The Rant Monthly | November 2021

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HAPPY TRAILS SAN LEE’S MOUNTAIN BIKE PATHS GET A PROFESSIONAL MAKEOVER


2 | November 2021

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November 2021 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 3 | Issue 11 | No. 32

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 and Kyra Rodriguez Editorial Board Todd Barbee, Stephen Shea, Robin Kohn, Robin Reed, Hilary Momberger-Powers, Christopher DeFaria, Jimmy Ahrens, Bill Melendez and Vince Guaraldi

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

ABOUT THE COVER

Taste the sweet life...

Months ago, a few of the most popular mountain bike trails at San Lee Park were closed because they were deemed too dangerous after several serious injuries were reported to riders. Professionals were brought in to not only make the trails safer, but design some of the best bike paths this state has to offer. The cover story of our November edition reveals what riders can expect when the trails reopen. Photo by Trase Sowell 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.

FEDERAL BLDG · 226 Carthage Street · Sanford, NC 27330 919.777.5277 · ldvpizzeria.com · @ldvpizzeria


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PAGE FOUR JUST A PHOTO WE LIKE

THE NEXT MUSIC FEST The creative minds behind Carolina Indie Fest have already announced a second big event, this one scheduled for May 13-15 at Gross Farms II in Sanford. Roughly 90 bands from all genres of music will perform over the threeday festival — several who performed at September’s Indie Fest and several more who will be new to Sanford. The first musicians announced were J.R. Richards, the former frontman for Dishwalla (“Counting Blue Cars”); and NBC’s “The Voice” finalists The Swon Brothers. Much more information can be found at the concert’s Facebook page, @wampuscatmusicfest.

DID YOU KNOW? In Harry Potter lore, the Wampus Cat was a magical creature native to the Appalachain Mountains region of the United States (perhaps a North Carolina feline?). The creature is mentioned in the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and appears in other games and books in the Potterverse.

BEER SHOW ALERT

Photographer, videographer and all-around talent Ben Brown has shot several photos for The Rant Monthly over the past two years, and he also freelances for Campbell University. Ben caught this photo of the chef in Mr. A’s Beignet truck pondering the great unknowns in life at Campbell University’s Homecoming Alumni Village on Oct. 23.

FOUR BEST THANKSGIVING SIDES The turkey is the star of most Thanksgiving dinners in our fine country, but it’s the sides that can make or break a successful holiday (bad sides can even ruin Christmas). Here’s four traditional and not-so traditional sides you can’t go wrong with.

Downtown Sanford’s Hugger Mugger Brewing will host the Sandhills Beer Show from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 6. The show is the biggest beer memorabilia show in North Carolina and is celebrating its third year with over 40 vendors from more than 10 states. The event is co-sponsored by the Atlantic and Richbrau Chapters, BCCA.

Sweet Potatoes

Cranberry Sauce

Mashed, candied or baked, Go homemade. Also great they’re the perfect fall side. for Friday’s turkey sandwich.

Cornbread Dressing

Pumpkin Pie

Not a staple in your holiday? It’s a dessert. But hell, try it as You need to make it one. a side, too. We won’t judge.


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Your health means everything. And if you’re a smoker or former smoker, 55 or over, a low dose CT screening for lung cancer could be a lifesaver. Lung cancer often displays no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. This screening helps detect lung cancer early, when treatment can be most effective. Don’t make your health wait. Ask your doctor about a low dose CT screening for lung cancer.

To learn more, watch a video at CentralCarolinaHosp.com/Lung


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rantnc.com CHRISTMAS IS COMING

The giant ornaments in front of First Citizens Bank in downtown Sanford were a new addition to the city’s Christmas decor in 2020. Photo by Billy Liggett

November begins slate of local holiday events The pandemic didn’t cancel Christmas 2020 by any means, but it sure put a damper on annual traditions in Sanford and all across the country. Most, if not all, of those traditions return in 2021, and several of them begin this month (long before your turkeys hit the oven). Use our list below to start marking your calendars, and if you’d like The Rant to add your event to our list for our December edition, email billy@rantnc.com. Nov. 7 | Downtown Sanford Holiday Open House: Downtown’s businesses go all out on Nov. 7 to help you get an early start on your Christmas shopping. Sales and deals will be abundant, and Downtown Sanford Inc. will continue its popular punch card system for a chance to win several prizes. This year’s Open House will run from noon to 4 p.m. on Nov. 7. Nov. 13 | Holiday Artisan Fair at Sanford Farmers Market: Downtown Sanford’s Farmers Market will have a more festive look on Nov. 13, with artists and small businesses selling their holiday-themed wares in the parking lot across from Yarborough’s. The Fair will run from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Nov. 13.

Nov. 19-21 | Sanford School of Classical Ballet presents The Nutcracker: Young dancers from Sanford School of Classical Ballet will dress up as mice and toy soldiers while the teens perform classic routines to Tchaikovsky’s famous score. The Nutcracker will be held at the Mann Center on Steele Street. Dec. 2-19 | Temple Theatre presents A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens’ classic returns to the Temple stage for the first time since 2018. Tickets can be purchased online at templeshows.com. Dec. 5 | Santa Train, Tree Lighting and Fireworks: The fireworks portion of October’s StreetFest was canceled due to rain, so organizers moved the display to Dec. 5, following the arrival of Santa Claus and the lighting of the tree at Depot Park. The fun begins at 3 p.m. Dec. 6 | Sanford Christmas Parade: Sorely missed in 2020, Central Carolina Jacyee’s annual nighttime Sanford Christmas Parade returns this year on Dec. 6. The parade will begin at 7 p.m., and those interested in learning more can visit the parade’s Facebook page, @SanfordParade.


8 | November 2021

SECOND MASSAGE BUSINESS BUSTED FOR ALLEGED PROSTITUTION Two New York women were arrested Oct. 28 on prostitution charges, according to the Sanford Police Department. Xiaochao Gao, 34, and Um Kyung Ae, 56, both of Flushing, N.Y. are each charged with felony promoting prostitution by providing an establishment, felony conspiracy, misdemeanor aiding and abetting prostitution, and misdemeanor practicing massage therapy without a license. Gao and Ae were charged around 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28 after the Sanford Police Department’s narcotics division executed a search warrant at King Spa and Reflexology, 715 N. Horner Blvd., following a “several month long investigation.” An SPD press release indicated the department had received complaints about prostitution at that location. Gao and Ae were jailed on $50,000 secured bond. The incident marks the second prostitution bust in Sanford since August, when the owner of the Healthy Feet massage parlor at 340 Wilson Road was arrested on similar charges. It was unclear at press time whether the cases were related.

HORTON PARK CEREMONY MOVED TO NOV. 5 The renovated and upgraded Horton Park located on Washington Avenue will celebrated its ribbon cutting event on Nov. 5. The park is the second in Sanford to celebrate its re-opening in the past month — in October, a similar event was held for the new playground equipment at Little Kiwanis Park near downtown Sanford. Additionally, the county is working on upgrades at temple and O.T. Sloan parks in the eastern part of Sanford. The Nov. 5 ceremony will begin at 3 p.m. at 1515 Washington Ave.

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THE LEAD LEE COUNTY GOVERNMENT

REDISTRICTING PASSES AFTER MOTIVES DEBATE Republicans pass plan by 4-3 vote after residents questioned transparency of the redistricting process By Richard Sullins A multi-month process to redraw electoral districts for the Lee County Board of Commissioners ended on Oct. 18 after a tense meeting in which a Republican plan to adopt a proposal (which had not been presented to the public before two weeks ago) passed along party lines. So-called “Plan F” was adopted by a 4-3 vote that night, with the board’s Republican majority prevailing. The vote followed discussion among the board’s members and comments from the public criticizing the majority’s lack of transparency in developing the new map. Plan F faced criticism at a meeting earlier in the month, not only over its surprise appearance, but also because it appeared to reduce the number of African-American residents in the county’s only majority-minority district. Several citizens showed up on Oct. 18 to express their displeasure. Linda Rhodes of Sanford was the first to the podium and said the commissioners’ process in draw-

ing up the maps “lacked the transparency that Lee County voters have experienced in the past and the respect that our citizens deserve.” “Even though the county attorney advised against it, at least two county commissioners requested information that North Carolina courts have ruled should not be considered when drawing electoral maps. (Republican) Commissioners (Kirk) Smith and (Bill) Carver made it known that they wanted to use political and voter data to create maps, therefore partisan data for political gain,” she said.

“If [the vote] happens tonight, your attorney had better start eating her Wheaties, because it looks like that map draws the ire of most people in this county.” — former State Rep. Leslie Cox Rhodes said, “It is clear that Map F was created for only one purpose — to dilute the minority population in District 1,” represented by Democratic Commissioner Robert Reives Sr. “This board has also failed to solicit any public comments on Map F’s potential changes to minority opportunity districts,” Rhodes continued. “Without a public hearing, voters have been denied the right to ask questions, provide suggestions, or hold the board

accountable before a vote occurs. The four commissioners that have engaged in this underhanded and unethical behavior have only one concern — they only care about not getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar.” Lacrecia Reives went further, saying “the Lee County Board of Commissioners’ proposed Plan F manipulates District 1 and undermines the ability for Black voters in Lee County to elect their candidate of choice. The same tactics of excluding Black voters that led Lee County to change its election methods and place the county under the scrutiny of the Voting Rights Act are at work again in proposed Plan F.” Other speakers included former Democratic State Rep. Leslie Cox, who warned the board about potential consequences if district lines were drawn based on anything other than population. “If what you’re talking about doing happens tonight, your attorney had better start eating her Wheaties because it looks like that map draws the ire of the most people in this county,” he said. But it was soft-spoken Brenda Johnson of Sanford who spoke directly to the heart of what is at stake in the redistricting process. “The same tactics of excluding Black voters that led Lee County to change its election methods and place the county under the scrutiny of the Voting Rights Act (in 1989) are at work again,” she said.


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rantnc.com Johnson also brought the matter to the attention of the Durham nonprofit the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. A letter from the group’s legal counsel, Mitchell Brown, had been placed at each of the commissioners’ seats prior to the start of the meeting. Brown wrote that his nonprofit civil rights organization “partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications.” The letter reminded commissioners of a lawsuit filed by the Lee County Chapter of the NAACP in 1989 that led to an overhaul of the county’s district lines and the way it elected its commissioners. It went on to claim that Plan F, drawn up shortly before the October 4 meeting, was developed “behind closed doors in a process that lacked the transparency needed to instill public confidence” in both the process and the product. In an interview with The Rant, Brown accused the Republican commissioners of

running “a Houdini show” with the final three versions of the plan that did not receive a proper opportunity for the public to review and comment before the next one was produced. He said his organization will be looking at the voting age population data to see how the increase or decrease among minorities tracks with the general population and that their review is ongoing. After 50 minutes of public comments, the board began a heated, hour-long discussion of its options, in which Democrats attempted to hone their basic point – that Republicans had confused the public in order to affect a reverse-engineered, gerrymandered map so that they could hold onto their political advantage. Democratic commissioners during the meeting proposed the adoption of two other versions of the political boundary maps, Plans A and G, and each attempt failed along party lines. City and County GIS Strategic Services Director Don Kovasckitz explained again that Plan A showed the smallest change from the existing map adopted in 2011. Further iterations offered greater differences from the current map.

With the defeat of Plans A and G, Democratic Commissioner Cameron Sharpe went on the offensive. “I know what the end game is here. I think the end game is to try to put Mr. Reives out in the next election. It is glaringly evident,” he said. “And I think it is a shame. It’s morally and ethically wrong.” Sharpe asked on two occasions “why this [Plan F] is the best map for Lee County.” After 15 seconds of total silence Republican Commissioner Andre Knecht said, “I think that, as all the other maps as well do, it meets all the necessary parameters and does take into account the future growth as well that may be coming. It may throw some things out of balance.” “I don’t feel that this was set up as a map that is to, as you put it, oust Commissioner Reives. I don’t think that at all,” Knecht continued. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for the gentleman and he is aware of that. So, I think it’s a good map. It meets all the parameters. It’s compact, contiguous, keeps the precincts, keeps a majority-minority district.”

Sharpe responded, “I think about 10 people in this building believe what you just said about taking Mr. Reives out of his district, and that’s no disrespect to you. But I think there’s about 10 who believe that.” The prospect that the plan might be challenged in court was on the mind of at least one of the Republican commissioners. Carver looked directly at Sharpe and said, “If someday we have to stand in front of a judge and justify why we picked (Plan F), everything that I have said is consistent with that. There was no motivation at the beginning of designing this plan to intentionally disenfranchise anybody. And when we got finished, we looked at what the percentages of the population are and there was not a significant change in it. So, it wasn’t a question of being slick or whatever. It’s just a question of picking one that I think works.” o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.

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10 | November 2021

BOOSTER SHOTS NOW AVAILABLE IN LEE COUNTY The Lee County Health Department is continuing to offer COVID-19 vaccinations, as well as the booster shots, for those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines and who are 65 or older, or at least 18 and who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions or who work or live in high-risk settings. Booster shots are being offered by the Health Department at its drivethrough clinic at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center at 1801 Nash Street in Sanford on Tuesdays, Nov. 2, Nov. 9, and Nov. 16, from 9 a.m. until noon by appointment only. Residents may schedule their appointment by calling the Health Department at (919) 8425744 (English) or (919) 718-4640, option 8 (Spanish). Federal guidelines do allow for the mixing of the various brands of vaccine. Heath Cain, Director of the LCHD said, “We now have the resources to provide all CDC approved booster vaccines to many in our community. This will now allow us to continue working to improve the health of our community and mitigate this virus. We have a spot for your shot.”

KIWANIS VACCINE EVENT A free COVID-19 vaccination event is set for Nov. 13 at Kiwanis Park. “A Toast To Awareness and a Shot For Ashley,” will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in memory of Ashley Williams, a Lee County resident who died from COVID-19 on Sept. 23. Williams, 34, had been scheduled to receive her vaccine just days before her diagnosis and leaves behind a 5-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. Vaccines will be available for anyone needing their first or second dose, or their booster. A live DJ will be on hand and free food will be available. “Although she never got around to getting vaccinated; and we were unable to save her life, we are hoping that her story and this event will encourage others to get educated and vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Elonda Womble, one of the organizers.

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LOCAL COVID-19

ENDING OR RESTING?

Virus numbers declining again locally; health department recognized By Richard Sullins Lee County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution on Oct. 18 to recognize the work done by the county’s health department since the COVID outbreak began in March 2020. County Health Director Heath Cain and the 34 members of the department’s staff were applauded by commissioners not only for their “immediate and ongoing response to the pandemic,” but also for “continuously adapting to the evolving resources that have been made available to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” It was a moment to celebrate a triumph of the human spirit among those who had given unselfishly of themselves so that others might live healthy lives. The commissioners were not ready to declare victory in the battle against the virus here, but it was an important recognition of those whose tireless efforts have helped keep the pandemic from spreading uncontrolled through the populace. And largely because of their work, things are getting better. The numbers are real. COVID is once again on the decline in Lee County after a late summer surge. But the question that remains to be answered is whether the drop in numbers this time are marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic or just a lull before another wave hits as cooler temperatures force people back indoors for the winter months. As schools began to dismiss for the summer, the numbers of COVID cases nationwide stood at their lowest levels since the pandemic began. In Lee County, the percentage of tests

that were returned as positive had dropped to a low three percent in early June and public places across the county were dropping requirements that patrons wear masks. But just three months later, as summer turned to fall, the virus had returned in the form of a variant of the original known as Delta. Many times more communicable than the original, the number of tests coming back from labs with a positive result reached more than 13 percent by mid-September and was still at 11 percent two weeks later as the month came to an end.

Lee County’s positive COVID test rate has fallen 5.31 percent (down from 13 in September), but is still higher than the state average of 4.4 percent. Now, as November ushers in the start of the holiday season, the percentage of positive COVID tests in Lee County has been cut in half over the past month, falling to 5.31 percent as October came to an end. Still, the county’s positivity rate remains higher than the state average of 4.4 percent and has typically lingered above 5 percent since March 2020. Vaccination rates in Lee County, which lagged the state average since they first became available in December 2020, began to accelerate in September 2021 as both infections and deaths increased. The number of persons who have received at least one does of the vaccine by October 28 was 36,768, or 70.5 percent of those persons ages

12 and over, an increase of 5,526 persons since the end of August. The number who have been fully vaccinated as of that same date was 30,496 or 58.5 percent of the same age group, an increase since August of 2,710 persons. Approval by the Center for Disease Control of booster shots has led to heightened interest in the vaccines, according to Cain, but the Department is prepared. “We now have the resources to provide all CDC approved booster vaccines to many in our community,” he said. “This will now allow us to continue working to improve the health of our community and mitigate this virus.” The CDC continues to list Lee as being among the 83 counties in the state having a high degree of community spread. By October’s end, the number of persons having tested positive for the virus within the county has reached 9,404 people since March 2020. To gain a perspective of how the virus is spreading within one county as compared to another, statisticians normalize the number of cases as reported per 100,000 residents. Lee County reported 924 cases per 100,000 residents in September, a rate that was four times higher than October’s rate of only 227 cases per 100,000. Even so, the number of persons dying from COVID-19 has continued to rise. At the end of July, 84 persons had died from the pandemic within the county. Five more died in August, eight in September, and 11 more in October, meaning that nearly one-quarter (22 percent) of the county’s COVID deaths since March 2020 have happened in just the last three months.


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More Holiday Events November 7th Downtown Holiday Open House

November 11th Veteran's Day Service NC Veterans Memorial Pavilion

November 13th Holiday Artisan Fair at the Sanford Farmers' Market

November 19th-21st Sanford School of Classical Ballet presents The Nutcracker at The Mann Center

November 27th Small Business Saturday Broadway Lights Begin

December 2nd-19th Temple Theatre's

LET US SHOW YOU A FEW OF OUR

A Christmas Carol

December 5th Sunday with Santa Train and Tree Lighting The Depot

December 6th Sanford Christmas Parade

December 11th Broadway Christmas Parade

Whether it's the perfect piece of jewelry for your best friend, a beautiful houseware item for your mother-in-law, or a glitzy dress for your holiday party, Downtown Sanford has all of your favorite things! Join us throughout November and December, and use our Holiday Punch Card (November 27th through December 24th) when you sip and shop, to be entered for prizes.

Call today for your free visitor's guide: 919-718-4659 106 Charlotte Avenue

Sanford, NC 27330


12 | November 2021 EDITORIAL

WE WERE RIGHT TO WORRY ABOUT IT Last month in this space, we urged Lee County residents to pay close attention to the process of electoral redistricting for the local Board of Commissioners, and to get involved if necessary. That suggestion came after concerns were raised about the requests made by members of the board’s Republican majority for data that’s been deemed illegal when it comes to redrawing those lines, and an apparent lack of transparency in the process. Those concerns — particularly concerns about transparency — intensified in October as the board held a public hearing on one set of maps, and then introduced and voted to move forward with another, new map which hadn’t been subject to any public scrutiny. This map wasn’t new to just the public; county staff told commissioners seeing the map for the first time at the Oct. 4 meeting that it had been drawn at the direction of Republican Dr. Andre Knecht. Two weeks later, the board voted along partisan lines to approve the new map — despite an outcry from residents who showed up to object to the lack of transparency and the fact that this map seemed to reduce the number of African-American residents in the county’s only majority-minority district, represented by Democrat Robert Reives, Sr. Prior to the introduction of the GOP’s last-minute map, there was zero objection to the maps initiated by county staff, and no member of the majority offered a single compelling reason to instead adopt their map — a map which the county’s attorney explicitly expressed legal concerns over. So while the lines are official and next year’s election will move forward with them in place, the fight seems far from over. But voters should remember this next year, especially if the GOP continues to campaign on rhetoric about transparency.

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OPINION COLUMN | BILLY LIGGETT

Maybe my worst column ever

I

stared at a blank Google Doc for a good 20 minutes before typing this sentence. Looking at it now, I probably should have waited 21 minutes. I usually don’t sit down to write a column until the idea is there. The idea is the toughest part — once I have even a shimmer of an idea, the rest comes pretty easily. I can pound out 500 words on my kids, my dogs or mowing my front yard like nothing. I sit here tonight though with nothing. Topics have been spinning through my mind like the giant Price is Right wheel, but they’re all either terrible, or I’ve already written about them. Working for newspapers and magazines for 20-plus years will eventually do that to a guy. So I’m now four paragraphs into a column about nothing. I feel like the kid who’s been asked to write 500 words for a history project and feels pretty good after his name and the title of the paper have netted a total of 10. This came easy enough, but the next 10 or so paragraphs — I have no idea what you’re in for here. Thanksgiving was a topic that came and went a few times. I’ve written before that it’s my favorite of the holidays, purely for nostalgia and the fact that my wife can absolutely kill it when it comes to turkey baking. I could spend at least a good 200 words talking about the butter/garlic discs she slides under the turkey skin before it goes into the oven,

and the pure perfection that comes out of the oven three hours later. I could, but I won’t. It’s been done. The thing is, the columns that I’ve enjoyed writing most have been the personal ones. Not because I feel like anybody cares what’s going on in my life … Quick side note, I once received a hand-written letter from a reader when I worked at the Sanford Herald that explicitly told me to quit writing about myself, because nobody cares about my life or my kids, and I should just stick to reporting news. I still have that letter, because I love that someone hated my writing so much, they decided to take the time to write me (and mail me) just so I would know. It was really a thing of beauty. … but because I enjoy life’s big moments, and I love trying to decipher what it all means in the grand scheme of things. Like the time I walked by a family saying their final good-byes to an old man in his hospital bed just minutes after experiencing the birth of my first child. Or the time I had to re-teach my grandfather how to tie his tie for his wife’s funeral 25 years after he first taught me how to tie it. These moments may be just a big coincidence, and we’re all just floating on a giant rock waiting to die. Or maybe there’s something to all of this. I’m certainly not going to find the answers 11 paragraphs into this column about nothing. Nor has any of this led

me to a good topic for this month. So instead of just mailing it in, I’m going to end this rambling with a quick story about my daughter, Hayley. She’s sitting next to me at 9 p.m. on a Wednesday night doing homework. She’s doing it this late, because her days are full of school work, tennis, theater and dance. She’s an incredible kid, and she’s growing up way too fast. And I don’t get to tell her very often just how special she is and how much she means to me. That’s it. That’s the story. Maybe one day she’ll read that paragraph, and it will make her smile. It might be in a few days, or it could be years from now. Either way, I feel like sharing that is a great way to end this. It’s not such a bad column after all. o Billy Liggett will get his head straight and write about something more specific next month. You can give him some ideas by emailing billy@rantnc.com.

The Rant Monthly is published monthly by LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard in Sanford, North Carolina. The Rant was founded as a weekly radio program in 2008 by Gordon Anderson, Billy Liggett and Jonathan Owens. After their program was unceremoniously banished from the airwaves by a petty local state representative, The Rant regrouped and became a web site specializing in local news in 2014. Today, The Rant Monthly has a circulation of 3,500 printed copies, and our website draws more than 1 million views yearly. Wear a mask and get the vaccine.


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rantnc.com READER RESPONSE LEE COUNTY REDISTRICTING The redistricting process in any county or state is a complicated ordeal, but it’s clear from the local board of commissioners’ recent vote to approve a new, unvetted-by-the-public map in October that this isn’t the right way to do things. Rant readers have sounded off on the process online: ________________ [The commissioners] are so mindless that they showed their hand the week or two before [the vote] when Commissioner Carver asked, “Where’s the other map?” They know exactly what they were trying to accomplish, and now we will have to fight it in court — at least I hope so, and then who pays for that? Yep us. You have to ask yourself if the numbers were so small, why open yourself up to this when the county put four plans — not one, not two — but four plans in front of the board that in no way could be perceived as influenced by either party? None of them were good enough for the puppets? I hope the people of this county are watching and get rid of the “Womack Minions” when the opportunity arises in the future elections. Travis Grindle ________________ It’s interesting. I doubt any of the four Republicans currently on the board actually lived in Lee County in 1989. At least three of the four are carpetbaggers. Yet: “The letter reminded commissioners of a lawsuit filed by the Lee County Chapter of the NAACP in 1989 that led to an overhaul of the county’s district lines and the way it elected its commissioners.” Jeff Cashion ________________ It is sad to see such a vile divide between the people of politics in Lee County. Party politics has become a cancer to our society. Let’s be honest, most of the general population doesn’t know a single thing about what did or is happening in our politics. Yet, the people are in constant frustration due to a constant bickering fest about who is doing what for the wrong reasons. In the end, it’s just a sad day for the people of Lee County. Party politics took this very simple task and turned it into a divisive wedge that does nothing but harm the people of Lee County. Jeremy Cleary

SCHOOL MASK MANDATE You might be surprised to learn that people have differing opinions on Lee County Schools’ decision in October to continue with the mask mandate for students: ________________ It is a shame that elected officials misrepresented Attorney General Garland’s memo to gin people up and cause more division. It is careless and reckless. School board members are doing the best they can and deserve to not be threatened. That is what the memo was about. If you are not threatening people then there is nothing to worry about. No one is trying to take anyone’s right to come speak at school board meetings. Board members deserve to not fear for their safety. Shame on those trying to pit people against each other by falsely misrepresenting the memo. Jan Tart ________________ The worst part of the anti-science mandate is there is no target for removal. It’s emotionally based. We hear about numbers and “high” spread, but there’s no quantifier. Why? Because it’s not about health. Alan Rummel

PROS, CONS OF GROWTH The announcement of another new subdivision has readers talking about Sanford’s growth: ________________ New growth can bring good things to an area, but it can also cause problems that outweigh the expected results. All areas of growth need to be examined before we permanently relinquish our farm land. There’s no going back. We have to live with the results. Try driving to Tramway on N.C. 78 and get on U.S. 1. Before and after school hours are a nightmare as five schools use that road and intersection. When all the new homes that are proposed in that area are built, it will be impossible. Do we want the entire county in a traffic nightmare? Betsy Kelly ________________ Everyone wants something different. I moved here seven years ago, because I knew this area was going to explode soon and because there’s nowhere else to grow closer to RDU. I’m thrilled to see it happening. Larry Laster

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14 | November 2021

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MOUNTAIN BIKER AND PATH ENGINEER CLAYTON NEWMAN TAKES ON ONE OF THE NEW JUMPS AT SANLEE PARK. PHOTO BY TRASE SOWELL.


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rantnc.com

COVER STORY

HAPPY TRAILS MOUTAIN BIKING AT SANLEE PARK

The popular mountain bike trails at SanLee Park — closed after a series of injuries — return soon bigger and better (and safer) than ever before. By Gordon Anderson

W

hen 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.

“I heard from a bunch of (county) managers in North Carolina, and probably nine out of 10 told me to just bulldoze the whole thing,” said Lee County Manager John Crumpton. “They said, ‘Just go ahead and get it over with; you don’t need what we went through.’” To the benefit of mountain bike trail enthusiasts in Lee County and beyond, Crumpton ended up making a different decision. He instead 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 out-of-town riders. To be clear, the trails at San Lee Park — set to reopen under a new configuration sometime around Thanksgiving — are just one element in a broader network of bike trails in Sanford and Lee County that are experiencing heavy use by locals and visitors alike.

Brandon Wade, Trase Sowell and Clayton Newman of Black Diamond Trail Designs pose for a photo after demonstrating the jumps and turns on one of the more advanced new paths coming to SanLee Park.


16 | November 2021

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“We’ve done some trail promotion over the last few years, and we know that here recently, our trails [website] has been viewed almost 500 times, and we know they spend a lot of time on that page,” said Wendy Bryan, director of the Sanford Tourism Development Authority. “And so when these people come, our focus is on getting them to stay here longer, to spend more time here.” After the San Lee trails’ closing in the spring, county staff hired the team at North Carolina-based Black Diamond Trail Designs to begin the process of redesigning existing pathways at the park using input from riders and working to mitigate some of the riskiest features while maintaining courses that appeal to all levels of riders. A survey of riders by the county garnered more than 150 responses (up from about 15 who responded to a similar survey a decade ago).

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. “Some of the comments that we got in the survey came from a certain group of people that like the fact that five of the downward trails were expert level. And we had one so-called intermediate level but it really was probably more advanced,” said Crumpton. “So, what we’ve done is, we got the beginner area here, then we’ll have an intermediate area, and then advanced, and expert. So, you progress. We’re just making it so every caliber rider can ride up here.” 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


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The Rant Monthly | 17


18 | November 2021

@therant905 you’re 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.” 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.” The geography at San Lee makes all that possible, and is one of the reasons the trails have been in place for so long. Bryan, with the Sanford TDA, said those unique features make for a great marketing opportunity for Sanford.

Brandon Wade unloads his mountain bikes in the parking area for SanLee Park’s mountain bike trails. The team at North Carolina-based Black Diamond Trail Designs came in and upgraded the existing trails, making them more appropriate for certain skill levels and a more thrilling experience overall. Photo by Billy Liggett

“One of the things I asked early on was ‘how do we have mountain bike trails in the center of the state?’” she said. “And what I found out was that the Piedmont begins when you’re leaving Lillington and coming

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rantnc.com into Lee County, and that line where the shift occurs is at San Lee Park. So we have some of the oldest rock around. So these runs make for high-level rides, and that’s the message we’re working to get out.”

I know more about mountain biking now than I ever wanted to know.

“I still don’t know it all, but there are guys like Charlie and (the Black Diamond team) who have ridden all over the United States and even all over the world. So “We really appreciate the counthere were a lot of ty’s decision not to bulldoze resources here.”

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When the issue first arose, Crumpton, already a biking enthusiast, sort of immersed himself in these trails because it really As Back to Dirt’s the world of mounmakes me happy to see places owner, Storm is tain biking to see like this. The sport of mountain sort of at the center what he could learn. of the local biking biking does do so much for the He said Charlie community. A next generation of kids, and Storm, owner of the Maryland native, there’s so much it teaches them.” Back to Dirt bike Storm initially — Joseph Litaker of Black shop on Wicker came to North CarDiamond Trail Design Street in downtown olina to study at Sanford, was an inAppalachian State strumental voice in and opened his convincing him to fix, but keep, the trails. store in Sanford nearly two decades ago. He “Charlie has been working on my road bike forever. And so I want to talk to him about it and he was one of the ones convinced me this could work,” he said. “Inside, we did a lot of research, and (Litaker) and our attorneys were involved video conferences we did. But I will tell you

moved downtown in recent years and has seen a steady increase in interest in biking ever since, particularly during the COVID lockdowns.

“I have a lot of background and I’ve ridden all over the world so I feel like I have a lot of knowledge about mountain biking,”

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@therant905 Storm, who leads regular rides on the various trails around town that Bryan and the TDA have promoted. “But with trail design I don’t really do anything. Hopefully I’ve helped steer from afar.” Storm said the bar for entry to mountain biking can be fairly low, even if the hobby can turn expensive. “I have brand (of bike) that kind of bridges the gap between what you’d get in a department store and a bike shop, and they’re like $500 bucks,” he said. “To get started on a top mountain bike you can go, up to $3,000 to $5,000.” And while downtown Sanford might not feel extremely connected to mountain bike trails a few miles away, Back to Dirt does just that, leading visitors to many of the other things downtown has to offer.

“We’ve really tried to take a lot of the variables out of it, where it’s like, at first you’re just focusing on riding, and then as you go on and get better you can focus on jumping. 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.” — Black Diamond’s Joseph Litaker, who is leading the redesign of mountain bike trails at SanLee Park

“We’re closer to the trails than we were (in our previous location in Tramway), and so for people coming from Durham or Raleigh, it’s closer,” he said. “And I get people every day, people asking me where to eat, and I usually send them to whatever is closest like the Smoke and Barrel or Local Joe’s.” For Litaker, who has designed trails all over the country, the benefits of mountain bike trails that are freely accessible to the public are almost too many to count. “In terms of long term master planning, you’ve got a great community in town,” he said. “We really appreciate the county’s decision not to bulldoze these trails because it really makes me happy to see places like this. The sport of mountain biking does do so much for the next generation of kids, and there’s so much it teaches them.” “And the primary effects, like the money spent at the shops and restaurants, are big,” he continued. “But the secondary and tertiary effects where it’s like, home values go up because it becomes a more desirable place to be. School grades go up and teachers get paid more. I mean, it really does trickle down into a lot of different aspects. It’s hard to measure that.” Even before the reopening, as Litaker and his crew worked one afternoon in late October, a handful of locals were out sort of beta testing the trails in the current configuration. Litaker and Crumpton pointed out areas where dangerous jumps had been “fixed” through a variety of methods and discussed how the rapidly the local moun-


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rantnc.com tain biking community has grown. “The more the sport does get bigger, there are a lot more communities that are doing stuff like this and you’re finding a lot more bike parks in different areas,” Litaker said. “It’s really cool to have a free bike park for all these people to travel to, and it’s actually become a bit of a travel destination. There’s so many parks that charge a lot of money, and it’s just nice to have a park that people can come to and just show up for free.” For Crumpton, that community’s presence, and the years of work put in by volunteers before the closure, made the decision to keep the Gravity Park open an easy one. “We had too much invested here, and too much of a following,” he said. “So we had to do something to make it safer and something where we can control risk. And these guys will come back once a year, make sure nothing’s been tampered with on what they left behind. We just had to formalize what we were doing.” Crumpton also said he’s loved the park since he began his tenure as county manager in 2008.

“It’s really cool to have a free bike park for all these people to travel to, and it’s actually become a bit of a travel destination. There’s so many parks that charge a lot of money, and it’s just nice to have a park that people can come to and just show up for free.” — Joseph Litaker, Black Diamond Trail Design “The very first project I did when I got here was the (San Lee) dam repair,” he said. “And then we had the fire we rebuilt the Nature Center. And I’ve camped out here with Boy Scouts, and I just can’t tell you how often I’ve been down here. So I just have an affection for the park in general.” The Gravity Park’s official reopening has not yet been announced, although county officials have said they expect it to take place in late November or mid December at the latest. The Rant will publish that date when an announcement is made.

.

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22 | November 2021

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HOUSING MARKET

COUNTY ANNEXES LAND FOR PROPOSED SUBDIVISION If approved, new subdivision will feature 404 homes, 272 apartments and commercial space By Richard Sullins The Sanford City Council on Oct. 19 annexed a 169-plus acre tract of land near the end of Valley Road on which a multi-use 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. Before its 6-0 vote (Councilman Chas Post was absent) to annex the land, the council heard concerns raised by neighboring landowners about the new housing development, which if approved would feature up to 404 single family homes, 272 apartments, and some limited commercial usage. The proposed development, which

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is bordered by Boone Trail Road, Valley Road and Forestwood Park Road, would be called Brookshire. Pinnacle Partners LLC, a Raleigh-based real estate firm, asked the city for the annexation and to assign the property a zoning status which would allow the high density construction.

Scott Osborne of Valley Road represented many of the adjoining homeowners in his remarks during the public hearing. Osborne said the Brookshire plan was developed without regard for the SanLee land use plan and zoning ordinances, and without respect for the land and its natural resources that have been cared for and preserved by adjacent landowners. “With all of the high salaries associated with new industries in Lee and surrounding counties being touted by local governments, SAGA, and public officials, I just cannot believe that there is no market for developments offering home buyers an option to buy a house with more acreage than what is proposed here,” he said. Osborne said the development plan proposed by Pinnacle was long on promises but short on specifics. He pointed out that the plan contained no information on the exterior appearance of the housing to be constructed, no details on how stream and wildlife mitigation would be accomplished, and lacked information on how noise and light pollution would be contained within the boundaries of the development. April Stone of Forestwood Park Road told the council that the roads surrounding the proposed development are already in poor condition and the increased traffic of a predicted 7,000 more vehicles per day would forever alter the character of the community. “We live in the country. We like to shoot our guns. We like to have our freedom. If you annex this, what are we going to do?” she asked. Another member of the community, Mary Griffin, believes the Sanford Police and Fire Departments are already

stretched to their limits and adding another development into their service areas might be too much for them to handle. After an hour of comments during the annexation public hearing, the council voted unanimously to annex the property into the city limits. A second public hearing on the question of how the development should be zoned went on for another hour and 15 minutes, with the adjoining property owners advocating for a classification that would reduce the density of housing that would be permitted. Osborne argued that apartments and commercial development should not be permitted within the tract, that there should be requirements in place to offset damages to streams and wildlife habitat. “As I routinely read of where, what kind, and how dense some of the recent developments are that have been approved in our county,” Osborne said, “it troubles me that too many are leaning to become clones of developments to our north in Chatham, Wake, Harnett and Johnston counties.” As the second hearing began to wind down, Osborne told the council this group of property owners had not attended the meeting to hold a ‘Not in My Back Yard’ protest, but instead to highlight the problems that can be created when the pace of development begins to outrun the means by which it can be monitored. “Some may say, ‘what does it matter if we lose 100 plus acres in an area to development?’” he said. “I contend that every parcel that is incompatible with existing and planned use should be carefully examined before we lose natural landscapes that are irreplaceable as a result of high-density development.” The city’s Planning Board will present its recommendations on the matter to the council at its next meeting on Nov. 2, when a final vote will be taken on how the development will be zoned for usage.


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24 | November 2021

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ARTS & ENT PODCASTING

‘SONGWRITERS ROUND’ COMING TO SANFORD Sanford may not be Nashville or Detroit just yet, but with events like Carolina Indie Fest, downtown street festivals, events at Depot Park, and intimate performances in local bars and breweries, the city’s reputation as a place for live music continues to grow. Now, one young artist and his management team are taking another step in making Sanford a destination for music. John Norris is a young singer-songwriter from Sanford who has performed and recorded in Nashville. Along with the Smoke & Barrel’s Jeff Towson, Camelback Brewing’s Mike Stec, and his management team of Adam and Doreen Herget and Ray Williams, Norris decided that there was no reason he couldn’t bring one fixture of the Nashville music industry — the songwriters round — to Sanford. A songwriters round will typically feature three to four songwriters taking turns playing their original compositions after giving some insight into their writing. Between Camelback and the Smoke & Barrel, Adam Herget said, Sanford has two great locations to host such events. “We just thought this would be a great way to bring more opportunities for live music and to bring in songwriters from all over,” he explained. The first gathering is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the Smoke & Barrel, and future events are expected to rotate between there and Camelback Brewing. For more information about John Norris and to hear his music, visit johnnorrismusic.com or sanfordmusiccircle.com.

TALKING QUEENS Sanford man co-hosts popular ‘Shutty Uppy’ podcast dedicated to King of Queens By Jonathan Owens Steve Lont takes the train daily to his office at a commercial construction firm in New York City. Dustin Saulsbury is self-employed and lives in rural Sanford. What could possibly bring these two together? The Internet, of course. And the love for a popular television show from the early 2000s. The pair formed the “Shutty Uppy: Let’s Talk King of Queens” podcast earlier this year to celebrate a show that has received less notoriety than The Office or Seinfeld but had a similarly long run. The podcast took off, finding a niche fanbase and gaining fans all over the world. “King of Queens” ran a total of nine seasons from 1998 to 2007. Doug and Carrie Heffernan (played by Kevin James and Leah Remini) portrayed a blue-collar couple living in Queens, N.Y. Recurring guest stars included Carrie’s father, played by comedy legend Jerry Stiller, and Doug’s friend Spence, played by Patton Oswalt, among many others. The Shutty Uppy hosts met by chance on a Facebook page for fans of the show. Lont posted that he was looking for a partner to start a podcast, and Saulsbury jumped at the chance. He and his wife, Andrea, had already gained some followers on Tik Tok for re-enacting scenes from the show.

Dustin Saulsbury of Sanford and his “Shutty Uppy” podcast co-host Steve Long interview Michael Kostroff, an actor who appeared in three episodes of King of Queens as Carrie’s boss.

“I post a bunch on social media about the show, and I tag all the actors and actresses. They started liking the posts, and so I decided to message them to ask if they’d be on.” — Dustin Saulsbury, co-host of the “Shutty Uppy” podcast.

“I saw his comment and said ‘he looks familiar.’” Lont said. “I had a few others reach out and say they were interested, but Dustin stood out because I had seen his Tik Toks.” Lont is married with four teenage kids and Saulsbury, a baseball instructor in Sanford, and his wife have two young kids. While they live in different worlds, they find similar things they can identify within the show.

“It’s so relatable,” Lont said. “It’s just a good half hour to turn your brain off and have a good time.” “I didn’t really start watching until college,” Saulsbury said. “When I got out of college, my son was about to be born, and I found myself watching it more. I was like, ‘Holy crap, I am Doug Heffernan.’” Each episode of the podcast explores an episode of the show. The pair and a guest review the plot of the show, talk about the ratings and reviews for that episode, their favorite quotes from it, and quiz each other on trivia. Its popularity began to rise amongst the King of Queens fandom almost immediately, and actual cast members began to take note. “I post a bunch on social media about the show, and I tag all the actors and actresses,” Saulsbury said. “They started liking the posts, and so I decided to message them to ask if


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rantnc.com they’d be on.” That led to episodes with four cast members so far. The first was Alex Skuby, who played Carrie’s boss; followed by Michael Kostroff, who has appeared in several shows like The Wire, Blacklist and Law and Order SVU; Tyler Roth Hendrickson, who played Young Doug on numerous episodes; and Peggy Lane O’Rourke, whose credits include acting, directing and producing, and a stint on Seinfeld. “People are starting to respond to us a lot more,” Saulsbury said. “We got Patton Oswalt to respond to one of our posts. That was cool.”

social media people are accessible now. It’s great.” Tik Tok famous The Shutty Uppy podcast isn’t Saulsbury’s only brush with internet fame. He is also a prolific Tik Tok poster, meticulously planning elaborate skits with his wife and kids. He recently garnered more than 2 million views on a simple video with an allusion to his wife making unfortunate noises in the bathroom in the mornings.

“One day,” Saulsbury injected. “We will have him on our show.”

“It just keeps going up,” Saulsbury said. “I don’t understand it. I work so hard on my videos. My wife hates it, because I make them do things over and over. I get like 300 or 500 views. Then I do something stupid like a fart video and it gets 2 million.”

“The ultimate goal would be to get Kevin James or Leah Remini,” Lont said. “With

“It did take me 20 takes to get that face just right though,” he joked.

“(Oswalt) politely declined our invitation,” Lont added. “He was very nice about it.”

HUGGER MUGGER TO HOST ‘HIDDEN ARTISTS’ A “Hidden Artists of Sanford” art show is set for Nov. 26 at Hugger Mugger Brewing in downtown Sanford. The show will feature “unknown up and coming artists from Sanford,” who will be submitting work largely based on local life. Work will be available for purchase at prices ranging from $15 to $50, with 20 percent of proceeds going to various local charities, including the Sanford Area Soccer League scholarship program, HAVEN in Lee County and Lee County Parks and Recreation. The remaining funds will go directly to artists. The show is presented by Heather Sinks of Cherry Tree Photography NC, Mary-Jo Thompson and Amber Miller of Adcock Reality, and Hugger Mugger Brewing Company. For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page, @HiddenArtistsofSanford.

3128 S. Horner Blvd., Sanford, NC Call or Text (919) 775-3638 www.HSAofSanford.com


26 | November 2021

NONPROFIT RAFFLE Family Promise of Lee County will hold a raffle for a $1,000 cash prize on Nov. 18 to raise funds for the organization, which provides assistance to people and families experiencing homelessness. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at Family Promise’s Day Center at 2302 Woodland Avenue. Ticket holders do not have to be present at the drawing to win. For more information, visit familypromiseofleecounty. org or call (919) 718-1540.

APARTMENTS COMING ABOVE SMOKE & BARREL Sanford will see a small number of new options for downtown living in December or January, as Jeff Towson — owner of the Smoke and Barrel on South Steele Street — is in the process of turning the space above his restaurant into apartments. Dubbed “The Oliver” in reference to the former store in the upstairs space that’s stood empty for years, Towson has been busy sectioning off the second floor into three living spaces, all of which feature unique views of downtown Sanford. The Oliver apartments follow in the footsteps of the Lutterloh building at Chatham and McIver streets, which opened up for residents in 2019.

LONGLEAF PINE TOUR The Railroad House Historical Association will host a walking tour of a natural wetland of longleaf pines at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 7. The tour will showcase cut marks in the bark of longleaf pines which generated sap for making tar and other products. The wetland walk is over an undisturbed natural wetland known as a Pocosin. Those interested in the free tour should meet at Edwin Patterson’s farm on Rosin Lane off U.S. 421 east of Broadway, two miles east of the Seminole traffic light on the left.

@therant905 CUMBERLAND COUNTY

DNA SHOWS GACY VICTIM FROM NEAR FAYETTEVILLE Spring Lake area man who disappeared in 1976 ID’d years later as a victim of the notorious serial killer By Richard Sullins His family called him “Wayne.” Francis Wayne Alexander was born in 1955 in the Cumberland County township of Manchester, which includes Spring Lake and portions of Fort Bragg north of Fayetteville, and the last time his family heard from him was in the fall of 1976 when he called his mother in November and sent his sister a postcard saying he would be coming home for the holidays. But Wayne never came. His family didn’t hear from him again for the next 45 years, assuming that he wanted nothing more to do with them. But on Oct. 22, 2021, the worst fears of Wayne’s family were confirmed in a call from Chicago. His remains had been positively identified through forensic genealogy as being among those found in December 1978, buried in the crawl space beneath the suburban Chicago home of one of America’s most notorious serial killers, John Wayne Gacy, along with 21 others. In all, Gacy was convicted and later executed for the murders of 33 young men between 1972 and 1978. The identification of Alexander’s remains was announced on Oct. 25 by Cook County, Illinois Sheriff Tom Dart. Alexander’s family, including his 87-year-old mother, had been notified three days earlier. Wayne had likely been killed sometime between November 1976 and March 1977 when he was either 21 or 22 years old. Alexander’s remains were identified by

Francis “Wayne” Alexander — from the Spring Lake area south of Sanford, near Fayetteville — disappeared in the fall of 1976 and was never seen again. DNA taken in 2011 from the body of one of serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s unidentified victims (buried beneath the crawl space of his Chicago home) has identified Alexander. Five of Gacy’s victims remain unidentified. DNA that was extracted from a tooth belonging to one of nine bodies buried before police could identify who they were. In 2011, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department began a renewed effort to identify the remaining Gacy victims and in 2019, began working with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project, an organization that uses DNA from deceased persons to locate living relatives. Five of Gacy’s victims are still unidentified. By making use of a DNA profile that was created using the tooth from remains dubbed Victim No. Five, DNA Doe compared the profile to others that were contained within an online genealogical database and found potential relatives at the level of second cousins. Further investigation determined that the DNA belonging to Victim No. Five could be that of Alexander. After samples were obtained from his mother and half-brother, scientists determined

that there was a high genetic association between the samples and the victim’s DNA. Additional records were reviewed by the Sheriff’s Department, including the autopsy report of Victim No Five and financial and public records belonging to Alexander. The description of the body at autopsy was consistent with that of Wayne Alexander. They determined that the last proof of life was a traffic ticket he received on January 5, 1976, and that he had earned little income during the year. Alexander lived in an area of Chicago that was frequented by Gacy during the time of the murders and where other identified victims had previously lived. How Gacy came to know Alexander and target him as a victim will forever remain a mystery. Francis Wayne Alexander was born in Manchester Township on March 11, 1955. The man who seems to have been his father,


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rantnc.com Edwin Hollister Alexander, served in the Army in both the Korean and Vietnam wars and was awarded the Silver Star. Wayne Alexander moved to New York and was married in 1975 before being divorced three months later and moving to Chicago. When he didn’t arrive for the family’s Long Island, New York holiday gathering in 1976, his mother called a police department in California and asked them to look for him. Alexander had asked his mother in November to mail a copy of his birth certificate to him because a security firm in California where he had gotten a job required it. Police there went to the address that had been provided and couldn’t locate him. His mother believed that this would start a missing persons investigation, but it never happened. Gacy, a successful building contractor, was a regular performer as a clown at children’s hospitals and charity events. He murdered each of his 33 victims on his property, the first in 1972, two more in 1975, and 30 others between his divorce in 1976 and his arrest in 1978.

His usual tactics involved luring the victim to his home, plying them with drugs or alcohol, handcuffing them under the guise of showing them a magic trick, and then raping and torturing the victim before placing a rope tourniquet around his neck and slowly tightening it with a hammer handle. He was executed by lethal injection in 1994 just after his last words, “Kiss my ass.” Through Wayne’s sister, Carolyn Sanders, the family issued the following statement: “A mother who now has closure. Sisters who now have closure. Brothers who now have closure. It is hard, even 45 years later, to know the fate of our beloved Wayne. He was killed at the hands of a vile and evil man. “Our hearts are heavy, and our sympathies go out to the other victims’ families. Our only comfort is knowing this killer no longer breathes the same air as we do. We can now lay to rest what happened and move forward by honoring Wayne.”

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28 | November 2021

@therant905 LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS

District approves employee bonuses LONGTIME SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER DIES Ruth Gurtis, a retired longtime educator who served multiple terms on the Lee County Board of Education, died on Sept. 28. Gurtis was 92. She was a longtime physical education teacher with Lee County Schools, and served on the Lee County Board of Education from 1990 to 1994 and again from 1998 to 2006. She was the board’s chair from 1992 to 1994, and was named Lee County Schools’ Teacher of the Year in 1986-87 (The Rant is credibly told she was also named North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year, but couldn’t locate any confirmation online). “She was a professional educator and a real asset to the school board because she had definite, strong opinions about how public education should be,” said former state Rep. Jimmy Love Sr., who served as the Lee County Board of Education’s attorney for 30 years.

CCCC TO HOST ‘WELLNESSOLOGY’ The Central Carolina Community College Health & Fitness Science program is conducting a Health & Wellness virtual conference titled “Wellnessology” Nov. 8-10. The Wellnessology event includes a variety of noteworthy speakers, including local athlete Heather Connor (a World Champion power lifter0; former NFL athlete Tim Goad, and Richard Howell, the strength and conditioning coach with the Indianapolis Colts. Learn more about the event by visiting cccc.edu.

By Richard Sullins Just in time for the holiday season, the 1,201 employees of Lee County Schools will be receiving a performance bonus. The plan, developed and proposed by Superintendent Andy Bryan and the district staff, was approved at the Board of Education’s meeting on Oct. 12. Bryan said that the one-time bonuses are being awarded “in recognition of a job well done by this amazing group of professionals who have done more than anyone could have asked or expected. This is in gratitude for their incredible service.” The total cost of the bonuses is just over $4.1 million. Finance Committee Chair Pamela Sutton agreed, saying, “Our employees have been challenged with things this year that they have never been challenged with before. I’m so glad we are going to be able to show our thanks to them in a way that will help them, and help their families, too.” The plan is a response to a suggestion made at the Sept. 14 board meeting by member Patrick Kelly to look for ways to improve morale among school employees and prevent teachers from feeling overwhelmed from the additional workloads they have taken on during the COVID pandemic and the shifts in the way students are learning because of it. Kelly said that he was delighted that the board could reward teachers and classified staff, but he wants to look for increases for teacher assistants and bus drivers as well. Under the plan, all permanent and fulltime employees, both certified and classified, who are employed as of Nov. 15 will receive a $2,000 bonus. All permanent part-time employees, again both certified and classified, who work less than six hours per day and who are employed as of Nov. 15 will receive a prorated bonus. Contracted employees, as well as those who submit their resignation from the school system on or before Nov. 15, will not receive the bonus.

But there is more. In addition to the $2,000 bonus, the district will also provide a one-time longevity bonus, with the amount determined by the date of the employee’s most recent hire. The longevity bonuses range from $250 for up to four years of service with the district to as much as $3,000 for the 35 employees who have worked with Lee County Schools for 25 years or more. The combined maximum amount of the bonus any employee could receive is $5,000. The amount of each bonus is calculated based on the most recent number of years in service with the school system. If an employee had a break in service with Lee County Schools and later returned, the date used to determine the amount of the legacy bonus will be the employee’s most recent hire date. The district-wide and longevity bonuses will be paid together in one check, which Bryan said he hopes teachers will receive just before the Thanksgiving holidays. This action by the Board comes at a critical time as many teachers seem increasingly closer to burnout after 18 months of providing instruction and support in the midst of a pandemic, something that few of them were likely prepared for. This sort of exhaustion has been perhaps toughest on young teachers who are still early in their careers. In Lee County, half of its employees are at risk, with 618 of its 1,201 staff members having 4 or fewer years’ total experience working with students. Recent national studies of teacher burnout have produced distressing results. One that was conducted by the RAND Corporation found that 78 percent of teachers who were surveyed reported frequent job-related stress during the 2020-2021 school year, compared to just 40 percent of other working adults. Perhaps of even greater concern is another finding in the study that 27 percent of teachers reported symptoms of depression last year, compared to 10 percent of other adults. Studies by the Brookings Institute and others have yielded similar outcomes.

BOARD VOTES TO KEEP MASK MANDATE Children and teachers in Lee County public schools will continue to wear masks on campus at least through the middle of November, following a vote at the local Board of Education’s Oct. 12 meeting. After a motion by member Sherry Lynn Womack to make masks optional failed, the board voted 5-2 to continue requiring the masking of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors at the county’s schools in response to the Delta variant. A new state law requires local boards of education to vote at least once each month on whether to continue requiring face coverings in public schools, and seven members of the Lee County Board of Education have consistently voted the same way since the beginning of August. Members Sandra Bowen (R), Christine Hilliard (D), Pat McCracken (D), Patrick Kelly (D), and Dr. Lynn Smith (D) have voted in favor of the mask mandate, with members Womack (R) and Pam Sutton (R) voting against. Seven members of the public addressed the board as it once again took up the topic. Carrie Sloan, who has two children at Lee County High School, appeared agitated when she said “last week, parents of this country were told that if we voiced our concerns at school board meetings, we stood a chance of being prosecuted as domestic terrorists.” As she read from her prepared text, she claimed that parents across the country were being threatened into silence by local boards of education and that mask mandates violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. “Our children are not your political playground,” she said. “And you should all be arrested for child abuse for embracing this irrational and unscientific mandate. You are impeding on our children’s liberties by forcing them to wear masks.” The number of students between the ages of 12 and 17 who have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine is now 2,013, which is up 167 from mid-September. Since August, 23,999 students have been quarantined from potential exposure and another 457 students have tested positive. — Richard Sullins


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30 | November 2021

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BROADWAY

TIME CAPSULE UNEARTHED, CONTENTS PUT ON ICE Documents damaged by moisture will have to be preserved, frozen before they can be examined By Richard Sullins “There’s something inside, and it’s not a body,” shouted Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews as a time capsule buried 51 years ago during the town’s 100th anniversary celebration was opened on Oct. 16 before a crowd of 150 onlookers. Two men dug up a child’s casket 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. 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. Andrews held up two items for the crowd to see. First was a Master Card belonging to Dr. Bill Tulloch, a dentist who operated a practice in the town for many years. The second was a leather container from a Buick car dealership with a lady’s plastic rain bonnet inside. Andrews got a laugh from the crowd when he said that “this might have been more helpful if they had used it to line the bottom.” The only other item that could be easily identified was a 1970 edition of The Sanford Herald, the county’s only newspaper at the time. The container held two stacks of other

Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews (right) assists with the opening of a time capsule buried 51 years ago as part of the town’s centennial celebration. Contents inside the box had been damaged by moisture and will need to be transferred to Greensboro for a thorough examination. documents perhaps an inch in height, but the moisture that had penetrated the seal of the container made it impossible to risk an attempt that day to pull the pages apart to determine what they were. It was clearly a disappointment for those who had come. Many had parents or grandparents who had written letters as children and those letters were said to have been placed inside the box, and they were hoping to catch a glimpse of their own personal history. But Andrews told the crowd that those glimpses into the past had not disappeared, but perhaps just delayed. Days after the

opening and with the assistance of Lee County government and others, the Town contacted the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in Raleigh, who referred them to the only historic document preservation company having an office in the state. The HF Group is an Ohio-based corporation that maintains a presence in Greensboro. Andrews said HF advised the town to empty the contents of the container, place them into a Ziploc container, and put them into a freezer to prevent further deterioration. All of the contents were successfully removed with the exception of two pieces of the Herald edition that were stuck to the

casket and could not be peeled off. Once the items have been completely frozen, they will be transferred to the company’s Greensboro office and examined to determine whether they are in good enough condition to endure the preservation process. The town will then be provided with an estimate of how much the project will cost. Local historians and community residents having a connection to the capsule’s contents will be keeping their fingers crossed that funds can be identified to process as many of the documents found inside the container as possible. Among those in the crowd as the capsule


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rantnc.com was opened was Cecil Cameron, a Broadway native who worked for year at Central Bank and Trust (now Truist Bank). Taller than most and with a thick shock of white hair, one could almost see history being replayed as he described it.

when the town was started. It seems like there was some sort of an event almost every day for a couple of weeks. And it all came to an end after we buried the thing and they closed off the street for a community dance. I remember it well.”

Cameron, along with local pharmacist and good friend Woody Beale, were attending a portion of the town’s 100th anniversary celebration in 1970 when someone walked up and handed them a shovel. It was Cameron and Beale who buried the container 51 years ago.

Others who were present for the opening were four students of a former Broadway Elementary School third grade teacher, Ms. Mary Agnes Rosser. These former students – Carolyn Cameron, Jo Ann Wyatt Thomas, Shirley Thomas Buchanan, and Mary Ann Holt – were among those directed by Rosser 51 years ago to write letters that were to be placed inside the box.

“It was a day much like this one. I remember that it was pleasant but digging a hole in the ground in this part of the country can get hot pretty quick”, he remembered. When the hole was finished, a couple of bricks were placed in the bottom for leveling and it was covered up. “There were so many people along the streets that day, and everyone was involved in doing something for the celebration. So, they asked us to bury it and we thought that was doing our part,” Cameron continued. “We had all been asked to dress in period costumes like people wore back in 1870

They left without seeing their letters written as grade school students in the 1970s, but also without bittersweet memories of a writing assignment that became part of the town’s history. Instead, they left the town’s water tank that day with renewed hope that their words will someday be seen again by themselves and future generations.

Much of the content buried in the time capsule 50 years ago was damaged by moisture that collected over the years. Several documents and letters have been shipped to Greensboro to be preserved before they are read.

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32 | November 2021

@therant905 DOWNTOWN SANFORD

DRIVE-THROUGH HWY 55 COMING TO S. HORNER Here’s one we got a little wrong last month. We reported Oct. 1 that a plot at South Horner Boulevard and Grimm Street was soon to be the home of a standalone Highway 55 restaurant. It turns out the plot in question will be home to a new Mavis Tire and Brake store, according to a permit on file with the Sanford/Lee County Planning Department. Not to worry, though, standalone Highway 55 enthusiasts. We weren’t completely off the mark, as a plot directly across the street — next to the Marathon gas station will host the North Carolina-based burger joint. It remains unclear if the nearby Highway 55 location in the Walmart shopping center will remain open. We’d say we regret the error, but life is far too short for regrets. Burgers and tires forever.

NEW DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT EXPECTED TO OPEN THIS MONTH An independently owned sushi and hibachi restaurant will open in downtown Sanford sometime in November, according to one of the owners. Signage is now up for Ichiban Sushi & Hibachi at the former Cooper’s location, 133 S. Steele St., and owner Susan Wang said she hopes to be open by mid-November. The space has been empty since mid-2020, when Cooper’s closed permanently. The space was previously home to the Steele Pig, and before that, Bella Bistro.

Downtown Farmers’ Market to continue through Nov. 20 By Charles Petty Here’s some good news for the farmers’ market loving community — shoppers still have several weeks to visit downtown Sanford on the weekends to pick up crafts and fresh produce. Jeanne Hunter of Hunter Farms is one of several vendors who attend and sell produce at the Sanford Farmers’ Market each Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. She has been working with the market for over four years, selling mulberries, raspberries, figs, pears, and more. “I love being involved with the farmers’ market and selling produce to the Sanford community,” she said. Currently, the market meets behind the Buggy Building in downtown Sanford at 115 Chatham Street, in the parking lot across from Yarborough’s. Hunter pointed out that recent changes in location (the market previously met at the Cooperative Extension building on Tramway Road) and calendar may have thrown people off. “When school started and summer ended people must have thought the farmers market also was over since the summer veggies were coming to a close,” she said. The market’s last day for 2021 is Nov. 20, and will feature pumpkins, cabbages, collards, corn, and other produce for the Thanksgiving dinner table, and an artisan craft market is scheduled for Nov. 13. Among the vendors, there is a wide variety of foods and goods. From a baker that sells scones, fresh breads, focaccia, and other baked goods to a local butcher who offers locally sourced fresh meats, the vendors take pride in making, farming, and selling to the Lee County area directly. The market will meet at its current location until renovations are completed at

The Sanford Farmers’ Market runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon every Saturday. The market’s last day this year will be Nov. 20 with several fall items like pumpkins, corn and more for your upcoming Thanksgiving meal. Photo: Sarah Coffin the former King Heating and Air building on Charlotte Avenue. That project was approved after a $500,000 grant to the city from Pilgrim’s and will establish a permanent, and hopefully year-round, home for

the market sometime in 2022. Those interested in participating in the market as a vendor should email farmersmarketsanfordnc@gmail.com.


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rantnc.com NONPROFITS

Habitat For Humanity ReStore on Wicker Street has undergone several renovations, including new floors, signage and shelving. Photo by Charles Petty

Habitat’s ReStore gets much needed renovations By Charles Petty One of Lee County’s major nonprofits celebrated a series of new upgrades to its facilities on Saturday, upgrades which will not just benefit the nonprofit’s mission, but also the general shopping public. Early morning shoppers at the Habitat For Humanity ReStore, located at 413 Wicker Street in downtown Sanford, came in as usual look for bargain items like chairs for $25, books at $1 each, and Duke Energy-donated lightbulb cases for 99 cents a pack. The hustle and bustle of the store put a smile on the faces of the faithful volunteers who help to operate the store. But along with the usual shoppers inside the ReStore, volunteers gathered and celebrated the renovations to the thrift store that has become a community staple. Among the gathered were a group of St. Luke United Methodist Church youth selling snacks. Food trucks were parked in the parking lot and a small dedication service took place at the entrance. “The community has really jumped in to help us with the store,” said Nancy Neal, manager of the ReStore. “We give God the glory and are thankful for those who have supported us with the renovations.”

Renovations to the store include new signage and reorganized shelving to make the store more open and accessible, as well as new flooring put down by Sanford-based ABC Restoration and painted by volunteer Les Soden. The store also now features a new checkout counter. The store has been in its current location, formerly a grocery store, for more than five years. All funds raised at the store go toward Habitat’s mission of building affordable housing. Kimberly Rau has been Habitat’s executive director since January. Rau, a former business consultant said being a nonprofit director fits well from her previous career. “I definitely believe in our mission, which is to build affordable housing. I believe in making things good and turning them great,” she said. “We have a good and wonderful store, and with my skill sets this was a great opportunity to take my previous experience to help others.” Also among the unique features of the store is a section called “Habitat for Birds,” which is a special area for reduced-price bird feed and supplies. The bird store also features its own checkout counter and special shelving for the bird feed. It is the only one in the Habitat community in the country.

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LAW ENFORCEMENT

From left, Sanford Police Chief Ronnie Yarborough, Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, and Sanford Police Capt. Eric Pate. Submitted photo

Sanford Police earns CALEA accreditation By Richard Sullins The Sanford Police Department earned a prestigious level of excellence this summer that has been recognized by a national accrediting agency, the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Across America, only one in every 20 law enforcement organizations has earned this distinction, which sets the Sanford Police Department at a level that is above 95 percent of all other departments across the state and nation. CALEA is a non-profit credentialing authority made of recognized experts in policing and law enforcement from across the country designed to improve the delivery of public safety services by maintaining professional standards to help departments to continuously improve their own processes and procedures. Sanford Mayor Chet Mann presented the framed certificate of accreditation to Chief Ronnie Yarborough and spoke of his pride in the department. “In a time where police departments and elected officials have gone through a lot,

you guys have never wavered in your steadfast duty,” Mann said. “We have seen lots of things happen around us that did not happen here. Our chief is the longest-serving chief in North Carolina. He leads a department that does not carry tasers, we do not employ chokeholds and never have taught that, which means that our officers must be of a higher quality in order to de-escalate situations. It’s not easy to do your job when you are under the microscope, and in Sanford, we have been very blessed to have a police department that rose to the occasion during a pandemic to seek and obtain the highest level of excellence there is.” Yarborough, who has served as Sanford’s Chief of Police since 1978, brought three fourths of his 110-member department with him to the meeting to give them credit for an incredible accomplishment. “We’ve got a great, great bunch of people working with us and they really shined through all this process,” Yarborough said.. In 2019, Yarborough tasked Captain Eric Pate, who heads up the internal affairs division, with leading the accreditation. “I knew that he was the right man for


The Rant Monthly | 35

rantnc.com the job,” he said. The Chief and Pate set a goal of completing the three-year accreditation process within 18 months. And without any warning, COVID descended on the city nine months after the effort began. “It didn’t slow him down at all. He never missed a step,” Yarborough continued. The task was daunting. Not only did 180 different standards of excellence have to be met, but documentation had to be provided to support compliance with each benchmark and then verified by CALEA experts in the field that the department was, in fact, meeting each measure. The process was completed on July 16 as Yarborough and Pate were interviewed by the 21-member commission and the department’s accreditation proposal was approved. Pate gave credit to the many officers who did much of the leg work in bringing the department up to the national standards. “It was quite the challenge,” Pate said. “It’s a rolling process because these performance benchmarks are constantly changing at the national level, so we really have

to be on top of our game, not just to be accredited for a five-year period, but to be the department that the people of this city deserve every time we put on the badge.” As he presented the certificate, Mann talked about the qualities that, in his opinion, make the Sanford Police Department among the top organizations in the state. “Law enforcement is not all about putting people in jail. It’s about helping people,” he said. “We want to be as transparent as possible with the community and let them know that we are trying to help them as much as we can. Very few cities the size of ours can claim to have a police department that has shown the level of excellence that ours has.” Then, Mann spoke directly to the officers. “We are an over-achieving community,” he said. “We always beat the odds. We are the underdog that always comes through, and you should never bet against Sanford. You’re a really big part of that. And tonight, your accreditation through CALEA has proven that once again, we can do almost anything we set our minds to do in Sanford.”

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SPORTS WRESTLING

CCCC BASKETBALL SEASONS TO TIP OFF Central Carolina Community College men’s basketball coach Brad McDougald looks forward to coaching the 2021-2022 edition of Cougar basketball. “I’m really excited about the potential in this year’s team,” said McDougald. “We will have a good balance of both experience and new guys who are ready to make an impact.” The men’s season tips off on Nov. 1 at Louisburg College. Returning players are Joshua Bell, Darnell Carver, Wesley Case, Derek Gardner, Sabastian Haidera, Montell Moore and Ababacar Thiam. CCCC’s women’s team also starts its season on Nov. 1 at Guilford Tech. The squad will have 13 home games this season. “My general thought on our women’s basketball program this year is that we want to have fun, and also compete for the National Junior College Athletic Association Region X Championship,” said Marcel Webster, CCCC women’s basketball coach. “We have four returnees, who are sophomores, who are all solid contributors and who will make an impact in our success this upcoming season,” said Coach Webster. Returnees include, with their respective high schools and hometowns: Zeriyah McKnight, Lee County High grad Kayle Mejia, Kaiyan Padilla and D’Naesha Saxon. “I am excited about the good leadership in our returnees and the quality of talent in our incoming freshman,” said Coach Webster.

Scotti Sentes moved to the Broadway area in 2015 after accepting an assistant wrestling coach job at Campbell University. Today, he’s the head coach of a nationally ranked program. Photos by Ben Brown

THE NEXT KINGPIN Local wrestling coach has Campbell’s program ranked among the best in the nation By Billy Liggett Scotti Sentes was enjoying life in California — living just minutes away from Pacific Ocean beaches and coaching on the wrestling staff at California Polytechnic State Universi-

ty in San Luis Obispo. Sentes was a four-time Florida state high school wrestling champion, a four-time NCAA Championship qualifier and a two-time All-American wrestler at Central Michigan University, and Cal Poly was one of his first gigs as a coach. But when Cal Poly’s coach abruptly announced he was leaving the program in 2015, Sentes was at a crossroads. He had an offer to return to his alma mater in Michigan, but there was something that intrigued him about an up-and-coming program at a small university in rural Harnett County, North Carolina.

He chose Campbell to join head coach Cary Kolat, a wrestling legend in the 1990s whom Sports Illustrated once called “The Best There Ever Was” after his perfect 137-0 high school record in Pennsylvania. Kolta would go on to win two national collegiate titles, a silver and bronze in the world championships and three gold medals in the World Cup from 1998-2000. He also wrestled for the 2000 U.S. Olympic team. Sentes was intrigued by Kolat’s vision. “He had just finished a 3-13 season, so, you know, this wasn’t going to be a sure


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rantnc.com thing,” Sentes recalls. “But I came down here and listened to his plan, and what I liked about Coach Kolat was he was very honest about everything. He knew the shortcomings, he knew what had to be fixed, he knew how hard it was going to be, and he set forth a timeline to get everything done. I just appreciated the honesty … when you know what the issues are, it’s a little easier to attack it the right way.” Sentes, his wife and their son (they added a daughter after the move) moved to the Broadway area, and after a few seasons, he was promoted to associate head coach in 2018. When Kolat announced his departure for Navy’s wrestling program in 2002, Sentes was named head coach less than a week later. “He presented and articulated a vision for the future of the program, which let us know we had our coach,” Campbell Athletic Director Omar Banks said at the time. Some expected a drop off in 2021 with Kolat gone and a young coach taking over. They received the opposite. Campbell sent a record seven Camels to the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in 2021 after winning its third straight Southern Conference regular season and tournament title. Sentes was named national Rookie Head Coach of the Year by Amateur Wrestling News and also earned Southern Conference Coach of the Year. “There were people who underestimated us coming into last year, and not just because of Cary’s departure,” Sentes says. “We lost Noah Gonser, who was a nationally ranked senior, and we lost [three-time NCAA qualifier] Quentin Perez — we were actually picked second in our own conference, and we didn’t enter the season nationally ranked. I think people were just uncertain. There were a lot of shoes to fill, so we kinda came into the season

with this underdog mentality — we played the No. 2-ranked team in the country [Virginia Tech] to start the year, and our guys fought hard and wrestled well. “I knew at that point that we had a pretty tough team and that we were going to be OK.” The season proved that Campbell Wrestling is in more-than-capable hands. Sentes says his athletes have bought into the mindset that’s been molded over the past seven years, and they’re passing on the right work ethic and lofty expectations to incoming wrestlers. He says the academic programs Campbell University offers — he names homeland security and engineering specifically — have not only proven to be attractive to his athletes, but they afford them big opportunities when their wrestling careers are over. And he says Kolat’s goal from Day 1 is still in place — to develop these young men and put them in a position for success. “We’re getting new guys coming who are probably already better than some of the older guys, and that’s happened every year since I’ve been here,” Sentes says. “But what you see is when these new guys come in, they’re scrapping and challenging our juniors and seniors and making them better, too. Eventually, it gets harder and harder to make the team, and we’re at a point now where we still like having a big roster, but our lower range guys are just so much better now than they used to be.” All-American wrestler and returning senior Josh Heil knew Campbell’s wrestling program would be OK the first week Sentes was named head coach. “It’s huge that [Sentes] was able to keep the older guys in the program,” Heil says. “Keeping the veterans, keeping the seniors, keeping the program together. When a guy like Cary Kolat moves on, it’s almost a given that you’re

going to see a lot of transfers, especially those older guys. But right away, the core guys — they all stayed. “Those core values that Coach Kolat instilled in this program — he’s keeping those values alive.” Campbell will enter the 2021-22 season later this fall considered one of the Top 25 programs in the nation and surely a favorite to win another Southern Conference title. Sentes points to Heil and a strong returning senior class and wrestlers like Matt Dallara and Chris

Rivera who are returning from injury this year as reasons for optimism that the winning will continue. The goal is to get guys “on the stand” in the NCAA Championships, and to make it happen, Sentes has made the regular season schedule much more difficult with matches against UNC and Virginia and tournaments like the Midlands at Northwestern and the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga. “Our goal is to beat those top-ranked teams,” Sentes says confidently. “We always say, ‘Small school, big wrestling program.’ There’s no reason why we can’t do it.”


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IN BRIEF

classes. I didn’t go into the challenge thinking yoga would save me, but it did make the stress I was experiencing manageable.”

FIRST HEALTH OFFERING YOGA FOR MILITARY, 1ST RESPONDERS Sanford now offers yoga classes tailored for military personnel and first responders, led by new group exercise instructor Christopher Davis, RYT 500, who started teaching on Oct. 27. After more than 25 years of service, Davis recently retired from the Fayetteville Police Department, where he worked

as an assistant chief of police. Prior to entering law enforcement, he was an officer in the United States Army and served in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He said he found yoga while going through a difficult time and discovered the practice helped him both physically and mentally. “Like many yoga teachers and practitioners, I had to hit rock bottom mentally to realize I needed to do something different,” Davis said. “A coworker challenged me to a ‘yoga challenge’ to see how many classes you could go to in a 30-day period. I ended up going to 22

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He has since completed 500-hour yoga teacher training, Yoga for First Responders Level 1 and Level 2, iRest Level 1 and Warriors at Ease Level 1 and Level 2 training. In 2018, Davis started Yoga911, an evidence-based, trauma sensitive yoga practice designed for first responders, with the aim to help practitioners build resiliency and improve professional and personal performance. “The mission of Yoga911 is to increase awareness about the power of yoga and meditation and integrate both into first responder settings,” he said. “We aim to share evidence-based practices that support physical health, alongside mental health and spiritual growth.” Call (919) 258-2100 or visit www.firsthealth.org/fitness to learn more about yoga and group exercise at FirstHealth Fitness. CCCC EARNS SMALL BUSINESS, INNOVATION AWARD The North Carolina Community College System Small Business Center Network awarded the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center the Innovation Award: Programs/Services during its annual statewide Center of Excellence awards in Wrightsville Beach on Oct. 14. The award was presented for innovation in program development for the RISE program, an eight-class series created in collaboration with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Sanford, Inc. The RISE program introduces prospective and existing business owners in Lee County to the tools and training necessary for business success. “Collaborating with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance — Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Sanford, Inc. on RISE has been a fantastic experience,” said Terri Brown, CCCC Small Business Center Director.

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“Kelli Laudate (Downtown Sanford Inc. Executive Director) and Meg Moss (Chamber of Commerce Executive Director) have been instrumental in its success and I am certain that the program will continue to innovate and grow as we move into the future.”

POST NAMED TO NATIONAL ‘BEST LAWYERS’ LIST Norman Charles “Chas” Post III of the Sanford-based Post, Foushee & Patton law firm has been named one of “The Best Lawyers in America” in criminal defense for the year 2022 by Best Lawyers and will be included in the 28th edition of the publication set to be released later this year. Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review, and attorneys do not pay money to have their names listed. The methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area. Post has been a board certified specialist in state criminal law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization since 2019 and is the only lawyer in Lee County to have earned such distinction. He specializes in all areas of state criminal law, and, on a daily basis, represents individuals targeted by the government for prosecution throughout the courtrooms of central North Carolina. DUBOIS NAMED ‘TOP AGENT’ BY INTERNATIONAL PUBLICATION Kelley Dubois, a real estate agent with Adcock and Associates Real Estate Services has been named a “top agent” by the North Carolina edition of Top Agent Magazine. “Whether I’m trying to find exactly what my buyers are looking for or helping my sellers turn to a new chapter of their lives, these deals represent a fresh start for everybody, and it’s so exciting to guide them through the process,” Dubois said. “I absolutely love what I do and it is an honor to have been featured in Top Agent Magazine.” Top Agent Magazine is the premier real estate magazine featuring the foremost real estate agents, mortgage professionals, and affiliates in the USA, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.


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rantnc.com

Specializing in residential, investment, foreclosures, and commercial properties located within Lee, Harnett, Chatham, Cumberland, Moore and Southern Wake counties.

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