Aretha Ferrell-Benavides has been named Martinsville's new city manager. Photo courtesy of the city of Martinsville.

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

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Martinsville names new city manager

Martinsville will welcome Aretha Ferrell-Benavides as its new city manager.

City council members voted unanimously to appoint her on Wednesday. Her appointment comes almost a month after the retirement of Leon Towarnicki.

“We are glad to welcome Ms. Ferrell-Benavides to our community and look forward to her leadership of the City workforce in the implementation of Council’s vision for Martinsville,” Martinsville Mayor L.C. Jones said in a news release. “Council was impressed by her development and redevelopment experience, local government knowledge and experience, and her professionalism.”

Ferrell-Benavides will come to Martinsville with managerial experience in Petersburg; Glenn Heights, Texas; and most recently Duncanville, Texas. Martinsville officials said she was chosen for the position largely because of her experience. 

“We already knew about some of her achievements in Petersburg and are excited that she is coming back to Virginia,” Jones said. “We think that Aretha will be an excellent fit for the City of Martinsville.”

In a statement, Ferrell-Benavides looked to the future of Martinsville and emphasized quality of life. 

“The City Council has a great vision for the community that is focused on good government and enhancing the quality of life for residents,” Ferrell-Benavides said. “I particularly look forward to working with local and regional partners on important revitalization and economic development projects. I appreciate the confidence that the Council has shown in me.”

Ferrell-Benavides will begin her role in October.

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Blue Ridge Land Conservancy to honor conservation efforts

The Blue Ridge Land Conservancy will honor local residents for their conservation efforts at its annual celebration and auction on Oct. 17 at Braeloch in Roanoke County.

Diana Christopulos of Salem will receive the conservancy’s A. Victor Thomas Environmental Stewardship Award, according to a news release announcing the awards. Christopulos is the co-founder of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, a volunteer with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, and past president of the Blue Ridge Land Conservancy.

Danny Thompson of Floyd County will receive the Landsaver Award, which is given to landowners who have conserved their own land and advocate for others to do the same. Thompson, a cattle farmer, and his wife, Martha, have protected several of their farms in Floyd and Franklin counties with permanent conservation easements.

Retiring state Sen. John Edwards of Roanoke will receive a special legislative achievement award in recognition of his nearly three decades in the Virginia General Assembly. Edwards recently was recognized by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters as a 2023 Legislative Hero, and received a 100% score on the group’s 2023 Conservation Scorecard.

The event runs from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is $135 per person, or $900 for a table of eight. For more information, visit

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Intern and early career expo coming to Roanoke

Get2KnowNoke and the Virginia Talent and Opportunity Partnership are hosting a fall intern and early career expo on Oct. 4 in Roanoke.

Nearly 50 local employers will be at the Taubman Museum of Art from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. to talk about paid internship programs and early career positions, according to a news release about the event.

Attendees can register online to learn about regional companies, internship and job opportunities and the Roanoke region. Entry to the expo is free for attendees.

For more information, visit