Mount Airy Mayor Gerald Johnson got himself arrested yesterday. But it was all for a good cause.
The mayor was taken into custody by Charles "Buzz" Norris, the town's unofficial policeman, for failing to pay Mr. Norris' special-issue parking tickets.
The arrest was part of a fund-raising effort organized by Mount Airy Net, a nonprofit group organized by local churches that provides emergency help to Mount Airy families in need.
Mount Airy Net officials hope to raise $2,500 from the arrest by collecting "bail" money for Mr. Johnson, said Diane Gittings, the group's treasurer, who organized yesterday's arrest.
"You're a hard man to deal with, Buzz," Mr. Johnson told Mr. Norris as he was escorted from his Town Hall office in handcuffs.
Mr. Norris, 53, who is retarded, is a fixture on Mount Airy's Main Street. He walks his beat daily, slapping his homemade parking tickets on the windshields of any cars he sees.
Tfc. Dave Johnson, Mount Airy's resident state trooper, accompanied Mr. Norris yesterday to arrest Mayor Johnson.
"Shall we take him to Cell No. 9 now, Buzz?" Trooper Johnson asked Mr. Norris.
Mayor Johnson didn't put up a struggle as Mr. Norris led him down Main Street in handcuffs to the state trooper's office.
The mayor's bail was set at $2,500, and Mr. Norris released him on his own recognizance.
Mayor Johnson's "trial" will be Oct. 7 at Mount Airy's Fall Festival.
Mrs. Gittings said the fund-raising arrest couldn't have gone more smoothly.
"I think that arresting the mayor is probably something that Buzz will remember forever," she said. "And, hopefully, it will be a good fund-raiser."
Mount Airy Net was founded in 1992 to provide area churches, civic groups and individual volunteers with a way to help needy families in the area.
In 1994, the group raised $11,146, mainly through church and business donations and fund-raisers.
Mount Airy Net has given families money to buy food, clothing and medicine and pay for rent and utilities.
"We've taken children shopping to get shoes for school," Mrs. Gittings said.
Mount Airy Net organizers are hoping that the mayoral arrest will draw more attention to the group's work.
"It's a good endorsement by the town of Mount Airy for the good deeds we've been doing," Mrs. Gittings said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to Mount Airy Net may send a check to the organization at Mount Airy Net, 403 S. Main St., Mount Airy 21771.