ELLENBORO— A tribute to the late Mike Rhyne, Ellenboro Alderman, was held Monday.
Congressman Patrick McHenry, (NC-10), the Chief Deputy Whip, visited Ellenboro on Monday to pay tribute to Rhyne.
The tribute, held at the Old Ellenboro Depot Museum, included the presentation of an American flag flown above the U.S. Capitol and a copy of the Congressional Record to Rhyne's son, Erik and Rhyne's brother Jim Rhyne, Ellenboro's mayor.
"You get to meet a lot of people as an elected official," said McHenry. "One of the best things about coming home is I get to spend time with good people. The Rhyne brothers are two of those good people."
McHenry told Erik and the mayor he was there to recognize Mike Rhyne's service to the community. Rhyne was instrumental in efforts to renovate the old depot into a museum for the town.
"Mike was a leader and a great person," said McHenry.
After Rhyne's passing in June, McHenry paid tribute to him on the floor of the House of Representatives.
"My dad thought the world of you," Erik said to McHenry. "He appreciated all of the work that you do."
"Mike spent a lot of time out here at the depot," said Jim. "He was a good, good guy. We are here to celebrate Jim's life."
For Erik, the best way he could describe what he was feeling was mixed emotions.
"It is sad because it brings back my dad's death," he said. "But it is also touching to have a Congressman from Washington come down here to honor my dad."
Approximately 30 people attended the informal ceremony.
On Monday afternoon, McHenry attended a "Lunch and Learn" meeting hosted by the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce at The Copper Penny Grill in Forest City. McHenry spoke on a number of topics including the November general election, public health crises posed by opioid addiction and the Zika virus and financial policy. His main message, however, was that the people of Western North Carolina should keep looking to the future.
"There are big issues to be decided in November's election," he said. "Directionally, voters are going to decide that the country's going here or going here. We're optimistic people, but it's really hard to be optimistic right now. We can't let politics divide us and affect how we feel and how we view each other."
McHenry said the tough times faced by the region in the past two decades should provide a reason for hope.
"In Rutherford County and in Western North Carolina as a whole in the past 15 or 20 years we've seen bottom," he said. "These years have been the toughest since the depression with the disappearance of textile and manufacturing jobs. This area has been through some tough times. How will we make it better for future generations? I think we'll insist that it will be better."
After the lunch session, McHenry also donated six computers formerly used by his staff to Rutherford County Schools.