in the small town of Fries, Virginia, in 2008. Like all immigrants, Jair made the journey of naturalization and achieved what many dream of when he became a naturalized United States citizen. Shortly after high school, Jair continued with his academic journey at Wytheville Community College and ultimately obtained a degree in Criminal Science.
“Jair, like myself, because mesmerized and found an early passion for law enforcement. Determined, he moved to the Roanoke area where he fulfilled his childhood dream of being a police officer. Jair attended our very own Cardinal Criminal Justice Academy, a place our officers call home for many months and, upon graduation, he began his journey as a police officer for the City of Salem.
“I met Jair a few years back and took an immediate liking to him. His uniform was impeccable and he carried himself with confidence and pride. While Jair is only getting started with the Vinton Police Department, it feels like he has been here for some time. I can confidently speak on behalf of the men and women of the Vinton Police Department that we are blessed and honored to have you on our team. I can’t wait until our community gets to know you.”
Peters introduced Antonia Arias-Magallon, Vinton’s new Administrative Manager/Town Clerk, who officially started work for the town on Jan. 23. Her position provides support to the Town Administration and Town Council, the Finance Department as needed, and she serves as the Town Clerk.
“Antonia joins us from Glendale, Mo., where she served as the assistant to the City Administrator, where she was responsible for accounts payable, preparing RFPs, creating a digital friendly budget which got Glendale its first GFOA budget award, managing events for residents, creating flyers and social media posts, and working with a website developer on redesigning the city’s website,” Peters said.
“Antonia began her professional career in local government as an intern for the City of Hazelwood in May of 2021. She graduated with her B.A. in Political Science from U.W. Stevens Point in 2019 and received her Master’s in Public Administration in May of 2022. Her interest in working for local government began at her internship where she saw the importance of what local governments do for the communities around them. She has always had a love for working with the community. When she was younger, she was a swim instructor and a couple days a week she would teach kids who couldn’t afford classes for free. She and the other instructors would pass out snacks afterwards and hang out with the kids. It not only made their days, but it made hers being able to connect with the kids around her.
“In her free time, Antonia enjoys reading, cooking, and traveling to new places and exploring. A ‘Fun Fact’ about Antonia is that she and her husband have a map of the U.S. and are trying to visit every state at least once together. So far, they have visited 17 states, one of them now being Virginia. Virginia was a place Antonia visited once years ago. Since then, she has wanted to come back and bring her husband with her. Now, she has a great reason to. Antonia is excited to be working for Vinton and can’t wait to grow with the town and get to know everyone and the community.”
Finance Director Andrew Keen introduced new Financial Administrator Neil Divers.
“Neil will be responsible for the town’s accounts payable duties as well as a number of other accounting tasks,” Keen said. “He comes to us from the Episcopal Diocese of Southwestern Virginia, where he served as an accountant. Prior to working in that role, Neil worked as the bookkeeper and legal assistant for the law office of William Berry, attorney for the Town of Bedford. Neil holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Roanoke College and a Master of Arts in Theology from the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass.
“Neil’s impressive mix of both education and professional experience, much of which was earned in the non-profit and government arenas, make him uniquely qualified to work on our team. Neil brings to the table experience in accounts payable, accounts receivable, budget and grant monitoring, payroll processing, and many other skills which were honed in the local government space.
“Neil lives with his son Emmet and two dogs in Mount Pleasant. When not at work, he enjoys hiking, traveling, and being outside. I am happy to welome him to our team.”
Council took action to reappoint Dave Jones to the Vinton Planning Commission for a new four-year term.
Public Works Director Bo Herndon delivered a report to council from the January Public Works Committee meeting and an in-depth presentation on recent Public Works projects in the town.
Peters informed council that the town just received notice that it had qualified once again for the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) Distinguished Budget Presentation Award—for the seventh time.