Alan Fabian. Courtesy of HCA.

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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New president named for LewisGale Regional Health System

HCA Virginia has tapped Alan Fabian, formerly the chief executive officer of LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, to lead the LewisGale Regional Health System as market president and LewisGale Medical Center chief executive officer. Fabian has been with HCA Healthcare since 1995, serving in senior leadership roles in several Louisiana hospitals and since 2013 at LewisGale Hospital Montgomery.

Durian Fabian’s tenure at LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, the hospital completed several large capital projects to better serve its patients, including, most recently, a $16 million surgical services renovation that is expected to be completed in 2023.

The four-hospital LewisGale Regional Health System provides care throughout southwest Virginia, including LewisGale Hospital Montgomery, LewisGale Hospital Pulaski, LewisGale Hospital Alleghany and LewisGale Medical Center.

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Members of the Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority Board met Monday in Grundy with Sen. Tim Kaine. Pictured, from left (front), are J.H. Rivers, Jay Rife, Sen. Tim Kaine, James Keen, Peggy Kiser, Bonnie Bates and Jonathan Belcher, Virginia CFX Authority executive director; and (back) John Schoolcraft, Sen. Travis Hackworth, Scott Mullins and Keith Viers. Courtesy of the authority.

Kaine talks Coalfields Expressway in Buchanan County

The Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority board met Monday afternoon and was joined by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine to talk about the future of the expressway project and what $1.995 million in new federal funding appropriated for the project will mean to advance it. Also discussed were ways to continue to move the project forward which saw the authority agree to a motion to seek further congressionally directed spending to pave 2.2 miles of U.S. 121 (CFX) within the Corridor Q project to four lanes. Current paving funds allocated call for paving of just two lanes and a truck climbing lane.

Corridor Q is adjacent to the industrial park at Southern Gap in Buchanan County.

“From an economic development standpoint, it would be very beneficial to have four lanes adjacent to the Southern Gap industrial park,” said Virginia CFX Executive Director Jonathan Belcher. Belcher also serves as executive director/general counsel for the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority which provides staff support to the CFX Authority.

The Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority was created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2017 “to improve the transportation into, from, within, and through Southwest Virginia, assist in regional economic development, and generally enhance highway safety in the affected localities.”

The authority has a 12-member board made up of representatives from the counties of Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise.

VDOT estimates on the completion of Corridor Q are that the segment of the roadway from the Kentucky state line to Route 744 (Southern Gap Road) will be early fall 2023; Route 744 to Route 604 (Poplar Creek), early 2025; and Route 604 (Poplar Creek) to Grundy, late 2027. The last segment in the Corridor Q section will be the location of the second tallest bridge in the state of Virginia. The $1.995 million recently appropriated at the federal level is for pre-engineering of the roadway from Grundy to the West Virginia state line.

James Keen, a member of the authority board who also serves as chairman of the Breaks Regional Airport Authority and is a former member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board, noted that on the Hawk’s Nest section of the project, mining coal while constructing the roadway had saved some $90 million.

“We need to be exploring and encouraging coal companies to identify locations they have interest in because through these synergies we can have great impact,” Keen said.

Kaine suggested that with the abundance of metallurgical coal in the region and the push at the federal level to encourage domestic production of steel, additional synergies might also be found, according to a statement from the authority.

The CFX Authority Board will meet again in June or July.

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The cover of the guide. Courtesy of UVA Wise.

UVa-Wise students help create eco-tourism guide to High Knob region

A first-ever comprehensive guide for eco-tourism development in the High Knob region is now available. 

The High Knob Regional Initiative recently published its guide, “Growing Smart On High Knob: A Sustainable Recreation Blueprint For Virginia’s High Knob Region.” It provides current local, state and federal regulations, a listing of key regional outdoor stakeholders and agencies, and a guide to best management practices to assist with growth in Southwest Virginia’s outdoor economy. Its goal is to proactively minimize environmental impacts of large new outdoor projects like trails or campgrounds and public recreational use.  

For the past few months, Wally Smith, a UVa-Wise associate professor of biology and the guide’s editor, has led the project with students in his conservation biology course. UVa-Wise students Alesha Allen, Jordan Edwards, Rae Guevara and Garrett Stiltner helped develop the first two chapters of the guide. They researched sustainable practices, worked with local and state agencies and sought input from a wide range of experts including state conservation groups, wildlife resource agencies and outdoor outfitters to draft the user-friendly, eco-friendly tourism development guide.  

The peer-reviewed manual is funded through a $10,000 grant the University of Virginia’s College at Wise received earlier this year from the Virginia Environmental Endowment — a nonprofit foundation committed to improving the environment through pollution prevention, natural resource conservation and environmental literacy.

The 74-page guide focuses on eight communities surrounding High Knob, a 4,200-foot summit in the Jefferson National Forest and the highest elevation in the Cumberland Mountains Physiographic Province. The 500-square mile High Knob Region is home to the headwaters of the Powell and Clinch Rivers. These two watersheds — two of the nation’s most biodiverse — contain one of Virginia’s highest concentrations of rare and federally protected wildlife, including freshwater mussels and the bright yellow and black High Knob mimic millipede.

Key contributors included Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, U.S. Forest Service and the city of Norton.

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Virginia Western holds graduation May 13; chancellor to speak

Virginia Western Community College will hold its graduation ceremony May 13 at the Berglund Center, its first in-person commencement after a two-year pause because of the pandemic.

The ceremony, which will honor graduates from the fall 2021 and spring and summer 2022 semesters, starts at 6:30 p.m. More than 430 students are expected to attend, with over 784 degrees and credentials awarded.

Virginia Western honored both the Class of 2020 and 2021 with virtual graduation ceremonies. 

Dr. Glenn DuBois, who is retiring in June as Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System, will be the keynote speaker. 

Vera (Dove) Morton, who will graduate with an associate degree in Liberal Arts, was selected as the Student Commencement Speaker. Morton, 67,  will share her background as a recipient of the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship, which the Virginia General Assembly created in 2004 to provide educational opportunities for persons who were enrolled or eligible to enroll in the public schools of Virginia during Massive Resistance between 1954 and 1964. 

Rather than desegregate, leaders in Morton’s hometown of Farmville, Va., closed the public schools just as she was to start kindergarten. The school did not reopen – and Morton did not begin her formal education – until three years later, in 1964, when she was automatically put in third grade. Through the years, Morton said, she acquired a solid foundation in mathematics, but she missed many fundamentals of English instruction. 

“They might have held me back then, but today I’m getting ready to graduate with honors,” said Morton, who hopes to write a book about her experiences.  “I still feel like I have a lot to give and encourage people. Give it a try. You won’t know if you can succeed if you don’t try.”

Virginia Western’s commencement will be viewable online through a YouTube livestream. The link for the event is:

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Rotarian Scott Allison, President Mike Maxey of Roanoke College, Rotarian Mark Henrickson, and Paul Henrickson. Courtesy of Salem Rotary.

Salem Rotary names Maxey as Citizen of the Year

The Salem Rotary Club has given its annual Roy W. Henrickson Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award to Roanoke College President Michael Maxey, who is retiring this summer.

“Mike has served Roanoke College as president since 2007, after holding several leadership roles at Roanoke College, beginning in 1985.  His nearly four decades of service is the longest of any Roanoke College president,” said Rotarian Scott Allison.