Bonnie Lasky has a passion for Boonville. Despite a very successful career working for the federal government in Virginia, Lasky decided to return to the town where she was born and raised to see what she could contribute to make Boonville everything that she knows it can be.
“Boonville is such a good place to grow up because it’s very family oriented,” Lasky said. “It has all of that small town charm. I got a great base of values that gave me what I needed to be a good person in the world.”
Lasky said that she grew up in the small town and attended Boonville Elementary School and graduated from Starmount High School. She went on to college at Less McRae and obtained a degree in liberal arts.
She didn’t graduate with the intention of venturing into the world of government. In fact, she initially planned to become a medical secretary and started her career working in a doctor’s office.
She quickly learned that this career wasn’t for her, however, and traveled to Newport News, Va. where she took her civil service exam and started as a clerk typist for the Navy.
She worked in the Norfolk Naval Ship Yard for 10 years working her way up through the ranks and eventually meeting the man who would become her husband, Richard.
Lasky eventually took a job within the U.S. Department of Energy and her husband went to work for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and both decided to retire in 2006.
“I told Richard that I was going home and that he could do what he wanted, but I was going back to Boonville,” Lasky said.
Richard, a New York native, did decide to follow her, and Lasky returned to her hometown where she immediately started to look for ways that she could help the town improve.
Lasky said that seeing Boonville’s evolution from the time she was a girl to the present has been somewhat frustrating.
“I love Boonville for my family and my friends and the closeness of the community but before you didn’t have to go someplace else to shop,” Lasky said. “It’s inconvenient to have to go to Elkin or Winston-Salem to do any serious shopping. I guess I’m just a little sorry Boonville didn’t keep up.”
That’s when she knew that she wanted to focus her attention on finding ways to make Boonville more economically independent and keep the residents dollars in town and to get passersby to stop in too.
“We certainly don’t want Boonville to be a Winston-Salem but we have a vision of Boonville being a little, attractive village,” Lasky said. “There’s lots of traffic through Boonville but, unfortunately, almost all of that traffic is going someplace else. We need to give these folks a reason to stop and that’s the kind of things we’re trying to attract.”
Not long after her return, Lasky learned about the North Carolina Small Towns Economic Prosperity Program or STEP program. She and several other dedicated Boonville residents set out to make Boonville the next STEP community.
“STEP is a two-phase program funded by the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center,” Lasky said. “The first year we were given $30,000 to do economic development planning and we were also assigned a coach. We went through the whole process to come up with an economic development plan. It took us about 18 months because Boonville had never done any planning.”
Next it was time for the STEP committee to put that plan into action but they needed help figuring out how. They group was awarded $100,000 by the N.C. Rural Center and they used a portion of that money to hire a technical assistance team to come in and do an evaluation of how they could get their plan started.
Today the committee has finished nearly all of the four projects it set out to complete. They’ve revamped their zoning ordinances, breathed new life into the town park, are working on a branding and marketing campaign for the town and are well on their way to getting Boonville its own water line.
“We started with water and I think that’s been our biggest success.,” Lasky said. “It looks like it’s really going to happen because we have county backing for that and that’s really exciting. You’re not going to have much economic development without a clean water source in your town.”
Now that the STEP program has almost drawn to a close after five productive years, Lasky is focusing on creating the Boonville Business and Downtown Development Association to continue with what STEP started.
“We’re incorporated and we’re working on our non-profit status right now so we can be a 501 C3,” Lasky said. “We will not be under the town but we will be partners with them.”
When Lasky isn’t focusing her energy and time on bettering Boonville she’s taking care of her mother and enjoying theater with her husband and friends. She even belongs to a group of friends who call themselves Just Us Girls or JUGs, a group name they’ve even copyrighted.
“They are this group of girls who are friends of mine from Virginia and we subscribe to the Virginia Stage Company series,” Lasky said. “We’ve been to New York and Las Vegas together. We go to the show and then we go out to dinner whenever there is a play.”
Lasky said that she and her husband also subscribe to the Broadway Lights Series in Charlotte.
“Musicals are my favorite,” Lasky said. “Next to Boonville that’s probably my passion; I can’t sing and I can’t dance, but I like to watch.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.