The Rant Monthly | January 2024

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The Rant y l h t Mon JANUARY 2024




Charlotte Ave. in the early 1900s Image courtesy of James Comer

City begins year-long celebration


2 | January 2024


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

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y The Rant l h t on M January 2024 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 6 | Issue 1 | No. 58

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moved to Sanford all the way back in 2007, when the city was merely 133 years old (barely old enough to vote). I was introduced to the city I’ve now called home for 17 years during a two-day interview process with former Sanford Herald Publisher Bill Horner III to become the paper’s editor. Spoiler alert — I got the job, and since coming here, my wife and I have planted our roots and started a family. Our oldest is 14 and set to enter high school next fall. Sanford is all she’s known as far as “home” goes — a much different upbringing than the one I had where I’d lived in three states and gone to many more schools by the time I was a freshman. She and her two brothers have friends here who they’ve known since birth. Sanford is our home, and we’re very happy to be here.

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The photo on our cover — depicting the then-new Sanford City Hall in the early 1910s (courtesy of James Comer) — doesn’t look that much different than Charlotte Avenue today, except we now have horseless carriages. But what I personally love about the photo is it shows the first place I ever had

The Rant Monthly JANUARY 2024




Charlotte Ave. in the early 1900s Image courtesy of James Comer

City begins year-long celebration


The cover story for the January 2024 edition of The Rant Monthly marks the beginning of Sanford’s (and our) year-long celebration of the city’s 150th anniversary. The cover photo shows Charlotte Avenue in the early 1900s.

a meal in Sanford. Horner and Friend of The Rant R.V. Hight treated me and my wife to dinner in that same old City Hall building back when La Dolce Vita still served pizza in it. I learned his gathering photos for this edition that the building also once had horse stables in it. History is fun, and we hope to have fun with Sanford’s past in the coming months. Thank you again for continuing to read and support us, and Happy New Year! — Billy Liggett

Jennifer Williams

(919) 499-8635

(919) 353-1396

131 Charlotte Ave., Ste 101 Sanford, NC 27330

That’s a big reason why I’m excited to help tell the story of the city’s 150-year anniversary in this publication. We begin our own year-long homage in this month’s edition of The Rant Monthly with Gordon Anderson’s cover story on the city’s plans to celebrate not only our past, but our future.

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The Chicago Fire of 1874 destroyed 812 buildings, killing 20, and resulting in the fire insurance industry demanding municipal reforms.

The Philadelphia Zoo opened on July 1, 1874, becoming the first public zoo in the United States.

Andrew Taylor Still starts the movement for osteopathic medicine in the United States in Missouri. Today, there are 40plus DO schools in the U.S.

Patrick Francis Healy, S.J., the first Black man (he was 1/8th Black) to receive a PhD, is inaugurated as president of Georgetown University

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The Rant Monthly | 7

REPAIRS TO BLEACHERS AT PAUL B. GAY STADIUM WILL BE COSTLY Lee County commissioners got an update just before the December holiday break on issues raised by the discovery of cracks in October that threaten the structural integrity of concrete supports beneath bleachers at the Lee County High School’s Paul Gay football stadium. The bottom line, they were told, is that repairs won’t be easy — or cheap. School Superintendent Dr. Chris Dossenbach said two estimates commissioned in the fall to fill existing cracks and take action to prevent further damage came in far higher than expected. Even those proposals were open-ended, though, since there was no way to know just how weakened the supports had become inside each pillar and how much load-bearing capacity remained within them. The discovery of the failing columns forced school officials to close the bleachers for the remainder of LCHS Yellow Jackets football season, but they now find themselves with their backs pressed to the wall created by time itself. The stadium is primarily used for sporting events, but one of its largest events comes just before the start of summer when ceremonies are held for graduating seniors. In 2024, graduation takes place at LCHS on May 24. Good, solid data about the health of each concrete support is what the Lee County Board of Education doesn’t have right now, even after soliciting the opinions of two companies familiar with this type of work. A couple of commissioners asked whether a state initiative funded through proceeds from the state education lottery, called Needs Based Capital Funding, might be the solution for funding the repairs. This program was designed to help primarily rural counties like Lee with their critical public building capital needs. But those funds can only be applied toward buildings used for academic purposes, meaning the stadium repairs would not meet the minimum requirements for participating in the program. — Richard Sullins

A conceptual drawing of the proposed Sanford Central Green, located along Charlotte Avenue near the old Sanford City Hall building in downtown Sanford. Source: City of Sanford

CITY ANNOUNCES ITS OWN PLANS FOR SINGER PROPERTY; DEVELOPER FILES SUIT By Gordon Anderson Just a day after news broke that a developer who had been working for nearly three years to revitalize an historic but dilapidated structure in downtown Sanford had been cut out of the process when the city quietly exercised a purchase option on the property, Sanford government announced its plans — complete with professional renderings — to develop the location as a “Sanford Central Green” concept that would stretch from Charlotte Avenue all the way to the current City Hall building on Weatherspoon Street. In a press release issued on the evening of Nov. 29 – a little more than 24 hours after The Rant first published developer Nick Jordan’s allegations that the city had purchased the property out from under him — city government issued a lengthy press release de-

scribing the Sanford Central Green concept as a move that would “transform the area for generations to come” and “a concept shaped through years of public input about how downtown could best serve our community.” “With the anchors of the Sanford Agricultural Marketplace on one end and the Sanford Municipal Center on the other, the Sanford Central Green concept includes options for a mobility hub, facilities available for public use, and a greenway connector that follows Little Buffalo Creek — which will be restored to its natural path,” the release states. “The goal for this concept is to create a foundation for a variety of potential public uses, including festivals, public art displays, youth activities, and more. The concept also increases Sanford’s walkability, mitigates major flooding concerns, and lays the groundwork for continued improvements.” Jordan has claimed the city seemingly

worked to stymie his progress in working toward completing a development agreement that would allow him to purchase the property and develop it as a multi-use hub for office space and retail like breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, and more, as well as a possible depot for the upcoming S Line passenger rail that’s expected to pass through downtown Sanford. On Nov. 30, Jordan’s legal team filed suit against the city alleging breach of contract and seeking to prevent the city from completing purchase of the property, the transfer of the property to Jordan, and damages to Jordan “in excess of $25,000” he’s spent making plans for the Singer Building. “Nick Jordan has filed a lawsuit … because the City purposefully breached its agreement to allow Mr. Jordan to purchase the property known as the Singer Factory,” Will Gordon, one of the attorneys representing Jordan, said

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@therant905 for which the state Department of Transportation has applied that would fund construction of a “mobility hub” – presumably a train station – on the property.

in a statement. “While Mr. Jordan did not want to pursue litigation, the City has forced litigation because it apparently issued a gag order on its council members and other City employees while it worked in secret to hastily purchase the Singer Factory in a matter of days. The full breadth of the City’s nefarious conduct will come out as the legal matter moves forward. However, Mr. Jordan simply looks forward to becoming the rightful owner of the Singer Factory so that revitalization efforts in downtown Sanford can begin.” Jordan is the CEO and founder of Durham-based software development company Smashing Boxes, and told The Rant in November that he’d been looking for opportunities to get into commercial real estate in Sanford and found one in 2021 when he learned about the Singer Building. At the time, the city had an option to purchase the property, but Jordan convinced the city the same year to relinquish that option if he was able to complete a purchase and enter a development agreement. A memorandum of understanding was reached in May of 2021, but Jordan’s suit alleges the city “intentionally delay(ed)” his “efforts to finalize and execute developer agreement.”

That $33 million grant is a large part of Jordan’s lawsuit. While the city “was intentionally delaying providing and executing developer agreement … (it) was simultaneously preparing to apply for a grant to allow (the city) to develop the Property,” the lawsuit contends. “Upon information and belief, the grant would allow Defendant to develop the Property into a mixed-use commuter rail — the very same development Plaintiffs had been proposing for nearly two years.”

Computer rendering of developer Nick Jordan’s plans for the Singer Building area between Hawkins Avenue and First Street in downtown Sanford. The city did not comment to The Rant after its move to purchase the property, other than to cite threatened litigation and note that any claim brought forth would have “no merit.” Attempts on Friday to reach city government for comment on the new

developments were unsuccessful, but officials have said in the past it’s the city’s policy not to comment on litigation. Describing various funding sources for the Sanford Central Green project, the city’s press release notes a $33 million federal grant

“It’s my understanding that the city was not required to own the property in order to receive this grant,” said former Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker, another attorney representing Jordan. “They could have leased it, and (Jordan) was willing to do that.” In addition to Gordon and Wicker, Jordan’s legal team consists of Kevin Foushee of the firm Post, Foushee & Gordon, as well as Jackson Wicker and Harrison Wicker of the Wicker Law Firm.

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Sanford man involved in Jan. 6 insurrection captured, arrested By Richard Sullins A Sanford man who was a fugitive for 54 days after being convicted in August on charges relating to his participation in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol was captured, and a federal court magistrate has ordered he be transported for detention while he awaits sentencing. David Joseph Gietzen, 30, of Sanford, appeared in federal district court in Durham on December 21 for an “identity hearing,” a proceeding in which the defendant makes a claim that the prosecution is holding the wrong person in a case of mistaken identity. Gietzen was captured on Dec. 13 after more than seven weeks on the run. The Marshals Service office in Durham did not respond to a request from The Rant for information on where or how he was taken into custody, or whether he might have received assistance from others while evading captivity. FBI agent Craig Noyes, the lead agent on the Gietzen case who testified during his trial in August on how he was identified, appeared at the Dec. 21 hearing. Once more under oath, Noyes identified the man held in the custody of the Durham marshal’s office as the same person who was convicted on Aug. 31 of eight charges in connection with his actions as part of a mob that stormed the Capitol complex. U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Webster issued an order that federal marshals transport Gietzen to the nation’s capital while he awaits sentencing. Following his conviction on five felony and three misdemeanor counts by a jury, Gietzen had remained free pending the scheduling of a sentencing hearing that was to come later in the fall. But the U.S. Attorney in the case, Matthew Graves, filed a motion just six days after those guilty verdicts were returned to have Gietzen held in custody until his sentencing was completed. Graves’ motion was made to comply with a federal law requiring detention of convicted violent offenders. Gietzen’s public defenders filed a countermotion on Oct. 6 that claimed, among other circumstances, he was not a flight risk, and, in separate motions, asked that he be acquitted and granted a new trial. Judge Carl Nichols

denied each of those requests on Oct. 19 and ordered Gietzen to turn himself in before noon on the following day. He didn’t show up, and 10 days later, Nichols declared Gietzen a fugitive and issued a warrant for his arrest. The time stamp on his custody documents suggests the arrest was made sometime before noon on Dec. 13. A man ‘made’ by his clothes In the days following the insurrection, the FBI received a call from a tipster who said they recognized Gietzen in pictures on the Bureau’s website featuring photos of the hundreds who participated in the storming of the Capitol. That original tip was followed by two others over the succeeding days and the FBI reached him on his cell phone on Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. Gietzen told an agent during the call that he had traveled to Washington to be part of President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” speech. His statement to the FBI said he went no further than the police barricades that had been set up to make the Capitol complex secure. A photograph posted on social media that day shows Gietzen standing about 250 yards below the group engaged with Metropolitan Police Officers who had been posted there. And it’s that picture that helped establish the role that he played during the assault. Contrary to what he told the FBI, Gietzen can be seen crossing the security perimeter and taking up a spot on the front row of the confrontation line, pushing and shoving police officers who were trying to maintain that secure front. Video and still pictures show him thrusting his fist at the face of an officer, as well using a long plastic pole to strike officers with. One of those lunges can be observed on video as he hits a policeman in the space between his helmet and his Kevlar vest on the shoulder. With the Dec. 21 hearing in Durham completed and Gietzen having been transferred back to Washington, federal officials could file additional charges relating to his failure to abide by the October court order to surrender himself and then fold those into the sentences they were already planning to recommend in connection with his prior conviction.

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12 | January 2024

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY WITH A BORING NAME It was a unanimous decision by the Lee County Board of Commissioners in November, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a great one. The board finally landed on a name for the multi-sports complex Lee County’s voters approved back in 2020. After much thought and deliberation, the official name will be “Lee County Athletic Park.” Or, L-CAP, if you’re one to use an acronym for your local facilities. The idea behind the name is that having “Lee County” on the marquee is good business for Lee County. Too many local facilities, schools, groups, etc. use dried up words like “Central Carolina” or “Sanford” in their monikers. That line of reasoning aside, “Lee County Athletic Park” is perhaps the most generic, boring route the county could have chosen in naming a complex that will draw thousands and thousands of outof-towners — soccer parents, baseball parents, coaches and visitors alike — in the coming years. “Lee County Athletic Park” is akin to naming your new dog “Family Dog” or our fantasy football team “Rant Fantasy Football Team.” The name just lacks. And nobody wants to call it L-CAP. The county missed an opportunity with the name. Like football and baseball stadiums and basketball arenas across the country, it could have sought sponsorship. How about Floretta Fields (in honor of one of our longtime advertisers)? Smoke and Barrel Ballpark (another Rant supporter)? If we had the dough, it could have been “Wondrous Multi-Sports Facilities brought to you by The Rant.” Will the name L-CAP prevent us from using the fields? Does the generic name have that much of a negative impact on its potential to be great for our area? Of course not. This complex is long-needed, and voters were right in approving it over three years ago. But maybe let’s give the next big project a cooler name. We’ve got big ideas for the new library.




DEMOCRATS ARE QUICK TO PULL SUPPORT FOR MISDEEDS To the Editor: As a former pastor, now retired, it has been my policy to refrain from commenting on political disputes in the community. There was one letter to the editor in the December issue that was troubling to me, however. A writer implied that Democrats tended to be indulgent and permissive when one of their own was accused of misconduct. I hope this is not true for Democrats or Republicans. I remember that Democrats were generally dismayed when President Clinton was involved in a shameful episode with Monica Lewinsky, a Whitehouse aide. Their support for his wife and daughter was notable. John Edwards, who served one term in the Senate and was a running mate of John Kerry, later had aspirations for the presidency. An extramarital affair and attempted coverup elicited strong denunciation from Democrats and brought a halt to his campaign. More recently, when it was revealed that Democrat Cal Cunningham was involved in an extramarital affair. His support by Democrats evaporated, and Thom Tillis won reelection handily.

“One thing I’ve always wondered is how Robocop went to the bathroom. Did he have to take off those metal pants or what?”

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SINGER BUILDING BATTLE Just a day after news broke that a developer exercised a purchase option on the property, Sanford government announced its plans – complete with professional renderings – to develop an historic but dilapidated structure in downtown Sanford as a “Sanford Central Green” concept that would stretch from Charlotte Avenue all the way to the current City Hall building on Weatherspoon Street. The story drew a lot of response from readers:

“I meant questions about the job”

Jeff Cashion

Pretty cool message we’re sending to prospective developers looking to invest here. It certainly doesn’t set a good precedent. Jeff Towson We don’t truly know the circumstances behind the decision. The investor has had about three years to make the deal work. Lots of issues with this property — flood plain, likely asbestos, likely other contaminants, etc. From reading the article, it sounds like the investor was a novice when it comes to this type of project. From what I have read, a memorandum of understanding may not be a legally binding contract. Lastly, smart good natured people make mistakes but I would be very surprised if our mayor, county attorney and county manager messed up.

______________ There is much to unpack with this. It seems the city may be doing some shady business. Gag orders always stink of corruption. I am curious of the economic impacts of this venture. I would like to see a cost comparison between the two options — private developer vs. city purchase. Which one will negatively impact the tax payers the most? Pending litigation is not grounds for silence. The city owes the people a transparent explanation. That includes more than pretty pictures of concepts. The taxpayers need to see the cost benefit analysis and the proposed plans for who will get the contracts to do this project. Hiding behind the litigation argument does nothing but prevent the people that will be paying for this project

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He countered the culture


t was my dad who first introduced me to The Beatles. He’d play their “lighter” stuff for me when I was barely walking — kid-friendly songs like “Yellow Submarine,” “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Octopus’ Garden” that were as full of colorful imagery as they were musical innovation. Those songs always stuck with me, even when my musical tastes became as weird as my hormones in my early teens. I was in college when I rediscovered them in the form of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour CDs I “borrowed” from my dad to help the drive back to campus seem not so long one weekend. I was hooked from then on, well aware that there’s nothing unique about being a Beatles fan, but also very aware of the important role I have in sharing this music with future generations (my children are now Beatles fans). It’s been nearly 57 years since Sgt. Pepper’s, arguably The Beatles’ most influential album and the topper to many a “best albums ever” list (I’ll take Abbey Road, but that’s not important). I missed out on this era of music —which included Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones at their best, Motown and much, much more — born roughly 10 years later in time for disco and the 80s. But I’m no less fascinated by it. Part of my role as an editor and news director at Campbell University is to dive into the school’s history, much like we’re doing with Sanford’s sesquicentennial this year. In researching a completely unrelated story a few years ago, I discovered a writer for Campbell’s Creek Pebbles newspaper in the 1960s named Michael Ferguson. The U.S. had roughly 500,000 troops in Vietnam in 1967, and the anti-war movement in the states was reaching its peak. Not so at Campbell, where students remained mostly quiet (at least publicly) about the war. That year, the campus welcomed the school’s third president in 80 years, Norman A. Wiggins, a staunch conservative who doubled down on the nation’s growing anti-war sentiment by establishing Campbell’s now nationally renowned ROTC program in 1971.

The culture on campus echoed in some of the writing for Campbell’s campus newspaper at the time, which published an editorial in May 1968, “What was a hippie?” It read: “The flowers of power have wilted, the drug turned to transcendental meditation, and a lot of hippies have gone back to the straight world.”


But Ferguson, a writer and editor for Creek Pebbles in ’67 and ’68, stood out. He focused solely on music and entertainment, offering surprisingly mature (for a college student) insight on that era of music and interviewing big names in the industry as they toured the state or played on campus. His writing also “countered the culture” at Campbell, whether it was a line about the “sexual image” of the late James Dean or the rebellious songwriting of Bob Dylan. As you can imagine, Ferguson invoked the Beatles a lot in his writing. They had changed the world only a few years earlier and had just entered their “stop touring and focus on the art” phase of their pop culture reign. Ferguson interviewed Paul Anka, the crooner known for hits like “Diana” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” before his concert at Campbell in October 1968. Sporting a pin-striped suit, thick sideburns and John Lennon-inspired granny sunglasses, Ferguson asked Anka about the Beatles and their impact on pop music. Anka was surprisingly open: “They write great songs… unfortunately, they may let their personal lives get in the way.” Anka criticized Lennon’s inability to handle fame, but praised Paul McCartney, saying, “He seems to stabilize the group.” A few months later, Ferguson reviewed the animated Beatles film, “Yellow Submarine,” writing, “While its story is predictable, the pure sensory delight of the film makes it a remarkable achievement. It’s a happy film that transports you back to the joys of childhood.” I’ve tried to find Michael Ferguson, hoping for a larger article on his work. As someone who has taken pride in his ability to track down even the hardest-to-find alumni at Campbell, I’m embarrassed to say I have failed. And it’s a shame, too. In my research, I became a big fan of Ferguson’s writing. If he’s out there, I hope to tell him that. And further tell his story.

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14 | January 2024

Sanford City Hall was constructed on Charlotte Avenue during 1909 and 1910. The builders were Contractor Joe W. Stout and Contractor Robert Tandy Walker (1861-1915). During the early years of the structure, fire horses were stabled in the building. Photo and context courtesy of James Comer


The Rant Monthly | 15



SESQUICENTENNIAL City leaders say year-long celebration will not only honor Sanford’s history, but look forward to where the city is heading with tremendous growth expected on the horizon By Gordon Anderson Editor’s Note: This month’s article begins our 12-month celebration of Sanford’s 150th anniversary, looking back at the city’s rich history since its founding in 1874.


here are always any number of reasons to expect big things in a new year, and 2024 is no different. But for Sanford — both its formal government and its 30,000-plus residents — 2024 promises to be not just big, but historic.

That’s because Feb. 11 will mark 150 years since the city (well, it was referred to as a “town” back in those days) received its charter from the state. A population of about 200 had sprung up around the Raleigh-Augusta rail line built two years prior through the location that is now Depot Park, and local leaders at the time developed the surrounding piney woods into today’s downtown area that anchors a city rapidly that’s growing by any definition of the word. Today’s city and community leaders are

planning big things for the sesquicentennial (that’s a mouthful, but it just means “150th,” and it’ll be rolling off your tongue with ease with enough practice) celebration, much like their forebears did in 1974 for the city’s 100th birthday. The celebration is still being planned, but it won’t just mark the anniversary of Sanford’s charter — the date in April 1874 when it became effective following the election of the city’s first leaders — or any other specific date.

Much of the branding around the 150th birthday (like the official logo above) will be based on the concept of trains. Not only was the railroad literally the reason Sanford exists today, it also figures heavily into the city’s very near future and beyond with recent developments along North Carolina’s S-Line track that are expected to bring passenger rail travel back.

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@therant905 “With regards to the branding, we’ve had some people ask, ‘Where are the bricks?’ We were the brick capital, but we’re not anymore. We were actually founded on the railroad, and the railroad is where we’re going back to. It represents both our past and future. There’s a nice symmetry about that.” Sanford Mayor Rebecca Salmon

Instead, Sanford Mayor Rebecca Wyof Salmon envisions a yearlong celebration with various events that will be open to the public celebrating both past and future. James Comer of Sanford has been researching his family’s genealogy since he was 9 and now has more than 10,000 pages in print located on genealogical sites and libraries across the United States. Comer shared several of the photos he’s collected and shared on his Facebook platforms with The Rant for this month’s piece on the city’s 150th anniversary. Above: Carthage Street in the early 1900s. Right: Hawkins Avenue in the early 1900s when it was still a dirt road. Below: Hundreds gather in Sanford in 1925 for a church conference in downtown Sanford.

“It’s a way to engage the whole of our community in participating,” Salmon said. “I think sometimes things get lost. If we’re just dressing up in outfits from 1874, I don’t know a lot of young people who are excited about that sort of thing. The community is doing so much visioning about where we want to go, but also how we keep our character. I think that going back and using our history as a touchstone will be a component of what we want to do — collecting more stories of our history and tapping into the resources right here in our community. But we also have a chance to celebrate where we’re headed.”

The Rant Monthly | 17 “With regards to the branding, we’ve had some people ask, ‘Where are the bricks?’” Salmon said. “We were the brick capital, but we’re not anymore. We were actually founded on the railroad, and the railroad is where we’re going back to. It represents both our past and future. There’s a nice symmetry about that.” Salmon and the Sanford City Council have tapped Bob Joyce, a recently retired economic developer with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, to spearhead the yearlong celebration, and while plans aren’t yet concrete, they envision at least three big events throughout the year, supplemented with various smaller events aimed at looking into more specific parts of the city’s 150 years. The first event will likely be sometime in February, to commemorate the issuing of that charter in 1874. “That happens to be Super Bowl Sunday, and not a good time of year to try to organize a crowd,” Joyce explained. That said, plans are forming for a recognition of the charter around that time, most likely at City Hall, that would be open to the public. And because the charter wasn’t

effective until April 1874, Salmon, Joyce and the sesquicentennial committee are aiming for a spring celebration with food trucks, amusements and more early in April. Finally, the city’s annual StreetFest & Fireworks in October will be centered around the 150th celebration, giving city residents and others multiple options for marking the occasion. The Rant will have information about times, dates and locations for these events when they are available. But for Joyce and Salmon, any event throughout the year is an opportunity to celebrate. “Throughout the year, we’ve got lots of events already,” Joyce said. “We’ve got Strawberry Jammin’. We’ve got the Farmers Market events. We’ve got walking tours. There’s music festivals and holiday events at Christmas and Halloween. And what we’ve talked about doing is branding them with the (sesquicentennial) and tying all those things into chances to celebrate and learn about our history.”

W.T. Buchanan was the first mayor of Sanford. He’s shown here in 1887 with his wife and son. Photo shared

One method for doing so will be what Salmon and Joyce call a “history harvest.” Staff at the Lee County Library have contact-

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@therant905 ed the state’s Cultural Resources Department and obtained funding to help scan and catalog photos from The Sanford Herald’s photo archive. There’s also talk of organizing video interviews with people whose memories of Sanford stretch back the farthest. “We’ve talked about having some 60 Minutes style interviews, and doing it in an organized and academic way,” Joyce said. “And there’s a call to action here. The Lee County Library will soon be prepared to receive inquiries about this, whether you have an aunt or an uncle or a great grandparent or whatever who would want to be interviewed. Or if you just have a piece of Sanford’s history, whatever it is. We want to have that story and share that story.” There’s strong precedent, as mentioned previously in this story, for a big birthday celebration in Sanford. The 1974 Centennial looms fairly large in the memory of those who were around Sanford back then, and the evidence can still be seen if you know where to look.

Three men pose with a shiny Buick tow truck on Chatham Street. Visible in the background are three remnants of Sanford’s past — the James R. Weatherspoon building, built 1897, was demolished in the 1950s, the water tower stood where the Railroad House Museum is now located and the Railroad House itself is visible just above the steering wheel in the center of the photograph, at its original location on Hawkins Avenue. Photo: Lee County Libraries

The Centennial Committee that year produced “Centennial Memories,” a half inch thick volume that’s a little light on actual history but heavy on photos of Sanfordians at the time (mostly dressed up in period specific clothing). The Sanford Herald published a large centennial edition on April 30 of that year detailing the first 100 years of the city’s existence. It includes letters of congratulations from both of North Carolina’s senators at the time, Republican Jesse

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The Rant Monthly | 19 Helms and Democrat Sam Ervin. But even if these memories can be found, doing so isn’t always easy. Salmon wants that to be different for the 150th celebration, in large part because 2024 is much different, technology-wise, than 1974.

history that’s been lost. There’s a period of 25 years early in the city’s existence where it’s unknown who the mayor was. There’s no known photo of Col. C.O. Sanford, the railroad engineer for whom the town is named.

“There’s a known drawing we have that “There’s a call to action here. was done by (now “What we’re The Lee County Library is predeceased former hoping to find is pared to receive inquiries about economic developer) not the stories we’ve [Sanford’s history], whether you Hal Siler, but when heard over and over, he was asked how he have an aunt or an uncle or a but things that are unique and different great grandparent or whatever knew what Sanford looked like, he just and special that will who would want to be intersaid ‘well, I just kind round out the history viewed. Or if you just have a we already know,” she piece of Sanford’s history, what- of imagined what he might look like,” said. “And one of our ever it is. We want to have that Joyce said, laughing big goals is to do this story and share that story.” at the memory. “But in a way that once there is a chance that we’ve captured these Bob Joyce someone, in Sanford things, these photoor somewhere else, graphs and interviews has pieces of our and pieces of history, history that we don’t that we have them currently know about.” on hand so that our next generation can have access to them.”

To be clear, there’s a lot about Sanford’s

As referenced earlier, plans for the entire year are still being made, and the public’s input is not just welcomed, but necessary. Joyce

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20 | January 2024

@therant905 and Salmon are actively seeking volunteers to get involved in every level of the planning, whether that’s gathering information about the past, arranging or conducting interviews, giving walking tours, coordinating with existing historical resources like downtown’s Railroad House Historical Museum, and more. Those interested in volunteering can contact Salmon at or Joyce at “We hope to be planting trees. They say the best time to plant a tree is 50 years ago, and the second best time is today. We ‘ve looked at joining up with the Arts Council to do a little mini pottery festival and talk about our pottery festival. We hope to have a lecture series,” Joyce said. “It’s just that these things require manpower.”

A 1912 postcard from Sanford shows the train depot, a passenger train with several people looking on and buildings along Moore Street in downtown Sanford. Photo courtesy of James Comer

“We’ve talked about offering some sponsorship opportunities, so we can make things for the most part free to the public or at least very low cost,” Salmon added. “We strive very hard to make sure that we’re putting out good quality, fun things for families to be able to participate in. And we’re gonna be able to do that throughout the year celebrating. And we’ve talked about reaching

The Rant Monthly | 21 out to the community, whether that’s civic organizations or families or businesses and saying, “we want you to create your own 150 memories within your organization. When the story becomes about more than just one festival, the whole community gets an opportunity to make it their own. We all own this together, and we’re all going to celebrate together.” The city has created which will host all information about the sesquicentennial. The site isn’t live yet, but content is expected to be available in the coming days and weeks. And to be clear, the purpose of this story was not to detail Sanford’s history. The purpose of

this story was to discuss the citywide celebration that’s expected to take place over calendar year 2024. But if the content you’re interested in is explicitly historical content, worry not. The Rant expects to participate in the sesquicentennial by detailing what we’re able to learn throughout the year in stories each and every month. That will be done in conjunction with the city’s official events marking the birthday, but also through our readers. Those with old photographs, mementos and stories are encouraged to reach out to or to share what you have, if you’re willing. We can’t promise to publish everything, but we’ll take a look at everything we get.

This photo shows the first airplane to land in Sanford in 1922, just 18 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk . Photo courtesy of James Comer

22 | January 2024


2023 | A LOOK BACK

THE YEAR THAT WAS The Rant Monthly begins 2024 with a look back at the big local stories that defined 2023.


e are nearing our 50th edition of The Rant Monthly since launching in April 2019, and 2024 will mark our fifth year in existence. One of the more enjoyable parts of building this publication is taking the time to look back at stories that defined each year. Locally, 2023 was the first year since the beginning of the pandemic that didn’t include very much ink about that pandemic. But the effects of that surreal stretch of time are still certainly being felt.


Real estate prices and property values have skyrocketed since COVID-19, and many in and around Sanford felt sticker shock in seeing their property revaluations this year (featured in our April edition). The pandemic changed our education system by introducing mobile learning, and public schools across the state and country are still battling a shortage of teachers and other resources that were made worse by COVID (more in our June edition). The cover stories of our 12 editions were a mix the arts, sports, the economy, quality of life, crime, big events

and new businesses. The next 10 pages look back at each month and the stories that graced the cover of each edition. We hope you enjoy this look back, and we thank each of you for continuing to read (and support) what we’re doing at The Rant.

The Rant Monthly | 23

An appreciation of the arts

February edition featured three young actresses and a nonprofit that serves as the economic engine for local artists

FEB Jenece Upton performed as Billie Holiday in the Chicago Performing Arts Centre production of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grille” in 2022 and revised the role for three weeks during Temple Theatre’s 2023 production. Photo courtesy of Temple Theatre

o The Story: The Rant Monthly has featured “The Arts Edition” for the past two years now, and in February, our look at the arts in Sanford included a feature story on the actress who played Billie Holiday on the Temple stage for three weeks in February, a feature story on two young actresses who appeared in the Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s production of “Matilda,” and a story on the Lee County Arts Council, considered by many to be the economic engine that keeps the arts alive in our fair city. o Excerpts: Lady Day Sings the Blues: “Up to now, I’ve never taken out-of-town work before, so I was nervous heading into this process,” said Jenece Upton, the Chicago actress who portrayed Billie Holiday in the Temple production. “But the opportunity was too exciting. Peggy was looking to cast pretty quickly, so I

sent her a reel from my performance, and everything just moved fast from there. It goes to show how close-knit and supporting the theater community really is — you meet wonderful people like Kelsey, and it leads to something like this.” Lessons learned in Matilda: There’s a lot of Matilda — the fireball title character of the beloved children’s book — in Isabel Iaturo and Cora Stumpf, two young Sanford-born actresses who — like Matilda — have a love of reading and not an ounce of fear when it comes to doing big things like, oh, performing on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers. The two are in Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s current production of “Matilda: The Musical.” “I appreciate that Matilda is about empowerment, especially for a little girl,” Stumpf said. “Being little doesn’t mean

you aren’t strong. My favorite number is ‘Revolting Children,’ because this is the moment when the children stand up and take over. Plus, it’s a fun dance number.” Lee County Arts Council: For the past 45 years, the Lee Council Arts Council has been committed to fostering art appreciation and artistic expression in the area through public events, educational classes and important grant opportunities. The Council funded nearly $135,000 in grants over the last four years alone.

24 | January 2024


The Rant’s Top 10 of ‘23

Ranked by the number of views, these were the stories you clicked on the most in 2023. (So all of this is your fault) 10: The Rant reveals best shrimp tacos on the planet A food review of new seafood restaurant Mariscos No. Juan and its seafood tacos was a popular read for local foodies.

9: Old truck stop at U.S. 1 may become ‘entertainment venue’ An October planning meeting revealed a proposal for an “entertainment venue” which would include a restaurant, a brewery, a hotel, and more on the current location of the former truck stop at 1054 N. Horner Blvd.

8: ‘Parents Bill of Rights’ asks teachers to ‘out’ some students Borrowing a page from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republican-led initiatives across the country, the Lee County Board of Education added a “Parents/Guardians’ Bill of Rights” to its policy code in April.

7. Body found in woods ID’d, man charged with murder Lee County deputies in February identified a body found in the Osgood area as Michael Bradley Cox, who was reported missing in December. Jackie Lamar Bright, 42, was charged with murder.

6. Womack welcomes new superintendent in odd way Now former Lee County Board of Education Chairman Sherry Lynn Womack welcomed new superintendent Chris Dossenbach with an odd warning, saying “don’t ever frickin’ lie to me” and requesting that he “please keep it in his pants.”

5. Williams suspended as MINA lead administrator The lead administrator at MINA Charter School in Sanford, Dr. Shawn Williams, was suspended in June

pending an investigation into unspecified “(human resources) and financial matters,” according to the attorney for the school’s board of directors.

4. Dream Center director faces sentencing for kickback charges


A pastor with Life Springs Church in Sanford who had been central in the effort to found a local “Dream Center” to combat human trafficking, addiction and homelessness pleaded guilty to federal Medicare fraud charges in 2021 and was sentenced in January.

Through 127.1 innings in his first year in the minors, Thomas Harrington pitched to a 3.53 ERA, had both a great 27.8% strikeout rate and a 7.8% walk rate, and his 3.56 K:BB ratio was the 41st highest among pitchers.

3. Plans submitted for new Riverbirch development An August meeting of the Sanford-Lee County Planning Department’s Technical Review Committee included a proposal to redevelop the Riverbirch center in west Sanford, “including the demolition of most structures to establish a completely redesigned space including retail, offices, multi-family and integrated firstfloor commercial/multi-family structures ... nature trails and landscaping.”

2. City turns down 600-home D.R. Horton proposal The Sanford City Council in April unanimously rejected a plan by developer D.R. Horton for a 600-home subdivision that stumbled repeatedly for months along the road to approval. The vote drew a line in the sand about the quality of proposals for new subdivisions submitted to them for approval.

1. Pentair employee crushed to death in work accident The most read story at in 2023 was about a woman who was crushed to death in a machine at Pentair’s facility on Hawkins Avenue in August. The victim, a 54-year-old woman working at the plant, was caught in the machine, sustained severe head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Baseball is big in Sanford

At the professional, college and high school levels, Sanford is represented well when it comes to America’s pasttime o The Story: When baseball fans in Sanford tuned in to Major League Baseball’s draft coverage last July to find out where hometown boy Thomas Harrington was heading, they witnessed a convergence of local baseball success on a national stage. On ESPN’s and the MLB Network’s national telecast to provide his insight on Harrington and all of that day’s picks was Carlos Collazo, like Harrington a graduate of Southern Lee High School (2012) and like Harrington, a young man making it big in America’s Pastime. Collazo has risen through the ranks of baseball prospect punditry in short order and is now a national writer for Baseball America, one of the foremost authorities in the sport. Growing up in Sanford, Collazo developed a love of the sport on the fields at Deep River-Northview. “I always played baseball growing up,” he said. “I love baseball. Once I realized that, at some point, the playing career was going to come to an end, I tried to figure out how to stay involved in the game.” The March edition of The Rant Monthly not only told Collazo and Harrington’s

stories, but also previewed the season for Lee County’s baseball programs. o Since the story: Thomas Harrington was the Pittsburgh Pirates’ first-round pick in 2022. The Southern Lee HS righthander didn’t debut until 2023, but once he reached the minor leagues, he didn’t look back. Harrington had a quality rookie campaign and has established himself as one of the Pirates’ best pitching prospects. Southern Lee’s baseball team advanced to the East Region finals for the first time.

The Rant Monthly | 25

Big spikes in property values Valuations of local homes have gone up 30-40 percent in many cases, a sign that the price of living here is going up considerably o The Story: It wasn’t a surprise that his family’s home in the Westlake Valley subdivision in west Sanford went up in value after this year’s property value reassessments were announced in February. But Terry Russell was still shocked to see how much his home was worth in the Lee County tax collector’s eyes. “Our tax value went up about 52 percent [since 2016],” Russell said. “It’s my hope that [Lee County’s tax rate] will be revenue neutral this year. If it’s not, we’re screwed.”

APR Reappraisal is the process that updates the assessed value of each piece of real property to market value. A reappraisal must be done at least once every eight years according to the North Carolina General Statute §105-286.

Russell’s not the only one experiencing sticker shock with property assessments this spring. Many Lee County property owners faced the same reality — that the cost of living here has officially gone up considerably — when they received their government mail in mid-February showing the reappraised


values of their homes and businesses. Values since the last reappraisal — conducted in January 2019 — have skyrocketed, many in the 30 to 40 percent range and some, like Russell, over 50 percent from the previous valuation. The rising price tags are a function of a real estate market that has exploded in the last four years, particularly after being flat for at least half a decade before that. o Excerpts: Karla’s (she asked for her full name to be omitted because of her appeal), property value has gone up 53 percent since she purchased her home — also in west Sanford — in 2021. The house was reassessed in 2022 (as is common with newly purchased homes) and assessed again this year — both leading to large value increases. “We renovated our house [after we

bought it], and the tax department came to inspect it,” she says. “They came to the house before the construction was done, and since we were essentially making a ‘new house’ — new plumbing, electric and HVAC — they said we’d be taxed at the highest rate, even though we took it down from a five-bedroom home to a four-bedroom. We’ve thought about appealing, but I’m not sure of the grounds we can use to appeal such a huge increase.”

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MAY Last spring, school officials installed metal detectors at the entrances of Lee County and Southern Lee high schools. Every student and guest must pass through the detectors to enter the school. Photo by Billy Liggett

Trick or threat?

Local schools were inundated with threats (bomb scares, weapon warnings); each distraction requiring law enforcement response

C’mon out and see your friends! o The Story: In some ways, the 202223 school year in Lee County — at least with regards to the two traditional high schools, Lee County High School and Southern Lee High School — may be remembered as the year of the threat. It started on Nov. 4, 2022, when students and parents heard reports of an active shooter, while others heard it was a bomb threat. It didn’t take long for dozens of parents who’d been texting with their children to quickly converge on a dirt lot across from the school as law enforcement guarded the front door and other points of entry and exit.

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The threat was unsubstantiated, but it was just the beginning. In the five months that followed, numerous threats were reported to the schools (some described as bomb threats, while others are characterized more vaguely as threats of violence) that initiated lockdowns and campus searches — six total at Lee County High School and two more at Southern Lee. In one case, classes were canceled a full day ahead due to a threat that came late in the evening. One measure taken in response to the various threats was the installation of metal detectors at the traditional high school

entrances that every student must now go through upon arrival. o Quotable: “You really have to praise the kids,” said Major Bryan Allen of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. “They’ve been very receptive as far as listening to the instructions and doing the things they’ve been taught over the years. We know it’s aggravating and scary for them.” “Kids need to understand, and we need their parents to make sure they understand that this isn’t a game, and we’re going to do everything we can to prosecute in these cases,” Sheriff Brian Estes said.

The Rant Monthly | 27

Bumpy road for public schools At a time when the governor has declared a ‘state of emergency’ for schools, Lee County’s schools, teachers face own challenges

JUN North Carolina was recently named the No. 1 state in the U.S. for business, boasting the country’s strongest economy. Despite the good news, North Carolina currently ranks 32nd in the nation in average teacher pay. Photo by Billy Liggett

o The Story: In what some called a bold (or disastrous, depending on the side) political move in May, N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a “state of emergency” for public education in his state. The Democratic governor outlined what he called “extreme legislation” in the General Assembly that he says has “crippled” the state’s public education system. He pointed a finger at a “devastating school voucher scheme” that he says has poured billions of taxpayer money into private schools that don’t have to follow the same accountability standards as public schools and political “culture wars” in the classroom that “put politicians in charge of curriculum setting, micromanage what teachers can teach and target LGBTQ+ students.”

affected Lee County Schools, which faced its own budgeting shortfall, as it received roughly $2 million less from the county than it requested.

The Rant Monthly’s June 2023 edition looked at how this “state of emergency”

o Since the story: When the story ran in June, Sherry Lynn Womack was chair

The cover story also highlighted the sharp turn Lee County voters made in the 2022 school board election, electing three new conservative Republicans to the board. The first six months of their terms included controversy — a “parental bill of rights” policy that seemed to ask teachers to “out” students who may be gay or transgender was among the most glaring early on. The board also moved on from longtime Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan, a move long supported by hardline Republicans in the county.

of the Board of Education. She is now vice chair. Womack’s 364-day tenure as chair was one marked by a number of successes — Title IX training required annually for all Lee County Schools district employees and a new calendar among them. But controversial comments made during the announcement of a new superintendent and a press release claiming credit for Lee County High School’s improved scores eventually led to her “demotion” on the board.

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28 | January 2024


Four courses bring them in

Sanford’s proximity to Pinehurst doesn’t hurt, but it’s the beauty and challenge of its four golf courses that make them a big tourist draw o The Story: You might think Sanford’s reputation as a golf hotbed is based on proximity alone. Living just a half hour away from one of the most famous golf communities in the world would certainly lead one to believe it.

JUL Golf is Sanford’s biggest tourist draw, and it’s expected to be bigger in 2024 when the U.S. Open returns to nearby Pinehurst in June. Local hotels and courses are expecting big traffic over a two-week span Photo: Sanford Tourism Development Authority

That’s right. Even our municipal course is full of history.

But the four main golf courses that call Sanford home aren’t just benefactors of Pinehurst’s ability to draw golf enthusiasts from around the world. They are championship level in their own right. Home to professional tournaments. Regulars on state and national “best of ” lists.

Golf has been a part of Sanford for nearly 90 years. The area’s had four courses for 25 of those years. And while the past decade has seen considerable growth — and with that, a booming wedding venue industry, new breweries, a revitalized downtown area, music and art festivals and other events that are drawing a record number of visitors locally — golf is still the No. 1 tourism draw in Sanford and Lee County.

is one of our eight pillars as a tourism authority, and while we’ve always known that people come here to play golf, the data over the past several years has only supported that.”

The four names who created them would make a tough-to-beat Mount Rushmore of golf course architects. Robert Trent Jones and Carolina Trace. Mike Strantz and Tobacco Road. Ellis Maples and Quail Ridge. The legendary Donald Ross and Sanford’s city course.

o Excerpt: “Weddings are certainly bringing in a lot of people and producing a lot of hotel stays, but golf continues to introduce more people to Sanford and Lee County,” said Wendy Bryan, executive director of the Sanford Tourism Development Authority. “Outdoor recreation

Based on data it’s gathered over the last three years, Bryan and the tourism authority believe Sanford draws more than 170,000 people to the area each year to play golf. If that’s accurate, then the sport has pumped millions into the local economy.

The Rant Monthly | 29

AUG The Prince Downtown was built around the early 1960s and was originally called the Town House Motel — guests were mostly travelers of U.S. 1, when it was still considered a major thoroughfare (before I-95). Photo by Billy Liggett

Good night, suite prince

After years of creating a ‘public nuisance’ for Sanford for nearby residents and businesses, the Prince motel has been shut down

And it’s no coincidence. For years, the Prince — located just blocks from the heart of downtown Sanford and mere feet from residents of the historic district — has been an epicenter for criminal activity in the city. The run down motel on Carthage Street, built as a motorlodge in the early 1960s, was responsible for more than 130 calls to the Sanford Police Department regarding complaints or alleged crimes from January 2017 to February 2019. Little had changed since — crime remained consis-


o The Story: The drug deals in their front yards, the regular successful and unsuccessful attempts to break into their cars, the prostitution arrangements happening just down the street, the regular doorstep visits from men and women asking for money … these regular occurrences for the residents of the Rosemount McIver Historical District in Sanford — commonplace for at least the last decade — just kind of vanished last April. The sudden reprieve from the nuisances that have plagued nearby residents and businesses for years has coincided with the forced shutdown of the nearby Prince Downtown motel that month.


tent and culminated with the murder of a 36-year-old man on site in 2021. In June 2022, the city called the Prince a “public nuisance” and requested a trial with the goal of shutting it down. o Quotable: “The issues and concerns with the Prince have been complex. In the end, I think we were all concerned about the quality of life, well-being and safety of both the residents of the Prince motel and the surrounding community. We think the continued operation of the Prince presented a current and ongoing threat to those considerations.” — Al Roethelisberger

30 | January 2024


Grace’s top recruit

The nation’s top-rated high school basketball player leads one of the nation’s best teams at Sanford’s Grace Christian School

SEP An original Ford Shelby Mustang was among the 30-plus cars inside the “Legends Area” for the first Triple Crown Charity Car Show held in September at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford. Photo by Billy Liggett

A car show for Sanford

The people behind the state’s largest monthly car show brought legends and rarities to Sanford’s inaugural Triple Crown event o The Story: The consistent success and growth of Morrisville’s Cars and Coffee — which averages more than 3,000 cars and thousands more people — and Sanford’s monthly Cruise’N Camelback events paved the way for the biggest and most ambitious gathering yet in the Triple Crown Charity Car Show.

o Excerpt: “The drive for us is being able to start something and have this many people here because they love being here,” said Jonathan Nowell, who started Sanford Car News in 2019 and organizes the monthly Cruize-Ins on Spring Lane. “There’ve been a lot of people come up to me and say how much they enjoy this and

“When I called her room and told her, I was pretty excited,” says her father, Danny Strong, who played basketball for NC State in the mid 90s before going on to an 16-year pro career overseas. “But she didn’t act like it was a big deal. She told me, ‘Oh, that’s cool. I’m playing charades with the girls. I gotta go.’” The country’s top player is the centerpiece on a juggernaut of a basketball team at Grace Christian that has won back-to-back state championships with a combined 62-4 record. o Excerpt: “She’s going to go far because beyond all the attention and the

Held Sept. 9 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford, hundreds of judge-worthy cars and supercars packed the civic center’s outdoor parking area, and an additiona 30 cars made up the indoor “Legends Area” feauring some of the finest and rarest vehicles around. Despite a large thunderstorm that rolled into Sanford that afternoon, the car show was deemed a success by organizers, and plans for the 2024 event are already being made.

o The Story: Sarah Strong was on the other side of the world in Debrecen, Hungary — site of this year’s FIBA 3-on-3 U18 World Cup — when the then-No. 2 girls high school basketball player in the nation got a phone call with the big news. Sarah, entering her senior year with Grace Christian School in Sanford, learned she had moved up to No. 1 in the ESPNW Class of 2024 rankings. Just days away from leading Team USA to its third consecutive gold medal in the annual global tournament, Sarah took the news in stride.

how, for some, it’s a family thing. There’s one father and son in particular who live nearby and said that since they started attending these, they’ve bought two cars and restored them together, because they fell in love with what we’re doing and they wanted to bring that home. I feel like it’s touched a lot of people.” o Reader Response: “I said to someone just the other day, ‘I wish we could get a Cars and Coffee going in Sanford.’ Here we go.” — Daniel Simmons

expectations. She loves the game, she has a good heart, and she loves her teammates,” said her coach for the past three years at Grace, Chad Revelle. “She is not a high-maintenance person who wants to make all of this about her. Extremely humble, and I genuinely mean that. Her dad and her mom know the game, and she’s been raised right. They’ve taught her that it’s not all about ‘me, me, me.’ That’s going to serve her well.” o Update: Through Dec. 22, Grace Christian was 12-0 this season with Strong averaging 19.3 points and 16.5 rebounds a game.

OCT Senior Sarah Strong was named a first-team MaxPreps All-American and is listed as the No. 1 Class of 2024 girls basketball prospect. Photo by Ben Brown

The Rant Monthly | 31

Vinfast project picks up speed

Vinfast’s rollout has been met with significant speed bumps, but local business leaders are still hopeful for a jolt to the economy

NOV Anna Gardner, the vice president of human resources for Vinfast’s North Carolina operation, talks to engineering students at a career fair hosted by Campbell University’s School of Engineering on Oct. 19. Photo by Billy Liggett

o The Story: Vinfast’s appearance at an engineering career fair in October was a good sign for North Carolina’s economy, as it was visual assurance that the Vietnam-based electric car manufacturing company — which broke ground over the summer summer on a massive facility in Moncure just 13 miles north of Sanford — was looking to begin the hiring process for the 7,500-plus jobs it has promised for the region. Those jobs, with an average wage of $51,000 a year, will include assembly workers, warehouse workers, operators, supervisors, technicians, office managers and other “higher ups.” Officials say production at Vinfast could begin as early as 2025 — a year later than the original projected starting date when North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper made the big announcement in 2022, but better

late than never. The November 2023 edition of The Rant Monthly looked at the bumpy road Vinfast has taken to get to this point since its big announcement in spring 2022 and what kind of impact the huge facility will have on our local economy in Sanford and Lee County. o Excerpt: Jerry Pedley, president of Mertek Solutions in Sanford and a longtime advocate for local economic development and industry-education collaboration said he’s excited for the future with Vinfast’s arrival on the horizon.

and even their local airport. Us smaller companies like Mertek — and all the machine shops, electricians and more — are going to benefit greatly from having a major company like Vinfast here.”

“I kind of relate it to what BMW has meant for Greenville and Spartanburg [South Carolina], and what’s happened there has been absolutely amazing,” Pedley says. “I remember when that place was first built, and I’ve watched how it’s helped their economy, their communities

o Reader Response: “From everything I have read about the company — how it is being run at home, the engineering flaws, the safety issues and lack of understanding western business practices — if Vinfast survives past two years it will be a miracle.” — Tommy Keller

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32 | January 2024


Family Ties bind Temple show

Two sets of siblings, a husband and wife team, and a father/son duo made up much of the cast of Temple Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Story’

DEC Lennon Browning (Ralphie) and Noé Cangas (Schwartz) in a scene from Temple Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Story,” which ran in December. Photo courtesy of Heather Garrity

o The Story: Jean Shepherd, author of the semi-autobiographical stories that would make up the script for the beloved holiday film “A Christmas Story” in 1983, never viewed his creation as either “cozy” or “sentimental.” In fact, Shepherd — whose works were often published in satirical magazines or liberal-leaning publications like Playboy — viewed it as more of a statement on commercialism and the “disappointments that often define the merry season … what Christmas was like for real families,” according to a 2016 article by Vanity Fair. Forty years later, “A Christmas Story” is considered among the top tier of holiday films. The story of Ralphie Parker has not only become “cozy, sentimental” comfort food for Americans this time of year, it’s considered by many to be one of the most

accurate on-screen embodiments of family. “A Christmas Story” made its Temple Theatre debut in December and played several sold-out shows. While casts of past Temple shows have considered themselves one big family, this cast took that sentiment a step further as four sets of family members — husband and wife Jonathan and Seana Laverentz, father and son José and Noé Cangas and siblings Jude and Cora Stumpf and Aidan and Summer Fitzgerald — performed together in a show that, deep down, is about family. o Excerpts: “I think the reason this show connects so deeply with families is because it’s really a story about relationships,” said Jonathan Laverentz, who played the adult Ralphie and serves as the narrator throughout the show. “It shows that no matter what trauma befalls you,

you hunker down and get through it together. That’s what family is all about.” “When I was growing up, it wasn’t a gun that I wanted, but I certainly had these big dreams and fantasies,” said Seana Laverentz. “There’s just so much about this story that we can relate to, because we were all there as children.” o Reader Response: “The show was fantastic. How did Mr. Laverentz remember all those lines?” — Will Sikinger

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The Rant Monthly | 33 LOCAL BRIEFS

CITY’S SECOND SHEETZ TO OPEN IN THE SPRING Work is under way on a second Sheetz location in Sanford, and if there are no major holdups to the construction plans, the Tramway site could be opening by next spring. The newer site, to be located at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Center Church Road, has taken longer to get started than the company’s other location on South Horner Boulevard for a variety of reasons.

Computer rendering of an aerial view of the Lee County Athletic Park, which broke ground on Dec. 8. Approved by voters in 2020, the sports complex will be located at the intersection of U.S. 421 bypass and Broadway Road. Photo: Lee County Government GROUNDBREAKING CEREMONY HELD FOR FUTURE ATHLETIC PARK

the park’s name will be a tagline saying, “Sporting Legacies, Lasting Memories, Built Brick by Brick.”

Leaders in local government gathered on the morning of Dec. 8 to mark the beginning of construction on the Lee County Athletic Park.

A local contracting firm, Sanford Contractors, was awarded the winning bid for the project at the board’s Sept. 18 meeting, following receipt of their lowest base bid of $26,817,160 to build the park.

The project was approved by voters in a 2020 bond referendum after several years of work to create the concept and get it placed on the ballot. Located at the intersection of Broadway Road and the U.S. 421 bypass, the complex will have fields for multiple sports, walking trails, play areas and more. Lee County Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Keel emceed the event. Speakers included Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kirk Smith, Sanford Mayor Rebecca Wyhof Salmon and more. In November, the Lee County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to name the facility as the “Lee County Athletic Park,” and it will be known locally by its acronym, “L-CAP.” Associated along with

LEE CHRISTIAN GRADUATE EARNS N.C. TEACHING FELLOWS AWARD Recent Lee Christian High School graduate and current Appalachian State University freshman Kamryn Savage was one of 130 young men and women chosen to receive North Carolina Teaching Fellows awards for the Class of 2024 during its early-decision window. The Teaching Fellows program is a competitive, merit-based forgivable loan program providing tuition assistance of up

to $10,000 per year for qualified students committed to teaching elementary education, special education, science, technology, engineering or math in a North Carolina public school. The purpose of the program is to recruit, prepare and support future teachers who attend institutions of higher education in North Carolina. The commission considered grade point average, leadership and experience, awards and honors, written essays, educator recommendations and video submissions to offer the 130 awards. “We are proud to offer Teaching Fellows awards to these deserving students during this inaugural early-decision window,” said Bennett Jones, director of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program. “We are excited about the continued growth of the Teaching Fellows program and are grateful for the support of lawmakers and education policy leaders as we continue to promote the teaching profession across the state.”

A portion of the property where the store will go was outside the city limits and had to be annexed in order to receive city water and sewer services. The design has gone through a number of reviews by the joint city and county Technical Review Committee to make sure it complies with Sanford and Lee County long-range planning requirements. But the biggest holdup seems to have been the redesign of that intersection by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. DOT has been planning to redesign the current traffic flow intersection and replace it with a newer form that is being implemented across the state, known as “reduced conflict intersections.” A similar design can be seen today along the N.C. 55 Bypass in Holly Springs. Public hearings were held on the redesign in 2021 and right-of-way was obtained in 2022 and 2023. The relocation of utilities is set to take place in 2024 before actual construction begins in 2025, with completion targeted for 2028. Negotiating with DOT on where the property’s connections with the new roadways was an item the developer took extra time with, making sure of where those connections would go before the new location of U.S. 1 is laid out. — Richard Sullins

34 | January 2024

@therant905 ACE HARDWARE, COMMERCIAL SUBDIVISION COMING TO TRAMWAY An Ace Hardware location and a new commercial subdivision could be coming to Tramway, according to an agenda for an upcoming meeting of the Sanford-Lee County Planning Department’s Technical Review Committee. The proposed location for the 20,000 square foot store is behind the CVS pharmacy and Bojangles restaurant at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Tramway Road. Most of the site is within the Sanford city limits, although the agenda notes a small portion of it would need to be annexed and rezoned in order to be developed. The committee will also review a proposal directly across Tramway Road for a “Tramway North” commercial subdivision. Plans show office space, an auto service location, and a fast food restaurant that would be located next to the Waffle House that’s already been proposed in the area. Other items on the agenda include:

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A new Dollar Tree on North Main Street in Broadway

Expansion and remodeling of the Circle K at Tramway Road and Courtland Drive

A 2,000 square foot expansion of Davison’s Steaks at 1724 Westover Drive

A 29-lot townhome development at the intersection of Bragg and Cooper streets.

The meeting is set for Jan. 4. The Technical Review Committee is comprised of local officials from various city and county government entities representing Sanford, Lee County and Broadway. The committee meets monthly to review commercial projects and major subdivisions for compliance with the codes and policies of various local departments. Committee members make no guarantee that the projects submitted for review will be developed — only that they fall under compliance. ________________ FINANCIAL AUDIT SHOWS COUNTY IN STRONG POSITION A report by an independent auditing firm shows Lee County government’s finances are being managed properly and that the county is in a strong financial position. County commissioners heard the results of the audit for Fiscal Year 2022-23 from

Alan Thompson of Thompson, Price, Scott, Adams and Company PA at their meeting in December. Thompson characterized the audit result as an “unmodified,” or “clean,” report with no issues found to be worthy of an audit finding on the effectiveness of the county finance office’s system of internal controls. Democratic Commissioner Cameron Sharpe was quick to point out that “the finance team has had many years of spotless audits and that speaks well of our people and our county’s financial management systems.” Finance Director Candace Iceman reported that the county’s total receipts during the fiscal year completed on June 30 were $91,407,723, which included both revenues and budget transfers, representing an increase of five percent over the previous year. Receipts from ad valorem, or property, taxes made up 56 percent of the total budget for FY 2022-23, followed by sales tax revenues of roughly half that amount (26 percent). ________________ MOST LOCAL RACES FOR ’24 ELECTION TO BE CONTESTED As candidate filing for the 2024 election drew to a close in December, most of the local races on the November 2024 ballot will be contested, and there will be a five-way Democratic primary for the Lee County Board of Commissioners and a 14-way Republican primary for Congress. In the commissioners race, for which three at-large seats are available, incumbent Democrats Cameron Sharpe and Mark Lovick are joined by Bob Joyce, Kenneth Cole and Lloyd Smith. Sharpe is a retired probation officer who now works in the city of Sanford’s Code Enforcement Department and Lovick owns a carpet cleaning business. Joyce is a recently retired economic developer with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, Cole is a civil engineer and former assistant county manager in Lee County, and Smith lists “consultant” as his occupation. The top three vote getters in the Democratic primary on March 5 will move on to the general election. On the Republican side, David Smoak, a retired U.S. Army officer and former president of the Carolina Trace Association, Samantha Martin, a manager with Operation Homefront, and Bob Quinty

The Rant Monthly | 35 each filed. Quinty did not list an occupation. Incumbent Republican Commissioner Bill Carver did not file for re-election. The top three vote getting candidates in the general election will win seats. Four at large seats on the Lee County Board of Education are also up next fall. On the Democratic side, incumbents Patrick Kelly, a self employed business owner, and Jamey Laudate, a software engineer, are joined by retired educator Marcia Hudzik and registered nurse Shonda Ray. On the Republican side, incumbent Sherry Womack, a retired U.S. Army officer, is joined by author Carla Hooker, real estate agent Cindy Ortiz, and Megan Garner, whose occupation is listed as health, safety and environmental senior director. Incumbent former Republican turned independent Sandra Bowen did not file for re-election.

________________ TEMPLE THEATRE EVENT TO CELEBRATE MUSIC, STORYTELLING Temple Theatre will play host to a unique evening of literature and music in the new year as author Trinity Bursey and local jazz composer Gregg Gelb of the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra come together for a special show featuring original music created by Gelb set to a read out loud performance of Bursey’s children’s book “The Day the Instruments Split.” The music composed by Gelb was crafted to compliment the themes of the book, which include the value of collaboration, the chaos when people fail to understand and appreciate each other, and the beauty that flows from diversity and harmony.

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DEC. 4 JAZZTALES: LITERATURE & MUSIC UNITE IN HARMONY Temple Theatre will host JazzTales: Literature and Music Unite in Harmony, at 7:30 p.m. Author Trinity Bursey and composer Gregg Gelb collaborate in a special show with Bursey reading and showing a slide presentation of her children’s book “The Day the Instruments Split” with accompaniment by the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra performing new music by Gelb. Tickets are $20 and $20 for students 16 and under.

SEND YOUR EVENT The Rant Monthly's community calendar has returned, and we're doing our best to track down everything going on in Sanford and Lee County. Send us your events by email at and include the date, time, location and a brief description.

JANUARY JAN. 5: Hugger Mugger Brewing’s First Friday Celebration will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the brewery in downtown Sanford. Vendors and a food truck (Drunken Food Truck and their Thai noodle dishes) will be on hand. JAN. 5: Stevens Center in Sanford will host a Free First Friday Family Game Night from 6-8 p.m. JAN. 8: Hugger Mugger Brewing’s Bier Garten Garden Club will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. at the brewery in downtown Sanford. Love plants but need a connection to local knowledge? Maybe you’re looking for a community of gardeners to connect with? Check out our garden club featuring the smart (and friendly) staff at Cooperative Extension. This is a free event open to the public.

JAN. 12: Tin Can Alley will play a variety of classic rock, soul and R&B at Smoke and Barrel from 8 to 10:30 p.m. JAN. 12: Lucia and Levi will perform their blend of rock, blues, reggae and country at Wild Dogs Brewing in downtown Sanford from 7 to 10 p.m. JAN. 13: The Sanford Judo Open — a grassroots Judo tournament (no membership required), will be held at 9 a.m. at 2540 Lee Ave. in Sanford. Entry forms and ticket information available at the event page on Facebook (search “Sanford Judo Open”). JAN. 13: Hugger Mugger Brewing and Tacos El Primo will host Tacos & Beer Tasting from 5 to 8 p.m. at the brewery in downtown Sanford. Ticket holders will be served three tacos — chicken, carne asada and al pastor — paired with three 5-ounce Hugger Mugger beers. Tickets are $17.50 and available at

JAN. 13: Wrangling Chainsaw Cowboys: Chainsaw Safety for Homeowners, will be hosted by the N.C. Cooperative Extension from 9 a.m. to noon at the Lee County Center at 2420 Tramway Road. Join Bartlett Tree Experts to learn the basics of chainsaw usage and safety — part of the Bradford Pear Bounty Education Program in Lee County. Tickets are $25 and available at JAN. 14: Hugger Mugger Brewing and Rainbow Rescue & Retreat will host Charity Chili/Soup Cook-Off from 6 to 8 p.m. at the brewery in downtown Sanford. Try some delicious foods, make friends, shop vendors and more. All proceeds benefit Rainbow Rescue & Retreat. JAN. 16: The Stevens Center in Sanford will host artist Lisa Poland to lead a class on painting “Starry Night Snowman,” reminiscent of Van Gogh’s famous painting. Pre-register at the Stevens Center’s Facebook page. Class fee is $5.

The Rant Monthly | 37 JAN. 18-FEB. 4: Temple Theatre’s main stage production, “Til Best Do Us Part” — a side-splitting comic romp about an assistant named Beth who’s brought in to fix her boss’ marriage and whip their home into shape — will run Jan. 18 through Feb. 4. Tickets are $32 and can be purchased at JAN. 19: The Nostalgics — a high-energy acoustic/drums duo playing alternative hits from the 90s — will perform at Smoke and Barrel in downtown Sanford from 8 to 10:30 p.m. JAN. 20: Lending Paws a Hand is teaming up with Cookie Crime to provide a cookie decorating class at BelFlex Staffing Center in Sanford at 3 p.m. Each attendee will receive step-by-step instruction as they decorate a half-dozen pet-themed sugar cookies. This class cost $60 and a portion of ticket sales will benefit Lending Paws a Hand. JAN. 26: Tuesday Night Music Club — a popular local group specializing in classic rock, country and bluegrass covers — will perform from 8 to 10:30 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel in downtown Sanford. JAN. 27: Raven Fest ‘24, hosted by Raven Forge Games, will begin at 10 a.m. on Jan. 27 at Sanford Elks Lodge #1679, 910 Carthage St. in Sanford. Raven Fest is a daylong event featuring Blood Bowl, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, cosplay contests and more. Ticket information and more available at Raven Forge Games’ Facebook page. FEB. 2: Sawhorse Rodeo, a group that combines the swing of classic honky tonk with the swagger of The Rolling Stones, will perform from 8 to 10:30 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel in downtown Sanford. FEB. 9: Guy Unger Band will perform from 8 to 10:30 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel in downtown Sanford. FEB. 12: Hugger Mugger Brewing will host Brushes and Brews from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Cost is $43 and covers all supplies included for a step-by-step painting, as well as a free beer, wine or soda. FEB. 16: Ethan Hanson, a multi-faceted singer/songwriter offering plenty of feelgood grooves and meaningful, socially conscious lyrics, will perform from 8 to 10:30 p.m. at Smoke and Barrel in downtown Sanford.

JAN. 20 THE ART OF BREWING Hugger Mugger Brewing will host The Art of Brewing at 2 p.m. Using two Hugger Mugger beers (included with ticket purchase), Professor Brandt walks you through the importance of water to brewing beer. This course is the first in a series about brewing beer — attendance at all courses is not required but will result in the most well rounded knowledge of beer and essential beer brewing knowledge. Tickets are $31.50 and available at FEB. 22-MARCH 10: Temple Theatre’s main stage production, “The Musical of Musicals, The Musical!” — a hilarious satire of musical theater — will run Feb. 22 through March 10. Tickets are $32 and can be purchased at MARCH 16: Eyes on the Prize, a concert fundraiser for the Lee County Special Olympics, will be held at Temple Theatre at 7 p.m. on March 16. Bands BigTime Shine and The Will McBride Group will perform a variety of classic/Southern rock, blues and even a little gospel. Learn more at APRIL 4-21: Million Dollar Quartet, featuring the music of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, will be Temple Theatre’s final main stage production of the 2023-2024 season. Ticket and show information at

38 | January 2024


CROSSWORD: Cocktails ACROSS 1. Great divide 6. Priestly vestment 9. Took to court 13. Haile Selassie’s disciple 14. 10 decibels 15. *Appletini’s ____ schnapps 16. Rose oil 17. Maui garland 18. Birth-related 19. *Old Fashioned liquor option 21. *Gin+vermouth rosso+Campari 23. Not him 24. Bye, in Palermo 25. beneficiary 28. Puerto follower 30. Like Ferris Bueller 35. Exclude 37. “____ Your Enthusiasm” 39. Green-light 40. Tiny coffee cup, or ____-tasse 41. Cut mission short 43. Not final or absolute 44. Makes a sweater 46. Wing-shaped 47. Bird, in Latin 48. One with drug dependency 50. Do like a frog 52. A U.S. time zone 53. Dance with #17 Across 55. Anatomical duct 57. *It usually comes in a conical glass 61. *Popular cocktail mixer 65. Spy’s other name 66. Knicks’ org.

68. Give a speech 69. Clan emblem 70. Party barrel 71. Clean a spill (2 words) 72. Part of pump 73. Sargasso or Barents 74. Same as apse DOWN 1. Sticking point, in alimentary tract 2. Possesses, archaic 3. *Bellini with ____ Spumante 4. Squirrel away 5. a.k.a. felt-pen 6. Competently 7. Motley Crue’s Tommy ____ 8. Russian pancakes 9. Practice in the ring

10. As far as (2 words) 11. Distinctive flair 12. Place for a hero 15. Fluffy sweater material 20. “All My Children” vixen ____ Kane 22. 2010 Movie “____ Pray Love” 24. Toyota model 25. *Moscow Mule spirit 26. Make corrections 27. Shy 29. *____ Libre 31. Forearm bone 32. Not dead 33. Honkers 34. *Lemon or orange piece 36. South American monkey 38. Highlands hillside

42. Crossbeam 45. Religious split 49. 252-gallon wine cask 51. *Tequila+grapefruit juice+sparkling water 54. Kind of golf course 56. Razor sharpener 57. S.A.T. section 58. Balm ingredient 59. Baptism or shiva, e.g. 60. Asian weight unit 61. John Galsworthy’s “The Forsyte ____” 62. Nukes 63. Sewing case 64. Gym set 67. *____’s Knees

The Rant Monthly | 39


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