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The Rant y l h t Mon







2 | January 2021


Happy New Year! Trusted Real Estate Professionals that know this market and are ready to help you in 2021. Gina Allen

Rachel Beauchemin

Michael Davis

Lena Jamerson

Roger Lyons

John Ramsperger

Debbie Scott

Bart Willis


The Rant Monthly | 3

y The Rant l h t on M January 2021 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 3 | Issue 1

Editorial Gordon Anderson | gordon@rantnc.com Billy Liggett | billy@rantnc.com Jonathan Owens | jonathan@rantnc.com Advertising Brandon Allred | brandon@rantnc.com (919) 605-1479 Contributors Chris DeLambert, Charles Petty Editorial Board Det. Frank Drebin, Capt. Ed Hocken, Mr. Olson, Norberg, Abraham Lincoln, Mrs. Twice, Tommy Lasorda, Dr. Joyce Brothers

Find Us Online: www.rantnc.com Facebook: facebook.com/therant905 Twitter: twitter.com/therant905 Podcast: rantnc.podbean.com







The Rant Monthly







ABOUT THE COVER We’re all pretty happy to leave 2020 behind us, but let’s not let 2021 go to waste by sticking with the bad habits we developed while stuck at home for nearly an entire year. This month’s edition of The Rant Monthly features Seva Yoga, downtown Sanford’s new yoga studio owned by Broadway native Jan Smith. Smith talks about starting a new business during a pandemic, being a part of the city’s RISE program for entrepreneurs and why yoga is the perfect solution for those seeking a happier and healthier 2021.

The Rant Monthly is located in beautiful Sanford, North Carolina. Please address all correspondence to LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard #126, Sanford, NC, 27332. Editorial email: gordon@rantnc.com or billy@rantnc.com. Advertising: brandon@rantnc.com. The Rant Monthly is published monthly (obvs). The Rant Monthly is wholly owned and operated by LPH Media LLC, a North Carolina corporation. Submissions of all kinds are welcome. This publication is free — one per reader, please. Removal of this newspaper from any distribution point for purposes other than reading it constitutes theft, and violators are subject to public flogging and ridicule. Printed by Restoration News Media LLC in Raleigh, NC. Copyright 2021, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.



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4 | January 2021


PAGE FOUR THE PODCAST Find these and all epsiodes of our podcast at rantnc.podbean.com or on Apple Podcasts DEC 18 Robert Reives III The Rant was joined by the new leader of North Carolina’s Democratic caucus DEC 8 Jeni Harris Director of the Lee County Board of Elections talked about overseeing a smooth November election in Sanford

Yes, that’s Benedict Cumberbatch wearing a Campbell University shirt in the upcoming film, “The Mauritanian,” also starring Jodie Foster. Cumberbatch plays Durham native and 1996 Campbell School of Law graduate Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a retired U.S. Marine Corps attorney and prosecutor at Guantánamo.

SIX PRETTY TERRIBLE YEARS You think 2020 was a bad year? It doesn’t even rank in our Top 6 of the worst years in Earth’s recorded history. Here they are:

DEC 3 Wendy Bryan Director of Sanford’s Tourism Authority talks about the work being done to attract visitors


Volcanoes and plague


Pandemic and a war


Smallpox kills everyone

GETTING MARRIED SOON? DID YOU NOW? Did you enjoy black-eyed peas and collard greens on Jan. 1? They’re a tradition rooted in the South — black-eyed peas bring good luck, and the greens signify money and ensure a prosperous new year. The tradition was originally African, but spread through the South, especially the Carolinas, and eventually the nation.

17,800 BC

Peak of the Ice Age


Floods and cannibalism


Numerous reasons

The Rant is looking for women looking to get married this year. Wait ... that didn’t sound right. Uh ... we’re doing a big story this spring on Sanford’s budding wedding industry (yes, it’s real), and we want to talk to people getting married here this year. Email billy@rantnc.com, and let’s talk ... about the story, of course.


The Rant Monthly | 5

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6 | January 2021


Healthy New Year

Wishing you and your loved ones a healthy start to the new year. As we welcome a new year, we want to remind you that scheduling a yearly physical exam is an important part of maintaining good health.

Five questions to ask your doctor this year: 1.

What is the most important change I can make to improve my health?


What vaccinations do I need to be up to date?


What is my blood pressure, cholesterol level and blood glucose level?


Knowing my family history, are there screenings or tests I should have?


Are any of my current medications no longer needed?

Call for an appointment today!

If you do not already have a primary care doctor, please visit our website at CentralCarolinaHosp.com or call 800.483.6385 to find one.

This facility and its affiliates comply with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

The Rant Monthly | 7


Here’s to those who masked up in 2020


en months ago, we at The Rant had big plans to celebrate what was going to be the one-year anniversary of our printed publication. The idea was a large party with all of our friends, family and followers invited. We wanted to absolutely pack a downtown bar and fill everybody with their preferred libation. We wanted karaoke (we even paid the deposit for a DJ). We wanted live music. We wanted old people like us to hire sitters for the kids and simply get out of the house. The planning was all pre-COVID, of course. The actual date for the party was going to be sometime in April of 2020. Little did we know. The idea now of sharing recycled air in close quarters — with what we were hoping would be between 250 and 500 people — seems unimaginable today. The idea of passing around a microphone after

dozens of people breathed their virus-riddled air and sprayed their mouth droplets all over it seems downright criminal now.

Ten months into this thing, there are those who still think it’s a joke. A hoax. Something that doesn’t deserve all the “rigamarole,” as my pissed off grandmother would say.

Needless to say, whenever we do officially celebrate an anniversary of The Rant or The Rant Monthly, it’s going to look different. Even if these vaccines lead to a return to “normalcy” in this country in the coming months, I imagine it’s going to take much longer — perhaps years — before we as a society are 100-percent comfortable with the air-sharing way of life we enjoyed pre-2020.

Even now, I’m surrounded by “rebels” — those who think facemasks are for communists and vaccines are the first step in micro-chipping all humans. A few weeks back, while Christmas shopping in an outof-town big box store, I watched a man give a store full of masked shoppers the double bird as he was being escorted to the parking lot after an employee — going above and beyond whatever he’s being paid — asked him multiple times to wear a mask.

And that’s understandable ... to me, anway. But not everybody shares my cautionary approach to the global pandemic that’s infected more than 3,500 people in Lee County, hospitalized hundreds of us and killed (as of this writing) 44 here — 13 in December alone.

In the beginning, I gave these people — these “patriots” — the benefit of the doubt, thinking they truly believed in their stance. Ten months later, all I see is stubborn ignorance. A refusal to see truth — men and women who are willing to believe conspir-

acy theories spread by Twitter and Youtube conmen before believing trained scientists, doctors and public health officials. But I’ve learned my lesson. I’m not out to change these minds. I’m not going to plead to those who’ve ordered laminated tags saying they’re medically exempt from wearing masks (yes, anybody can order these) to listen to reason. You be you. Have your karaoke parties. Knock off a few senior citizens while you’re at it. They were old anyway, right? Ten months ago, we thought a large gathering was a bad idea. When the day comes when we can finally do that worry free, it will be glorious. Our joy will have been earned. Those who ignored common sense can stay home. Email Billy Liggett at billy@rantnc.com to request your official party invite

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8 | January 2021



HOPE AMID A DEADLY MONTH Lee County receives its first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine in the same month it sees record new cases and 13 deaths, including an elected official By Gordon Anderson and Billy Liggett In a month that brought hope in the form of the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccine, Lee County suffered its deadliest stretch since the beginning of the pandemic with 13 deaths in December alone. In all, 44 people in the county have died from complications brought on by the virus, as have 6,780 North Carolinians and more than 343,000 Americans. The county reported an unprecedented five COVID-related deaths on Dec. 30. Officials offered no details on the victims, but did say three of the five deaths occurred at Central Carolina Hospital. Through Dec. 30, another eight individuals were hospitalized at CCH with COVID-19. “We continue to see troubling COVID-19 trends in Lee County and are worried about the impacts of the virus on our community,” said Lee County Health Director Heath Cain, who in that same statement urged people to avoid gathering for New Year’s celebrations. “Please continue to follow the advice and guidance of health care professionals and if you are feeling sick, please stay home and away from others.” On Dec. 31 officials reported 105 new COVID-19 cases over a three-day period and 323 new cases from the previous 10 days combined. The number of Lee County residents who have tested positive since March climbed over the 3,500 mark, and of those, approximately 820 people were

Pictured are Central Carolina Hospital COVID Vaccination Team members Donna Fancher (infection preventionist) and pharmacist Vanessa King. The hospital received its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in December and began administering it to frontline health care workers. Photo: CCH/Facebook rate was 14.1 percent, up from 13.5.

Regular COVID-19 news updates available at rantnc.com still being monitored (the highest number of active cases in Lee County since the start of the pandemic). The county’s most recent update did not include the number of cases considered active beyond Dec. 28. The rolling seven day average for new cases was 30.57 — down from 37.14 — and the percent positive

According to the county’s press release, Lee County now has a “red rating” on the state’s COVID county alert system, which “indicates critical community spread of the virus in our community. “ Details about patients who have tested positive are not disclosed, but the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID dashboard does provide some demographic data. Additionally, the Lee County Health Department indicated on Dec. 31 that it was “shifting focus and resources towards COVID-19 vaccination efforts.” As such, the twice-weekly case update provided in recent months will be replaced starting Jan. 4 with a weekly update that will still include case information, “but will focus on vaccination rollout plans and updates.”

VACCINE ARRIVES Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford announced on Dec. 23 the arrival of its first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. On that day, the hospital began inoculating its frontline workers. The hospital shared the news via a Facebook post with photos of the first package of vaccines and individual boxes stored in a refrigeration unit. The Moderna vaccine — approved by the FDA on Dec. 18, a week after emergency approval of Pfizer’s vaccine was granted — is said to be 94.1 percent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. Like the Pfizer vaccine, it requires two doses, (Pfizer’s is taken three weeks apart, while Moderna’s is four weeks). According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, both vaccines are “very effec-

Covid-19 Vaccinations: Your best shot at stopping COVID-19. rantnc.com


SPOT. SHOT. The Rant Monthly | 9

You have a spot, take your shot. A tested, safe and effective vaccine will be available to all who want it, but supplies will be limited at first. To save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19, independent state and federal public health advisory committees recommend first protecting health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those YOU at high riskAof exposure to HAVE TAKE YOUR COVID-19. Keep practicing the 3 W’s—wear a mask, wait six feet apart, wash your hands—until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated.

tive” in preventing someone from getting COVID-19 and have no serious safety concerns noted in the clinical trials.

Covid-19 Vaccinations: Your best shot at stopping COVID-19. 1b


The big difference in the vaccines is the way they’re stored. The Moderna vaccine does not need to be stored as cold as the Pfizer vaccine, so more providers will be able to easily use it. The Moderna vaccine is authorized for adults aged 18 and older.




Health care workers Adults at high risk for Students Everyone who Adults 75 years or older fighting COVID-19 exposure and at increased wants a safe and A frontline You have a spot,&take your shot. tested, essential safe and effective vaccine will be available to all who want it, but supplies will be limited at first. Toand save Long-Term risk ofpublic severehealth illness.advisory committees recommend first protecting effective COVID-19 workers. independent state and federal lives andCare slowstaff the spread of COVID-19, health care andworkers residents. vaccination. caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure to


COVID-19. Keep practicing the 3 W’s—wear a mask, wait six feet apart, wash your hands—until everyone has a chance to get vaccinated.

• Health care workers caring for and working directly with patients with COVID-19, Health care workers including staff responsible fighting COVID-19 &for cleaning and maintenance in Long-Term Care staff those and areasresidents.

On Dec. 30, the state updated its vaccination plan to align with new federal recommendations. The changes simplify the vaccine process and continue the state’s commitment to first protect health care workers caring for patients with COVID-19, people who are at the highest risk of being hospitalized or dying, and those at high risk of exposure. “While there is still much to do, we head into 2021 with a powerful tool to stop this pandemic — vaccines,” said NCDHHS Secretary Mandy K. Cohen, M.D. “However, because supplies are very limited, it’s going to be several months before vaccines are widely available to everyone. Until most people are vaccinated, everyone needs to continue to wear a mask, wait six feet apart, and wash their hands.”


There is not enough vaccine for everyone in this phase to be avaccinated at the same time. Adults 75 years or older Vaccinations will be available and frontline essentialto groupsworkers. in the following order.


• Health care workers administering vaccine

• Health care workers caring

• Group 1: Anyone 75 years or older, regardless of health status or living situation

• • Long-term care staff and for and working directly with patients in with COVID-19, residents—people skilled including nursing facilitiesstaff andresponsible in adult, for andhomes maintenance in familycleaning and group • those areas

• Health care workers administering vaccine


There is not enough vaccine for

Group 2: Health workers everyone in thiscare phase to be vaccinated the same time. and frontlineat essential workers will be available to 50Vaccinations years or older* groups in the following order.

Group 3: Health care workers • Group 1: Anyone 75workers years or and frontline essential older, of any ageregardless of health status or living situation

* The CDC defines frontline essential

• Group 2: Health care workers • Long-term care staff and workers as first responders (e.g., and and frontline residents—people in skilled firefighters policeessential officers), workers 50 years or older* nursing facilities and in adult,corrections officers, food and family and group homes agricultural workers, U.S. care Postal Service • Group 3: Health workers workers, manufacturing workers,workers and frontline essential groceryof store public transit anyworkers, age workers, and those who work in the * The CDC defines frontline essential education sector (teachers and(e.g., support workers as first responders staff firefighters members) and as well as child care police officers), workers corrections officers, food and agricultural workers, U.S. Postal Service workers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in the education sector (teachers and support staff members) as well as child care workers

Vaccinations will happen by group in the following order:

• College and university students

Adults at high65-74 risk for • Group 1: Anyone years old, exposure at increased regardless ofand health status or living risk of severe illness. situation

• Students K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them


• Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions that increasewill risk of severe disease Vaccinations happen by group in from COVID-19 such as cancer, the following order: COPD, serious heart conditions, • Group 1: Anyone 65-74 years old, sickle cell disease, Type 2 diabetes, regardless of health status or living among others, regardless of living situation situation • Group 2: Anyone 16-64 years old

with high-risk medical • Group 3: Anyone who isconditions that increase of severe disease incarcerated orrisk living in other close from living COVID-19 such who as cancer, group settings is not COPD,vaccinated serious heart conditions, already due to age, sickle cell disease,or Type diabetes, medical condition job 2function

Everyone who wants a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination.


• College and university students • K-12 students age 16 and over. Younger children will only be vaccinated when the vaccine is approved for them

among others, regardless of living

• Group 4: Essential workers not yet situation vaccinated* • Group 3: Anyone who is

* Theincarcerated CDC defines these as workers or living in otherinclose transportation andsettings logistics,who water group living is and not wastewater, service, shelter alreadyfood vaccinated due to and age, housing (e.g., condition construction), finance (e.g., medical or job function bank tellers), information technology and • Group 4: Essential workers not yet communications, energy, legal, media, and vaccinated* public safety (e.g., engineers), and public * Theworkers CDC defines these as workers in health

NC Department of Health and Human Services • YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov NCDHHS is an equal opportunity employer and provider. • 12/2020



transportation and logistics, water and wastewater, food service, shelter and housing (e.g., construction), finance (e.g., bank tellers), information technology and communications, energy, legal, media, and public safety (e.g., engineers), and public health workers

For more information: YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov

For more information: YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov

NC Department of Health and Human Services • YourSpotYourShot.nc.gov NCDHHS is an equal opportunity employer and provider. • 12/2020

Late commissioner’s son says his father missed by many

The passing of Lee County Commissioner Kevin Dodson in early December due to COVID-19 complications didn’t just have an impact on local government. Although Dodson had not run for re-election in 2020 and was slated to go off the board just a few days after his death, he was still a sitting elected commissioner with a say in local matters. But his private life was centered around another pursuit that touched the community in numerous ways. Dodson was the owner of Carolina Firearms and Training at 1606 Westover Drive in the Tramway Area, a business that in addition to selling firearms was dedicated to providing safety training for those who purchase them. “The first part of the business when he started it up was the training aspect, and my dad’s vision was that people need to learn about the safety of owning a firearm,” said Dodson’s son Chase, who in the weeks

since his dad’s passing has taken over operations at the store. “That’s something we were definitely on the same page about — I took the very first class he did to get my concealed carry — and so that will be my vision going forward, too.” Since Kevin’s death on Dec. 3, Chase has juggled Chase Dodson, son of the late Kevin Dodson, says his father was passionate about teaching firearm safety. a full-time job with running the store, relying on some existing employees from the community casts his father’s work to carry out day to day operations such as as a businessman in a new light. sales and scheduling of safety courses and “I’ve had people I know and people I taking over some of his father’s duties such don’t know reach out to me in the last as making videos showing off what’s in month and talk about how important stock. the store has been to the community,” he Chase said he expects to continue that, said. “It’s kind of put everything in a new and added that the feedback he’s gotten perspective for me.”

Initially elected to an at-large seat on the board of commissioners in 2016, Kevin Dodson first unsuccessfully sought a district seat on the board two years prior. First elected as a Republican, he switched parties in 2017 and went on to run for sheriff against incumbent Republican Tracy Carter in 2018. After losing that bid, he indicated plans to seek the office again in 2022. Dodson also served stints as a deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and as an officer with the Siler City Police Department. “Kevin was a dedicated public servant and small business owner in Lee County and he will be missed by many,” Amy Dalrymple, Chair of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement. Visit Carolina Firearms and Training online at www.carolinafirearmstraining.com.

10 | January 2021

@therant905 QUOTABLE

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.”


— Walt Disney

Stay in your lane


December 30 report in The Sanford Herald offers insight into what may be an evolving relationship between the Lee County Board of Commissioners and the Lee County Board of Education.

According to the report, a letter to the school board drafted by Commissioners’ Chairman Kirk Smith and Commissioner Bill Carver “recommends” or “advises” that all public schools in Lee County to fully reopen, with the provision that it be done “in the safest possible environment.” Currently, middle and elementary schools have a mix of virtual and in person learning, while the high schools remain fully virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic. By the time of this publication, the full Board of Commissioners will have considered the letter, deciding whether to sign and send it to the school board as an official document adopted by the formal body. But whatever your thoughts about this recommendation — and there’s a lot to think about, ranging from how close we are to widespread vaccination to the fact that December has been Lee County’s deadliest month of the pandemic to date, or reports showing a new strain of the virus being far more contagious, even among children — set them aside, at least for a moment. Because what the Board of Commissioners is doing, if a majority signs off on this letter, is entirely outside the scope of its responsibilities. The Board of Commissioners is in the business of providing funds for public education; virtually all other decisions on the matter — policy, spending, etc. — belong to the school board. Any commissioners who ultimately decide to sign and send this letter should have sought that office instead. These bodies should communicate, of course, and the school board will of course have a decision to make about reopening sooner or later. But one board is not subservient to the other, and any approach to local government that assumes so is irresponsible at best. The Rant Monthly is published monthly by LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard in Sanford, North Carolina. The Rant was founded as a weekly radio program in 2009 by Gordon Anderson, Billy Liggett and Jonathan Owens. After their program was unceremoniously banished from the airwaves by a petty local state representative, The Rant regrouped and became a web site specializing in local news in 2014. Today, The Rant Monthly has a circulation of 3,500 printed copies, and rantnc.com draws more than 1 million views a year. Wash your hands.

Go ahead and put me down for some train tickets


n 2012, the morning after we got married, my wife Jordan and I got on a plane for New York City (NEW YORK CITY?) for a week full of bright lights and big city. The Big Apple!

A few days later, we jumped on a bus for Washington, D.C. in order to catch a concert. And the next morning, we boarded an Amtrak train which took us back home. Well, it took us to Cary, which was as close as the train got to Sanford in those days. In any case, it was a planes, trains and automobiles honeymoon. Even with all the other cool stuff we got to do that week, the multi-modal nature of our transportation choices stands out as one of the funner aspects of the trip. Particularly fun was the train, even if the prior night’s combination of a few adult beverages and a packed-full nightclub which caused me to sweat out seemingly every drop of moisture in my body had me more than a little hungover on that final leg of the journey. There was something peaceful about watching a different landscape than what we’d have seen traveling a highway go past us, and at a different pace than we were used to. So, hey. Nobody’s more excited than me at the possibility of being able to take a train right out of downtown Sanford, maybe as soon as this year. As soon as I’m able, I’ll have tickets for a day trip by train to Raleigh, just so I can say I did it. It could be for a hockey game or a trip to the museum or just a night on the town. Doesn’t matter. The last time I was able to do something like that was a lifetime ago in Southern California, and the availability of such an amenity will undoubtedly improve the quality of life here in Sanford. But it goes a lot further than that, and

it’s not just about recreation. Do you work in Raleigh or elsewhere in the Triangle? You’ll have a new option for getting to and from work that might save you money, and will definitely save wear and tear on your vehicle. Same goes if you live in Raleigh and work here. And what about the impact a train station might have on downtown as a whole? Some locals might pooh-pooh the idea that we could be a tourist destination, but that perspective is an outdated one (see our Dec. 3 podcast interview with Sanford Tourism Development Authority Director Wendy Bryan for more about this). We have a yearly street festival, at least when there’s not a pandemic. We have a mural trail. We have the Temple Theatre. In very short order we’ll have three craft breweries in or close to downtown. These things bring people here, and being able to hop on a train in Raleigh or Wake Forest, get off in downtown Sanford, and spend the day exploring will only serve to drive this further. It will benefit our downtown restaurant and boutique owners just like it will benefit the towns I’ll visit by train when I leave my dollars there. When Jordan and I took that train from D.C. back to Cary on our way home back in 2012, most people — ourselves included — wouldn’t have thought such a thing was possible here. So yeah, whoever’s gonna be in charge of selling train tickets, put me down for some. I can’t wait for the ride. o Gordon Anderson was on the shortlist for Secretary of Transportation in the Joe Biden Administration before it was disclosed in this column that he drank beer at a concert in 2012. The job was ultimately offered to former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Contact him at gordon@rantnc.com.

The Rant Monthly | 11

rantnc.com READER RESPONSE CHOICE WORDS In December, returning incumbent Lee County Commissioner Cameron Sharpe came under fire from some for calling President Donald Trump a “dead loser” and a “shit bag” on a Facebook post showing a Trump rally in Georgia. Sharpe confirmed to The Rant that he wrote the post and said he regretted his choice of words but not his “frustration and sentiment.” “When I made that comment, I was getting ready to be a pallbearer for a friend and fellow Commissioner who died from COVID,” he said in a statement, referring to the recent death of Commissioner Kevin Dodson. “I see the President holding super spreader events to protest an election that he lost with no regard for people attending and health care workers who will have to take care of them like my wife. I was at my tipping point and used language that I should not have. It was an emotional time and I made the statement in haste. It is time for this country to come together and fight this pandemic. It is real.” The post drew several comments from Rant readers, most in support of Sharpe’s words. _____________ Cameron and I were pallbearers, standing next to each other and former police officers and others who served with our friend Kevin Dodson, who died following a valiant struggle against COVID. Like Cameron, I have been very, very angry, unusually so, at COVID-deniers of late. That’s the context everyone is missing. Trump has spent the entire pandemic denying COVID. And [Commissioner] Kirk Smith called it “media hype designed to destroy our economy.” In the last couple of days, I cursed out a handful of people on a social media thread who were calling COVID a hoax, or claiming the vaccine will kill people — the difference is, I’m not a county commissioner who lives in the fishbowl of a small town. Anger is a part of grief. That’s not an excuse, either for my comments online or Cameron’s, but it’s a reason. COVID-19 has killed good men and women, long before their time. People like Trump or Kirk Smith, who dismiss it as a hoax or simply media hype, will draw the wrath of those of us who are dealing with pain from loss to this pandemic. Jay Calendine

_____________ Good gosh. Cameron Sharpe is the most pragmatic elected leader Lee County has in office. He puts aside his personal political beliefs to do what is right for the people he represents. I have known Cameron for at least four decades and know how much he cares for the people he represents in Lee County. My stepson might still be on the wrong track, if not worse, if it wasn’t for Cameron helping him get accepted to a program for convicted felons to learn a skill that helps that person get and keep a decent paying job. Cameron’s focus as a county commissioner has been pretty simple. Safety, jobs and education. He has been successful at all three. I suspect Cameron wishes he didn’t hit the enter button with that post, but I doubt there is a single person that uses social media that wishes the same for some post he/she made. Jeff Cashion _____________

well. Neither party should use those words against the president, former president, staff, etc. Mr. Sharpe, you represent Lee County, so if anything you should be setting an example in a positive manner for everyone regardless of your political views. At least The Rant is following up with this story. I guess the Sanford Herald doesn’t want to share this information. Robert Thomas

LOVE FOR BEANS In December, we published the story of Beans — a pit-bull puppy who was partially paralyzed after an injury sustained while tethered in somebody’s back yard for his entire life. The pup was rescued and taken to Dr. Julie Davis of Carolina Veterinary Hospital in Sanford. Beans has a permanent home at the vet clinic and is getting better by the day. _____________ Tethering should be prohibited everywhere, not just in some counties. Hopefully the law got a hold of whoever did this to that poor dog and they get what they deserve and not be allowed to have another

animal again. Love and respect to Dr. Davis for all that she does. Meredith Repko _____________ Dr. Davis is amazing with special needs animals and stray pets that need help. She is awesome. She works vigilantly to find homes for the ones in need. She is also an asset for feral cats in Lee County. They must be spayed and neutered to reduce the population. We have tried to present this issue to the local government, but are told the funding is not there. We love Dr. Julie for her efforts to help the animals in Sanford. Teri Calcutt _____________ I love Dr. Julie! She’s been out vet for a while — ever since she took over for the previous owner. She has a special place in our hearts after we had to put down our George last year. She really went above and beyond for us. K.M. Dubya _____________

The only mistake Sharpe made was apologizing. Trump’s refusal to concede undermines American democracy. Instead of looking for ways to make this county better, a majority voted for people who want to defund our schools and shame poor children with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You do this all while calling yourselves “Christians.”

WE BUY HOUSES “We do business ethically...Always”

The fact that all Lee Republicans on the board of commissioners chose Smith to be the chairman is proof of the abhorrent values Lee County Republicans stand for. Luke Cassidy _____________ The comment was a poor choice but I totally understand the frustration that led to it. We are all human and the ignorance of so many in 2020 has pushed many of us to the breaking point. I get it. Ron Coley _____________ Regardless if you like the president or do not like him, it doesn’t excuse the individual from using words like “dead.” Sorry, Mr. Sharpe, this goes for you as



336.705.1660 (24HR RECORDED MESSAGE)


12 | January 2021


A computer rendering concept of a potential passenger rail station along First Street in Downtown Sanford, provided by the City of Sanford. North Carolina was awarded a $900,000 grant recently to launch a S Line, connecting the South Carolina and Virgina borders. Under the state’s plans, Sanford would be a stop.


RAIL’S RETURN IMMINENT State awarded $900K grant for the S Line that will connect Virginia and S.C. borders, with Sanford one of the many stops

By Gordon Anderson The train is coming. When and where (exactly where, we mean, since we do have a pretty good general idea) are unknown as yet, but the announcement in December that North Carolina had been awarded a $900,000 federal grant to develop the so-called S Line — which runs right through Sanford from the Virginia border to South Carolina — for use by passenger trains made it official. The train is on the tracks, and it’s

headed this way. The Rant Monthly reported way back in March (anybody else remember that time before the pandemic?) on the efforts by local and state officials to secure the grant and the possibilities it offered for travel, economic development, and more. But December’s announcement brought the project from the realm of possibility into reality. The most likely path forward involves a temporary platform at Depot Park with an eye on a more permanent location

somewhere nearby. It’s far from a done deal, but one location that’s generated some interest both from city government and potential developers is the vacant Singer Building on First Street, behind the old City Hall. “There are a few options, of course, but the city owns the (nearby) King Roofing building and there’s been a study by the (Development Finance Initiative) showing what things could look like there,” Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said.


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It makes plenty of sense — the tracks pass right by back of the old furniture factory, which already has an existing if dilapidated platform. And with hundreds of thousands of square feet available, the site could conceivably serve as far more than just a train station, assuming the willingness of a developer to invest the necessary resources to make the space workable for retail or residential uses (or both). In short, the presence of passenger rail could serve as a catalyst for development in an area which sorely needs it. Sanford resident Lisa Mathis serves as a member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation and said the grant is a “transit-oriented development” one which will mostly be used for planning, since much of the physical infrastructure — such as the rails themselves — are already in place. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into something like this,” Mathis said, explaining that issues such as navigating what planners refer to as “the last mile” take a lot of thought. “You don’t want to have a stop and then it’s a dead end.” Mathis and Mann both pointed to the city of Wilson’s partnership with a company called Via — an Uber or Lyft-like service targeted at workers — on such “last mile” issues as a potential avenue for addressing such needs, and an example of the many issues that need to be sorted out ahead of time on a project of this type. But Mathis said something like Via doesn’t even necessarily require a passenger train stop to provide utility to a community like Sanford. “There are a lot of people who are one car issue away from not being able to get to the doctor or to their college classes,” she said. “Something like Via could help our community even ahead of a train.” One of the first steps will involve selecting which of the several communities along the S Line — in addition to Sanford, stops are planned in Henderson, Wake Forest, Raleigh, Southern Pines, and Hamlet — will serve as a pilot program for the larger effort. Mathis said Sanford is uniquely positioned for that role. “The whole reason we’d be most obvious for a pilot rail is that the track is in great shape between Sanford and Raleigh, which is not necessarily the case for the rest of the line,” she said. “The idea of a pilot would

One potential location for a passenger rail station in Sanford is the currently vacant Singer Building on First Street, behind the old City Hall in downtown Sanford. No formal plans have been approved for the future site. Photo by Billy Liggett

14 | January 2021


A familiar sight in the 1940s was a Seaboard diesel traine enginer pulling a load of passengers and/or freight tthrough the middle of downtown Sanford. Passenger service from the Sanford depot continued until 1971, when Amtrak took over all service. Photo from the collection of Jimmy Haire be to give us a much shorter area to run the program and see what works and what doesn’t. And then we can add to it as it grows — it’s a much smaller entry instead of waiting for the whole rail to be done. And it can show other cities across the state what kind of successes can happen, because it’s not just a big thing for Sanford, or North Carolina. It’s a huge thing for the whole east coast.” And while the timing is unclear — for plenty of reasons, COVID-19 not least among them — Mann said he thinks Sanford residents should expect to be able to take a train to Raleigh and back sooner than later. “When grant money is awarded like this, there’s an expectation that it be spent,” he said. “So I’m anticipating that this will be a 2021 project.”

THE RIGHT FIT FOR SANFORD The addition of the S Line in Sanford would pave the way for a new train station downtown. Pictured above is Raleigh’s new Amtrak station. Photo courtesy of N.C. DOT.

Almost 150 years after its founding, trains still come through Sanford every day. It makes sense. Sanford is named, after all, for C.O. Sanford, the first civil

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rantnc.com engineer who worked on the train tracks that very literally led to the city’s incorporation in 1874. The trains that pass through every day mostly do just that — they pass through. While they pick up and drop off some of the freight they’re carrying, but passengers can’t embark or debark. In any case, not only do those rail lines still exist, they’re still active. So it makes a certain amount of sense that those rail lines — so essential to Sanford’s past — have a good chance of paving the way into Sanford’s future, particularly with regard to transportation. The line’s current use is largely for freight, but many leaders see prioritizing it for commuters as the way of the future. According to Mathis, the idea for passenger rail in this city has been well received — in large part because trains are not just a large part of Sanford’s past, but the entire country’s. That legacy, she said, can help put folks’ minds at ease when they’re learning about transportation challenges the state could face in the future. “We’re not talking in this instance about drones, or automated cars, or things that can scare people at some level. With trains, we’re looking at our past. We were told that 50 percent of the growth in the United States in the next 10 years is going to occur in four states, Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina,” she said. “We know we need to do things differently. And this opportunity of this rail line coming up for sale, it feels like a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to affect congestion up and down this area and help people make decisions about their mobility.” One benefit many leaders see in the project is the opportunity it will provide for economic development both in Sanford and statewide. The proposed S Line would connect the city with Raleigh — giving commuters and visitors a straight-line travel option without having to worry about traffic or fuel costs. Jason Orthner, director of NCDOT’s Rail Division, pointed to Denton, Texas — a town about 40 miles outside of Dallas — as an example of a smaller city which has benefited economically from a rail line connection to a bigger one. “Denton has a commuter service that’s helped their smaller city grow really well,”

he said. “But I think generally, the idea with these types of systems is to connect more rural communities with urban communities to help them flourish and grow while not having to deal with traffic patterns, while also creating economic development around station sites.”




Mathis concurred, noting that because the way we travel is connected to just about every other part of our lives, the ramifications are bigger than just economic development, or having a train stop in town, or any other single issue. “Think about people with mobility issues that could go up and down on the train and then not have to worry about a car. What if somebody lives in Raleigh but can’t afford to live there? Or works in Raleigh, right?” Mathis added. “But they can totally afford to live down here or a little ways out of town. It would absolutely help with affordable housing as well. I think it’s a jobs issue, I think it’s an economic development idea. I mean, it helps with a lot of things.” But make no mistake — the economic benefits are real. In Denton’s case, the Texas county’s A-train commuter rail has led to benefits such as $11.8 million in new property and sales tax revenue for cities who are members of the Denton County Transit Authority, an influx of upwardly mobile professionals, significantly reduced transportation costs, and a reduction in emissions harmful to the environment. And while many commuters may initially jump at the chance to use the train between Raleigh and Sanford for work purposes (many companies, for example, provide shuttle service for employees, something that could be eliminated or drastically curtailed by the presence of a train station in Sanford, potentially in exchange for some private buy-in), there’s an even broader opportunity for those traveling further, whether that travel is for business or pleasure. “What it does is it opens up the possibility for us to get to a train literally anywhere north of Richmond. Once you get to Richmond, it just all opens up. And we could take a train, then, from Sanford to D.C. We could take a train from Sanford to New York City,” Mathis said. “The success of what can happen here can affect the entire East Coast. It’s bigger than just us. This is a big deal, is what this is.”


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16 | January 2021

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N E W Y E A R ’ S H E A LT H & W E L L N E S S

NO PLACE LIKE OM The pandemic nearly derailed local entrepreneur Jan Smith’s plans to open a yoga studio in downtown Sanford. With hope of a return to ‘normal’ in this new year, Seva Yoga might be the answer for those looking to shed the stress of 2020. By Billy Liggett


owntown Sanford got a yoga studio in a year when many people — those experiencing high levels of stress, anxiety and even depression — needed yoga most. Yet, it’s the root of all of that stress (COVID-19) that has limited the number of people who can work out in an indoor studio and enjoy the escape and health benefits that yoga offers. It’s the ultimate Catch-22. Or, rather, Catch-2020. But like the practice she teaches, Jan Smith — owner of Seva Yoga at 235 Wicker Street in downtown Sanford — has kept a positive mindset throughout the first four months of launching her new business. Her studio will one day run at capacity. Her clients will one day feel comfortable exercising indoors among their peers. And when the world is ready to move on and shed the negativity of the past nine months, yoga will be there.

Seva Yoga is located at 235 Wicker Street in Downtown Sanford, on the second floor of the building shared with Back 2 Dirt Bike Shop. Photo by Alicia Hite

18 | January 2021


Jan Smith studied biology and science as an undergrad at Wake Forest University and as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill. She’s found that education has served her well as a yoga instructor. Photo by Alicia Hite

“There’s definitely been an atmosphere of anxiety with 2020,” says Smith, a native of Broadway. “Yoga has become something familiar and comfortable for a lot of people during this time. It just helps you feel better physically and mentally. It’s a big stress reliever. “And that’s something we could all use right now.”



oga was never part of the plan for Jan Smith, a Lee County High School graduate who studied biology and science at Wake Forest University and UNC-Chapel Hill. She studied cell biology research in grad school and took courses in anatomy with medical students — that education would eventually serve her well as a yoga

instructor, as understanding the body and how it moves (flexion and extension) is crucial in understanding the benefits of yoga. “I always thought I would teach in some capacity,” she says. “But, of course, I never thought it would be yoga. It turns out, I use anatomy a ton now … it’s really come in handy.” Smith hadn’t tried yoga until her late 20s — after college and after she and her husband Brian had their first two children 17 months apart. She stayed home with the children while Brian was in his orthodontics residency, and she took her first yoga classes at the old Nautilus in the evenings when she could find the time. She instantly fell in love with it. “It was exercise. It was a mental break. It was stress relief. It was all of these things

wrapped up into a one-hour class,” she says. “I stuck with it pretty consistently for the next 12 to 13 years.” It wasn’t until 2017 when a friend of Smith’s convinced her to try a yoga teaching training program with her in Durham. She went into those classes not necessarily with the intention of becoming a teacher, but to simply learn more about the practice itself. “When I got out, I felt like I’d learned so much,” she says. “I was even more enthusiastic about it, and I wanted to share that enthusiasm with other people. I knew that it made me feel better, and I knew that it could make other people feel better. I’d gained such a new depth of knowledge in that teacher training, and that enthusiasm led me to want to teach others.”



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oga has been around for over 4,000 years — originating in India and surviving and thriving on three core elements: physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. It has proven to be more than just a “relaxation therapy” for those who practice it — Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine recently published an article on the “9 Benefits of Yoga” and recommended it for people going through an illness, recovering from surgery or living with chronic pain. Among the benefits: improved strength, pain relief, better heart health and more energy. Smith’s background in biology and clinical research made her well suited to better understand these health benefits, and her time spent in teacher training sparked the idea that she could do this full time. By 2019, she’d already taught a few classes at the local YMCA, and at year’s end, she had taken the first steps toward opening her own studio. The first hurdle was location.

Seva Yoga has yet to enjoy a full studio since the start of the pandemic. Classes since September have included anywhere from two to six participants (all masked). Photo by Alicia Hite

20 | January 2021

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@therant905 Fortunately, Smith and her husband knew Charlie Storm, who was in the process of moving his business, Back to Dirt Bike Shop, from the Tramway area to downtown Sanford (next door to Hugger Mugger Brewing Co.). The entire first floor of the building was enough for Storm’s business — the second floor had been used as storage (and before that, an apartment) by the previous owners. “We just happened to kind of tag along with Charlie one day when he was looking at the building, and we wandered upstairs, saw this space and thought, ‘Wow … this is a cool space,’” Smith says. “Before that, I’d had friends who were encouraging me to teach more or to open my own studio. After seeing this space, I saw the possibilities. I thought Sanford could really use something like this. A yoga studio could be great for downtown.” The decision to take the leap and start her own business came in January. Smith knew she had what it took to teach yoga and she now had the space. What she lacked was the experience of running her own business. Her friend Kelli Laudate, executive director of Downtown San-

ford Inc., introduced Smith to the Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs program — also known as RISE — which, fortunately, was accepting applications for its inaugural class around this time. The program, which introduced the students to local business owners and provided a crash course in business planning and the ins and outs of starting a company, was hosted by the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce and DSI, in conjunction with the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center. Smith was among a group of 12 in the inaugural class, which was tasked with presenting a business plan as a final project. Her plan for Seva Yoga earned Smith a $5,000 grant from the City of Sanford to help jump start her business. “Writing the business plan was probably the most beneficial thing I got from RISE,” Smith says. “Just having to sit there, think step-by-step about how I was going to do this. It was a huge help … that and all the marketing advice that I got. I’ve never been a big social media person, but I knew I needed to learn it and market to my target audience.”

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va Rogers — one of five teachers/instructors on the staff at Seva (along with Smith, Dana Rubick, Kathryn Brownfield and Holly Glasson) — calls downtown Sanford’s yoga studio “long overdue.”

Seva Yoga studio in downtown Sanford has looked different since opening to the public in September. Masks are required, mats are spread out, and classes are kept small to meet state guidelines on indoor gatherings. Photos by Billy Liggett

And at a time when anxiety, stress and depression are at peak levels during the global pandemic (especially for parents), Rogers says Sanford needs more health and wellness options like Seva. “I think Jan took her love of yoga and the love of her hometown and took a chance,” she says. “Yoga is truly for everyone, I feel, and the benefits are real to your body, mind and spirit.” Smith was well into launching her business when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all non-essential businesses in March. She admits that, at first, she took the ban on all indoor workout facilities as a sign that perhaps starting a business in 2020 was a bad idea. “I was always hopeful, but there were definitely times when I would wake up at

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night and think, ‘What am I doing?’” she says. “And especially when I signed the lease. But I kept telling myself we were going to pull this off, and everything was going to be OK.”

in her class benefiting from the physical demands of yoga, they were also grateful for the chance to lower their stress levels and focus on something other than homeschooling and Zoom calls.

Seva Yoga officially began as an outdoor class. Smith taught in people’s backyards or outside of community centers in those first months over the summer. Her first clients were friends and friends of friends. Many were thrilled to get back into yoga after months of staying home and developing bad exercise habits. Many others were just happy to get out of the house and be among friends, even if at a distance.

“There’s definitely a mental health benefit there,” she says. “This past year has carried with it an atmosphere of anxiety. Those who stopped doing yoga and got back into it this year — it provided something familiar and soothing to them. It’s a big stress reliever, and many people need that right now.”

Smith saw that not only were people

On Sept. 14 — the day North Carolina transitioned to Safer at Home Phase 2.5, allowing for the reopening of workout

facilities and other indoor areas — Seva Yoga officially opened as a studio. Smith’s first class had exactly two people in it. But it was a start. And Smith knew it would take time for people to feel comfortable working out indoors again. The group that arrived for the Dec. 28 afternoon class numbered five — just below the current capacity of six. Each mat was spread out. Each woman in the class wore a mask. A few talked about eating too much over the holiday break. Some things never change. While January would typically be a much busier month for yoga studios and gyms — thanks to New Year’s resolutions

and the overall desire to burn off those extra pounds from the holidays — there’s a lot of uncertainty about the shortterm future. While the approval of two COVID-19 vaccines are cause for hope, current case numbers in Lee County and North Carolina are at an all-time high. According to Smith, many who joined her for those outdoor workouts are still unsure about joining others indoors. But the vaccines offer something that 2020 lacked, and that’s hope. And when people are comfortable indoors again, Smith and her studio will be there for them. A desire to serve others is the inspiration for the name Seva, which is Sanskrit

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rantnc.com for “selfless service” or work performed without any thought of reward or repayment. In ancient India, seva was believed to help one’s spiritual growth and at the same time, contribute to the improvement of a community. “I just thought it was a really nice concept,” Smith says. “Let us help you. This is our service that we’re providing — yoga is here to help you feel better and make you a healthier person. That’s ‘Seva,’ and that’s our goal in all of this.”

9 Benefits of Yoga

New Year Resolutions

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine recommends yoga to support the healing process and help people experience their symptoms with “more centeredness and less distress.” The school recently listed nine benefits of practicing yoga. They are:

If you’re looking to make a couple resolutions to take better care of yourself, these are a great place to start. After all, there’s no better time to focus on your health than right now.

Improved strength, balance and flexibility: Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles, while holding a pose can build strength.

Help with back pain relief: Yoga is as good as basic stretching for easing pain and improving mobility in people with lower back pain. The American College of Physicians recommends yoga as a first-line treatment for chronic low back pain.

Easing arthritis symptoms: Gentle yoga has been shown to ease some of the discomfort of tender, swollen joints for people with arthritis, according to a Johns Hopkins review of 11 recent studies.

Benefit heart health: Regular yoga practice may reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation, contributing to healthier hearts. Several of the factors contributing to heart disease, including high blood pressure and excess weight, can also be addressed through yoga.

Relaxation and better sleep: Research shows that a consistent bedtime yoga routine can help you get in the right mindset and prepare your body to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Learn more about Seva Yoga at sevayoganc.com or visit the business page on Facebook

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More energy, brighter moods: You may feel increased mental and physical energy, a boost in alertness and enthusiasm, and fewer negative feelings after getting into a routine.

Stress management: According to the National Institutes of Health, scientific evidence shows that yoga supports stress management, mental health, mindfulness, healthy eating, weight loss and quality sleep.

Connections with a supportive community: Participating in yoga classes can ease loneliness and provide an environment for group healing and support. Even during one-on-one sessions loneliness is reduced as one is acknowledged as a unique individual, being listened to and participating in the creation of a personalized plan.

Promotion of better self care: The U.S. military, the National Institutes of Health and other large organizations are listening to — and incorporating — scientific validation of yoga’s value in health care. Source: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Eating Healthy: There’s a reason why healthy eating is always mentioned as a big contributor to your health. Because it’s true. Healthy eating can reduce your risk of illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It can help boost your energy, sharpen your mind and improve your mental health. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Simple changes can help make a big difference. Incorporate more vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and healthy grains into your diet.

Getting Moving: Physical activity is one of the best tools to improve or maintain good physical and mental health. Regular exercise can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, help reduce your risk for heart disease, strengthen your bones and muscles and help you reduce stress and anxiety. As little as 30 minutes a day can be effective. If you’re not used to regular exercise or feel like you don’t have time in your schedule for it, try simple activities like a lunchtime walk, playing in the backyard with your kids or pets, or a home workout using an aerobics or yoga video. The important thing is to get moving.

Staying on Top of Your Health: Taking charge of your own health is essential to your overall well-being. Establishing a good, trusting relationship with a primary care provider and scheduling annual physical exams can play a big role in helping you to do this. Annual exams can help prevent unwanted health surprises and setbacks, aid in early diagnosis of any conditions to help achieve the best outcomes and allow you to discuss any health concerns you have comfortably and confidentially.

Reducing Stress: We’ve all experienced some level of stress at one time or another. It’s a natural reaction when things aren’t going as smoothly as we’d like. However, managing stress is important to maintaining physical and mental health. Too much stress can cause depression and increase blood pressure and weight gain, among other dangers to your health. Try to identify your “stressors” and learn how to manage your stress. Eating healthy and exercising are great helps, so if you’re following the first two tips, you’re well on your way. Source: Central Carolina Hospital

24 | January 2021



REIVES ELECTED TO LEAD N.C. DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS State Rep. Robert Reives II, a Sanford native who now represents Chatham County and part of Durham County in the North Carolina state House of Representatives, was elected unanimously by his peers as leader of the chamber’s Democratic caucus in December. From the News & Observer: “He’s someone that is so expressive on the floor and carries our message so well,” said Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Democrat from Durham. “I think he’s going to be excellent.” Reives previously served as co-chair of the House Democrats’ freshman Caucus and treasurer of the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus. “I am honored to serve and look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues and Governor Cooper to move North Carolina forward,” Reives said in a press release. Reives was appointed to represent District 54 – which at that time was comprised of Chatham and part of Lee County – in January of 2014 and elected to a full term later that year (the district was redrawn in 2017 to remove the Lee County precincts). He became deputy leader of the Democrats’ state house caucus in December of 2016.

Danny “Count” Koker, star of History’s “Counting Cars,” teamed up with local car dealer John Heister for a web feature on the restoration of 14 classic cars and trucks. Photos: Youtube (above) and Instagram (below)


Local car dealer gains national acclaim for ingenious contest By Jonathan Owens Just like the rest of the world, the COVID-19 upended the entire automobile industry — especially dealerships. A prolonged “stay at home” order ground daily commutes to a halt and left both sales and service in the lurch. Central North Carolina megadealer John Hiester decided to get creative to keep his four dealerships and his workers working. His ingenious solution has gained national attention. A lover of old cars, Hiester purchased 14 classic automobiles and created a con-

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rantnc.com test for his service departments — each team would take 3-4 of them to restore and the best car would be auctioned off for charity. The idea caught on quick, and blossomed into a partnership with a celebrity in the car restoration industry. Hiester teamed with Danny “Count” Koker, the star of History’s “Counting Cars” television show, to produce a web series to chronicle the venture. The web series, named “Count’s Kulture,” has proven to be wildly popular, with the introduction episode now sitting at more than 4 million views on YouTube as of Dec. 30. “When (the pandemic) first started we were scared and nervous,” Hiester explained in the opening episode of the origins of the contest. “I love old classic cars, but my guys never get a chance to work on them because they’re always busy with their cars. So I thought ‘What if I bought some classic cars and we just paid them to work on them the same way we do customer cars?’”

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The 14 vehicles represent a wide range of automotive history from the last 50 years. The crews work on everything from a 1978 Jeep J10 and CJ5 to a 1972 Dodge Dart to a 1969 Plymouth Roadrunner to a 1991 Chevy truck. In each episode, the service specialists for a particular car discuss their rebuilds with Koker himself and ask him questions to improve their work. After the last episode is posted, viewers will be able to vote on the Hiester restoration they like the best. The winning vehicle will be raffled off for charity. In the introduction to the series, Koker, whose show has run for nine seasons and counting, said he was drawn to the contest because of its symbolism in the darkness of the pandemic.

"The Sanford Depot connects the past to the present and welcomes all to Sanford … then and now." follow us In the journey to renovate the historic Depot

“I love to see positive stuff going on during these crazy times,” Koker said. “I love to see a gentleman like (Hiester) taking care of his people and giving them something positive to do.”

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Plans for the renovated building include: A welcome desk staffed with friendly and knowledgeable locals Digital kiosks stocked with information about all that Sanford offers A multi-purpose room for meetings and gatherings Curated cultural, history, and art exhibits and displays Interested in supporting this piece of history https://friendsofsanford.com/donate/

26 | January 2021



WORK BEGINS ON LONG-RUMORED POPEYES Work appears to have begun on a Sanford location of Popeyes in the parking lot of the strip mall anchored by Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Planet Fitness on South Horner Boulevard. As of mid-December, visible site preparation work was visibly under way. The project has been known for some time, with plans on file with local government that are more than a year old showing the store going next to the new Biscuitville which opened in August. But the speed of the process had led many to speculate in local comment sections that plans had been canceled or changed. The Rant is told that the developer applied for a building permit in mid October, so actual construction should begin any time.

BAUTISTA GRILL COMING TO HAWKINS AVENUE A permit issued in November by the Sanford-Lee County Inspections Division indicates that a restaurant called Bautista Grill is in the works at 1612 Hawkins Ave. The permit indicates that “renovation of existing (dwelling) to convert to commercial use for proposed restaurant” under the name Bautista Grill will be undertaken at that location. The property already appears to have undergone significant renovations in recent years.

D.J. Gunter and Carter Forbes of Sanford own and operate Wildlife Collections, which has partnered with Sea Turtle Conservancy, the nation’s oldest sea turtle rescue organization.



Buyers of Sanfordowned Wildlife Collections bracelets are also helping save and research sea turtles By Charles Petty In an age of ethical business models, one local company is selling products not just to make a profit, but also to help in the effort for the conservation of wildlife. Operating in Sanford is a company owned and operated by two lifelong

friends — D.J. Gunter and Carter Forbes. Forbes and Gunter are childhood pals who wanted to start a business that was unique and had a purpose. Both attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and always had a love of the ocean, so it felt right to start off selling an ocean-themed product. That product was jewelry to begin with, but the pair soon started to think of ways to diversify the brand. After getting out of college, Forbes and Gunter began an after hours, parttime collaborative effort for online retail space dedicated to that, which Forbes described as “stumbling into it happily and learning along the way.”

“When we go out of college and wanted to co-create this company, we needed to be able to work on it after hours from out regular nine to five jobs,” Forbes explained. “During lunch breaks, holidays, weekends, it was in these periods of time where we were able to begin most of our work.” This past year, a small side project aimed at rehabilitating turtles really took off. Wildlife Collections, the name of the new venture, gives buyers the opportunity to track an actual animal. Along with selling the jewelry, the two friends wanted an opportunity to give back and help wildlife conservation. The company began marketing bracelets that benefit aquatic wildlife like sea turtles

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rantnc.com and whales while tying the items to specific, real-world animals. Among the organizations that Wildlife Collections collaborates with is the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the oldest and arguably the most accomplished sea turtle organization in the world, headquartered in Gainesville, Florida. The group’s research and conservation efforts reach from Florida to Costa Rica and Panama, and the group tracks turtles for the purposes of research to study nesting habitats. This organization has been alongside Wildlife Collections to help spread awareness on turtle rescues and nest tracking. Forbes thought the idea of tracking animals with the purchase of a bracelet was both a unique marketing tool and a great way to help conservation. “It would be great for customers to get with their bracelet their own animal to help track and protect,” he said. For obvious reasons, Wildlife Collections has been able to fit well into an online market. Not having to be commit-

ted to a brick-and-mortar store helped Gunter and Forbes be much more flexible in expanding their business model. For example, the company started off pretty small to begin with but was able to grow over time by word of mouth. Now, Wildlife Collections has taken off, to an extent. While they’re still working their day jobs, Gunter and Forbes have seen a significant increase in sales and demand for the bracelets. Forbes and Gunter are now hoping to expand Wildlife Collections in the near future to include other animals, and to find more animal conservation organizations with which to partner with aid in saving precious wildlife. “Our main mission is to make people happy as possible with our product and making an impact saving animals,” Forbes said. For more information about the company, visit www.wildlifecollections.com.


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28 | January 2021


Photo: Don Callahan, Inside Carolina, 247 Sports


THE ROAD TO ECU Football standout to join Pirates after pivoting from UNC and spending a season at a military academy in Virginia

By Chris DeLambert


riend of The Rant Chris deLambert caught up recently with former Lee County Yellow Jacket standout Jayden Chalmers, his father Jerry and his former high school head coach Steve Burdeau to discuss the defensive back’s semester at Fork Union Military Academy in Virgina, as well his decision to play collegiate ball in 2021 at East Carolina University and not UNC Chapel Hill, as had originally been planned. Jayden Chalmers tweeted the news on Dec. 16. “I felt ECU genuinely loved Jayden from the very beginning. I mean, there

was not a day that went by that we did not have mail from ECU,” Jerry Chalmers told deLambert. “On Mother’s Day … We had a box outside of our mailbox. What in the world is this? And it was cards from each and every single player.”

wise. Not so much to go play football or whatever like that, but mentality wise, he needed Fork Union.”

Jerry Chalmers further indicated that the outcome of his son heading to Greenville, while unexpected, seemed almost meant to be in hindsight.

“East Carolina is getting a great young man,” Burdeau said. “He made a lot of plays as a key member of our Eastern Championship team; now he has the opportunity to extend his athletic career and most importantly the chance to earn a college education. We are proud of the work he has put in while fighting through any adversity that has gotten in the way

“I just feel like ECU was mint. Coach Houston told him that everything happens for a reason. I told him the same thing,” he said. “And going to Fork Union, he needed that, as far as mentality

Yellow Jacket Head Coach Steve Burdeau said the Pirates should definitely see benefits from recruiting Chalmers.

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rantnc.com throughout this process.”

ECU was the first to show you some attention, or is there anything else about the program that you were particularly interested in?

This interview with Jayden has been slightly edited for length and clarity. DELAMBERT: Let’s start with the recruiting process with ECU. So you had an offer to UNC, and I think a lot of people were under the impression that you were going to start at UNC this last year. Talk about what’s gone on in the last six months, and what you’ve been doing over the last six months. CHALMERS: Over the last six months, when COVID first hit we weren’t doing too much but probably going to the field, staying in shape. Then my dad’s friend, he went out and bought some weights and stuff so we started lifting at his house. Then I was getting prepared to go up there to Fork Union for the Blue Devils football game so I can get it right. Then after that, there’s been a lot there. Then everything football, getting some schoolwork done and stuff like that. DELAMBERT: Okay. So you’ve spent the last semester at Fork Union. Did they play a full schedule at Fork Union? CHALMERS: Yeah, we played like — I want to say like 10 games? But I think it might be way more. Yeah. DELAMBERT: And how did that go for you personally? CHALMERS: It wasn’t good. I got a concussion probably like the third game or fourth game of the season and I was out for like three weeks. DELAMBERT: Oh man. Are you feeling better now? CHALMERS: Oh, yes, sir. I am good. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. DELAMBERT: Okay. So on the field while you were at Lee County, you played offense and you played defense. You played corner on defense and a wide receiver on offense. What did you do at Fork Union? CHALMERS: I played mostly safety, and then close to the end of the season I went back to DB, defensive back, corner. DELAMBERT: Okay. Did you return any kicks or play special teams? CHALMERS: Oh, yes, sir. I played kick return. DELAMBERT: Okay. So your offer with North Carolina was still intact at the end of the semester, but you chose ECU.

CHALMERS: They were the first school to show me interest and plus when I was going down there, the atmosphere first. And the first game that they invited me to, they played North Carolina at ECU and ECU beat them. That was like the craziest thing. DELAMBERT: Okay. Had you ever been to Greenville before that recruiting visit? CHALMERS: No, sir. That was my first time. That was my first time.

Image tweeted by Jayden Chalmers on Dec. 16, announcing his decision to sign with East Carolina University.

CHALMERS: Right. DELAMBERT: Tell us how that went down. CHALMERS: So basically once I went there, I can kind of re-class into class of ’21. So I can still get recruited by other schools. When COVID hit, they letting all seniors basically have an extra year of eligibility to play again. So, North Carolina, they got too many DBs and ECU, they were the first school that started recruiting me, from the jump for football. So I always had love for ECU. Because at one point I was going to Greenville almost every weekend during my junior year in football, watching football games and stuff like that. DELAMBERT: So ECU had been involved in the process even before North Carolina came into the picture a year ago? CHALMERS: Yes, sir. DELAMBERT: Who was it at ECU that led the recruiting? Was it Coach Houston, or was it one of the coordinators, or, who was it that drove the train? CHALMERS: DB coach. Coach Lynch. Before that it was another coach named Coach Garrett Riley, but he don’t coach at ECU no more. DELAMBERT: Okay. Is it just that

DELAMBERT: Okay. So during the recruiting process last year, a lot of people know that you and Des Evans are really good friends and it looked like both of you were going to be go to North Carolina. How was it telling Des that you weren’t going to go to Chapel Hill with him? CHALMERS: It wasn’t that hard telling him. We real, real close. So it wasn’t hard telling Des. And that’s all. Yeah, we real close so he’s going to respect my decision. Anything, so he respect my decision. So yeah. DELAMBERT: So you spent a year at Fork Union, but you still have four years of eligibility. CHALMERS: Yeah, I did a semester at Fork Union. DELAMBERT: Okay, you did the semester there. Do you feel like you can get onto the field next year with the people out there? Can they anticipate seeing you on the field, or do you think that you might ease your way into the program? CHALMERS: Well, I’m going to see the field. They told me I’m going to see the field as a freshman. DELAMBERT: Okay. And that’ll be as a cornerback? CHALMERS: Yes, sir. DELAMBERT: Okay. What do you think the feeling for you is? CHALMERS: Oh, it’s still good. They was the first school to start recruiting me. So it was basically like, “You got a second chance at that school.” DELAMBERT: All right. From Lee County, we’ve got players all over the state.

Between Southern and Lee County, we’ve got players at App, we got players at UNC, got players at NC State, players at Duke, but we haven’t had any players at ECU. Are you going to be working on some of those young men in the Lee County program to get them to come out there and be Pirates right alongside of you? CHALMERS: Oh yeah. I’m working on them right now. Yes, sir. DELAMBERT: All right. Very good. So with COVID, COVID has affected a lot of people in a lot of different ways. You’ve been inside a program, a college program at Fork Union. Talk about the complications and the struggles and how different do you think it was because of COVID and all of that than it would have been otherwise. CHALMERS: So before COVID hit, I guess like last year, they had weekend leaves. So they were going home, getting to see their family and stuff. This year, when COVID hit, you couldn’t leave campus. So we couldn’t see our families at all. They couldn’t come to campus. They couldn’t come to our games, our home games. None of that. We had to wear masks everywhere we went to, even inside the building. Even in our room. If it was like more than three people in the room, everybody had a mask on. It was rough. DELAMBERT: So now that you’ve committed to ECU, you’ll be up there starting next semester in January? Is that correct? CHALMERS: Right. Yes, sir. DELAMBERT: What are you planning to study outside of football? What are your academic goals? CHALMERS: Sports Marketing and Entertainment. DELAMBERT: So apart from ECU and North Carolina, what other schools got your attention during the recruiting process? CHALMERS: Syracuse, Georgia State, and Liberty. DELAMBERT: I imagine your family wasn’t too excited about you going all the way to Syracuse, to play in New York State were they? CHALMERS: Yeah, that was out of the question.

30 | January 2021

@therant905 ENVIRONMENT


SMITH LEAVING SAGA FOR POSITION IN CHATHAM Michael Smith, the Sanford Area Growth Alliance’s economic development director and former CEO, will leave the organization to become president of the Economic Development Corporation in neighboring Chatham County. The Chatham County Economic Development Corporation issued a press release about the news on Dec. 23. Smith is expected to begin work there on Jan. 25. “I am honored to have been selected to serve as the next President of the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation. This is an exciting opportunity to work in a fast-growing area that has an amazing group of assets in place, including the Chatham Park live/work/ play community, the 2,150-acre Triangle Innovation Point life science and advanced manufacturing park, and the 1,800 acre Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing mega site,” Smith said in the press release. “I am grateful to have held a leadership position in Sanford where our team had a record setting year. I look forward to building on this regional momentum in a location that’s a part of the Research Triangle Region and the center point of the Carolina Core.” Jimmy Randolph, SAGA’s current CEO, praised Smith in an email to The Rant and said he expects to continue working together given the two counties’ proximity.

Sara Fogle, Hayden Fogle, William Rose and Charles Petty from the Sandhills chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. Photo courtesy of Charles Petty

COAL ASH COMPANY DROPS APPEAL FOR DISPOSAL SITES Decision ends five-year legal battle against coal ash dumping sites in Lee, Chatham counties Local environmentalists celebrated on Dec. 16 after the owner of two proposed coal ash storage sites dropped their appeals to a 2019 ruling prohibiting the disposal of coal ash in Chatham and Lee Counties. The news came almost a year to the day of Judge Melissa Owens-Lassiter’s decision and closed the books on a case that has been in litigation for five years. A year ago, Owens-Lassiter revoked the

permits held by Green Meadow, LLC, a subsidiary of Charah Inc., the company hired by Duke Energy in 2014 to dispose of coal ash at the two locations in the Colon and Brickhaven communities. Charah had announced in September 2019 that it had no plans to bring any coal ash to Lee County. The original lawsuit was brought in 2015 by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL), Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump (CCACAD), and EnvironmentaLEE (ELEE), after Green Meadow received its permits. In a press release, the organizations proclaimed a victory in their fight to keep coal ash out of their communities. Judy Hogan, CCACAD president, said she was “delighted” to know Brickhaven will stay closed and commented about ongoing

groundwater contamination in the area. “There is pollution left behind in groundwater and no telling where else,” she said, adding the settlement also requires enhanced groundwater monitoring for five years, including additional wells and more frequent sampling. ELEE members Debbie Hall and Keely Wood issued a joint statement: “We have always been committed to the truth. We knew we were on the right side of environmental justice. We wish we could celebrate with all our members, especially those who live on Colon Road, who would have been directly affected. Winning this five-year court case just proves that community involvement and Lee County residents’ voices can and do make a difference.”

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Social Security DISABILITY Denied? Therese Vick, coal ash campaign coordinator for BREDL, said her organization knew coal ash was “wrong from the very beginning.” “The permits erroneously issued by DEQ allowed Duke Energy’s coal ash to be used as “mine reclamation,” she said, “even though most of the sites had never been mined. It is long past time that the DEQ develop regulations that are specific to coal ash, and not rely on a mish-mash of rules.”

Attorney Cathy Cralle-Jones of the Bryan Brice firm in Raleigh represented the groups and called the settlement (and dropping of the appeal) a needed bright spot in a tough 2020. “We can finally rest knowing no coal ash will ever go to the Colon mine and that no more coal ash will ever go to Brickhaven,” Cralle-Jones said. “These citizens fought to protect their communities and did not give up.”

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32 | January 2021

Let’s be honest: 2020 was a complete trainwreck of a year. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the good, the bad, the very bad, the very very bad ... and resolve to try to make 2021 just a little better, if we can.



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34 | January 2021


FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital registered nurses Jane Claire Dawkins, Petra Service, Lacey Hughes and Medina James appeared on thte cover of the June edition of The Rant Monthly. Photo courtesy of FirstHealth


THE YEAR IN COVERS COVID-19 was the big story throughout the year, but Sanford also saw change with new jobs, new housing and big announcementst


o, 2020 wasn’t the worst year ever. We did get our first full year of The Rant Monthly publications after launching four months into 2019. So there’s that. The following is a recap of the 12 editions we printed over the past year. Yes, it was COVID-19 heavy, but it was also a year that marked big changes in the fight for racial equality, a boost to the local economy in the form of jobs and new housing and the passing of a bond that will bring a multi-million dollar sports

park to Lee County in the coming years.

Join us in looking back at the year that was in Lee County, and believe us when we say, “It wasn’t all bad.” __________________

JANUARY OUT OF NETWORK Central Carolina Hospital started 2020 as a center of attention from The Rant

Monthly (something that would come to be commonplace a few short months later due to the pandemic). In January we reported that the facility was “out of network” for the insurance plan offered by Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina. That meant that approximately 2,000 Lee County residents would be without access to covered, non-emergency care at the community’s only hospital. Just prior to the publication of that article, BCBSNC reversed course to a degree, adding 12 local doctors to its list of

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The Rant Monthly January 2020

who could eventually account for an eight percent increase to the city’s population. But proponents point to an influx of new jobs combined with a housing shortage as reasons the project was not just good, but necessary. Regardless, the ground was broken on the project in July, and the first phase of new homes is well under way.



covered providers, bringing the total to 18. Quotable: “You feel comfortable with your doctor, and you have a rapport with him. Then all the sudden, you have to go far away and see somebody you don’t know. We might still have the same problem a year from now.” — Linda Diesfeld, one of the Lee County residents forced to either stick with BCBSNC and get a plan that is compliant with the Affordable Care Act but does not include CCH and many others in Sanford, or opt for a plan through Ambetter that costs more and covers less. Other stories in this edition: •

The War in A Scrapbook: One family’s tattered scrapbook holds Lee County’s WWII history

Movement in Wilrik Case?: Embezzlement indictment issued against former nonprofit owner

Tough End to a Stellar Run: Lee County football Yellow Jackets make it state championship __________________

FEBRUARY THE DEEP RIVER DIVIDE The Galvin’s Ridge subdivision, which will add nearly 1,000 homes on 420 acres of land in a part of the community currently defined by its rural character, was a bone of contention for many in the Deep River area. Opponents feared the project would irrevocably change the area’s landscape, adding traffic and an influx of new residents

Quotable: “Geographically, Sanford’s proximity to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Charlotte and the coast makes it an extremely attractive location. With all of this considered, this area stood out as a key gem for us and what we believe to be a good opportunity. We met with your various leaders in the Sanford community, and there was a strong desire expressed [by them] for the need for more housing.” — Chip Pickard, director of North Carolina operations for Criteria Development in Daphne, Alabama Quotable: “I have not been completely against the project — only that between the developer and the city, they’re wanting to just pack houses one onto another. When the developer says there will be 10 feet between each house, and each home will have 20 feet for the backyard and 20 feet for the front yard, how can the city not have a problem with that?” — Ron Noles, Lee County resident against the addition of the Galvin’s Ridge subdivision

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Quotable: “Look, we don’t mind if Deep River becomes another Apex. I think growth is great. If you don’t embrace growth in your town, then your town’s going to die. New homes means better restaurants and better places to shop. And if you look at some of the land and the homes around us and in that area, this development is definitely an improvement.


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Motorhomes parked in front yards, old trailers that probably aren’t safe enough for people to live in … when you see things like that, then, yeah, bring in something nicer. Bring in a new subdivision.” — Todd Pace, Deep River resident Other stories in this edition: •

The Rant appears on MTV’s Catfish: Not only did the reality show film here, this publication ended up being a part of the story

Downtown’s newest mural: Artist Chris Dalton’s butterfly wings transformed a downtown alley into an Instagram wall

The Ride Along: Rant co-founder Gordon Anderson spends two days with members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office narcotics unit __________________






The Rant Monthly March 2020


A group of women gather for a photo during a June protest in Sanford. Marchers called on local law enforcement agencies to put an end to unfair treatment of minorities and called on city leaders to promote racial equality.

Other stories in this edition:

PASSENGER RAIL'S y r e v POSSIBLE RETURN MARCH PASSENGER RAIL’S RETURN Elsewhere in this edition, you can read about the fact that passenger rail is set to come back to Sanford, and soon. In March, we looked at the idea when it was still just a possibility. Quotable: “Multi-modal means of transportation is something we’ve got to look at. And it’s not even about today, it’s over the next 20 years. Let’s face it — in 20 years, getting into downtown Raleigh by car may be next to impossible. And it’s so much easier and cheaper to add a rail line than to build new highways.” — Sanford Mayor Chet Mann

City files lawsuit to regain control of Wilrik Hotel

Historic Home to Go: House on Hillcrest slated for demolition 10 years after fire







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The Rant Monthly April 2020



APRIL COVID ARRIVES IN LEE CO. This was when everything started to change. The shutdown began in late March, you couldn’t find toilet paper anywhere, and by the end of the month, North Carolina had recorded about 800 cases of COVID-19, and three deaths — numbers that seem almost quaint looking back. Lee County had recorded two cases by that point, the beginning of a climb that slowed some in the late summer, but picked up again as temperatures cooled.

We'll get through this.

Quotable: “These are tough directives. But I need you to take them seriously. Although we’re physically apart, we must take these steps together in spirit. Our state will be stretched to capacity if we’re unable to contain this disease. Because no one is immune [and] because there is no vaccination, the best scientific tool we have to control the spread is keeping our social distance and staying at home.” — Gov. Roy Cooper, way back in March

Quotable: “How are parents who are also expected to work from home able to handle it? I delivered meals for Backpack Pals to two trailer parks in town [recently], and I do not see those kids having internet access nor a computer to work on — even with the ones the county loaned out. It’s tough times for the school system employees to work these details out.” — Sanford resident Jennifer Phillips Other stories in this edition: •

Tramway Fire Department saves the day for UNC hoops Coach Roy Williams after vehicle breakdown in Lee County

Wilrik lawsuit moves forward as judgment granted against housing nonprofit

Southern Lee taps Michael McClure to lead Cavalier football team __________________

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The Rant Monthly MAY 2020


We'll get through this MAY LOCKDOWN CONTINUES Sanford’s Lacey Mathis opened up to The Rant about her experience with COVID-19. The then-19 year old was Lee County’s first recorded case of the virus, and she spent a month plus recovering. “This is a very painful virus, and I want as few people as possible to get it,” she said at the time. Quotable: “I’ve had symptoms for the past month. I sleep 20 hours a day, which is possibly a relief from the pain. Symptoms include debilitating fevers, sore throat, coughing, body aches, chest pain, mental fogginess, piercing headaches, extreme fatigue, loss of smell and taste, stomach pain and nausea. I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had difficulty breathing, but I did develop a secondary sinus infection. I want to educate people and help them understand what it’s like. This is a very painful virus and I want as few people to get it as possible.” — Lacey Mathis, one of Lee County’s first recorded COVID-19 cases

JUNE STATE OF OUR HOSPITALS Three months into the pandemic, and as restrictions began to gradually lift, hospitals in the area — Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford and FirstHealth Moore Regional — discussed working amidst the chaos, their ability to treat patients, and more. Quotable: “We’ve seen the full spectrum of illness in our emergency departments, from minor coughs to respiratory distress requiring intubation. And although we are accustomed to immediately rushing to the bedside in the ED, we now take the time to don our [personal protective equipment], knowing that they can make a life-or-death difference for ourselves, our families and our colleagues.” — Physician assistant Alexa Gaters Quotable: “It’s so hard to have a loved one in a nursing facility, and when something like this happens, you can’t hug them or comfort them or assure them that things will be better. It’s heart-breaking to stand outside, knowing that somewhere behind the door, she is in a bed and can’t do anything for herself. You can only pray and hope for the best.” — Margaret Murchison, well-known radio personality and journalist in Sanford who lost her sister to COVID-19 in May Other stories in this edition: •

Epidemic in a Pandemic: COVID19’s impact was particularly felt by those dealing with the opioid crisis

The Right Fit: California clothing manufacturer Through6 announces plans to expand in Sanford

Other stories in this edition: •

Friends of the Rant podcast returns: After a short run in late 2019, springtime saw this publication gain the opportunity to record a podcast with local newsmakers on a somewhat weekly basis, a trend that continued throughout the year. __________________







The Rant Monthly


JUNE 2020




3 MONTHS INTO THE PANDEMIC Plus: Signs of life in the local economy during Phase 2

Registered nurses at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, Photo courtesy of FirstHealth

38 | January 2021









The Rant Monthly


JULY 2020




JULY THE MOVEMENT The Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and Sanford was no different. The Rant not only looked at events in and around Sanford during that time, but also asked a group of Black guest columnists to share with our readers their experiences and perspectives. All were different, all were educational. Quotable: “Everyone is cool with being friends with a black person until they speak their mind in opposition to the ignorance that sometimes seems to spew from people uncontrollably. Growing up in Sanford made me sometimes feel dissatisfied with those I interacted with daily, and quite honestly has caused me to push myself away at times. The same individuals, ignorant ideas and social climate will all still be here to continue Sanford’s culture. I’ve been trying to express that my life matters for too long for people to still not want to hear me.” — Ari Wright Thompson Quotable: “Remember, racism always begins with the dehumanization of others. Ending racism starts with recognizing, reclaiming, and respecting the humanity of people who have been systematically dehumanized for four hundred years. By not talking about it, we help it fester and spread. When we are able to connect personally, it becomes harder to mistreat one another. Hear us. Believe us. Educate yourself and fight for us, because we matter. Compassion is not political; it is human.” — Kisha Derr

Bharat Forge’s new facility in Sanford will be completed in the first quarter of 2021, though work on forging parts manually will begin as early as December (going fully automated by April). The plant is expected to add 460 jobs to Sanford in the coming years. Other stories in this edition: • •

Zoo Trip Worth It?: Billy Liggett reviews the North Carolina Zoo Reeling in the Big One: Harnett County man wins Big Rock Fishing Tournament __________________

AUGUST SLOW DEMISE OF RIVERBIRCH Riverbirch Corner was once a popular, well-kept destination for shoppers. That’s no longer the case. Many of the storefronts now stand vacant, potholes dot the parking lot, and there’s a litter problem. We look at what happened, and whether the shopping complex can be saved. Quotable: “It’s extremely frustrating. I feel like Riverbirch has reached its low point — other than it just closing up, I





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don’t see it getting much worse. And it’s a shame, because it’s a great location. It was a great location in the 80s, and it’s a great location now. We’d love to see a comeback.” — Bob Joyce, economic development executive director for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance Quotable: “Buildings began to deteriorate from lack of maintenance; businesses were hurt from the lack of promotional

funds that were paid with rent and never fed back into the shopping center. It’s been neglected to the point where last fall, my employees were afraid to leave the store at night, because the lighting was so bad in the parking lot. I just had to ask an employee to grab a mop and a bucket because of all the rain we had last night. And that’s an ongoing problem. And it’s such a shame. It was a beautiful shopping center.” — Joe Purce, owner of Kathryn’s Hallmark, former tenant of the Riverbirch Shopping Center Other stories in this edition: •

Looks Like Plan C: As school year starts, Lee County School Board votes to adopt remote learning

Lee’s COVID count tops 1,000

The Rant appears on WRAL’s Tarheel Traveler __________________

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The 'other' big vote this November: A potentially game-changing sports complex in Lee County



The expected impact of Lee County's 'Big 4'









A $25 million bond issue to fund a sports complex in Lee County was on our cover for the second time (the first was in June 2019) in two years. This story examined the pros and cons, why or if the complex was necessary, and how the final product might look. Two months later, voters passed the bond issue by an 18 percent margin.

For a small town, Sanford has produced a large number of musicians who have left town for success in the industry. We looked at the success enjoyed by people like Aslan Freeman, Britton Buchanan, hip hop legends Black Sheep, Stephen Brewer, Faith Bardill and more.

2019 and 2020 saw the announcements of more than 1,100 new jobs in Lee County. Spread among four companies — all of them in the top 25 North Carolina job creators — we looked at the work companies Audentes, Pfizer, Bharat Forge, and Through6 are bringing to the community, as well as the work by local economic developers that led to the expansions.

Our holiday issue looked at the challenges faced by small businesses in the midst of a worsening pandemic, as well as many of the unique products and services Lee County residents have access to but may or may not know about.

Quotable: “My family has traveled our state and surrounding states playing both soccer and baseball. A sports complex to call our own in Lee County would bring a sense of pride to our community and our athletes. In addition, the economic impact it would have on our small businesses would be huge. Hosting families from around the surrounding areas would allow us the opportunity to show what Sanford has to offer, including so many great restaurants and small businesses.” — Erin Borrell, co-chair of the Lee Grow Play Succeed campaign Other stories in this edition: •

War Stories: Local author Steve Underwood releases novel “Young Hickory”

Quotable: “I mean, what doesn’t stay with you about those early days [growing up in Sanford]. Particularly with [country star] Lainey [Wilson] and me — we’re both from small towns like Sanford, and we can relate to each other in a lot of ways because of that.” — Aslan Freeman Quotable: “I think the community aspect, the necessary need for a sense of community in whatever you do is a big part of me. Always trying to do your best and putting your best foot forward. I hear that Faith Bardill is doing well, I know Taylor Phillips is doing real well. It makes me really proud because one person’s success is the whole town’s success, and it proves to anybody in Sanford who wants to have a career in music that it can be done.” — Stephen Brewer Other stories in this edition:

Postal Support: Political divide over mail in ballots leads to rally in support of USPS

Lee elementary, middle schools move to staggered, in person learning; high schools stay remote.

GOP removes Todd from ballot: Republican County Commissioner candidate Randy Todd was taken off the November ballot after his arrest on assault charges

City officially takes control of Wilrik Hotel, residents informed they will not be asked to leave

Volunteers raise funds to bring Lemon Springs park back to life



Quotable: “It’s unusual to have a [year] like we’ve had. We’ve worked hard to prepare our product [for new businesses]. We have land, infrastructure, water, sewer, electric, natural gas and telecommunication assets. We have education and workforce development systems working together. We are built for success.” — Bob Joyce of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA), who on Oct. 27 was named North Carolina Economic Developer of the Year by the N.C. Economic Developers Association Quotable: “We followed several criteria. One of them was access to a skilled and talented workforce. We were looking for a community with an established life science presence, and this area is incredible for that. We also didn’t want to take employees from existing businesses — we wanted to build our own base over time.” — Audentes Senior Vice President Don Wuchterl Other stories in this edition: •

COVID cases top 2,000, with 20 deaths

Father and son revitalizing downtown buildings for new commercial opportunities __________________

Quotable: “But as we have seen in previous eras, disruption can lead to innovation and opportunity. Many of our local small businesses have pivoted their business model.” — Meg Moss, executive director of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Quotable: “The outpouring of love and support from within our community has been fabulous and very humbling. Our customers and our fellow small businesses have truly been a blessing. It has been a great first few months and we are excited for what’s to come.” — Maggie Cranford, co-owner of High Cotton Couture in downtown Sanford Other stories in this edition: •

Hugger Mugger’s Tim Emmert looks toward a future without a pandemic, and what events the brewery has on tap when COVID is gone.

Nature Healers: Sanford couple runs wildlife rescue out of home

Historic First: Product of Lee County public schools is elected to NCGA from Alamance County, the first Hispanic Democrat in North Carolina’s legislature __________________

40 | January 2021


Profile for The Rant

The Rant Monthly | January 2021  

The January 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a publication of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina

The Rant Monthly | January 2021  

The January 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a publication of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina

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