The Rant Monthly | January 2022

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The Rant y l h t Mon JANUARY 2022

SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA

THE TAKEOFF OF

RALEIGH EXEC HOW A RURAL AIRPORT BECAME VITAL TO THE BOOMING TRIANGLE REGION


2 | January 2022

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The RantMonthly

The Rant Monthly | 3

January 2022 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 4 | Issue 1 | No. 34

Editorial Gordon Anderson | gordon@rantnc.com Billy Liggett | billy@rantnc.com Jonathan Owens | jonathan@rantnc.com Richard Sullins | richard@rantnc.com Advertising Brandon Allred | brandon@rantnc.com (919) 605-1479 Contributors Ben Brown, Charles Petty Editorial Board Ted Striker, Elaine Dickinson, Dr. Rumack, Roger Murdock, Steve McCroskey, Clarence Oveur, Rex Kramer, Barbara Billingsley and Otto Pilot

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

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The Rant Monthly JANUARY 2022

SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA

THE TAKEOFF OF

RALEIGH EXEC HOW A RURAL AIRPORT BECAME VITAL TO THE BOOMING TRIANGLE REGION

ABOUT THE COVER The Raleigh Exec Jetport is located at the northernmost point of Lee County, closer to the Shearon Harris nuclear facility than it is downtown Sanford. Its proximity to Raleigh and its southern neighbors has made it an important piece of the region’s economic engine, as today Raleigh Exec is home to several private jets and planes and has become a preferred landing strip for several business flights. Our January 2022 edition tells the story of Raleigh Exec’s growth and what the future holds.

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 2022

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PAGE FOUR STARBUCKS PROGRESS The Gasoline Gypsies

MORE BANDS, SOLO ARTISTS ADDED TO WAMPUS CAT LINEUP The lineup for the three-day Wampus Cat Music Festival at Gross Farms II in Sanford is taking shape. Several of the performers were seen in downtown Sanford at September’s Carolina Indie Fest, while many more new bands are slated to perform here May 13-15. In addition to the three stages — featuring “country,” “rock” and “indie” acts — there will be camping, food, drum circles, costume contests and more. The line-up so far: Country: Adam Warner, The Swon Brothers, Uncle Ben’s Remedy, Cliff Wheeler Band, Danika and the Jeb and Josh Daniel Band. Rock: J.R. Richards (formerly of Dishwalla), Paddock, Tough on Fridays, Amittai Blakk, Nitro Nitra, Rags and Riches, The Steepwater Band and The Gasoline Gypsies. Indie: Chasing Fall, Seth and Sara, Rochelle Harper, Chad Cox, What is Broken, Crashing Atlas, Linen Ray and Few Miles South. More information (such as tickets and additions to the lineup) can be found online at wampuscatmusicfestival.com.

It’s just an arc welder/generator seen through concrete pipes at the construction site of the new Starbucks location at the Spring Lane Galleria. Nothing to see here. Photo by Billy Liggett

FOUR A NEW LEE IN LEE COUNTY? There are those who’d wish to rename Lee County because of its association with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but we at The Rant think that would be expensive. Instead, stick with the name, but have it honor a different “Lee.” Our choices:

DID YOU KNOW? At 16, Bruce Lee began training under Yip Man, one of the most legendary kung fu grandmasters of all time. Early in his instruction, other kids wouldn’t train with him when they learned he wasn’t 100 percent descended from Chinese ancestry. His masters continued to train him because of his potential.

Bruce Lee

Lee Merriweather

Seriously, this would be the Catwoman is still alive and is coolest idea ever. much deserving of this.

Lee Majors

Eleanor Agnes Lee

Good-looking guy from TV, can’t go wrong there.

Gen. Lee’s granddaughter, Wiggy, a poet and diarist


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The Rant Monthly | 5

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?

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What vaccinations do I need to be up to date?

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

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

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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.


6 | January 2022

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The Rant Monthly | 7

rantnc.com COLUMN | BILLY LIGGETT

NONE OF THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE

I

’m on my third column in about two hours right now, trying to find the right words to express what’s going on in my head as we enter a third calendar year in a global pandemic with really no end in sight (and the possibility of a return to staying home and forced mask mandates in public settings). For the first column, I wrote about how I watched from the sidelines (my computer monitor) as two people — a young woman whose family I grew up with back in Texas and a man known by many here in Sanford — fought very real and very serious battles with COVID-19. The woman, in her mid 30s, was unaware she was diabetic, and the virus attacked her heart, lungs and kidneys mercilessly. The man, older but otherwise happy and healthy, fought for two weeks. The woman survived, her family calling her

recovery a medical miracle after they feared the absolute worst. The man died. The news devastated an entire community and family and friends who loved him dearly. I pleaded with people to put aside their political differences and consider their fellow man. Their friends and their families. Consider these tragedies and near tragedies and come together with a common goal — to end this pandemic like we’ve done others in the past. I felt like my words weren’t strong enough in the first column. My second column was more terse. I used the word “jackass” a Rant record five times to describe those who drive in from Raleigh to speak at local school board meetings to call mask mandates “child abuse” and describe those who bring up abortion bills in local government when the time could be spent really, honestly trying to save local lives. That column went overboard. I’m angry right now as we enter 2022 with more COVID cases, more hospitalizations and

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more deaths. I’m vaccinated and boosted, as is my immediate family. But I have close friends and family who aren’t and who won’t. And I sincerely worry about them. I want to blame others for the mess, but we’re really all to blame, and there’s really no appropriate way to say all of this without offending those who’ve suffered great loss and immense pain. So why a third column? Because this is the one where I pretty much give up. Pleading won’t work. Name-calling, while it feels good, isn’t the way either. We are where we are, and 21 months into it, we aren’t going to change. I’ll continue to take care of my own and kindly urge others to do the same, and I’ll continue to vote for people who put science before political party and have our collective best interests in mind. That’s really all I can do. And we can all be less of a jackass about all of this. Both sides. I’ll end by sharing this.

My family visited Colonial Williamsburg and the Jamestown Settlement before Christmas, because it’s close, I’d never been there, I love history, and we thought it would be fun. Jamestown, more than Williamsburg, fascinated me. It’s the site where some of the first European settlers made camp to explore this unchartered land for possible riches to bring back to the king. The visit inspired me to learn more, so I’m currently reading a book, “Savage Kingdom,” about those first few years and the settlers’ attempt to live alongside the many Native Americans who’d been there much longer. There were some who did their best to learn the culture of the Powhatan and other tribes and live in harmony. There were others far more ignorant who put their beliefs and biases above common sense, and often their approach resulted in violence for both sides. My point is, that approach didn’t work. Four hundred years later, it still doesn’t.


8 | January 2022

CITY GREENLIGHTS NEW HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS The Sanford City Council gave its approval in late December to several new housing developments in various stages of completion, developments which will help address current and projected housing shortages as new industries start up their operations. The council on Dec. 21 approved a $1.1M performance security to guarantee the uninstalled improvements for Phase I of the 78 South Subdivision, a 120-lot residential single-family subdivision off Tramway Road that will be served by public water, sewer, and streets. Preliminary approval of the subdivision plat was approved by the City Council in early 2020. The property is located off Tramway Road near the intersection with Lemon Springs Road. The developer is Bobby Branch of Raccoon Path Holdings of Sanford. A second development owned by Raccoon Path Holdings, along with Truesdale Capital of Chapel Hill, was annexed into the city in response to a request from the group for a noncontiguous annexation and was classified in a separate action as the Northview Conditional Zoning District. This 43.1-acre tract has frontage on Hawkins Avenue and Beechtree Drive just north of the roundabout at the intersection of U.S. 1 and N.C. 15-501. The property is being developed as apartments and potential commercial uses. Keith Cotton of Cotton Road, whose property adjoins the future development, was on hand to say the cleanup that has already been done by the developer has greatly improved the look of the community and he anticipates that further work will continue that trend. The council will be taking up a petition this month for a non-contiguous annexation from Daybreak Farms LLC for a 46.9-acre tract of land previously owned by Lee Iron and Metal at 1600 Colon Road in connection with an economic development project. Daybreak Farms is a land investment firm based in Raleigh that has been in operation since 1999.

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THE LEAD LEE COUNTY GOVERNMENT

ABORTION VOTE DIVIDES President’s infrastructure bill could connect Greensboro, Sanford and I-95 with interstate along current U.S. 421 path

century, “Heartbeat Bills” have been the source of much debate across the country because of disagreements surrounding the time at which an actual heartbeat begins.

By Richard Sullins

“This is beyond the scope of the board to address this issue,” he said. “I was elected to bring jobs, build schools, support teachers, and provide them with the supplement that (Republicans) did not choose to give them during the pandemic. Also, I was elected to help bring lower taxes, which I have supported twice. As for this Heartbeat Bill, the North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t had a public hearing on this and if they wanted the support of the people, they would have held public hearings. But they didn’t, kind of like we didn’t have a public hearing on redistricting.”

Republicans Kirk Smith and Arianna Lavallee were re-elected for another year as chair and vice chair of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, several retiring law enforcement officers were honored, and the appointment of a new sheriff was approved. But it was the impassioned debate over a non-binding symbolic resolution introduced by Smith that the Dec. 13 meeting will be remembered for. Placed on the meeting agenda at the prerogative of the chairman, the resolution stated: “The Lee County Board of Commissioners endorse(s) the passage of ‘Heartbeat Bill’ legislation in North Carolina and that this endorsement includes a reporting and verification process consistent with that passed by other States.” County commissioners have no authority to regulate abortions within their jurisdiction, but they do have the right to express opinions on issues being considered at the state or federal level, or in the courts. Smith’s resolution supports the enactment of a Texas-style law that would ban abortions whenever medical equipment can detect a heartbeat within a mother’s womb, as early as six weeks after conception. Beyond the debates over abortion that have been going on for more than half a

It all started more than two hours into the meeting just after Lavallee made a motion to adopt the resolution without any discussion. Democrat Cameron Sharpe immediately objected.

Sharpe continued that he viewed Medicaid expansion as a related issue worth adding to the resolution. “You guys want the babies to be born,” he said, “but you don’t want to take care of them afterwards — the poor, the people in need, the people who can’t take care of them. I think Medicaid expansion would take care of that. So, since this is beyond the scope of this board, whenever an issue like this comes up in the future, pick up the phone and call your legislator or congressman or senator. This isn’t what the people of Lee County elected us for.” Sharpe offered a motion to expand Medicaid expansion to the resolution, a move that was defeated along party lines. Democratic Commissioner Robert Reives Sr. added, “Some things are just personal and

private. For example, I’ve not asked a single board member whether you’ve gotten your [COVID vaccine]. But I’d be willing to offer a resolution tonight, and ask you to support that resolution, that any and all elected officials ought to be vaccinated or removed from this board.” Reives asked Smith whether he would support such a resolution, to which the chairman replied “absolutely not.” “I didn’t think so,” Reives responded. “Because that infringes upon your rights, as if what we are about to vote on doesn’t violate someone else’s rights. This is nothing more than another political stunt for 2022. This is not about what you think of the people of Lee County. It’s about what you think, period, the people who are supporting this.” Lavallee disagreed, saying, “I’ve had a lot of constituents talk to me about this and I’ve had to explain to them that in this position, we don’t have the authority to make the rules in situations like this and nor am I saying we should. But we do have the right to speak to higher moral issues.” Republican Commissioner Bill Carver jumped into the conversation, adding, “We talk about the citizens of Lee County. The citizens that we fail to think about are the babies in the womb. The hard attitude behind this Heartbeat Bill has to do with a moral conscience about whether or not it’s appropriate to elevate the woman’s right above the right of the baby to survive. So, I would offer that as a reasonable and logical argument.” The final vote was 5-2, with Democrat Mark Lovick crossing over to vote with the Republican majority in favor of the resolution. Read the full story from this meeting with more statements from both sides at rantnc.com


The Rant Monthly | 9

rantnc.com COVID-19

County hits the 10,000 case milestone By Richard Sullins

Lee County reached a milestone in its struggle against the COVID pandemic in late December. Before noon on Dec. 22, the 10,000th confirmed case of the virus was reported to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. As the day prior came to a close, the county had reported 9,987 cases — just 13 short of the 10,000 cases mark since the pandemic began in mid-March of 2020. Six people have died from the virus since Nov. 22. It did not claim any lives between October and November. Lee is one of 98 of the state’s 100 counties that have relapsed into a “high level of community transmission” of COVID since Thanksgiving. Only Washington and Hertford counties are reporting a ‘substantial’ level of transmission.

That is significant, because the Lee County Board of Education voted in November to continue the mandate for face coverings necessary for all students, teachers, staff, and visitors until the County had gone for 10 consecutive days at a ‘moderate’ level of transmission. The board reaffirmed that policy at its last meeting on Dec. 14. Since schools resumed in August, 565 students in the school district have tested positive for COVID infections, along with 80 members of the faculty and staff. Another 1,326 students and 30 staff have been quarantined due to exposure with someone who has tested positive for the virus. NCDHHS reports the percentage of tests in Lee County being returned with a positive result has almost tripled over what it was before Thanksgiving. Wednesday’s positive rate was reported to be 8.9 percent, compared to just 3.13 percent just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. State health officials

say 5 percent or less is the target needed to be reached to slow the spread of the virus. The department also reported that as of Dec. 22, 34,933 county residents ages 12 and up had received at least one dose of the vaccine and that 32,346 people are fully vaccinated. But the COVID boosters that have been available since early fall have not proven to be popular yet. Heath Cain, director of the Lee County Health Department, reported that as of Dec. 21, 3,464 booster shots have been given since they became available in September, less than a tenth of those who have received at least one dose. The next booster clinic being offered by the Health Department will take place on Jan. 4, at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center from 9 to 11 am by appointment only. Registrations may be made by calling (919) 842-5744 or online at leecountync.gov/COVID19. The Delta variant of the virus was responsible for the Labor Day surge of COVID and

now another, the Omicron variant, has now been reported in both Durham and Orange counties as of Dec. 22. It’s the triple threat of Delta, Omicron and the seasonal flu that has many health officials worried. Dr. Mandy Cohen, the outgoing secretary of DHHS, said Omicron is spreading at a speed that will make it the dominant strain in the state by the first week of January. Cohen said in a briefing from the state’s Emergency Operations Center in late December that “we may have both Delta and Omicron side by side by that time.” Cohen stressed that the Omicron strain is spreading four to six times faster than the original version of the virus and will likely cause medical clinics and hospitals to overflow during January and February. A recent study by a team made up of scientists from UNC, NC State and Georgia Tech predicted that hospitalizations alone could blow past the records set in January 2021.

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10 | January 2022

BROADWAY BIDS ADIEU TO TOWN MANAGER, POLICE CHIEF Broadway’s town board held its final meeting of the year in late December, and it was a night of passing the torch from one era to the next. It was the final meeting for Town Manager Eddie Thomas, who informed the board in August he would be stepping down from his position to pursue a full-time opportunity in ministry at the Juniper Springs Baptist Church on Buckhorn Road. Mayor Donald Andrews said, “The Lord sent Eddie to lead us through COVID. His calmness and demeaner helped us make it through the pandemic. He has been called to shepherd another group of folks now and they are lucky to get him.” Thomas was hired in early 2020, just before the virus hit. Incoming Town Manager John Godfrey, who recently retired from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, was on hand for the meeting. Godfrey’s last posting was as warden of the Harnett Correctional Institution in Lillington. He began his new duties on Jan. 1. The commissioners also said farewell to the town’s Police Chief Todd Hinnant, who also retired at the end of the year. Hinnant started on a part-time basis with the town in 1993 and has been with the department full-time as chief since 2006. As allowed by the North Carolina General Assembly, the town presented Chief Hinnant with his .45 caliber sidearm as a token of their appreciation. Evan B. Gunter replaced Hinnant effective Jan. 1. A lifelong Lee County resident who graduated from Lee County Senior High School and Central Carolina Community College, Gunter’s first assignment in law enforcement was with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Department. The commissioners also welcomed a new member to their ranks. April Collins, who was the top vote-getter in the November election, was sworn in to replace Commissioner Janet Harrington, who passed away on Sept. 24.

@therant905 LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS

PUBLIC LAMBASTS BOARD School board votes to keep mask mandate, renew superintendent’s contract, to the chagrin of angry public speakers, board members By Richard Sullins As soon as the election of officers was over and the public comment period began at the Lee County Board of Education’s Dec. 14 meeting, the board and its superintendent, Dr. Andy Bryan, came under a relentless barrage of attacks, even from within its own ranks. And it seemed almost every issue brought with it another round of contention. Alan Rummel, a Republican who has declared plans on social media to seek a seat on the board in 2022, questioned a decision from November to renew Bryan’s contract through June 2024. He quoted a board policy requiring votes on the superintendent’s contract to be taken in open session and asked why the vote was done during the closed portion of the meeting. In fact, the board did vote by a 5-1 margin in open session after coming out of their closed session at the end of the Nov. 9 meeting to extend Bryan’s contract without any changes to his salary or other terms and conditions. Rummel also claimed during Bryan’s tenure, Lee County Schools’ performance had dropped from above average to the bottom third of schools in the state and called the superintendent’s performance “less than mediocre.” He said because the board hadn’t shared information with the public about Bryan’s performance, “it leads the public to believe that some shady business is going on.” Bryan’s performance was also called into question by Lee GOP Chairman Jim Womack, who asked “is it any wonder that all three of our middle schools and both traditional high schools are nationally ranked as ‘below average’ according to Zillow.com? Yet, there you were, one month ago, extending this Superintendent’s contract for two plus years with not one shred of objective justification.”

Attacks on the board didn’t stop there.Lisa Ragan of Sanford said, “The people don’t have to accept whatever comes down from the State Board or the teacher’s union,” and called board members “a disappointment.” Chad Stall expressed anger over the district’s continued masking mandate, comparing it to “sensory deprivation” and “speech restrictions.” “If this is not about control and dominance,” he said, “then why on earth would a board member have the authority or the position to vote to practice their own habits on the lives of 7-year-olds or 12-year-olds?” He also tossed verbal grenades at board member Patrick Kelly, who was investigated (and cleared) by the school’s attorney over personal provacative photos shared by local Republicans earlier in the year. “I cannot believe that in a county, such as Lee County, a group of adults would knowingly aid and abet a person who lives that kind of lifestyle and grant them authority and access to your children,” Stall said. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves.” The only Chad Stall registered to vote in North Carolina lives in Wake County. As the meeting got down to scheduled business, Republican board member Sherry Lynn Womack, wife of the county Republican chairman, sought to add an item to the agenda — a discussion and review of Bryan’s contract extension. She was not present in November when the contract was extended. Her motion to add the item to the agenda failed by a 3-4 margin. But when the time for member comments came at the end of the public portion of the meeting, Womack unloaded about what she viewed as violations of the board’s own policies. One item she questioned was on the November agenda as “Superintendent’s Informal Evaluation,” which was to be discussed during the closed session. Board

Policy 7805 does provide for an informal evaluation process designed to “foster trust and communication.” The policy provides the informal evaluation is to take place in December, and it wasn’t clear why the board chose to move it to November for this year. A review of agendas for Decembers past shows that unspecified “personnel” items were discussed in the final month of those previous years, but a “Superintendent’s Informal Evaluation” has not appeared on an agenda since December 2015. The board also extended its mask mandate by another month — probably a given, with COVID numbers continuing to rise in Lee and 91 other North Carolina counties. Womack offered a motion for the district to immediately end contact tracing and give that duty over to the Lee County Health Department unless there are two or more positive cases identified that come from the same class, bus, or athletic event; and that staff need not quarantine unless there is a positive test. The motion to end contact tracing failed 2-5. Kelly said he’d come to the meeting with hopes he could move to end the mandate, but cited rising numbers as a reason he didn’t think that possible. Hilliard then moved that the mandate be continued until January. That didn’t sit well with Womack. “This is a disservice to our children,” she said. “We are going to continue to see our numbers go down in schools. We are going to continue to see violence. We are going to continue to see suicide and depression until somebody decides to wake up. I’m sick and tired of the politics. It’s time that we started standing up for our children.” The motion to keep the mandate in place for another month passed 5-2.


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The Rant Monthly | 11


12 | January 2022 EDITORIAL

STIRRING THE POT EARLY The 2022 election is still 11 months away, but political season already seems to be happening locally — particularly if you look for evidence at recent meetings of government bodies. On the school board side, we’ve seen increasingly angry audience participation, particularly over the district’s controversial mask mandate for students, staff and visitors. This is to be expected to an extent — nobody loves masking, no matter how necessary it might be — but a close look at many of the participants at least provides some dots to connect when pondering how these demonstrations came about. Party chairmen. Declared candidates for public office. Local activists. People who don’t even live in Lee County. The anger expressed in these meetings may very well be real, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to notice it seems to be coming from what you might dub the usual suspects. And while the Lee County School System does face some very real issues, we’re not sure they’re being honestly addressed by these rooms full of “concerned citizens.” As to the Board of Commissioners, if redrawing district maps in a way many see as making it harder for one incumbent Democrat to win wasn’t enough, locals were subjected in December to a debate over abortion, of all things. The board floated a resolution that month in support of a so-called “Heartbeat Bill” for North Carolina banning the practice after the detection of a heartbeat. Whatever your stance on this issue, it’s important to note that the resolution — which passed 5-2 — cannot and will not ever prevent a single abortion. County commissioners just don’t have that authority, full stop. So it’s worth asking if the GOP here is attempting to get Democrats to vote “for” something like abortion in that they’ll be seen as favoring it by residents of redder precincts. Voters of every persuasion should see this as an insult. If you want to address abortion, run for the legislature or Congress. We expect this to continue through November as well. So wherever you find yourself politically, be sure to view such efforts with a skeptical eye.

@therant905

OPINION COLUMN | RICHARD SULLINS

WHERE DID ALL THE WORKERS GO?

I

switched pharmacies last month. My previous drug store, which had always been accessible seven days a week, is now open for only four ,and I need to be able to count on them being there. Four days a week doesn’t cut it. It’s become hard for them to find a second pharmacist to provide relief for the one who has been on primary duty there since I came to Sanford. In fact, 30 different pharmacist positions in the Sanford area were being advertised in late December on Indeed. com. And it’s part of a trend that is impacting more than just pharmacies and more than just Sanford. You’ve probably experienced it recently in checkout lines. You’ve likely felt it just walking into your favorite restaurant during the past few months. Or maybe there has been a sign on the front door, warning you to expect delays in service because of a shortage of workers. But these workers, where are they? There exists a belief among some that the labor shortage that’s taking place nationwide can be traced back directly to the generous unemployment benefits that were contained in the economic stimulus relief package that followed the arrival of the COVID pandemic last year. This theory says that most people who lost their jobs when the pandemic arrived chose to stay home because they could bring in more money from their unemployment checks than they could from their paychecks. While that way of thinking might ring true for some, it turns out that there is a deeper explanation that provides a broader truth: many were already fed up with working conditions before the pandemic arrived and when it hit, it was all the push they needed to move on.

Return to employment didn’t happen

The men’s group from my church meets twice a month for breakfast at a local restaurant. On the entrance door, a posted sign reads: “Please be patient. We are short staffed due to stimulus money. We are doing the best we can under the circumstances.” If the temporary unemployment benefits funded by the COVID stimulus bill were responsible for workers choosing to stay home and draw their benefits instead of going to work, those same employees should have returned to work after the benefits ended on Sept. 4. But according to the North Carolina Division of Employment Security, they didn’t. You’ve seen them across the city — signs that promise starting wages that were simply unheard of just six months ago. It’s become easy to spot signage at fast-food restaurants offering hourly rates of $15 or more, and some with sign-on bonuses, like poultry production, retail and automotive sales and health care facilities looking for CNA’s and RN’s. By the end of April 2020, six weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, the state’s unemployment rate had reached 15 percent, a level that was high but still lower than the record of 16.2 percent reached in April 2009 during the Great Recession. Like air slowly leaking from a balloon, the jobless rate continued to slowly drop through the pandemic, even through the most recent COVID surges of last winter and this summer. As of this September, the latest month for which current numbers are available, the rate stood at 4.3 percent. In September of last year, it was 8 percent. The raw numbers of people without jobs also indicate that large sums of people dropped off the unemployment rolls instead of remaining on them. In September 2020, 2,070 people were drawing unemployment

checks within Lee County. One year later, that number had dropped to 1,125 — a decrease of 945 people, or 45.6 percent. Even more important than the number of people out of work is the growth in the county’s labor force, which increased by 1,161 in the 12 months between September 2020 and 2021. The labor force is defined as the number of people 16 years and older who are either working or looking for work and who are not on active duty or inmates of institutions such as penal or mental facilities. Those numbers tell us that the number of people receiving unemployment pay continued to decrease during the pandemic while the number of people either working or looking for work continued to increase. So again, where are they? What is to account for the labor shortage in Sanford and beyond? ‘A nation of quitters’

The search for what happened to workers in the service sector of the economy begins and ends with the search for better pay and benefits. And no better example exists for what is happening to the economy than a look at the food service industry. The work there is grueling. The hours are long and fast-paced, but they can also be rewarding. When COVID came 21 months ago, it was like lightning bolts coming from a cloud. One former Sanford restaurant worker I talked to, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “When the virus suddenly came here, it was like there was a general and unorganized strike that came out of nowhere.” When the first wave of COVID benefits arrived a few weeks later, food service workers found that for the first time in their lives, many were making enough through benefits to begin saving. This worker said, “I couldn’t


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When the reality hit that he now had those things, this man realized that after 20 years of working six days a week in a local restaurant, he had worked his last kitchen job. His employer had kept his wages low, didn’t provide benefits and was constantly changing work schedules. And he’s not the only one. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that each month since March, about 5 percent of the huge numbers of people who make up this sector of the workforce walked away from their jobs each month. That has left over a million jobs vacant in the food service industry at a time when customers have been streaming through the doors to eat, drink, and socialize as the pandemic began to ease. It’s known in labor circles as “The Great Resignation.” The latest BLS report says that 4.2 million American workers quit their jobs in October. That’s an incredible amount of people who are either fed up with their old job or looking for a new one. CNBC reported last month that 28 million people have quit their jobs during the last 7 months and a recent article in Forbes magazine says that we have become “a nation of quitters.” The BLS report also says that there were 11.1 million job openings in that same month, 40 percent more than before the pandemic. Many of them in the leisure and hospitality industry, particularly in food services and hotels, showed the largest increases. Restaurants that used to be open until 10 or 11 p.m. don’t do that anymore. The staff they employ are exhausted. Some are now closed one or more days a week when they used to be open seven. Many are paying bonuses and hourly rates unheard of in the industry, but potential workers do not apply. In a recent survey reported by NPR, more than half of a nationwide survey group who quit their jobs recently said that no amount of money could get them to go back. For many, the decision to leave food services was all about the culture — low wages, no benefits, long hours, constantly changing schedules, and so many rude customers. ‘I was done with fast-food’

Rashawn Thompson worked at a Sanford fast-food restaurant for 13 months until July, when a customer stopped his car in the drive-thru and came storming inside

to threaten him over the amount of cream and sugar in his coffee. Thompson left that afternoon for a job delivering beverages to restaurants. It’s tougher but quieter work, and better paying. “After that happened, I was done with fast-food,” he said. “I’m never going back again.” It wasn’t just that one incident that made Thompson decide to walk away. But it was the moment that pushed him over the edge “For months, it seemed like every hour or so at work, I would have to go up front and be forced to argue with somebody who was making an issue because they didn’t want to wear a mask inside the restaurant,” he said. “I don’t know what’s got into people. But I was done.”

So, when many of them were called back to work, even after their unemployment checks had stopped, they quit. For the first time, many had accumulated enough savings to last for a few weeks and they decided to look for something they would be happier doing. There are many reasons that people are quitting and looking for jobs elsewhere. Some had been frustrated with their jobs before the pandemic and took advantage of the opportunity to re-examine their lives. Some quit because they could make more money elsewhere. And others left because they realized that their priorities had changed.

look nothing like they did years ago. Some workers, for example, are giving up the 45-minute one-way commute to Raleigh and the cars they would have to buy to get there. They are looking for jobs they can work from home. The pandemic has changed life as we know it. There is talk of a “new normal,” whatever that may look like. But one thing is for certain: it has changed the mindsets of workers, particularly the younger ones. They value their time in ways they didn’t before. There are bills still to be paid. But there is also life to be enjoyed. And they don’t want to miss that opportunity.

Workers are now deciding where, when and how they want to work. For younger workers, that could mean entire careers that

SEE ‘WORKERS,’ PAGE 35

John Dean, Economic Development Manager for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance (SAGA), said in an August article published by the organization that “as the pandemic life took hold of the U.S., many people began rethinking their own values and priorities. Many of these people, especially in the service sector, lost their jobs at the start of the pandemic, leading to angst and uncertainty of the future.” “Others who were fortunate enough to keep their jobs were forced to work remotely, while a significant portion of employees, considered essential, found themselves in higher-stress situations than before,” he continued. “This abrupt change in employment, according to analysts, has led more people than ever before to voluntarily leave their jobs.” Where did they go? National Public Radio reported in a story broadcast on June 24 that many of them went “in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness. Many are rethinking what work means to them, how they are valued, and how they spend their time” Life after the kitchen

During the weeks when workers were furloughed because of the pandemic, many discovered for the first-time what family life could be like if they weren’t putting in 50 to 60 hours a week in a restaurant. They got to see the faces of their children when they opened the presents they had spent six hours or more assembling. They were able to attend church services and family picnics. They saw sunsets.

Brian Mathis

Financial Advisor

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remember taking a break that was longer than just using the bathroom, or sitting down to eat a meal, and I never had health insurance.”

503 Carthage Street Suite 200 Sanford, NC 27330 919-775-4443

edwardjones.com Member SIPC


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A FIXED WING SINGLE ENGINE SPORTCRUISER AIRCRAFT SITS ON THE RUNWAY AT RALEIGH EXEC JETPORT IN SANFORD. PHOTO BY BILLY LIGGETT


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COVER STORY

THE TAKEOFF OF

RALEIGH EXEC

What began as a small, rural airstrip at the northern end of Lee County has blossomed into an economic engine with a $61 million annual impact on the region By Gordon Anderson

I

n 2014, Geoff Myers was living in Creedmoor, a town of a little more than 4,000 residents just across the Wake-Granville county line north of Raleigh. Myers had been an avid aviation enthusiast for years, but had nevertheless recently come to the conclusion it was time to sell his small plane. It had become decidedly expensive to own.

“It cost me $30,000 to buy, and I probably put another $10,000 into it each year after that in ongoing maintenance,” explained Myers, who is today the president of the 600-member strong Wings of Carolina Flying Club, based at the Raleigh Executive Jetport in northern Lee County. “So I decided to sell the plane and started looking for other places to fly.” That’s how Myers became acquainted with not just Wings of Carolina, which he now helms as president, but also the Raleigh Executive Jetport (Raleigh Exec for short), which is essentially just across the street from which he now lives. Wings of Carolina owns 14 planes and leases another which are all available for pilot members to rent at affordable rates. Photos by Billy Liggett


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@therant905 “Every second Saturday, (Wings of Carolina does) a cookout,” he said. “It was April of 2016 and we came down for the day. We knew at the time that we wanted to move into a bigger house, and I knew I wanted to be closer to an airport. We saw the neighborhood that they were building right nearby and just fell in love. About six months later we moved in.” Wings of Carolina accounts for a large portion of the aviation activity at Raleigh Exec, a general aviation (read “non-commercial”) facility which has stood off Farrell Road near the U.S. 1 intersection since 1999 (for years before that, the old Sanford-Lee County Airport occupied a much smaller space off Tramway Road near where Southern Lee High School is now located), but even Myers will tell you that so, so much more goes on there every day. The airport itself employs about a dozen full and part time workers. Multiple businesses are located in the various hangars sitting on the nearly 700-acre footprint, as is a regional maintenance base for the North Carolina Forest Service.

Bob Heuts (above) has been Raleigh Executive Jetport’s director since 2016. (Right) The airport unveiled its new 14,500-square-foot terminal and observation deck in 2019.

“The whole airport is a small community in and of itself,” Myers said. “My little flying club employs four people, but there are dozens of people connected with the club that work out there. We’ll frequently go down to the Forest Service and borrow parts from them, or they’ll borrow parts for us. Everybody knows everybody.” ECONOMIC JET ENGINE To be clear, Raleigh Exec is more — far more — than just the sum of its parts. And even though it’s not a place you can go to catch a commercial flight out of Lee County, the average citizen feels its impacts every day, whether they know it or not. “You look at it the same way you look at highways or rails or any other type of transportation,” said Bob Heuts, Raleigh Exec’s director since 2016. “But it’s also an asset to the community, just like the community college or our public schools. And this may have an even farther reach, because the people that use this airport are from around here, but that could mean a 30 mile radius. And if those people weren’t using it, they’d be going somewhere else.” A WRAL report from April 2021 estimated Raleigh Exec’s annual economic impact at an eye-popping $61 million, all while supporting as many as 400 local jobs.


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Raleigh Exec is home to emergency planes and helicopters, these owned by the North Carolina Forest Service to battle wildfires and for use in other natural disasters.

Additionally, its mere presence serves as a catalyst for economic development. Heuts — formerly in economic development himself with the old Lee County Economic Development Corporation in the mid to late 2000s — and Jimmy Randolph, CEO of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, both said Raleigh Exec has been at the heart of any of the blockbuster jobs projects announced (think Pfizer, Bharat Forge, Astellas) by Sanford and Lee County’s government and business leaders in recent years.

Jetport. Otherwise we’d miss out.”

“There’s an economic development checklist most of these companies have, and if you can’t check off that you’ve got an airport with X-distance, you may get eliminated from consideration before you even know it,” Heuts said.

Decades on, that perception can still persist — there are usually a handful of such online comments any time The Rant reports on Raleigh Exec — but not so strongly these days. In any case, there’s all kinds of evidence for anyone willing to see that “a playground for the rich” isn’t a full — or even fair — way to assess the airport.

“Companies don’t just think about highway transport,” Randolph added. “So the fact that we have a general aviation airport is an unquestionable asset. It’s five minutes from the Central Carolina Enterprise Park, so when Pfizer is having their strategic planning meetings that might involve several facilities, we’re on the map as a potential location because they can fly right into the

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The positive feelings about Raleigh Exec haven’t always been so widely shared. When the proposal to move to and expand in the Farrell Road location was first floated in the late 1990s, opposition came not just from nearby landowners, but others who questioned whether the facility would be a benefit only to those with access to a private aircraft — primarily the wealthy, in other words.

“There’s no question about it, in terms of tax base and the visibility it’s given to the Lee County community,” Heuts said. “All that came into play when it was located where it was.” The notion is further disabused by Raleigh Exec’s inarguable openness — anyone

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rantnc.com can walk through the front door and out onto the runway to have a look around any time the facility is open, and a new 14,500 square foot terminal which opened in 2019 features an observation deck on which visitors can sit and watch the dozens of airplanes which come and go each day. While COVID restrictions temporarily halted the airport’s annual family day celebration in 2020, 2021 saw its return that October and plans are in place to continue the event in the future. Add to that Wings of Carolina’s Second Saturday cookouts, and the picture is one of inclusion for anyone interested, whether they’re capable of or even interested in purchasing an airplane or not.

“We had a school field trip out here and when I told (the students) they could come out here any time they wanted to watch from the observation deck their faces lit up and they were like ‘really?’” said Sarah Staut, the airport’s office manager. “They couldn’t believe it.” “Family Day or any kind of event is important to us because we really want people to understand what’s going on out here,” Heuts added. “That kind of education is important.” While Raleigh Exec’s physical features are impressive (and important) — the 6,500 foot runway is capable of handling some of aviation’s largest craft, and projects finished in recent years include the instal-

RALEIGH EXEC | BY THE NUMBERS

62.7 million: The economic output of Raleigh Exec yearly 490: The number of jobs supported by activity taking place at the jetport 11: Businesses operating currently at Raleigh Exec 2.4 million: The amount of money in state and local taxes generated each year at Raleigh Exec 20.2 million: Amount of personal income generated by jobs on the grounds or supported by jetport activity 170+: The number of aircraft based at Raleigh Exec.


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lation of 30 new T-hangar units, the addition of large corporate hangar spaces and 27 new aircraft parking spots, a widening of the taxiway to foot feet, the new terminal in 2019, and much, much more — perhaps the most interesting aspect of the facility is its ownership structure. Overseen by the quasi-governmental Sanford-Lee County Regional Airport Authority, any tax revenues which come from aircraft and other facilities based at Raleigh Exec go back into a reserve fund which allows, for the most part, for the airport to be self sustaining. “Whenever money is spent out here, you’re reinvesting in yourself,” Heuts said. “This is providing a public service.” The Airport Authority was set up the way it is in large part because when Raleigh Exec opened in 1999, it was now outside the Sanford city limits, making it difficult for the city to benefit from tax revenue generated there. Instead, the agreement means all those tax revenues go back to the Airport Authority itself. That’s an agreement unique at least in North Carolina, Heuts said.

(Above) A private jet lands at Raleigh Executive Jetport in December, the smoke from Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant seen in the background. (Left) MAG Aerospace, a military contractor that specializes in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services operations, training and technical services, has a hangar at Raleigh Exec.

But it also doesn’t mean outside funding isn’t sometimes beneficial or even necessary. But that’s most likely to come in the form of state Department of Transportation moneys like the $4.77 million Raleigh Exec received in September 2021 to improve the taxiway or the $9 million allocated for capital improvements in North Carolina’s long overdue state budget passed back in November. Those improvements and more — a map on the wall in the terminal’s conference room shows space for new hangars and other continued upgrades set for the near future — will most certainly play a role in the airport’s continued success. But that continued success for the airport is sure to mean continued success for the community as a whole — whether with regards to more announcements in the future about international companies locating or expanding here, continued residential development or any number of other factors.

airport in the periphery of the Triangle, and if we’re going to have the kind of residential development we want, that’s important to these people. They might choose to live elsewhere if they weren’t able to fly. But beyond that, (Raleigh Exec) just communicates something about the type of community they’re looking to locate in.”

“Each of the major (economic development) projects we’ve had in the last several years has had private corporate aircraft involved,” Randolph said. “But the personal side of it is that for the executives involved, it can be a factor in their decisions about where to live and where to raise their families. There’s not a better (general aviation)

Myers, the Wings of Carolina president, can see those successes firsthand on a smaller scale. While he said he tries to fly a club-owned plane at least two or three times a month, he also sees in real time the smaller picture, which is that Wings of Carolina and Raleigh Exec draw new people in with great frequency.

THE MIDDLE GROUND

“My vice president is a guy who got trained to fly out here, and then joined Wings of Carolina out here, and then he ended up buying a plane that’s now based out here,” he said. And in his role as Wings of Carolina’s president, Myers has had the opportunity not just to enjoy Raleigh Exec, but also to see how it stacks up against similar facilities across the nation. He recalled purchasing a small club plane in 2020 from a seller in Texas and flying it back to Lee County, and what he saw along the way. “I stopped at seven or eight airports ranging from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which is about equivalent to RDU, to a small airport in the middle of nowhere in Mississippi,” he said. “And so we have sort of a nice little

middle ground between a much bigger commercial airport and something very small like that. There’s maintenance on the field, there’s always somebody there, but it’s not so big and complex that you have to deal with all the issues you would coming in or out of a place like RDU.” From his perspective, Myers said he appreciates Raleigh Exec and the Airport Authority’s stance — which he called “not shy” — when it comes to “wanting to be the place where the private operators come in and out.” “They’ve made a lot of progress along those lines,” he said. “You can go on their website and look at their master plan, and you can just see them chipping away at it. You need a certain amount of community to have a community, if that makes sense. Some of those little airports that have one or two planes tied down — they’re never going to be that big. Wings of Carolina is only out here because the airport is here to support us, but I think we’re able to support the airport almost as much.”


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Get Active in the New Year! Now offering Adult Fitness programs Bob Hales Center 147 McIver St., Sanford

Join us for Yoga! 30-40 minutes of Yoga streamed through YouTube. Come exercise and socialize.

Punch cards can be purchased to attend these programs. Each card has five punches and cost $15 per card

Classes are held at 12:15 p.m. every Thursday in March, April and May.

30 minutes of exercise (mostly walking). Classes are held at 12:15 p.m. every Monday in March, April and May.

Baseball & Softball Registrations Now Open Register your child now for spring sports! We offer: T-Ball (Ages 3-6) Coach Pitch (Ages 7-8) Baseball (Ages 9-12) Softball (Ages 9-12) Deadline to register is March 11.


22 | January 2022

@therant905 THE RANT MONTHLY PRESENTS

YEARBOOK 2021

A look back at the biggest events and top stories for Sanford and Lee County By Billy Liggett It’s a new year, which in the world of journalism means it’s time to look back at the year that was. For most of us, 2021 was supposed to be the year when the pandemic ended and everything got back to normal. While “normal” returned in bits and pieces, the year was a roller coaster of COVID-19 news, with vaccinations and dwindling numbers providing good news and variants and more hospitalizations providing the bad. COVID-19 plays prominently in our look back, but there was much more to 2021 for our area. We present to you our Yearbook 2021 — here’s hoping Yearbook 2022 shifts more toward the “normal” side of the spectrum.

JANUARY BIGGEST NEWS | THE INSURRECTION

As we approach the one-year anniversary of a dark day in American history, there were, unfortunately, Sanford ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Two Sanford men, Lance Grames and Jere Brower, were among the several North Carolinians charged by authorities for their involvement in the storming of the Capitol. Grames, Brower and Earl Glosser of Matthews, N.C., were charged with unlawful entry and curfew violation. But the story that got the most local buzz was Lee County school board member Sherry Womack’s appearance with her husband at the Trump rally before the insurrection in D.C. that day. Womack was quoted in a piece by USA Today about the events of the day. Womack told the national paper she traveled to Washington to demand better election security and stronger voter ID laws. “I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists,” she was quoted as saying. “But these are legiti-

mate questions that need to be asked.” The Lee County Board of Education voted six days later to investigate Womack’s actions in D.C., following several comments both against her appearance at the rally and in support of her freedom of speech. The investigation found that Womack didn’t violate any school board policy during her trip, and no action was taken against her. Womack would later run for vice chair for the North Carolina Republican Party, losing the race in June to Susan Mills, co-founder for the Women for Trump PAC. TRM COVER STORY | TO GOOD HEALTH

January is usually the start of healthy resolutions, so we thought we’d start 2021 off with a story on a new downtown business, Seva Yoga, owned by Sanford native Jan Smith. The pandemic nearly derailed her plans to open the yoga studio in 2020, but she kept at it, and when people were comfortable being in public again, her business thrived. From the story: Downtown 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. “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.” WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• On Jan. 5, Lee County began registration for its first round of COVID-19 vaccina-

tions for people 75 or older and for health care and frontline workers. • On Jan. 7, Sheriff Tracy Carter announced he would not seek a fifth term as sheriff after serving for 15 years in the role and more than 30 years in law enforcement. Carter’s final day in office was Jan. 1, 2022. • Four days after Carter’s announcement, Capt. Brian Estes announced he would run for sheriff in 2022. He became interim sheriff on Jan. 1. • On Jan. 25, Owls Nest Properties announced it has acquired and would begin extensive renovations on the Masonic Temple building in downtown Sanford. Work has been ongoing at the building since, though plans for its completion have been put on hold.

FEBRUARY BIGGEST NEWS | THE GLEN

The Sanford City Council voted on Feb. 17 to approve a 131-home high-density subdivision off of Cool Springs Road, to the dismay of residents in the nearby Westlake Downs and Brownstone neighborhoods.


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rantnc.com The council voted 5-2 in favor of the Glen at Cool Springs, whose homes will sit on quarter-acre lots on the 53-acre site.

request to his wife’s previous investigation. The board voted to conduct the investigation on March 17.

In approving the subdivision, the council voted that the proposal made by Daniel Koeller of Atlantic Coast Land Development and property owner Forbes Forest Land Property Management LLC was consistent with the city’s long-range plan. The vote was originally scheduled for the council’s first February meeting, but was tabled after dozens of public comments from residents of the neighboring communities voiced opposition to the proposed map. The citizen-led Sanford Planning Commission also voted against recommending the plans to the city. Commission chairman Fred McIver said his group walked the property and studied the plans carefully before reaching its decision.

In May, board attorney Jimmy Love told the board members he was unable to find any violation in school policy by Kelly. “I pursued all the allegations I could hear or possibly find. I’ve talked to students, I’ve talked to parents, and my conclusion after all of that is that there was no violation of ethics policy 2120, or any other policy of the Board of Education,” Love said. “It would be my recommendation that no action be taken because I have been unable to substantiate the allegations that have been made regarding board policy 2120.” TRM COVER STORY | A YEAR OF COVID

“There’s a big difference in house sizes, land space between homes and density from the homes in [nearby] Westlake Valley,” McIver told The Rant. “These homes just didn’t match what would be around it.”

Homeowners along Cool Springs Road in west Sanford fought the city council over the proposed The Glen at Cool Springs subdivision in February. Despite their concerns about the high-density neighborhood, the council eventually approved the project. Photo by Billy Liggett

In his proposal to the city, Koeller described the Glen at Cool Springs as a community that will complement its surroundings.

And there are plenty more on the way. In addition to the projects listed above, which are all in construction, another three — Kendall Creek Apartments, also on Pendergrass Road, Southeastern Development Apartments on Dalrymple Street in Jonesboro, and Pine Reserve Apartments on Center Church Road in Tramway — have been approved by the local planning department, and two more (Kendale Lofts on Lee Avenue near Kendale Plaza, and another complex on Canterbury Road) are in review. And in November, work began on a 252-united apartment complex known as Pine Reserve in Tramway (behind the Food Lion shopping center).

“The vision for the Glen at Cool Springs is one of tree-lined spaces and sidewalks on both sides of the road to foster a sense of place,” the proposal read. “Common green space within the neighborhood provides places for gathering and conversation. Glen at Cool Springs will be the perfect place for someone to call home.” TRM COVER STORY | RENTAL HEALTH

More jobs and more people have meant more construction of not only single-family homes in Lee County (with two major subdivisions in the works), but also a rise in apartment complexes and townhomes, a sign that Sanford is attracting a more diverse population. The February cover story of The Rant Monthly focused on the apartment complexes. From the story:

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• Hugger Mugger Brewing and Indie on Air announced Carolina Indie Fest, a two-day multi-stage music festival scheduled for September (more on that later).

A group of townhomes at Carthage Colonies is under construction off Carthage Street. The new Hawkins Walk complex is being built where Hawkins Avenue crosses over the U.S. 421 bypass. Sandhill Court Apartments is going up on Pendergrass Road. An expansion into a second phase is happening at South Park Village on N.C. Highway 87.

• In one of the worst days of the pandemic locally, Lee County Health Department announced six COVID-related deaths on Feb. 4, pushing the total number of deaths at that point to 65 since the start of the pandemic. By the end of the month, that death toll would reach 73 people. Lee County also crossed the 5,000-case threshold on Feb. 8.

Speaking in general terms, these projects — referred to as multi family units in industry talk — are popping up in just about every part of Lee County.

• On Feb. 8, Republican Tim L. Smith announced his candidacy for Lee County Sheriff in 2022.

• Human remains were discovered in western Lee County on Feb. 12, and on Feb. 16, those remains were identified as Cory Dale Moore, a 32-year-old Sanford man who had been reported missing. • GKN Driveline announced on Feb. 19 that it would close its Sanford manufacturing plant on March 19. • The Boone Trail road sign in west Sanford was misspelled as “Boone Trial,” The Rant reported on Feb. 26. The sign was soon corrected, to the joy of us all.

MARCH BIGGEST NEWS | SCHOOL BOARD MESS

It’s unfortunate that this was a story, that it got so much attention and that we’re picking it as the top story from March of last year. But it happened, and hopefully we’ve learned from it. A month after the Lee County Board of Education voted (after an investigation) that board member Sherry Womack did not violate any policies for being in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, the board agreed to investigate board member Patrick Kelly, a Democrat, after a private photo of Kelly engaged in a consensual sexual act with a woman was discovered and shared among local GOP consituents. Lee County Republican Party Chairman Jim Womack, husband to Sherry, asked the board to conduct the investigation and tied his

March marked a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country and changed life as we know it. While the virus remains deadly and serious heading into 2022, March showed signs of progress with vaccinations and cases falling locally (before the word “variant” became commonplace). From the story: This March will mark a year since the virus became that “life changer.” A year of quarantine. A year of mask-wearing. A year of avoiding gatherings. A year of political division and defending science. A year of mass sickness. A year of tragedy. Through Feb. 27 of this year, more than 5,300 people in Lee County — roughly 8 percent of the population — have contracted COVID-19. Seventy-three men and women have died. In the United States, more than 28 million people have tested positive for the virus, and the death toll surpassed the 500,000 mark in February. But a year into the pandemic, it feels like things are moving in a more positive direction. New cases (both locally and globally) are dropping. Hospitalization and death rates are also dropping. What’s growing is the supply of available vaccines — with three companies now approved to distribute. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that total cases and vaccinations will lead to “herd immunity” — the point at which enough people are protected against a disease so that it cannot spread through the population — in the United States by June of this year. For the first time, there is hope.


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WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• On March 5, we reported on Temple Theatre’s many renovations that took place during the time off forced by the pandemic. • Pilgrim’s donated $500,000 for a downtown home for the Sanford Agricultural Market Place. The marketplace will be housed in the former King Roofing, Heating and Air building on Carthage Street, next to the old City Hall building and will serve as a multi-functional space for civic events and gatherings; including 4-H meetings, farmer education courses, a food donation hub and bi-lingual classes on food safety, budget planning and cooking. • Site Selection Magazine named Sanford the fifth best micropolitan area in which to do business in the United States. Sanford was tied with Auburn, Indiana for fifth place in the rankings, behind Findlay, Ohio; Jefferson, Georgia; Cullman, Alabama; and Tiffin, Ohio.

APRIL BIGGEST NEWS | MNT. BIKE MAYHEM

Officials announced the indefinite closing of San-Lee Park’s Gravity Park bike trail following a serious injury in early April. The section of bike trail was shut down so Parks and Recreation officials could review safety standards and maintenance needs. Gravity Park saw seven “serious” injuries over the course of a year, prompting the move. The most recent injury in April happened to an 11-year-old boy. WRAL reported that injuries on the trail have included broken bones and head injuries. Four people have been airlifted to hospitals, including the 11-year-old on Easter weekend. According to the county, San-Lee’s original bike trail was built 20 years ago, largely by volunteers who have continued to expand and maintain it over the years. “We understand that there will be members of the mountain biking community that are disappointed by the planned trail modifications, but the county priority is improving the safety of the bike trails for all riders and in creating an environment where riders of all ages and skill levels can safely enjoy biking in the natural environment and setting of San-Lee Park,” County Manager John Crumpton said. In December, after months of work, the bike

Lee County’s growing number of first-class wedding venues provided the cover story for the May edition of The Rant Monthly. Above, The Farm on Cotton provides upscale wedding bliss with classic Southern charm. Photo by Ben Brown trail reopened to the public. More on that later in this story in our November round-up. TRM COVER STORY | AFTER THE STORM

April 16 marked the 10-year anniversary of the massive quarter-mile wide EF-3 tornado that hit Sanford. The storm followed a 63-mile path, lasted for more than an hour and hit estimated maximum wind speeds of 160 miles per hour. Five people died in the storm — two in Lee County — and hundreds of homes and businesses in its path were badly damaged or completely destroyed. The April 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly looked back at the storm and its aftermath and retold the story of Mike Hollowell, the Lowe’s Home Improvement manager who guided several customers and co-workers to safety seconds before the building was destroyed. From the story: Mike Hollowell was helping a customer at the home decor desk inside Lowe’s Home Improvement in Sanford on April 16, 2011,

when he looked up to see employees and customers sprinting toward the lumber section. Curious about the commotion — and aware that big storms were predicted in the area that day — Hollowell hurried to the entrance to see for himself what had people seeking cover. Across Horner Boulevard, barely a quarter of a mile from where he stood, a swirling blackness engulfed the nearby Tractor Supply Company building. Without hesitation, Hollowell acted. The store manager got on the radio with his two assistants and ordered everybody in the store to head toward the back, per safety protocols. As they ran, Hollowell looked up to see the roof on the giant warehouse start peeling back. The group reached safety just in time — the front right side of the store was obliterated, reduced to a pile of twisted metal and splintered wood. The rooms in the back remained mostly intact. More than 100 people were safe. Amazingly, nobody died in Hollowell’s store. “I remember when it passed, there was this eerie silence. Before we started hearing the sirens,” Hollowell recalls. “I looked out to see if

everyone was OK, and I remember seeing daylight where a roof was supposed to be. [Minutes later,] I saw one of my assistant managers standing on top of a pile of rubble throwing [rubble] to the side. A pick-up that was parked by the lumber side of the building to escape the storm was pinned. A man and his young daughter were inside, and she had crawled out to find help. There just happened to be an emergency response seminar going on at the [nearby] convention center, and those first responders were on the scene faster than the fire department. They got that gentleman out of the car.” “The tornado was terrible. But we had a lot of things going for us that day.” WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• Local barber Reginald Green offered free haircuts to anybody who showed up with a COVID vaccination card from April 12-15. • Carlton Lyles became the first Democrat to announce his intentions to run for Lee County sheriff in 2022.


The Rant Monthly | 25

rantnc.com • Sanford Mayor Chet Mann announced he would seek a third term as mayor in 2022. • Sanford’s Bret Schaller competed in the History Channel show, “Assembly Required,” hosted by “Home Improvement” stars Tim Allen and Richard Karn. • The Sanford Spinners announced their return to baseball’s Old North State League after a 60-year hiatus. The Spinners last played in the World War II era. • Biotech firm Abzena announced in April it would bring 300 jobs with an average pay of $63,000 a year to Sanford. • Sanford’s Britton Buchanan sang for former President Jimmy Carter at his church in Plains, Georgia, on April 18. • A deadly wreck on the U.S. 421 bypass killed three people — Lloyd Atkins, Kimberly Atkins and Judy Atkins. Ivory Adajar was arrested on three counts of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. • In lighter news, the sign at the new Popeyes restaurant was mounted on April 29, much to the joy of all.

MAY BIGGEST NEWS | FALSE HOPE

Considering where we are heading into 2022 — the COVID-19 pandemic continues to alter life as we know it, and new variants are more contagious than ever — it’s disheartening to read stories like this one from May. On May 12, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced he was rescinding the state’s mask order. Three days later, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann announced the city was rescinding its order that had been in place since Nov. 25. The news coincided with the announcement that children ages 12-15 would be eligible for the COVID vaccine. Months later, mask and vaccine mandates are still being discussed, a sign that the pandemic will still be top of mind for a third straight year. TRM COVER STORY | WEDDING CENTRAL

Sanford is home to nearly a dozen venues that are attracting anywhere between 20 and 40 weddings a year. And the pandemic has done little to slow the industry down — Daniel’s

Ridge hosted roughly 30 large-scale events in 2021, most of them weddings. Five miles away at Sugarneck on Buckhorn Road, there were 40-plus big events scheduled for 2021. Again, most of those will involve exchanging rings, kissing and saying “I do.” The May cover story of The Rant Monthly featured Daniel’s Ridge, the Farm on Cotton, Hawkins House, Oakland Farm, Luminarias and other wedding venues that are bringing in hundreds of weddings and thousands of people to the area each year. Guests are staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants, drinking at local breweries, shopping in local stores and visiting local tourist attractions — contributing greatly to the local economy. The domino effect doesn’t stop there. Wedding planners, interior designers, florists, photographers and videographers, DJs, caterers, officiants, tux shops and hair stylists (to name a few) … they’re all benefiting from Sanford’s newfound Wedding Central label. From the story: “I’ve worked weddings in the mountains and on the beaches, and I’ve worked local weddings for the last eight years,” says photographer Alicia Hite of Broadway. “I think because of its

central location and because of the variety of venues you can find here, people are looking at Sanford as a real wedding destination. There are just so many options for large and small ceremonies. “I absolutely think Sanford is becoming the wedding capital of North Carolina. I’d love to see that title here. It’s deserved.” WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• Lee County Elections Director Jeni Harris has announced she was leaving the position effective June 14. • A state of emergency stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and declared in Lee County on March 16 ended on May 18, two months later. • Central Carolina Community College named Dr. Kristi Short its new vice president and chief academic officer. • Kirk Smith, the Republican chairman of the Lee County Board of Commissioners, said in an email obtained by The Rant that teachers in Lee County shouldn’t receive an increase in supplemental pay due to the “mediocre performance” by local public

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@therant905 WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• The Sanford Spinners’ opening night on June 7 featured an 8-7 win over the Fayetteville Chutes. • Sanford dancer Mariah Reives was a dancer in a Tonight Show sketch featuring Lin Manuel-Miranda and Jimmy Fallon welcoming the return of Broadway. • Southern Lee graduate Thomas Harrington was named the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year after going 5-2 with a 2.94 ERA pitching for Campbell University in 2021. • Betsy Bridges, who served as principal at SanLee Middle School since 2013, was named the new principal of Lee County High School on June 16. • Central Carolina Academy, Lee County’s third charter school which expects to open in the fall of 2022, has named veteran educator Greg Batten its lead administrator. • A 36-year-old man was found murdered at the Prince Downtown Motel in Sanford on the morning of June 28. The Prince was the subject of the first edition of The Rant Monthly for its years of criminal activity. An arrest was made in the shooting death two days later. Brick City Boba owners Brittany Nau and Chelsey Ruta stand in front of their business, which opened in 2021, part of an economic revival of the Jonesboro Heights area. Photo by Billy Liggett schools on North Carolina’s school report cards. The school board voted later to approve bonuses for teachers and staff.

JUNE BIGGEST NEWS | NOBODY LIKES TAXES

Sometimes, you have to choose your “biggest” story of a month based on the comments, and in June, no story garnered as much attention in the online comments as a two-cent city tax hike to fund a new fire station on June 2. The story seemed small enough — the revenue from the increase would fund a fourth fire station in the city, and the vote passed by a 6-1 margin. But the online critics were loud. “Liberals will be liberals” wrote one commenter. Despite their consenting comments, the fourth fire station is a need. It will be located at the intersection of Colon Road and U.S. 1, home to huge industrial growth and the soon-

to-be constructed Galvin’s Ridge Subdivision, which will house nearly 1,000 new homes in the coming years.

cated Landmark Breakfast Shop was available, it seemed like as good a space as any to put a small Mexican restaurant.

As one commenter put it: “Sanford and its leaders should be praised for lifting their heads out of the sand in regards to the area’s future. Those that do not like it can and should move to places like Asheboro, Seagrove and Troy.”

“My parents used to come here when it was the Landmark,” she said. “And I was like, ‘this is a cute little small space.’”

TRM COVER STORY | IN THE HEIGHTS

Fonda Lupita earned high praise later in the year when it was named one of the 11 best new restaurants in the country by Eater.com. Months before the accolade, it was the center of a feature in The Rant Monthly on the business growth in the Jonesboro Heights area. From the story: When Birdiana Frausto began seeking out a location for Fonda Lupita in 2019, there wasn’t a whole lot happening in the Jonesboro Heights area of Sanford. When Frausto discovered that the space formerly occupied by the then recently-relo-

Frausto didn’t know at the time that she would be among the first in a string of new businesses that have been slowly but surely breathing new life into a part of Sanford that had been fairly dormant for a long time. Merenda’s Soul Food Kitchen. Brick City Boba. Valenti’s. The Eyelight Coffee and Comics. All have sprung up or are set to open soon on Main Street in downtown Jonesboro, and there are plenty of reasons to believe more are on the way. “I felt like everything was dying here at one point,” Frausto said. “The coffee shop wasn’t there. The boba place wasn’t there. So, for a lot of locals to come into this strip, I think it’s a good thing.”

• Lee County Health Department offered $25 cash cards to entice people to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

JULY BIGGEST NEWS | SPORTS COMPLEX INCHES CLOSER

The long-awaited Multi-Sports Complex came a step closer to reality in July when county commissioners approved the purchase of property located near the intersection of U.S. Highway 421 and N.C. Highway 42, known locally as Broadway Road. The purchase of the 119.82 acre tract of land was authorized in November 2020, when 58.59 percent of voters approved a bond referendum for the project. The budget for the purchase of the land that was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners includes a payment of $1.914 million for the Myrtle Matthews Poe property that will be combined with a donated tract of land from the Stewart family through Wesara Associates LLC. The commission’s action also provided payment for the $102,110 in due diligence work


The Rant Monthly | 27

rantnc.com done by the McAdams civil engineering firm in Durham. The McAdams group reported to the commissioners that the site that had been selected for purchase was well-suited for the proposed complex, which will have space for at least 10 multi-purpose fields and five baseball fields, all full-sized. Access to the property will be from Broadway Road and there will be none available from U.S. 421. Broadway Road is set for a widening project in the coming months by the state Department of Transportation and McAdams recommended early coordination with the county to avoid any potential conflicts that could lead to construction delays. TRM COVER STORY | SPINNERS RETURN

The July cover story of The Rant Monthly looked at the past, present and (hopefully) future of the Sanford Spinners baseball club, which returned in 2021 after a 60-year hiatus. The cover feature told the story of a fascinating club that played (and won) in the Tobacco League back in the 1930s and 40s. From the story: The Sanford Spinners drew nearly 600 people a game at its peak in the early 1940s, playing at Temple Park, located where McIver Street meets Bragg Street in East Sanford (Wilmington led the league in attendance with more than 1,000 per game). They were already an established brand by then — in 1935,

Herbert “Doc” Smith, a Harnett County native and longtime Minor League catcher, formed the first Tobacco League featuring four teams. Sanford would advance to a national tournament in 1940 in Wichita, Kansas, and place fourth that summer. The Tobacco League got the Spinners back after the war in 1946 and lasted a solid five seasons before the league folded for good in 1950. Attendance dropped from 600 people a game in 1947 to just under 300 a game in the final year. When the league folded, Minor League Baseball in North Carolina remained strong in places like Durham, Wilmington and Winston-Salem, but smaller cities like Sanford, Angier and Mount Airy were left behind. Still, the Spinners’ time in Sanford was memorable. In seven seasons in the Bi-State League and Tobacco State League, Sanford never had a losing record. And several memorable men spent a season or two in Sanford and made their mark. WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• A Sanford man was arrested in early July for animal cruelty after sheriff’s deputies found 28 dogs at his home, many of them mistreated.

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@therant905 • Wild Dogs Brewing opened in downtown Sanford on July 3. • North Carolina First Lady Kristin Cooper visited Sanford on July 15, making stops at Temple Theatre, Added Accents, the Purple Poodle and downtown’s murals before a final stop at Yarborough’s for ice cream.

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• Central Carolina Community College received a $2 million pledge from Bear Creek Arsenal owner E. Eugene Moore, a graduate of the college’s tool and die program.

AUGUST BIGGEST NEWS | FIRST HEALTH TAKES OVER EMS SERVICES

Unlike July, August was full of big news in Sanford. The biggest was the Lee County Board of Commissioners’ vote to select FirstHealth of the Carolinas to take over EMS services for the county effective October 1.

1990s by Central Carolina Hospital EMS. More than 20 people spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting that lasted for more than 90 minutes. Most of those addressing the commissioners spoke in favor of Central Carolina retaining the contract, which expired on Sept. 30. On Aug. 11, FirstHealth opened its third convenient care clinic in Lee County. James Liffrig, M.D., the medical director of FirstHealth Convenient Care, said continuing to provide residents with easy access to medical services is a top priority. “As areas of Sanford continue to expand and grow, it is important that communities have an option for medical services that lie between the needs of a true emergency and the routine and preventative care of a primary care provider,” he said. TRM COVER STORY | MADE IN SANFORD

Five of the seven commissioners voted in favor of the EMS Advisory Committee’s recommendation to award the franchise to FirstHealth.

The Rant Monthly shined a light on some of the best products made right here in Lee County — from perfume to bricks, taco shells to candied fruit slices, hot dog chili to skid steer loaders.

A crowd of about 125 people gathered at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center on Aug. 17, to listen as the commissioners conducted the second of two public hearings on awarding the contract, which had been held since the

The feature highlighted Mertek Solutions Inc., founded by Jerry Pedley originally in the 1990s as Electro-Mechanical Specialties before it became Mertek (named for his father Merle) in 2009.

The Lee County Board of Commissioners approved FirstHealth of the Carolinas’ bid to become the new EMS provider over Central Carolina Hospital in August. CCH had provided the service locally since the 1990s.


The Rant Monthly | 29

rantnc.com From the story: Mertek builds the robots that make many of the products you use today. Many items that aren’t necessarily “Made in Sanford” have their roots here because of Mertek. “Consumer goods are a big thing for us,” says Pedley. “If you’ve got a dishwasher in your house, there’s a good chance someone from Mertek had a hand in it. Or a range — we have machines we put in just recently that tests ranges for a company. We create the machines that put things together and make them better.” For example, when San Francisco-based Velano Vascular needed precise machines to produce their intricate PIVO single-use, needle-free blood collection devices (which attach to IV systems), they turned to Pedley and his team. The device is being used by hospitals all over the country. Toilet bowl cleaners. Date rape fingernail kits. Inhalers. Vehicle intake manifolds. Hotel water bottles. Branded logos on cedar planks used for cooking fish. The machines that help create the fiber rods to catch those fish. “We like to use the word ‘automated’ to describe what we do,” Pedley says. “If you need a part — maybe a brake sensor for your car and it has six or seven parts in it — our machine would put those together automatically at whatever speed they want. They might need one every three seconds. They might need one every minute. But we can put that whole part together and make sure that it’s correct. A lot of the things we make — these are things that you just can’t have operators doing all day long … repetitive stuff. We can do that.” WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• The Lee County Board of Education voted at a special called meeting on Aug. 3, to require that students and staff wear masks for the academic year. Heading into January, the mandate remains in place. • Sisters Lexie Anne Stephens Brown, Mary Blaire Stephens and Colbie Normann Stephens launched Triple Pointe Academy, which opened in August at the old YMCA building in the Spring Lane Galleria between Dollar Tree and Office Max. • The City of Sanford announced it was receiving just under $10 million in COVID relief funds from the federal government as its share of the American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law by President Biden. • Lee County Libraries hosted POP!-Con on

Mertek Solutions Inc. was the subject of The Rant Monthly’s “Made in Sanford” edition in August. Photo by Ben Brown Aug. 21, featuring actors from various sci-fi programs and a Renaissance flair with the Triangle chapter of the Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux.

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• Lee County sheriff’s deputies arrested two people after they were found unconscious and apparently suffering from drug overdoses with a child in the home.

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• Former city police detective Darla Cole was found with multiple knife wounds on Aug. 12. A juvenile in the home, not identified by police due to his age, was taken into custody at the scene and charged with juvenile petitions for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, assault with a deadly weapon, and resisting an officer. Cole and her husband Michael were treated at Central Carolina Hospital with several injuries, but both recovered. • Central Carolina Hospital announced Chris Fensterle as the organization’s next chief executive officer.

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• The BreadBasket of Sanford, founded in September 1990 in the parish hall of St. Thomas Episcopal Church, served its millionth meal in August as a crowd of about 40 people came out to mark the occasion – and to thank the many volunteers and donors who have made it possible over the last 30-plus years.

The roster boasted a mix of young up-andcomers — Michigan’s The Accidentals, for example, aren’t a household name yet, although they’ve been signed to Sony Masterworks since 2017 and have been named to a number of “must see” lists over the years — as well as headlining artists like Paleface, a long time singer-songwriter originally from New York City with nearly 20 albums under his belt and a lineage connecting him to famous acts like Beck, The Ramones and The Doors.

• A multi-month investigation by the Sanford Police Department resulted in the arrest of a business owner on prostitution charges. Mingqiu Du Aleksa, owner of Healthy Feet, a massage parlor at 340 Wilson Road in Sanford, was charged with a felony count of promoting prostitution by providing an establishment, and misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, aiding and abetting prostitution, and practicing massage therapy without a license.

Local country act the Cliff Wheeler Band, which tours regionally and is signed to Indie On Air, also performed (in fact, it was Wheeler who connected Popka and Emmert when the idea of a local festival was first discussed). Perhaps the most well received act on Day 1 was funk/soul artist Nitro Nitra, whose onehour set on Wicker Street had the crowd asking for more.

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Carolina Indie Fest was a success based on the good crowd size despite the pandemic, and organizers have chosen Sanford for an even bigger event coming in May with the Wampus Cat Music Festival, a three-day event to be held at Gross Farms II near Broadway. Wampus Cat will feature several artists who performed at Indie Fest, plus several other up-and-coming names in the industry.

BIGGEST NEWS | REDISTRICTING BEGINS

Action by the Lee County Board of Commissioners’ Republican majority to redraw county electoral maps is 2021 got widespread national attention, thanks to an op-ed that appeared in December in an online news reporting website with nationwide reach. The editorial, entitled “Redistricting Threatens Decades of Black Voters’ Hard-Fought Victories,” was published in Truthout, a nonprofit news organization whose online journal focuses on reporting and commentary on a wide range of social justice issues.

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

The editorial concerns actions taken by the Republican majority during the fall to revise the county’s maps for choosing its members, a task that was required by shifts in the population that were identified through the 2020 Census.

Sav Buist of The Accidentals performs at Carolina Indie Fest in downtown Sanford on Sept. 18. Photo by Ben Brown

In Lee County, commissioners were originally presented with four maps as possible means of redrawing the district lines, but a new map was produced at each of the next three board meetings with little opportunity for public review or comment.

Entering 2022, the local redistricting plan is still a hot topic and will almost certainly be the topic of future local/state/national headlines in the coming months.

The redistricting process began in September, and what is usually a ho-hum process that garners little public attention became a trash fire locally after several missteps. In October, “Plan F” — a plan that was not presented to the public or the full board until just days before the vote. It faced criticism not only from its surprise appearance, but also because it appeared to reduce the number of African-American residents in the county’s only majority-minority district.

In November, the board voted to rewrite a portion of the minutes from the Oct. 18 meeting — a request proposed by Republican commissioner Bill Carver. Carver wanted to remove four sentences from the original draft of the minutes that describe the deliberations of commissioners on Plan F and substitute 11 other sentences in their place that attempt to rationalize the thought processes of the majority as they rejected six other plans and adopted a seventh. The Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham has said that Plan F was developed “behind closed doors in a process that lacked the transparency needed to instill public confidence” in both the process and the product. Carver’s revisions seek to establish a basis for the Republican majority’s vote in anticipation of a

lawsuit that would attempt to overturn the new districts.

TRM COVER STORY | INDIE FEST

The September cover story of The Rant Monthly focused on a two-day, multi-stage music fest held in downtown Sanford. On Sept. 18-19, the city played host to nearly 50 musical acts who comprised the first ever Carolina Indie Fest, a free music festival with three stages boasting musicians from across the globe, performing styles ranging from country to “astral pop” to rock and beyond.

• On Sept. 7, it was announced Sanford and Lee County’s Raleigh Executive Jetport would receive $4.77 million from the state of North Carolina to construct new and improve existing taxi lanes at the airport. • Sanford’s Popeyes location – which began construction in December of 2020 and had been in the works for months prior to that – opened on Sept. 13, much to the joy of many. • After two cancellations in the previous three years — one for COVID-19 in 2020 and for Hurricane Florence in 2018 — the Lee Regional Fair returned in September. • Lee County Board of Education member Christine Hilliard changed her party registration and announced she will run for re-election in 2022 as a Democrat. Hilliard wrote that her “relationship with the local (Republican) party is untenable.” • LPH Media LLC, which owns and operates The Rant and The Rant Monthly, joined the North Carolina Press Association as an associate member in September.


The Rant Monthly | 31

rantnc.com • Kenneth Earl Allen, who had been charged in connection with the March 2019 murder of 80-year-old Norma Brown, pleaded guilty to her murder in Lee County Superior Court. Allen, now 40, will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Prior to the plea agreement, the state had been pursuing the death penalty.

OCTOBER BIGGEST NEWS | THE MASK DEBATE

The issue comes up at nearly every school board meeting now — with parents bringing their so-called “research” to the board to demand they stop forcing kids to wear masks to school. On Oct. 12, the board voted again to continue the mask mandate on the doorsteps of the highly contagious omicron variant and rising COVID-19 numbers locally. One parent called the mask mandate “child abuse.” Another grandparent, however, praised the decision. “I have seen, through my grandchildren, the effectiveness of the universal mask mandate,” she said. “Both of my grandchildren have experienced COVID cases in their classrooms in Lee County. However, because they were wearing their masks and because the persons infected were also wearing their masks, only the person infected had to go home. My grandchildren did not have to stay out of school for 14 days like they did last year, and that in itself is a

good reason to keep this mandate in place.” Masks will continue heading into January. But there are new criteria for that to continue. The board voted in November to leave the current masking mandate in place until 10 consecutive calendar days of “moderate-level” transmission of the COVID virus have been recorded in the county. If that goal can be reached, a special called meeting would be convened to review the situation and consider further action. According to a law passed this summer by the North Carolina General Assembly, school boards are required to revisit requirements for face coverings at least once a month until the law is changed. TRM COVER STORY | FUTBOL IS LIFE

Our cover feature on SanLee Futbol Club looked at not only the program, but its impact on the young men who play because they love the game. From the story: SanLee Futbol Club represents something different and something important to the 25plus players, coaches and staff who dedicate a good chunk of their lives to it — for nearly all of them, it’s a “side gig” to their 50-hour work weeks or full-time school schedules. There’s an overarching “underdog” quality to the program, from its home games on a small private high school’s pitch to its underfunded (yet remarkably effective) practice facilities in the Kendale area.

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@therant905 website with more than 3 million followers on Facebook. Fonda Lupita — Sanford’s new “Mexican comfort food” restaurant that opened in the Jonesboro Heights area in 2020 — was named to the select list, joining restaurants from the largest cities in the country (Sanford’s 30,000 population was by far the smallest, with Portland, Oregon, 10th at 645,000 people). Eater‘s Erin Perkins wrote: “Customers happily dip crispy quesabirria tacos into rich consomé, and nearly everyone has a gordita on their table. The gorditas, a hit since opening in March 2020, boast char-flecked tortillas, generously filled with chorizo con papas or chicken tinga and a sprinkling of queso fresco.” The write-up ends: “If it’s true that a good restaurant can help define the town it’s in — and it is certainly true in North Carolina — Fonda Lupita may just put Sanford on the map for having some of the most heartful cuisine in North Carolina.” TRM COVER STORY | HAPPY TRAILS

Fonda Luipta, owned and operated by Birdiana Frausto, was named one of the top 11 “Best New Restaurants in the United States” by Eater.com in November. Photo by Billy Liggett As a whole, SanLee Futbol Club is quality, competitive semi-professional soccer. And according to Tim Blodgett, general manager and owner/founder of the San Lee Soccer Academy, it’s a hidden gem in the Lee County sports scene. When San Lee joined the United Premier Soccer League in 2018, he laid out his goal of not only building a strong adult program, but growing the sport at the youth levels as well. “Soccer is loved by so many here locally; youth and adults deserve to experience the sport to its fullest,” he said in 2018. “We’re focusing on structure and professionalism here in Sanford … setting up players for the best opportunity to play soccer on the biggest stages, regardless of their backgrounds or social upbringing.” WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• The town of Broadway unearthed a time capsule buried just inches below the ground at the northern foot of the town’s water

tower. Inside were items that had been placed there during the town’s centennial celebration in 1970 to commemorate the founding of Broadway 100 years prior and there was great excitement among the crowd about what was inside. But as the men began to pull away the seal, it became clear that portions of it had failed over the years and the contents inside the vessel had been damaged by the seepage of moisture. Town officials sent the items away for preservation. • The Sanford City Council on Oct. 19 annexed a 169-plus acre tract of land near the end of Valley Road on which a multiuse subdivision has been proposed. With new industries coming to Lee County and existing ones preparing to ramp up their hiring over the next few months, Sanford is poised for an unprecedented period of growth. Already, 4,500 new housing units are either under review or already approved, along with another 1,250 apartments that will change the character and size of the city.

• Two New York women were arrested on Oct. 29, charged with felony promoting prostitution by providing an establishment, felony conspiracy, misdemeanor aiding and abetting prostitution, and misdemeanor practicing massage therapy without a license. The women were arrested when Sanford Police Department’s narcotics division executed a search warrant at King Spa and Reflexology, following a “several month long investigation.”

NOVEMBER BIGGEST NEWS | GOOD EATING

What does Sanford, North Carolina, have in common with New York City, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and Portland? It’s home to one of the 11 “Best New Restaurants in America,” according to a November article in Eater, a national food-focused

When Lee County officials closed down the mountain bike trails at San Lee Park back in April after a series of serious injuries to inexperienced riders, there was a good chance they’d never open back up. To the benefit of mountain bike trail enthusiasts in Lee County and beyond, county officials decided to stick with making them safer. County Manager John Crumpton talked to leaders in the mountain biking community who convinced him that the trails — which have existed for the better part of the last decade, built almost entirely by volunteers and collectively known as the Gravity Park — could not only be made safer, but also leveraged into a quality of life amenity that gives locals another recreational option and draws in scores of outof-town riders. The new and improved trails at San Lee Park opened in December. From the story: The new trails — there will be five total, two of which are complete with a third about 75 percent done — range in length from half a mile down to closer to a quarter mile and increase in difficulty. Riders will see some instructive “filter features” that will help them figure out which trails are appropriate for their skill level. “We’ve really tried to take a lot of the variables out of it, where it’s like, at first you’re


The Rant Monthly | 33

rantnc.com just focusing on riding, and then as you go on and get better you can focus on jumping,” said Black Diamond’s Joseph Litaker, who is leading the redesign. “It’s really progressive and intuitive almost to where it’s like, I really just have to focus on learning how to jump, which makes it a lot safer.”

TRM COVER STORY | BECOMING SCROOGE

Temple Theatre’s musical adaptation of the beloved holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol” returned to the stage in December before a full house on several nights of its run. The December edition of The Rant Monthly highlighted the man under the night cap, Ebenezer Scrooge himself, Peter Battis, a professional actor and longtime scholar of Charles Dickens’ work.

That being said, the more advanced the trails get, the more visibly difficult they become, even to a non-rider. “That’s what we mean by filter features,” said Clayton Newman, a member of the Black Diamond team. “If you see that jump that looks intimidating right at the start of the track, you’re going to know you should go for one of the easier trails.”

From the story:

WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter officially submitted his resignation from the post on on Nov. 1, effective Jan. 1. • Sanford’s own Aslan Freeman appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Nov. 1, alongside Lainey Wilson as the budding country music star performed her hit single, “Things a Man Oughta Know.” • A divided Sanford City Council voted 4-3 on Nov. 3, to assign a Conditional Zoning District for the proposed Brookshire development, the 168-acre tract of land bordered by Valley and Forestwood Park Road, U.S. 421, and the Wildwood subdivision. • Sanford’s Equity Task Force presented a 46-page report to the City Council on Nov. 9. The document was the culmination of a year-long effort that included consultations with local and regional experts in the development of a blueprint for social change in six main areas. They include wages and income, criminal justice reform, housing and home ownership, communication and community responsibility, leadership and inclusion, and education and health.

Peter Battis portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the return of Temple Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” in December. Battis’ story was the cover feature of our annual December holiday edition. Photo courtesy of Temple Theatre economic growth and make the region even more competitive on a global stage.

DECEMBER BIGGEST NEWS | ABORTION VOTE

Still reeling from the national exposure of its controversial redistricting plan, the Lee County Board of Commissioners voted in December to support the passage of the “Heartbeat Bill” in North Carolina. The Heartbeat Bill is a law passed in Texas in 2021 that blocks legal abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

• Local attorney Brad Salmon was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve as District Court Judge for District 11 covering Lee, Harnett and Johnston counties.

The discussion among commissioners turned into an impassioned debate at the December meeting. County commissioners have no authority to regulate abortions within their jurisdiction, but they do have the right to express opinions on issues being considered at the state or federal level, or in the courts. Board Chairman Kirk Smith’s proposed resolution drew sharp criticism from fellow board member Cameron Sharpe.

• The so-called “Carolina Core” got one step closer to adding another interstate shield to the region, thanks to language included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by President Joe Biden. Business and civic leaders within the region are partnering with local, state and federal officials to designate part of Highway U.S. 421 as a future interstate in an effort to further spur

“This is beyond the scope of the board to address this issue,” Sharpe said. “I was elected to bring jobs, build schools, support teachers and provide them with the supplement that you (Republicans) did not choose to give them during the pandemic. Also, I was elected to help bring lower taxes, which I have supported twice. As for this Heartbeat Bill, the North Carolina General Assembly hasn’t had a public

hearing on this and if they wanted the support of the people, they would have held public hearings. But they didn’t, kind of like we didn’t have a public hearing on redistricting.” Sharpe continued that he viewed Medicaid expansion as a related issue worth adding to the resolution. “You guys want the babies to be born,” he said, “but you don’t want to take care of them afterwards — the poor, the people in need, the people who can’t take care of them. I think Medicaid expansion would take care of that. So, since this is beyond the scope of this board, whenever an issue like this comes up in the future, pick up the phone and call your legislator or congressman or senator. This isn’t what the people of Lee County elected us for. I think I know how this vote is going to go, but that’s my feeling.” Republican Commissioner Bill Carver supported the resolution, adding, “We talk about the citizens of Lee County. The citizens that we fail to think about are the babies in the womb. The hard attitude behind this Heartbeat Bill has to do with a moral conscience about whether or not it’s appropriate to elevate the woman’s right above the right of the baby to survive. So, I would offer that as a reasonable and logical argument.” The final vote was 5-2 in favor of the resolution, with Democrat Mark Lovick crossing over to vote with the Republican majority in favor of the resolution.

For nearly 180 years, readers and fans of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” have debated over the exact point of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from the greedy, selfish miser we meet at the beginning to the caring man full of Christmas spirit by book’s end. But few have had the opportunity to truly jump into the character like Peter Battis, a veteran of the stage and scholar of Dickens’ work who’ll be making his fourth appearance as Scrooge in the musical adaptation of the Christmas classic this month for Temple Theatre. For Battis, that transformation is a slow burn that begins early on with the visit from the first of the three spirits forewarned by Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past. During that visit, Scrooge sees the moment he chooses wealth over the love of his life, his fiancé Belle. “He’s first softened by seeing himself as a young child and seeing what he was going through, but the big moment for me is when his fiancé says, ‘You’ve grown into a different person. I don’t recognize you,’” Battis says. “And she says, ‘I release you from our obligation,’ and he lets her go out the door. For me, that’s the moment when Scrooge begins to crack. And the rest is just a continuum of that.” WHAT ELSE HAPPENED?

• San Lee Park’s “Ranger Steve,” Steve Godfrey, retired after nearly 40 years of service. • The Town of Broadway selected John M. Godfrey as its next town manager and hired Evan B. Gunter as its next police chief. • The Sanford City Council gave its approval to several new housing developments in various stages of completion, developments which will help address current and projected housing shortages as new industries start up their operations.


34 | January 2022

WOMAN TO START LOCAL CHAPTER FOR MENTAL ILLNESS GROUP A local woman is working to start a Lee County chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and looking for anyone with interest to get involved.

@therant905

LOCAL ST. LUKE UMC

Micki Smith moved to Sanford from Washington state recently and noticed no such local chapter of the nationwide organization which provides advocacy, education, support and more to individuals and families affected by mental illness. “In 2014 I took a class in Washington because my child was experiencing significant issues, and they encouraged me to become trained” to offer NAMI services, Smith said. “I became one of two state trainers in Washington, and I’ve taken a class called provider education training, which is to help medical people with frontline diagnosis issues, and helping people that come into hospitals find resources for mental health support.” Smith said that because no current NAMI chapter exists in Lee County, she contacted Wake County’s chapter for help getting off the ground. To begin, Lee will fall under Wake County’s chapter. But the hope is that one day soon, a Lee County NAMI organization will be able to stand on its own. “It takes quite a bit to get a local chapter started because you need two teachers and facilitators for every offering,” she said. “So Wake County is going to be doing this with us, and it’ll be a co-Wake/Lee thing to get it established down here. I think Sanford definitely has sufficient population and need for it.” Smith said she hopes to offer basics like classes for parents or caregivers of people up to 22 years old with mental illness issues. She also hopes to start a family support group with no age restrictions for situations like a spouse or child of a parent with mental illness. “NAMI Basics,” a free, six-course virtual class, will be available beginning in January for anyone interested. Interested parties should pre-register at www.nami-wake.org/nami-basics.

Patrick Touchard (left), co-owner of Black Forest Logistics, and Todd Showalter were already working on disaster relief collections in mid-December in the parking lot of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sanford.

Church reaches out to Kentucky victims By Gordon Anderson A supply drive benefiting residents of western Kentucky after a series of tornadoes devastated the area in December was a success, according to organizers, and plans are already under way to gather and deliver more to the area before January is out. Patrick Touchard of Black Forest Logistics said parishioners at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sanford gathered 90,000 pounds of goods on 122 pallets that he and fellow organizer Todd Showalter then drove to Kentucky in late December. They returned on Dec. 27 with plans to head back in late January and offer even more effective help to the region.

“It went well,” Touchard said. “We linked in with a couple of organizations down there and made contact with a couple of churches. To be honest, that area was overwhelmed with supplies in the first week, which is a good problem to have. But now we have a couple contacts with local leaders, so we’re going to see what else we can do to support the people there.” Touchard said list of supplies people need (at the bottom of this story) remains largely the same, although there’s plenty of water and non-perishable foods by now. “It’s more cleaning items and mattresses and things like that that people need now,” he said. “Now there are lots of people without insurance who need cash to rebuild their homes. And with the insurance stuff, it’ll

still be a couple weeks to get through before people can get back into their homes.” St. Luke is still accepting donations in its parking lot at 2916 Wicker Street, and Touchard said anyone wanting to drop off items is encouraged to do so. Items people are in need of include pillows, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitary wipes/baby wipes, deodorant, socks, undergarments, toilet paper, tissue, light blankets and sheets, shower shoes, sunglasses and hats, gloves, scarves, knit caps, hand moisturizer, disposable diapers, flashlights and headlamps, hand tools, hammers, screws, tarps, gas cans, water containers and bottles, brooms, mops, plastic buckets, squeegees, multi-tools, cleaning supplies, spray bottles, shop rags, bandaids, topical antiseptics, gauze and more.


The Rant Monthly | 35

rantnc.com WORKERS (pg 13) Impacts on new industries

Over the past three years, Lee County has racked up a record of success at recruiting new industry that is the envy of almost every other county in the country. The Central Carolina Enterprise Park, a 750-acre site situated at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Colon Road, is as busy these days as any hill of fire ants you can find in Lee County. With buildings averaging 117,000 square feet in area and center ceiling heights reaching 29 feet, the park has quickly filled with industries ranging from life sciences to recycled rubber products. But are local leaders concerned about finding workers to fill the thousands of jobs that these companies will create? Jimmy Randolph, SAGA’s chief executive officer, thinks many of the same advantages that brought those industries to Sanford will help ensure that they are able to find and keep a good supply of trained workers. “Lee County is not alone in what’s hap-

pening with the ‘Great Resignation,’” Randolph said. “But we do have some advantages that, I believe, will help keep things moving in the right direction.” “We’ve worked really hard to create a public-private partnership here that works both ways, with employers providing the jobs and incentives, and Central Carolina Community College and our nearby universities and Lee County Schools providing the training that makes those employees more valuable to these companies.

We have lots to be proud of in our community.

One thing we’re proud of :

“These recent announcements are also going to attract other people to our community, and they are going to strengthen the fabric of what has been built here over generations. The Triangle is just 40 minutes away for those who like to have an evening out, and those folks can return home to the slower pace of life that makes Sanford so attractive. “Put all of these things together and you have the secret sauce that can help us to retain workers and pay them a great living wage in ways that other rural areas can’t do. And if we can do that, things are going to keep growing here, with our industries and our service sector. I’m sure of that.”

85%

OF MEN

92%

OF WOMEN

81%

OF PICKUP TRUCK DRIVERS & PASSENGERS

Thousands of drivers and passengers were recently observed all across Lee County. Observations were conducted Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The main finding: MOST PEOPLE IN LEE COUNTY – ABOUT 90% – WERE BUCKLED UP. Observations are continuing this winter. Be on the lookout for updated seat belt use information on signs throughout the county.

88%

OF CAR DRIVERS & PASSENGERS

91%

OF PEOPLE OVER 50

80%

OF PEOPLE UNDER 25

www.mostofusbuckleup.org


36 | January 2022

KIMBLE ANNOUNCES BID FOR DISTRICT COURT Republican Jason P. Kimble of Lillington filed in December for District Court judgeship covering Lee, Harnett and Johnston counties. Kimble is seeking to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge Caron Stewart. The seat is currently occupied by the appointment of Democratic Governor Roy Cooper to attorney and former state Rep. Brad Salmon. Kimble is a graduate of Campbell University and Campbell’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law. He currently serves as an assistant district attorney for Lee and Harnett counties. He has practiced law since 2004 and said he is determined if elected to ensure that everyone that enters his courtroom is treated fairly and impartially. Kimble’s announcement came before the North Carolina Supreme Court suspended all candidate filing for the 2022 elections while lawsuits over redistricting of federal and state legislative seats could be heard. Filing is expected to resume once those cases have been resolved.

GODFREY NAMED TOWN MANAGER OF BROADWAY The Town of Broadway selected John M. Godfrey as its next town manager. Godfrey, who will assume his duties on Jan. 1, will replace Eddie Thomas, who stepped down at the end of the year. Godfrey is a lifelong resident of Lee County and a graduate of Lee County Senior High School and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a degree in criminal justice. Godfrey is retiring after 28 years with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, most recently as warden of the Harnett Correctional Institution in Lillington since June of 2019.

@therant905

PODCAST PASSING THE TORCH Longtime Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter talks about his career and his hopes for the interim sheriff, Brian Estes

L

ee County Sheriff Tracy Carter ends his 30-plus years in law enforcement with his retirement at the start of the new year. Carter, who was first elected as sheriff in 2006 after several years as a deputy, took some time to talk about his career and not only his future, but the future of the sheriff’s office, on our Friends of The Rant podcast. _____________________ THE RANT: Let’s just cut to the chase, Sheriff Carter. What made you decide that this was going to be it? And what made you decide that you wanted to retire now and have a new sheriff appointed? What led to all this? TRACY CARTER: I’ve told people that were close to me that if I’m fortunate enough to stay in more than one term and could get three terms, I might say one more. But this job is not a lifetime commitment. It’s a four-year term, and you do the best you can do. And hopefully, you leave it in a better condition than it was when you took over. I didn’t want to be the guy who stayed too long. I think that in this day, three to four terms is enough for anybody to be in this seat. And that’s just my opinion. I’ve got sheriffs who would totally disagree with me on that. And I know each county is different. But a part of me believes in term limits, and you can stay in a position too long. I was fortunate enough to be sheriff for almost 15 years. And I feel like my staff and I have done a good job moving things forward.

Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter stepped down after 15 years in office on Jan. 1. And I think it’s in a good place for the next year and the next sheriff. Right now, that’s Brian Estes [interim sheriff], but of course he has to run next year. I have a lot of confidence in this ability to move things forward and take things to the next level. THE RANT: What do you think is unique about being sheriff in Lee County? CARTER: I’ll brag on my citizens here — the people in Lee County want good law enforcement. There used to be a time when a sheriff stayed in office because they were good politicians and they got out and politicked. The politics is part of it, but I really think you have to provide a good service to the people here, and they’re not going to put up with you if you don’t provide good service. Lee County is pretty much cut and dry in that area — they

want a sheriff who is going to look out for them and protect their county as best as he or she can. I think that providing that service is what you got to have here, and there’s no in between. We’ve got a good candidate who supports law enforcement and the people. We’ve got problems here, yeah, and there’s bad people in every group, but as a whole, we have a good town. THE RANT: What do you think is different about Lee County 15 years ago when you first became sheriff? CARTER: Well, there’s definitely more people here. And I think Lee County is doing better, too, with economic development and its schools. I think Lee County has improved a lot over the past 15 years. And I feel like we’ve been a part of that, because you got to have the


The Rant Monthly | 37

rantnc.com law enforcement. And when I talk about law enforcement, I’m also talking about Sanford PD and Broadway PD, the highway patrol and others — we’re all working together, and I feel very good about the protection we have here. Could we do better? Sure, we can always do better, but I think Lee County is in a good place. THE RANT: What about you? What’s different about you after 15 years of being sheriff? CARTER: I’m older, and I don’t take care of myself (laughs). Seriously, life is full of adventures, and I don’t believe in hopping around and doing all sorts of different things. You take on a challenge, you do your work, and then you have to know when it’s time to move on and do something else. There’s always things you wish you could have done better when you look at your career, but I feel very good about my tenure with the things we’ve accomplished. My goal from Day 1 was to take the office to the next level. And I’m not pointing fingers at the people before me. They did their work. I feel like I did my work in pushing things forward, and I feel like Brian will do the same thing. I think he’ll make it even better when he’s done. THE RANT: You’ve mentioned Brian Esten, who’ll be sworn in on Jan. 1. What is it about him that makes you so confident that he can take over and finish your term? CARTER: I’ve got several individuals in my organization who could step up to the plate and do the job. But you have to pick somebody to groom as a deputy. I just think that’s the right way to do it, because your time’s gonna come to an end. It’s not a lifetime appointment. I think it’s important to groom people to take over, and Brian’s just getting into politics. The law enforcement side of it, providing that good service — he’s got that. The political side, he’s got to learn that on his own. But he knows that he’s got to do the work. And he’ll have to get elected next year if he wants to stay in the seat. THE RANT: You mentioned the political side of things. The sheriff has been one of the most prominent local figures in this county for the past few decades. Talk about the political side of the jog — what are some of the challenges. How do you balance getting elected with doing the job of law enforcement? CARTER: There’s a balance there. I’m a Republican, and I’m proud of that fact. I had to pick a party, and that’s the party I’m in. But I serve everyone. You have to let you constituents know that. We all have to play party

politics from time to time, but for the most part, you serve everyone, and you have to be mindful of that. You don’t’ want to alienate your citizens by letting them think that your political party matters first.

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THE RANT: Counties might be more fortunate when a sheriff serves multiple terms, because it takes time to develop continuity and establish what your office is going to be. It sounds like you think Brian will keep that continuity. Do you think turnover every four years can hurt a county’s ability to provide law enforcement? CARTER: In jurisdictions where there’s no stability, there can be problems there. I think what can cut you down is having outsiders come in and take over by tearing everything down that came before them. Sometimes that happens. I’d like to see Brian get elected, because he’ll continue to build on what we have, and he’ll do things better, I believe. THE RANT: Do you feel like sheriff is one of the few elected positions where people will more commonly jump party lines to keep stability? CARTER: I’d agree with that. It’s different. You can’t compare the position to a commissioner or someone in state government, a mayor or an alderman. People do cross party lines, and it comes down to constituent service. If you provide a good service, voters will want to see that continue.

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THE RANT: What do you hope to see implemented when Brian takes over. Have you had those conversations? CARTER: Brian’s going to have to make his own decisions. I’ve tried to instill in him as much as I can, but when you make a decision, there’s always going to be reactions to it. I think he’ll make some changes initially, but he’s the one who’s going to have to make those decisions. I’ve done my best to help train him, but I think Brian wants to be and should be his own man. I’ll always be here as a resource to him, and there’s our Sheriffs Association, which does a good job of mentoring new sheriffs. So that will be a resource, too. THE RANT: What are your plans for retirement? Are you going to be the guy who retired but shows up at the office a couple times a week to shoot the breeze? Or do you have plans for other things to keep yourself occupied? CARTER: I’ve got friends who’ll tell me if I start aggravating people who have to work. I’m not going to be the guy who shows up all

Interested in opening a business in Lee County? Applications for the RISE Program are open until January 31 For more information, visit: www.LeeSBC.com/RISE/


38 | January 2022

@therant905 the time. I mean, I’ll be around if they need me, but this is going to be their baby. If I had any reservation about leaving and about their ability to learn things and keep things going in the right direction, I wouldn’t be leaving right now. I’m looking forward to some down time. I’m going to continue working in some capacity, but I’m just not sure exactly what that’s going to be. It’s important to stay busy. Maybe I’ll exercise a little more, and hopefully I’ll get back into better shape. It happens when you get older. But really, I just want to decompress a little. Get ready for my next adventure. THE RANT: What’s it going to be like being an observer, watching law enforcement from the outside?

they need the help. They’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs. But it’s a real thing — if you talk to officers out there, whether it’s Sanford PD or my agency, they have stories and they’ve seen things that will give the average person nightmares. They see things and they go through internal things that you don’t read about in the newspaper. It’s real, and we have to support them and provide them with the help they need. Many just don’t feel like they’re going to be protected if they admit it. THE RANT: We can’t imagine the things law enforcement officials see — things really brutal or gruesome or tragic, seeing that and having to maintain your composure must be difficult.

CARTER: I want to be a supporter of law CARTER: And I’ll mention this, too. We enforcement. I may have people who disagree have a wonderful personnel director here, Joyce with me on this, but McGehee. And the we need to do things county’s done great. that are going to help “I would also like to see a state We have a counseling people stay in law en- committee developed to study service that officers PTSD and law enforcement offiforcement. And one and employees can of things I’d like to use. I would like to see cers who suffer from it. There are see pass is the 25-year a lot of law enforcement officials something done at the retirement for first state level, too. suffering from PTSD, and many responders and law THE RANT: It are too afraid to say they need enforcement. I think would be helpful if we the help. They’re afraid they’ll that would keep peolose their jobs. But it’s a real thing created a culture where ple in the business people aren’t afraid to — many have stories and they’ve — it’s hard to get seek that kind of help. seen things that will give the avpeople to stay in it CARTER: It’s erage person nightmares.” for 30 years, because something that I feel of the demands and passionate about. I the responsibilities would like to see something done in that area of this profession. There’s Senate Bill 300 that that would allow officers to get assistance. Just requires law enforcement to document things because somebody suffers from PTSD doesn’t better, which we’ve done anyway. Making mean they can’t do their jobs. We just need that part of the law now makes agencies more something to help them, better than what we accountable. There are things we can do to make law enforcement better, like making sure have right now. Maybe some of our lawmakers will hear this and will entertain the idea. everyone is monitoring if you’re having issues with an employee. There’s always training you THE RANT: On a lighter note … are you can send your folks to, which is important. still playing the guitar? Any other post-retireJust being able to recruit and keep people in ment hobbies? this profession is important — our county offiCARTER: I’m going to start my guitar cials gave our employees a nice raise this year, lessons back up. I’m looking forward to that. and we’re very pleased with their continued I haven’t played much over the past few years. support. One of the things I’d also like to see I’m like the guy who starts playing golf and is the county keeping the pay where it needs really, really loves it, but he’s just not very good to be to compete with other counties. I’ve lost at it. That’s me with the guitar. employees over the years to other agencies, and a lot of that had to do with money. I would also like to see a state committee developed to study PTSD and law enforcement officers who suffer from it. There are a lot of law enforcement officials suffering from PTSD, and many are too afraid to say

Hear the entire interview with Sheriff Tracy Carter at rantnc.com or by finding the Friends of The Rant podcast on most podcast apps.


rantnc.com

The Rant Monthly | 39


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