The Rant Monthly | December 2021

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The Rant y l h t Mon DECEMBER 2021






2 | December 2021

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The RantMonthly December 2021 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 3 | Issue 12 | No. 33

The Rant Monthly | 3

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ABOUT THE COVER Peter Battis is entering his fourth year of portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in Temple Theatre’s musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.” Battis has not only become quite familiar with Scrooge on the stage, he is also a big fan of Dickens himself, recently performing a one-man show as the author at Temple and on other stages. Learn more about one of Temple’s largest productions of the year. Photo courtesy of Temple Theatre

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: or Advertising: The Rant Monthly is published monthly (obvs). The Rant Monthly is wholly owned and operated by LPH Media LLC, a North Carolina corporation. Submissions of all kinds are welcome. This publication is free — one per reader, please. Removal of this newspaper from any distribution point for purposes other than reading it constitutes theft, and violators are subject to public flogging and ridicule. Printed by Restoration News Media LLC in Raleigh, NC. Copyright 2021, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.

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4 | December 2021


ONE OF THE BEST NEW RESTAURANTS IN THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES What does Sanford, North Carolina, have in common with New York City, Miami, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Detroit, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and Portland? It’s home to one of the 11 “Best New Restaurants in America,” according to Eater, a national food-focused website with more than 3 million followers on Facebook. Fonda Lupita — Sanford’s new “Mexican comfort food” restaurant that opened in the Jonesboro Heights area in 2020 — was named to the select list this week, joining restaurants from the largest cities in the country (Sanford’s 30,000 population was by far the smallest, with Portland, Oregon, 10th at 645,000 people). Eater‘s Erin Perkins wrote: “Customers happily dip crispy quesabirria tacos into rich consomé, and nearly everyone has a gordita on their table. The gorditas, a hit since opening in March 2020, boast char-flecked tortillas, generously filled with chorizo con papas or chicken tinga and a sprinkling of queso fresco.” The write-up ends: “If it’s true that a good restaurant can help define the town it’s in — and it is certainly true in North Carolina — Fonda Lupita may just put Sanford on the map for having some of the most heartful cuisine in North Carolina.”

One of the many highlights — if not the biggest — of the recent Carolina Indie Fest in downtown Sanford was new artist Nitro Nitra, who wowed the Wicker Street crowd with her hard-hitting blues/funk set. Organizers of the show announced Nitra will return to Sanford in May for the Wampus Cat Music Fest at Gross Farms II. Photo by Ben Brown

FOUR SCROOGES ON THE BIG SCREEN “A Christmas Carol” is a tradition in theaters around the country, but it’s also been portrayed numerous times on the big and small screens. The following are our favorite Scrooges, both human and fowl:

DID YOU KNOW? A fonda in Mexico usually refers to a small, family-run restaurant where the owners do basically everything, from cleaning and shopping for ingredients to cooking the food. In Mexico City, fondas are usually in a permanent location, and most fondas are only open for breakfast and lunch, the main meals in Mexico.

Reginald Owen

George C. Scott

The lead in the 1938 classic from MGM Studios.

Many consider his 1984 portrayal the best ever.

Bill Murray

Scrooge McDuck

Not technicallly an Ebenezer, He was perhaps the meanest but still a top-notch Scrooge. (and eventually nicest) of all.

The Rant Monthly | 5


6 | December 2021

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The Rant Monthly | 7 FROM THE RANT

The return of (most of) our holiday traditions


vaccinated, reducing their risks of not only contracting the virus, but suffering serious side effects should they still test positive.

OVID-19 is still here, about 20 months since we first heard the name of the virus that would alter life as we know it in the U.S. and all over the world. Particularly rough was our first holiday seaeson in a pandemic. October, November and December bring about our most cherished traditions, and “gathering” is an important part of nearly all of them. Instead, most parents opted out of “trick or treating” for Halloween, Thanksgiving dinners were had in more intimate settings, and large events enjoyed during Christmas were mostly canceled altogether. The latter was perhaps the most difficult to endure — our parades, performances, ceremonies and office gatherings were put on hold. We adapted and made the most of a season made special by the people we share it with, but for many — especially

those already struggling mentally from the isolation brought on by the pandemic — it wasn’t the ideal holiday season. Again, COVID-19 is still with us, and talk of more dangerous and easier-spreading variants doesn’t provide a ton of optimism, but at this moment, numbers are down. A miraculous vaccine was introduced earlier this year, and most adults in our city and state are at least partially

As a result, Christmas is back in 2021, mostly. Christmas parades in Sanford and Broadway return this month. Temple Theatre’s return of its musical adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” will run for the first few weeks of December. The city of Sanford is bringing back its tree lighting ceremony and throwing in some fireworks for good measure this year. Occupancy restrictions are no longer a factor for those shopping in our local stores this month. And most importantly, families are coming together again, no longer worried about giving hugs and sitting around a table sharing a holiday meal. This edition of The Rant Monthly marks our third holiday edition, and “return” is the key word throughout. Our cover story

about the return of “A Christmas Carol” focuses on the man playing Ebenezer Scrooge, professional actor Peter Battis. We also talk to the man in the Santa suit, Harold Morcombe, who’s returning to the Sanford Christmas Parade this year after having to take a year off in 2020. Of course, not everything is back to normal. North Carolina-grown Christmas trees are facing a shortage this year, and already heading into December, some local providers have run out of stock. But one step at a time. We at The Rant want to thank all of our readers and advertisers for keeping us relevant in this community. And we wish all of you the best this holiday season. We hope this edition of The Rant Monthly informs, entertains and reminds you of the many things we have to be thankful for in Sanford and Lee County.


8 | December 2021

SHERIFF’S RESIGNATION OFFICIAL, GOES INTO EFFECT ON NEW YEAR’S DAY Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter submitted his resignation from the post in November, effective Jan. 1. Carter, a Republican who first ran for sheriff in 2002 and was first elected in 2006, first announced back in January of this year that he would not seek a fifth term. “I just feel like it’s the right thing,” Carter told The Rant. “The office is in good shape, and the (2022) sheriff’s race starts in December so it felt like the right time.” Carter began his career in law enforcement in 1987 as a patrol deputy in Lee County before being hired in the 1990s as chief of the Lee County Schools Special Police, which no longer exists. He held that post until his election as sheriff in 2006. He was re-elected without opposition in 2010, and defeated Democrats Justin Rosser and Kevin Dodson in 2014 and 2018, respectively. Carter said he plans to take some down time after his resignation, although he expects to eventually return to part or even full time work — most likely in a field other than law enforcement. “You never say never, but 34 years (in law enforcement) is long enough,” he said. Carter said he expects to recommend a candidate be appointed to finish out the final year of his term, although he declined to say who that would be. Because Carter is a Republican, the official recommendation for the vacancy will come from the executive committee of the Lee County Republican Party. The Lee County Board of Commissioners is required by law to appoint the person recommended by the party. Major Brian Estes of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, a Republican, has already announced a campaign, as has Republican Tim Smith, a former deputy with the office. On the Democratic side, retired Major Carlton Lyles has announced he will run. Filing for the office begins in December.


NEW INTERSTATE EYED FOR ‘CAROLINA CORE’ President’s infrastructure bill could connect Greensboro, Sanford and I-95 with interstate along current U.S. 421 path From staff, wire reports The so-called “Carolina Core” is one step closer to adding another interstate shield to the region, thanks to language included in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed by President Joe Biden in November. Business and civic leaders within the region are partnering with local, state and federal officials to designate part of Highway U.S. 421 as a future interstate in an effort to further spur economic growth and make the region even more competitive on a global stage. “A critical component in Sanford and Lee County’s recent economic development success has been our highly strategic location at the epicenter of an abundant and skilled labor shed encompassing both the Carolina Core and RTP region,” said Jimmy Randolph, CEO of Sanford Area Growth Alliance. “With the designation of the U.S. Highway 421 corridor as a high priority corridor in the federal infrastructure bill, our long-standing goal of interstate connectivity with both I-85 and

Over the last three years, local partners in the Carolina Core have been collectively rallying behind the future interstate designation for U.S. 421, which will further enhance the region’s robust transportation network, while providing the vital connection of I-95 with I-40 and I-85. I-95 via I-685 is one step closer to reality, further strengthening our competitiveness for both talent and supply chain partners seeking convenient access to the megasites of the Carolina Core.” Instrumental to the inclusion of this language in the federal infrastructure

“[The interstate will strengthen] our competitiveness for both talent and supply chain partners seeking convenient access to megasites of the Carolina Core.” — SAGA CEO Jimmy Randolph

The Rant Monthly | 9 legislation were U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis. This legislation marks important progress, listing U.S. 421 from the interchange with Interstate Route 85 in Greensboro to the interchange with Interstate Route 95 in Dunn as a “High Priority Corridor.” This measure will allow the North Carolina Department of Transportation to request a future interstate designation through the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. If approved, NCDOT will then place signs notifying the public that I-685 is a future interstate corridor. “Future I-685 here in central North Carolina is another reminder that we are ‘the good roads state,’” said Michael Smith, President of the Chatham Economic Development Corporation. “We appreciate all of the support on this effort here in the Carolina Core. We look forward to continuing to build on this collaboration with our neighboring communities.” Over the last three years, local partners in the Carolina Core have been collectively rallying behind the future interstate designation for Highway 421, which

will further enhance the region’s robust transportation network, while providing the vital connection of I-95 with I-40 and I-85. This designation will provide direct connections between large population centers and improve access to Fort Bragg, aiding in national defense and during natural disasters. Seven counties along the route have unanimously passed resolutions of support endorsing Future I-685. The region’s Metropolitan and Rural Planning Organizations have also given the green light in support of the future interstate designation. The Carolina Core is a 120-plus mile stretch of central North Carolina from west of Winston-Salem to Fayetteville encompassing Greensboro and High Point, all along U.S. 421. The Carolina Core is not confined by traditional borders. Instead, boundaries are built by the assets that make the region a globally competitive market — a talent pool of more than 2 million people, access to 30+ colleges and universities, four certified megasites, urban research parks and more. To learn more, visit

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10 | December 2021

SCHOOL BOARD WILL REVISIT MASK MANDATE AT DECEMBER MEETING The Lee County Board of Education voted in November to maintain the masking mandate for students, teachers, staff and visitors to county schools for at least the next two weeks — but an end to the requirement could be in sight if present trends regarding COVID-19 transmission hold. The board voted 4-2 to leave the current masking mandate in place until 10 consecutive calendar days of “moderate-level” transmission of the COVID virus have been recorded in the county before the next meeting on Dec. 14. If that goal can be reached, a special called meeting would be convened to review the situation and consider further action. Members Pamela Sutton and Christine Hilliard cast the dissenting votes. Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan reported advice from the ABC Collaborative, a program based at Duke University that pairs scientists and physicians with school and community leaders to help understand the most current and relevant information about COVID-19. Bryan said that the most current counsel from the Collaborative is to continue the mask mandate, although it also discussed potential relaxation of the mandates based on lower levels of community transmission. Although there was initially discussion about aiming to end the mandate with the conclusion of the first semester after the December meeting, Sutton suggested using the community transmission model as a benchmark to achieve so that the system could get closer to an actual calendar date for masking to end. Member Patrick Kelly made a motion to aim for 10 consecutive calendar days when the level of community transmission goes no higher than “moderate,” a motion which subsequently passed. According to a law passed this summer by the North Carolina General Assembly, school boards are required to revisit requirements for face coverings at least once a month until the law is changed.



While cases continue to drop, Lee County is still considered to be in a ‘substantial’ state of community spread since August By Richard Sullins It’s possible to look at the most recent numbers for the spread of COVID-19 in Lee County and see the glass as either halffull or half-empty. So, let’s do both and start with a view from 40,000 feet. The county was approaching a total of 10,000 COVID cases as of Nov. 29, with 9,600 having been officially reported since the pandemic began in March 2020. According to the state, 110 people have died in the county from the virus, but none in the past month. From Nov. 15-22, 37 were reported, a drop of 20 percent from the previous week. And 1,105 COVID tests were performed by medical staff during that same period, representing an increase of 11.84 percent, but the percentage of tests that came back from the labs with a positive result dropped to 3.13 percent. That’s the lowest since the pandemic started. There is also good news among the numbers getting vaccinated, particularly among the elderly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in late November that 99 percent of all adults aged 65 and older in Lee County have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 84.7 percent of the above-65 group are fully vaccinated. Among all adults ages 12 and up in the county, 39,235 persons (75.2 percent) have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 31,321 (60.1 percent) are fully vaccinated. If another surge of COVID arrives during the winter months, at least threefourths of all Lee County adults will have some amount of protection and three-fifths will be fully protected. But these same numbers also show that a trend first reported by The Rant in October has continued and is actually growing larger — greater numbers of Lee County

residents are opting only for one shot. The disparity between the percentage of persons that are fully vaccinated versus having received just one dose of the vaccine grew even larger in November. The percentage having received at least one dose by the end of September was 65.4, versus 55.1 percent that had been fully vaccinated, a difference of 10.3 percent. By the end of October, that difference had grown to 12 percent and in November, the differential stood at 15.1 percent.

The CDC reports that 99 percent of adults ages 65 and older in Lee County have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine (84.7 are fully vaccinated). The actual numbers of persons who have received at least one dose grew from 36,768 in October to 39,235 in November, a month-to-month increase of 6.71 percent. Among persons who are fully vaccinated, the numbers rose from 30,496 in October to 31,321 in November, an increase of only 2.75 percent. That means that during the month of November, the number of persons having received a single dose grew at a rate that was two and a half times faster than those who became fully vaccinated. The county continues to be in a “substantial” state of community spread of the COVID virus and that is important for the ending of the masking mandate that Lee County Schools have been under since August. At its November meeting, the school board voted 4-2 to leave the current masking mandate in place until 10 consecutive calendar days of “moderate-level” transmission of the virus have been recorded in the county before the next board meeting on Dec. 14.

If that goal can be reached, a special called meeting of the board would be convened to review the situation and consider further action. With Monday’s status still at the “substantial” level, the earliest that meeting could be called is now Dec. 3. Lee County Health Department Director Heath Cain said that booster shots are now available, and that demand for them is beginning to increase. “We have administered 2,784 booster vaccinations so far and we are seeing demand slow down over the last couple weeks as this past week, we provided 252 booster shots,” he said. “With the announcement from the FDA today concerning boosters of Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for all adults, the demand should trend up once again.” The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have authorized the use of booster vaccines for all adults 18 and older to extend protections against the virus among those who have previously received the vaccinations. Persons who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine can get the booster six months after their second shot and those who were immunized with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive their booster two months after their initial shot. Vaccinations have also been approved for children ages 5 through 11 for the COVID vaccines, according to Cain. “We plan to provide the 5-to-11-yearold pediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine once more on Dec. 17 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center from 2 to 4 p.m.,” he said. “The second clinic for the 5-to-11-yearolds will be Jan. 7 at the same time, again at the Civic Center.” To register for either the booster or the pediatric clinics, call the Health Department at 919.842.5744 or visit at www.

The Rant Monthly | 11

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12 | December 2021 EDITORIAL

THAT’S WHY THEY CALL THEM ‘GROWING PAINS’ When we reported on Nov. 22 that 252 new apartments were going up behind the Food Lion in Tramway, the reaction was, for the most part, predictably negative. Traffic is already bad on Center Church Road near its intersection with U.S. 1. The grocery store is already clogged with customers most hours of the day. Some people bemoaned the financial aspect of the development (which, yeah, it’s called commerce — someone always benefits in business). Others simply said this would ruin our community. Growth is hard and often not very pretty. But it’s not always a negative. We haven’t had much of it in Sanford and Lee County over the years, so it’s new to many. For those who asked things like whether “they” were going to put another grocery store nearby to handle all the new people, or new restaurants and stores, the answer is probably yes. Businesses like that go where the people are, and 250-plus new housing units is likely to move the needle on things of that sort. And we know the U.S. 1 corridor in Tramway is something of a mess, but completion of the super street project in that area will eventually happen, likely alleviating many of the biggest traffic concerns. Growth is a fact of life, and Sanford isn’t just primed — Sanford is finally growing. This new apartment complex or that new housing development isn’t likely to be the last. So the best — really the only — thing we can do now is enjoy whatever positives come with that growth. The other option is to complain. And nobody wants to hear all that. _____________ Be Heard! Visit to comment on any of our stories or comment directly on our Facebook page (@TheRant905) and we’ll include our favorite comments on our editorial pages in The Rant Monthly.




rowing up in Texas, I was taught to always “Remember the Alamo.” Not just the story of the Alamo, but that battle cry as well. It’s a pride point of being a Texan. When the odds are against you, remember Davy Crockett and his coonskin cap and those brave freedom-loving Texans who staved off General Santa Anna and a much larger Mexican army for 13 days before going down in a blaze of glory.

serving slavery. One writer called it “the undeniable linchpin” of the war. The “Father of Texas,” Stephen F. Austin — the man whose name adorns the college I attended after high school — wrote in 1832, “Nothing is wanted but money, and Negros are necessary to make it.”

As an impressionable 12-year-old kid who was new to the Lone Star State when I stepped into my first seventh-grade Texas History class, the story hooked me. How could it not? After a family trip a few years later to San Antonio and a visit to the remnants of that old stone fort, I practically declared myself a Texan and denounced my Ohio upbringing.

There was little of this debate in my history classes, especially when it came to the Alamo. We were the heroes, and the Mexicans were the enemy. Santa Anna was Darth Vader. Teaching it this way glosses over the many gray areas of Texas history, and more importantly, it breeds implicit bias at a young age, especially in a state where Hispanic men and women will become the majority in the coming years.

When the subject of “whitewashing” American history comes up, I remember the Alamo, at least the way it was taught to us. What we got was more the legend of the Alamo —the glamorized, Disney-produced version of history starring John Wayne, meant to stir our young emotions and invoke patriotism. I wonder now if there was really any “teaching” involved. No surprise, the history of the Alamo is under scrutiny today. A new book, “Forget the Alamo” — written by three Texas historians — argues that the fight for Texas’ independence in 1836 was less about freedom and more about pre-

Not everybody agrees with the slavery argument (then again, we’re still arguing about the Civil War, too). Many say it simply wasn’t prevalent in Texas at the time (very few plantations), and the fight against Mexico was more about proper political representation and the absence of rights that America’s colonies were enjoying at the time.

This summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill creating “The 1836 Project,” designed to “promote patriotic education” about the year Texas seceded from Mexico. It’s a law that promotes values over truth. It’s a law that doesn’t give young people the chance — or enough credit — to think critically. My oldest child will enter the seventh grade next year, and I do worry about the history she’s being taught in our public schools in North Carolina. Will she learn about the racially motivated Wilmington massacre of 1898? Are we teaching about Eugenics and the state’s

sterilization of more than 7,500 people between 1929 and 1974? I don’t ask this because I want to sow division in our schools. I believe the truth sets us free. Sugar coating history makes us ignorant. Quite the opposite from Texas’ 1836 Project, North Carolina’s State of Education approved new social studies standards for all grade levels earlier this year that “emphasize the study of the country’s progress toward racial equity” and provide a more “comprehensive and honest” look at U.S. history. So there’s hope. Of course, not everything I learned about the Alamo was a lie. Davy Crockett was far more complex than what Walt Disney or John Wayne showed us, but he certainly had his heroic qualities. He fought President Andrew Jackson in the 1820s over Jackson’s Indian Removal Act . He fought bravely and died at the Alamo. He was also a slave owner who sold his human property to revive a struggling political career before going to Texas. And he never actually went by the name “Davy.” Texas became an independent republic in 1836 and drafted its constitution nine years later. The entire eighth article of that constitution was dedicated to slave ownership. This is history. Sometimes, it’s a bitter pill. o Billy Liggett is co-founder of The Rant and is available for a small fee to come to your holiday parties and anger everybody with true origin stories of Thanksgiving and more of your favorite traditions. Email

The Rant Monthly | 13 THE GROWTH DEBATE Our story on the new apartment complex construction in Tramway sparked a lot of debate — just as most of our stories about new housing complexes and subdivision developments do. The following are just a few of the comments from readers of The Rant: ________________ For those who don’t like the new additions, you will have to get over it, unfortunately. Sanford is next in line down U.S. 1 from Raleigh, Cary and Apex. That’s really why we don’t have a lot now, because so many people want to keep it a small town. We are right in the middle of the state. A prime location. Kawonna Simon ________________ Our once great smaller community city is becoming a bedroom community for Cary and Raleigh. It’s all about the money. Catherine Sewell

________________ You want more stores and restaurants in Tramway? You want Target? This is how you get it. Can’t have small town feel with big town stores. Sorry, guys. Catie Ragan

RETRACTING THE MINUTES Opposing members of the school board aren’t the only ones upset about board member Bill Carver’s approved request to change the minutes regarding redistricting maps. Here’s what a few of our readers thought:

We have lots to be proud of in our community.

One thing we’re proud of :

________________ I’m hopeful that if the map is challenged, that the minutes from the last meeting, along with [the following meeting] will be reviewed to get the whole picture. An addendum to the minutes would have been the right way to go, and I applaud those commissioners who voted no. As for those who voted yes … we are watching, and we vote.


Vicki Bullard Pettit

Can we get more schools built to help with these apartments and housing developments going up? Tramway should have already had a middle and high school built. We have so many public elementary schools and only three public middle schools and two public highschools. If Sanford is going to continue to grow, we need more schools and things for children to do. Skate parks or rinks, arcades, movie theater, bowling alleys and restaurants. Amanda McNeill ________________ I’m OK with all this buildup like bigger cities, but why aren’t they also building recreational places like bowling alleys, skating rinks, places like Frankie’s and things of that nature. Hell, a mall! We are going to have a million people in Sanford but still not a damn thing to do, and we’ll still have to drive to Raleigh just to do something fun. Shavonne Ragland ________________ I’ll just sit here and wait for the complete shit storm this town isn’t prepared for. This will be Harnett County all over again when the new housing comes, and the schools are over capacity. Heather Gardner

________________ Meeting minutes should accurately reflect what’s said in the meeting. That’s the whole point. If there’s video and the minutes taken don’t capture the discussion, they should be corrected. Alan Rummel



________________ You cannot go back and amend minutes to reflect what you wish you had said. If Commissioner Carver wants to add an explanation as a dated addendum, that would be acceptable. We’ve all said things we wish we hadn’t, but you cannot go back and change the minutes. Cathy Kilgore Griffith 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.





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







14 | December 2021



The Rant Monthly | 15




Veteran stage actor and Charles Dickens scholar Peter Battis talks about donning the nightcap of Ebenezer Scrooge for the fourth time at Temple Theatre By Billy Liggett


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

Photo by Heather Garrity

16 | December 2021

@therant905 Battis returns to Sanford this month for the traditional arrival of “A Christmas Carol,” which last appeared at Temple Theatre in 2017, but was a December staple locally for seven out of nine years from 20082017. This year’s production of the musical adaptation — written by Michael Hoagland and Temple artistic director Peggy Taphorn — will begin Dec. 2 and run each Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 19. Battis first took on the iconic role in 2015 after originally auditioning for “My Fair Lady,” which kicked off that season a few months earlier. While he didn’t get that part, he was approached by Taphorn for something bigger. “She said, ‘Have you ever done Scrooge?’ and I said no, but I played [Jacob] Marley when I was in school,” Battis recalls. “And so I was happily surprised when she called me and said, “OK, do you want to do this?’ And it’s been a great partnership ever since. It’s a great place to work.” Battis grew up in a theatrical family and got his first professional acting role at the age of 13. He worked in regional theaters in New Jersey, Ohio and Massachusetts and trained at Brandeis University near Boston while earning his undergraduate degree and master’s degree.

Peter Battis as Ebenezer Scrooge in the 2021 Temple Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol.” Photos courtesy of Temple Theatre and Heather Garrity.

He worked for several years in Boston-area theater and television, playing such roles as Richard in “The Lion in Winter,” Proctor in “The Crucible” and Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.” Battis is a psychologist with a private practice in Chapel Hill, and since moving to North Carolina, he has appeared in Deep Dish Theater’s “Life is a Dream” and Street Signs’ production of “A Simple Gift,” in addition to his work with Temple Theatre (he appeared in Temple’s “Oliver!” in 2019, another adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel). It’s fair to suggest Ebenezer Scrooge was the role Battis was always meant to play. He was a big fan of Charles Dickens in high school and college, and he would later perform as Dickens himself in a one-man show, “Mr. Charles Dickens Presents.” “I think there were probably not many people in high school who thought ‘Great Expectations’ was just a fantastic book,” Battis says with a laugh, “but I did. Then in reading other Dickens novels, I found just a tremendous amount of humor in them. This alternation between drama and pure joy.”

The Rant Monthly | 17 he had the gestures down. And in learning As Battis began reading more about this, I discovered that he was a fascinating Dickens the man, he learned he had this whole other career in the mid-1800s doing guy — not only a great author, but a great performer.” presentations. Because copyright laws in America were such that they could print Dickens, who lived from 1812 to 1870, and sell his books without having to pay was far and away the royalties, Dickens most popular writer wasn’t making a ton “It’s about how a man’s heart of his time, and he’s of money off of his considered to this opens — a man who has tried all work, but his readhis life to protect himself and shut day a literary genius. ings of his famous himself down. The character goes Countless movies, works — like “A through this transformation, which television shows and Christmas Carol” stage adaptations is something you always want to — became hugely have been made of popular events that see from the main character, and his most notable people were happy you can’t get much more proworks — “Oliver to pay for. found than this transformation.” Twist,” “A Tale of “And so he developed that into a show,” Battis says. “He did a number of different stories on stage and called them ‘public readings.’ And when he went to America on tour, people were lined up around the block and staying in line overnight in the middle of December waiting to get a ticket. He’d have audiences of more than 2,000 paying to hear him read. And he knew all the words by heart, and

Two Cities,” “David Copperfield” and “Great Expectations,” to name just a few. But it’s “A Christmas Carol” that has not only had the most influence on literature and popular culture, but on our own traditions to this day. In his day, Christmas traditions — which combined the celebration of Christ with Roman pagan celebrations and Germanic winter

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yuletide traditions — were under scrutiny by Puritans, and the Industrial Revolution allowed workers little time to celebrate the holiday.

EBENEZER SCROOGE, IN DICKENS’ WORDS Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

In the opening stave of A Christmas Carol Dickens describes Ebenezer Scrooge: Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dogdays; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas. External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?” No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!” But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked.

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“A Christmas Carol” is said to have “rekindled the joy of Christmas” in Britain and America. Communal feasts and parties became smaller, more intimate celebrations focused on family and children. Christmas became the image of family and sharing of good fortune. “It’s always been one of my favorite stories,” Battis says. “At the risk of it being corny, because everybody knows it, but it really is about how a man’s heart opens, right? A man who has tried all his life to protect himself and shut himself down. The character goes through this transformation, which is something you always want to see from the main character, whether it’s in a book or on stage. And you can’t get much more profound than this transformation.” Much of “A Christmas Carol” was based on Dickens’ own life. Born in Portsmouth, in southern England, Dickens left school at 12 to work in a factory after his father

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The Rant Monthly | 19 was incarcerated in a debtors’ prison. “You have this child [in the book] who was abandoned — the backstory is that his mother died, probably when he was born — so the pain of his loss and loneliness actually mirrors Dickens’ own experience,” Battis says. “Dickens said that part of his life just broke his heart. He would wander the streets after work in the factory and just feel terribly lonely before heading back to this little room that he had. That’s right there in the story — this sense of a child feeling abandoned and feeling as though he had to protect himself against the hard-feeling world.” Temple Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” is a musical adaptation you won’t find anywhere else. The music and lyrics were written by Taphorn and former Temple musical director (and current executive director of the Bedford Playhouse in New

The real Charles Dickens (left) and Peter Battis’ portrayal of Dickens for his one-man show, “Mr. Charles Dickens Presents”

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York) Michael Hoagland and first appeared on the Temple stage in 2009. The show ran in Sanford from 2009 to 2012 before a two-year hiatus (replaced by “Plaid Tidings” in 2013 and “The Sanders Family Christmas” in 2014). It returned for another three-year run in 2015-2017, before giving way to “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 2018, “Away in the Basement” in 2019 and “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” in 2020, which was the first live show (in front of a limited audience) to return to Temple during the pandemic. Battis says Sanford is “incredibly lucky” to have Temple Theatre, which has become just as much a part of the area’s holiday traditions as the parades, tree lighting ceremonies and “Nutcracker” weekends. In addition to Battis and a handful of other professional actors from Sanford and around the state, “A Christmas Carol” features two separate casts of young children and teens, most from Sanford. “Peggy is a dynamo — a very professional director who’s just tremendous at bringing people together,” Battis says. “I’ve worked with a lot of directors, and not everybody is good at that. And not everybody is good at encouraging and teaching the kids. She and [musical director] Gavan Pamer have really created something special. I’ve watched some of these kids grow up, and I hardly recognize some of them because they’ve grown so much. “But they’ve learned, and they keep coming back. It’s a place where they feel cared about and they feel encouraged, but at the same time, they learn discipline here. So it’s just a tremendous group to work with. I mean, I was a child actor once, and I wasn’t always as well behaved as this bunch. So I’m impressed.” Tickets for “A Christmas Carol” run between $17-$29 and can be purchased online at




The Rant Monthly | 21

TRADITIONS WE OWE TO DICKENS How did “A Christmas Carol” influence society? Here are just five traditions that can be traced back to the timeless tale, from Quinn Taylor of the audiobookstore. com blog: Singing Christmas Carols Did Dickens start the caroling tradition? Not exactly. By the time Dickens was around, caroling was seen as old-fashioned and stuffy. However, when Dickens portrayed carolers as integral to the holiday spirit, caroling quickly came back into fashion and Christmas songs have never been more popular. Paid Vacation for the Holidays It may not seem like it at first glance, but “A Christmas Carol” has a strong message of labor reform. Here’s A Christmas Carol summary of this topic: Dickens drew such a frightening image of what would happen to rich bosses if they didn’t give their employees time off that it wasn’t long before paid holiday leave became the norm.

Christmas Trees Prince Albert first brought a Christmas tree over from Germany in 1840. People weren’t thrilled about it until Charles Dickens wrote about the trees in a short story called “A Christmas Tree.” Since he wrote about them being a cozy centerpiece where families could gather, people have been quick to set up trees of their own. Christmas Cards and Gifts While Dickens was alive, gift- and card-giving were done during the New Year celebration. When he wrote “A Christmas Carol,” he wrote it as if gift-giving was something that had always been done during Christmastime. The Holiday Spirit Dickens’ story wasn’t just about giving and receiving gifts — it was about the spirit behind the giving. The spirit of community, generosity, and kindness was a message that Dickens wanted to highlight in “A Christmas Carol.”






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WANT TO GO? WHAT: “A Christmas Carol,” directed by Peggy Taphorn and musical director Gavan Pamer. WHEN: Dec. 2-19, with shows on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays (a matinee and evening show) and Sundays. WHERE: Temple Theatre in downtown Sanford TICKETS: $17-$29, MORE INFO: Back by popular demand! The holidays would not be the same without Temple Theatre’s own original musical adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.” Join Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and a host of colorful characters for a remarkable holiday production of the Charles Dickens classic. The spirit of the season is wrapped in your favorite yuletide melodies and tied with all the holiday magic and wonder of your childhood.

The Rant Monthly | 23

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SANTA CLAUS IS COMING (BACK) TO TOWN FOR THE CITY PARADE he COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to most of our favorite holiday traditions in 2020. Even Santa Claus and his helpers weren’t (pardon the phrase) immune to the cancellations.

He’s returning to the role he loves this year, but only for the upcoming Sanford Christmas Parade on Dec. 6. As is tradition, Morcombe and Mrs. Claus (portrayed by his wife, JoAnn) will end the parade on Santa’s sled — an event Morcombe is as excited as ever for.

December while the real Santa Claus finalizes his Christmas preparations up north. Bookings and reservations for his services begin over the summer, and if people or organizations wait until September to contact him, there’s a good chance they will have been too late.

Harold Morcombe, a longtime Santa’s helper who has been portraying the jolly old elf since the late 1990s, made the tough decision to take the year off in 2020 to protect himself and the thousands of children he meets each year for toy wishes, photos and other holiday events.

“The fact that I’ll be able to enjoy another Christmas as jolly old St. Nick again, it’s just wonderful. It’s a big part of the joy of Christmas for me,” says Morcombe. In a typical, non-pandemic year, Morcombe is a busy man in November and

In 2019, Morcombe worked 87 separate engagements. His work begins the Saturday before Thanksgiving and runs all the way up to Christmas Eve most years. The only thing that’s changed for him appearance-wise in his 20-plus years is the beard — he no longer

By Billy Liggett


Harold Morcombe has been Santa Claus for Sanford and the surrounding area for over 20 years. His wife, JoAnn, joined him as Mrs. Claus in recent years, and the two work more than 80 events a year in a typical non-pandemic year. The two will appear at this year’s Sanford Christmas Parade on Dec. 6.

has to bleach it to get it as white as it needs to be. In addition to the private parties and photo opportunities he works each year, it’s Morcombe who the City of Sanford calls on for its annual tree lighting ceremony at Depot Park. Morcombe arrives on the back of a vintage fire truck, lights the downtown tree and locomotive and spends the next three hours visiting with hundreds and hundreds of children, each with their toy list in hand.

The Rant Monthly | 25 He calls the Depot Park ceremony the most rewarding event he works each year. “When Jennifer St. Clair was the director for downtown merchants, she asked me to start doing it, and that’s continued with [current director] Kelli Laudate,” Morcombe says. “Both of them have complimented me — and this is the biggest compliment a Santa can get — on that fact that the child I see at 6:30 p.m. gets the same response and enthusiasm from me as the child I see at 9:30 p.m. And that to me is the exciting part of all of this — spending time with the kids. It’s rewarding to just watch the awe in their faces when they get to meet Santa Claus.” Morcombe visited with a total of 350 children in 2019. He says the joy of doing it outweighs the discomfort he might feel the next day from sitting for three hours and the weight of hundreds of children on his knees. His wife, JoAnn Morcombe, now joins him for many of these events as Mrs. Claus. He says it was a role she for years refused to take on, but a stint as an elf helping him at a local event five years ago changed her perception.

“She used to just tell people, ‘No, I’m Mr. Claus’ daughter, and I’m just here to drive dad around,’” Morcombe says. “The year she joined me as an elf, she realized how much fun it was. So she got the Mrs. Claus outfit, and she loves doing it.” While COVID-19 is preventing Mr. and Mrs. Claus from the up-close-and-personal events from years past, Morcombe is excited to return for the parade this year. It’s a chance to don the red suit again and rekindle the spirit he’s experienced over the past two decades. Asked how he’s become a better Santa over that time, Morcombe once again talks about the beard. In addition to it being white, it’s also fuller now. One of the keys to a great Santa, he says, is a great, real beard. “Never a fake beard,” he says. “The reason I’ll never use a fake beard — when a child reaches up and wants to pull on it, if it’s fake, it might come off in their hands, and that would just destroy Christmas for them. I’d never want to do that.”


26 | December 2021

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE! The use of evergreen trees to celebrate the winter season occurred before the birth of Christ, but it was 1,500 years later — the year 1510 to be exact — when the first decorated Christmas tree appeared in Riga, Latvia. The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in German in 1531. Below are other facts about one of the most popular Christmas traditions today — the Christmas tree. •

Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Christmas tree lights were first mass-produced in 1890.

The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933. Since 2004 the tree has been topped with a 550-pound Swarovski Crystal star. And since 2007, the tree has been lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LED’s which are powered by solar panels.

In 1856 Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House.

A batch of Christmas trees were still available as of Nov. 29 at BMER Produce in Tramway. Several local tree vendors had sold out of their stock on Thanksgiving weekend. Photo by Gordon Anderson.

98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms, while only 2 percent are cut from the wild.

To ensure enough trees for harvest, growers plant one to three seedlings for every tree harvested.

Artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century and later became popular in the United States. These “trees” were made using goose feathers that were dyed green and attached to wire branches.


The most popular Christmas trees are: Scotch pine, Douglas fir, noble fir, Fraser fir, balsam fir, Virginia pine and white pine.

In the U.S., there are more than 15,000 Christmas tree farms and approximately 350 million Christmas trees growing. — University of Illinois Extension


By Gordon Anderson


f you waited into December to get your Christmas tree, you might already be out of luck.

Multiple Christmas tree vendors in Lee County have made social media posts announcing that as of Nov. 29, they were already out. One vendor who grows their own trees, The Christmas Tree Patch on Hendley Road in Tramway, was unable to open at all this year due to the effects of adverse weather on their crop (they’re working hard to be back open in 2022).

For Teddy Donathan, who owns BMER Produce in Tramway, pickings are already a little bit slim. “We do still have a few trees, but they’re moving pretty quick,” he said. Due to a (here it comes) shortage, Donathan wasn’t even able to get all the trees he ordered. “I ordered 550, and I was able to get 455 of them,” he said. “There are maybe 100 left, but like I said, they’re moving quick.” The shortage isn’t just affecting Sanford and tree vendors in North Carolina, the U.S. is ex-

periencing a national Christmas tree shortage, according to several published reports. Supply chain woes, climate change, fewer tree farmers and more demand are all causing the shortage, which has not only meant fewer real trees, but more expensive real trees as well. “The demand this year is going to be extremely strong and so I think from a consumer perspective people definitely shouldn’t wait,” Chris Butler, CEO of National Tree Company, told CNBC in November. Butler said if you waited until after Thanksgiving, it’s possible you won’t be able to find quality trees this holiday season.

The Rant Monthly | 27

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WHERE TO SEE MORE LIGHTS IN SANFORD There aren’t a ton of neighborhoods in our city that get together to purposely wow the local citizens, but there are several homes and businesses around Sanford that would do Clark Griswold proud. Below are a few of our favorites. Carolina Women’s Fitness Interactive fun — three spots outside of the gym on Center Church Road in Tramway where you can drive up, turn your dial to the FM station posted in front of those lights and watch them blink and play along with the music. The highlight is the reindeer quartet singing Christmas songs. Carbonton Road David and Kay Ward’s house on Carbonton Road is also a wonderland of Christmas lights and inflatables, and it’s worth slowing the traffic behind you to take it in. They’re also starting to go all out for Halloween and Thanksgiving, too.

The home of Michael and Misty Mashburn on Holiday Drive and Westwood Drive in Sanford offers one of the more elaborate display of Christmas decorations in the city.

Rockwood Drive Don Perry’s magnificent display (near the Mashburns in the Westlake area) has been around for years, and Perry continues to add to his collection of lights and blow-ups. Mockingbird Lane Mockingbird Lane, in the Quail Ridge community, has several homes that do pretty well when it comes to lights. It’s one of the few local neighborhoods where they seem to try to outdo each other. Depot Park A few years ago, Downtown Sanford Inc. and the City of Sanford joined in to light up downtown’s Depot Park with lights surrounding the square and the depot building, and moving lights on the train. It’s certainly worth a stop or a drive-by during your lights search. We’d like to update our list — send us some of your favorite local light displays by emailing




here are a great many holiday traditions that make up a community: Christmas caroling, midnight mass on Christmas Eve, the tree in the heart of downtown, just to name a few. For Michael and Misty Mashburn, who live at the corner of Westwood Drive and Holiday Road in Sanford, their contribution to the community Christmas spirit is lights — lots and lots of lights. The Mashburns have a soft for all things

that twinkle and shine. For over 13 years, the family has been stringing up lights from every corner of their home to brighten up their neighborhood with holiday cheer. “My wife and I both grew up going to see Christmas lights with our families. We have been inspired by neighbors who have for years been putting out festive decorations for the community to enjoy,” Michael said. “For us, we see the joy it brings to others and the fun it is to become creative — spreading Christmas joy and

love through lights brings us a lot of happiness.” Another element to the Mashburns’ display is an ever-growing cast of inflatables that populate the yard, from Frosty the Snowman to Santa and his reindeer, as well as an alligator band which features banjo music. The collection has swelled to about 60 in recent years and is a particular favorite of the kids. This year’s display began immediately following Thanksgiving. Michael Mashburn offered some words of wisdom for

The Rant Monthly | 29 any who want to undertake an effort to put on a big Christmas light display. “I’m very particular about where cords and wires are put. The biggest thing is don’t become too attached about where lights are and what display you may originally want to put up,” he said. “We had a lovely, 11-foot-tall singing snowman that was our pride and joy. One year, it quit working and we couldn’t find the technical function replacements for it. Don’t become too attached to any of the items, learn to go with the flow.” The pile-up of cars around the Mashburns’ driveway is always a sure sign of holiday light gazers. Misty Mashburn even recalls one year when she became part of that holiday rush. “I flew home from a work trip to Boston – it was early evening when I arrived home,” she said. “The line was so long for the light display that I had to sit in line to be able to get into the garage.” The Mashburns have come to cherish their holiday tradition and the happiness it brings those in the community. This year they will be running their usual display the

entire month of December and hope that the public can ride by and enjoy the sights and sounds of their Christmas-themed front yard. THE FARLEYS

The Farley Family of 95 Farley Road in Cameron (just a few miles south of Sanford, between U.S. 1 and N.C. 87) provide a free Christmas lights show in front of their home beginning at 6 p.m. each night throughout December. Their display is home to a “premiere synchroized light show with more than 9,000 individually addressable LEDs and special effects to go along with music. The family also did a similar show for Halloween this year. This year’s Christmas show will feature a “Disney Night” every Friday. To get the full effect, tune in to 92.7 FM on the radio in front of the display and watch the lights sync with the music. To learn more about the Farley Family Lights, visit their Facebook page, @FarleyFamilyLights.

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ANNUAL HOLIDAY EVENTS RETURNING IN 2021 Most of our beloved holiday traditions in Sanford and Lee County were shelved in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While they might look a little different this year, those traditions are returning in 2021: •

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 Jacyees’ 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. Dec. 5 | Broadway Tree Lighting: The lighting of the town tree will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5, a prelude to the big parade the following week. Dec. 11 | Broadway Christmas Parade: Beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, the Broadway Christmas Parade will return after a year off.

The local Salvation Army helped nearly 4,000 families who were food insecure in 2020 and also helped 70 families with rent and 160 families with utilities. The annual Red Kettle Drive kicked off in November and will run through Christmas Eve this year at various locations, including Piggly Wiggly and Food Lion stores, Lowes Foods and Walmart.




n keeping with tradition on the day before Thanksgiving, the Sanford community and the local chapter of the Salvation Army gathered Wednesday in front of Lowe’s Foods on Spring Lane to kick off the holiday kettle ringing. This year’s kick-off comes on the heels of more than a year of Coronvirus pandemic woes and the needs that have come with that uncertainty. Unlike last year’s kick-off however, there was no declaration given for a mask mandate.

On the cold morning, a group of around 15 gathered in the front of the supermarket with officials from the city and the Salvation Army present. Various members included Mayor Chet Mann who was volunteering to ring the bell on the opening day in front of Lowes. Also present were Tracy Staley, executive director for the Lee County Salvation Army, and Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter, who was there in his capacity as sheriff for the last of 15 years running. Staley thanked those gathered for their participation in the kick-off and put into context the help that

Salvation Army gives the county. “For 2020, we helped 3,800 families who were food insecure,” he said. “We give out food Monday through Thursday at the Mann Center. We have helped 70 families with rent and 160 families with utilities. We distrusted almost 5000 articles of clothing from our family store. We have also helped 100 children with school supplies.” The numbers given by Staley indicate the direct impact of giving money to the Salvation Army and how the Red Kettle drive provides direct aid to community members who need it most. The Red Kettle drive goes from

The Rant Monthly | 31 the day before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, with volunteers working part-time shifts, hopeful shoppers will drop money into the kettle. Other various locations in the county include Piggly Wiggly stores, Food Lion stores, and Walmart.


Bob Finch, a member of the Lee County NAACP chapter who has been working alongside the Salvation Army for nearly 20 years, remarked how the kettle drive impacted his life in his youth. “It is one of the greatest joys of my life,” he said. “My family actually benefited from the Salvation Army services when I was a child. And ever since, whenever I have the opportunity to, I do what I can to help.” The kick-off was festive with Christmas music provided by a trumpeter and flute musicians. Mann reminded the group gathered for the kick-off the significance of the work the kettle drive volunteers do. “Community is defined by people like you,” he said. “The volunteers make a world of difference in our community.”

We want to see it all! Send us photos of you and your family enjoying your favorite holiday traditions by emailing or commenting on our Facebook post asking for images. Our favorites will be published online and in the January edition of The Rant Monthly. Above photos courtesy of Amanda Sullivan and Alysse Smalley


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SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS TO GET PAY INCREASE The Lee County Board fo Education adopted a revision to the pay schedule for its bus drivers. The plan would adjust the pay amounts of bus drivers employed for 10 months per year, raising the per hour rate for a beginning bus driver or substitute from $12.92 to $16. The most experienced drivers would see their hourly pay jump from $16.62 to $17.90 under the plan, which was approved earlier this month by the board’s Finance Committee. The total cost of these increases is approximately $220,000 and will come from the district’s transportation budget. Finance Committee Chair Sutton called the plan “the most significant pay increase they have had in years.” The bus driver pay hike came a month after the board adopted a separate plan to provide a one time bonus for teachers and staff. Under that plan, all permanent and fulltime employees, both certified and classified, who are employed as of November 15, 2021, will receive a $2,000 bonus.


The Lee County Board of Education voted 5-1 to renew the employment contract for Dr. Bryan through June 30, 2024. Sutton cast the only dissenting vote (member Sherry Womack was absent). An item labeled “Superintendent’s Informal Evaluation” had been placed on the board’s agenda during its closed session, in addition to other personnel items. After a 70-minute deliberation, Dr. Lynn Smith made the motion to extend Bryan’s contract for another 32 months with no other changes made to its terms and conditions. The board will hold its annual organizational meeting on December 14 and elect officers for the coming year.


CITY VOTES 4-3 TO ZONE BROOKSHIRE DEVELOPMENT Those who spoke out against the development say similar projects are hurting surrounding areas By Richard Sullins A divided Sanford City Council voted 4-3 in November to assign a Conditional Zoning District for the proposed Brookshire development. Members Rebecca Salmon, Jimmy Haire, J.D. Williams, and Charles Taylor voted to approve Pinnacle Partners LLC’s request for the 168-acre tract of land bordered by Valley and Forestwood Park Road, U.S. 421, and the Wildwood subdivision. The property was previously zoned as Residential Restricted. Members Sam Gaskins, Byron Buckels, and Chas Post voted against the classification. Pinnacle is proposing to develop the area, to be known as Brookshire, as a residential subdivision with areas for multi-family housing and a commercial area. About 273 of the proposed 404 residential lots would be a minimum 6,000 square feet in size and classified as R-6 single-family. Another 54 lots of a minimum 10,000 square feet would be classified as R-10 single-family, and a final grouping of 77 lots with a minimum 12,000 square foot size would receive an R-12 classification. Pinnacle proposes to use a fourth tract of 22.79 acres for multi-family housing with a maximum density of 12 living units per acre. The remaining 5.51-acre section would be designated as Neighborhood Commercial space.

Conditional zoning districts are permitted under the Plan SanLee land use plan that was adopted by Sanford, Broadway, and Lee County in 2018. Such districts are stand-alone divisions that have their own unique requirements and conditions. The council voted to annex the property into the city in October. But a group of adjoining property owners appeared at the meeting to voice their grievances over what they considered the developer’s lack of specifics on how the development would be constructed and perceptions that Pinnacle’s plan violated provisions of Plan SanLee. Scott Osborne and his wife, Kim, were the only speakers during the council’s public comments period. Scott Osborne told members that he felt they had not listened to the merits of his points made at the previous meeting and felt particularly powerless in being excluded from the processes of annexation and zoning. “Decisions are made by you council members without us having any representation,” he said. “This includes not only about how your decisions impact our way of life and visions for land use, but also at the ballot box, where we are not afforded participation in your election process.” Osborne’s property, as well as that of the other adjoining landowners, is located just outside the city limits. Kim Osborne said that she was not against the construction of new housing behind their home “but I am against putting a lot of places and a lot of residential areas that [aren’t] compatible with even the community it’s surrounded by. We’ve already lost all the

wildlife in our backyard. The community has changed as a result of all the area that has been evacuated from there. I know none of you live where we live, so you don’t know what we are going through.” The first vote regarding the project was that the zoning map amendment proposed by the developer was consistent with the county’s long-range plan because it included residential single-family dwellings as the largest overall land use designation. That vote passed by a 5-2 margin with members Post and Buckels voting against the amendment. A second issue over assigning a zoning designation to the development as the Brookshire Conditional Zoning District sparked an extended debate over how similar questions about large-scale housing developments have been resolved in the past. Developer Terry Slate agreed to the additional conditions requested by the city’s Planning Board that he abide by the land uses and housing unit densities specified, and that subdivision design and housing styles can be approved by the council as potential amendments in the future. Gaskins proposed defeating the request for a Conditional Zoning District and assigning an R-14 designation for the property, subject to further negotiation, suggesting that it would be large enough to entice the developer to come back with changes to the overall design that would provide the kind of specifics that members felt were lacking. But Mayor Pro Tempore Byron Buckels expressed opposition to Gaskins’ motion, stating his belief that Council members should put forth a greater effort when citizens present views that are contrary to plans prepared and submitted by developers.


Board votes to change minutes on map talks By Richard Sullins The Lee County Board of Commissioners’ Republican majority outvoted its Democrats in November by approving a change in the minutes of an Oct. 18 meeting at which a controversial plan for local electoral districts was adopted. Republican Commissioner Bill Carver had proposed deleting four sentences in the October 18 draft that describe the deliberations of commissioners on so-called “Plan F” and substitute 11 other sentences in their place that attempt to rationalize the thought processes of the majority as they rejected six plans and adopted a seventh — which was criticized for weakening the power of the minority vote in Lee County — that had not been subject to comment by the public. Carver contended the prepared by Clerk to the Board Jennifer Gamble didn’t contain

sufficient detail to explain the process the Republican majority followed in ultimately voting for Plan F, and so he decided to rewrite that portion of what would become the official record of the meeting.

should be. I have never seen anything like this before. I’ve never seen anybody go back and try to rewrite the narrative the way they are trying to rewrite it,” he said. “Were you a little bit worried about a lawsuit?”

“I understand that the minutes are prepared by Ms. Gamble as a summary and that they are not generally a transcription. The question is whether they are accurate, and do they have sufficient detail?” Carver said. “There is a good chance that they could be contested and if so, what is in the minutes is what was said that night.”

Carver responded he wasn’t and his only concern was the county “has to live with this for the next 10 years.”

Carver went on to say he watched the video of the October 18 meeting and prepared an 11-sentence substitute section that, in his view, was a more accurate summary of what had been said. Democrat Cameron Sharpe was having none of it. “This has a feel to it that implies that the clerk is not doing her job the way she

But Carver said only moments before there’s a “good chance that (the districts) could be contested” and remarked at the November 1 meeting “these changes are a more detailed explanation of my comments on redistricting. I request that they be included so that if the redistricting plan is challenged, a more detailed rationale for Plan F be preserved in the minutes.” Brenda Johnson of Sanford said during the public comments segment “I’ve never seen where you could change the minutes and say what you meant to say instead of what you

actually said. Whatever he’s trying to do, it just doesn’t sit right with me.” Democratic Commissioner Robert Reives Sr., who has represented District 1 for the past 30 years, agreed, saying “I’ve not seen this done to this degree in my time here on my board.” Republican Commissioners Kirk Smith and Andre Knecht both said that they had watched the video of the meeting, compared it to Carver’s proposed revisions, and were satisfied with making the changes. Sharpe expressed frustration. “We have a nonpartisan GIS Director who presented maps to us, and then a new map was presented at the next meeting that had not been seen by the public,” he said. “(Republicans) let the cat out of the bag at the meeting when Chairman Smith was not present, saying that there was supposed to be another map.”


34 | December 2021

NEW CCH CEO WANTS TO GROW RELATIONSHIP WITH THE COMMUNITY In August, Central Carolina Hospital welcomed Chris Fensterle as chief executive officer. Fensterle joins Central Carolina Hospital from another LifePoint Health, Inc. hospital serving as interim chief operating officer and chief operations officer at Frye Regional Hospital in Hickory. Fensterle said in joining the hospital in Sanford, the words “family” and “community” come to mind when describing his first impressions of the facility. He said he hopes that the community-hospital relationship will continue to grow together. “All health care is local,” he said. “Central Carolina Hospital is fortunate to have great partners in the community that have helped us throughout the last two years of the pandemic. Physicians have been dedicated to helping patients receive safe, quality care. We have great physician partners such as UNC specialists, Duke Cardiology and others who have worked with our team to grow our services in OB/GYN, cardiology, ED, ICU, surgery and orthopedics. These partners also share the vision that great health care is local.” “I look forward to developing to meet the needs of a growing community while continuing to focus on the core services.” Since joining CCH, Fensterle said he has discovered some local treasures. “My family and I love the local restaurants La Dolce Vita, Fonda Lupita, Café 121, Bubba’s, LandMark and the Smoke and Barrel,” he said. “We have enjoyed the music at the Depot; we enjoy sweet treats from Sandra’s or Millie’s. We have enjoyed meeting new people or exploring some of the local shops downtown. We have been doing a lot of house hunting, and when able to find some free time, we visit our oldest daughter at Chapel Hill.”

San Lee Park Ranger Steve Godfrey announced he will retire after nearly 40 years of service on Jan. 1.


‘RANGER STEVE’ RETIRING AFTER 38 YEARS OF SERVICE By Gordon Anderson For the last 38 years, San Lee Park hasn’t just been Ranger Steve Godfrey’s job — it’s also been his home. Godfrey moved into a home on the park property when he took the park ranger job in 1983 so he could be closer in the event that anything came up that he needed to handle. “I always figured it was good to be here because if anything happened I’d just be a few minutes away, no matter what time of day or night it was,” said Godfrey. That’s all changing on Jan. 1, when Godfrey will retire with nearly 40 years of service to the county and its largest park. “It’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss the heck out of it,” said Godfrey, who plans af-

“Be patient. Be tolerant, and be appreciative of the opportunity. Value your employees, and make the most of every chance you get to help someone.” — Ranger Steve Godfrey, on his advice to his successor

ter retirement to help his sister and brotherin-law on their family farm. “It seems like it’s gone by in two years instead of 38.” Talking to Godfrey about his time at San Lee, he most frequently refers to the part time employees he’s hired over the years, almost all of them high school students taking on their first job. “It teaches you to respect nature, and how to get along with all different types of

people,” he said. “It instills in them that there’s always something to do outside to give back to nature, and a lot of them go on to do really great things.” The hardest parts of the job — the hours spent cleaning up after Hurricane Fran in 1996, or the tragic discovery of a woman who had committed suicide by jumping into the lake on a winter night — pale in comparison to the best parts, Godfrey said. “One time in about 1997 or so I was out doing my routine toward the end of the day and I found this little boy near the lake, and he was crying,” he recalled. “I asked him what was wrong, and he said he wanted to fish, but his mom didn’t know how and his dad was with God. So I sat down with him and we fished for about 45 minutes. We caught a few fish and I sent him back up to the campsite to his mom. And they started

The Rant Monthly | 35 coming back as regular campers. That got me. That’s the best part. It meant the world to them, and to me.” Another trying time came in 2014, when the park’s nature center burned after a generator full of gas caught fire during the night. Godfrey, who’d arrived on a Saturday morning in November to open the park for the day, smelled smoke and went for a fire extinguisher. “I opened the door and the generator blew up,” he said. “The next thing I know, I’m in the hospital, and one of the nurses was a former employee. One of the EMTs was a former employee.” Godfrey’s hospital stay didn’t last long — he was back at the park the same day, where he was checked in on by County Manager John Crumpton. “Mr. Crumpton said ‘you’re not going to leave me, are you?’ and I just said ‘no, sir,’” Godfrey explained. For Crumpton, losing Godfrey means changes for the park itself. “We know replacing him is not going to be a possibility,” Crumpton said. “It’s hard

to find someone that will dedicate their life to any job.” That means the county is pivoting its strategy to include a day manager and security at night after Godfrey leaves. But his full time presence will be missed for other reasons, Crumpton said. “The work he’s done out there — the trails he’s helped build, the Boy Scout projects he’s helped with — he’s meant the world to the park and to the Parks and Recreation Department. He just loves that park and he works all the time. But everybody’s got to retire, and he’s definitely earned that right.” Now that he’s down to his final month in the job, though, Godfrey is reflecting on the things he feels have made his tenure a success. Asked what advice he’d offer to his successor — or to anyone wanting to work at the park at all — he’s quick with an answer. “Be patient,” he said. “Be tolerant, and be appreciative of the opportunity. Value your employees, and make the most of every chance you get to help someone.”

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36 | December 2021

EDUCATION FOUNDATION GIVES THOUSANDS TO LCS The Lee County Education Foundation has for years been a key player in making sure local public schools have the supplies they need and extra funds for whatever various needs arise. In November, in the lobby of W.B. Wicker Elementary School, the Foundation and the Ruby and Ernest McSwain Worthy Lands Trust made another substantial cash gift to each of Lee County’s public schools — $10,000 to the eight elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools, as well as $5,000 each to Lee Early College, Bragg Street Academy, the Floyd L. Knight Children’s Center, and Warren Williams Alternative Elementary. “Giving a good education to students will make them good citizens as well as good citizens and employees,” said LCEF board member Susan Keller. “We love to see our students succeed and go on to become active members of our community.” Around 60 people attended THE event, including members of the Foundation, the Lee County Board of Education, various educators, and school staff. The Foundation was formed with the mission to improve education in Lee County for both the betterment of the students and staff. Members of the board include people with Lee County Schools as well as leaders in business and local government. The Foundation is perhaps best known for its “Head of Class” project, which rewards the district’s best-performing elementary school with a $50,000 cash gift split among all of that school’s faculty and staff. The key speaker before the presentation of checks was former Lieutenant Governor Dennis Wicker, a member of the Foundation. “I hope the biggest legacy the Foundation can establish is how people can come together for the greater good. I am confident that the Foundation is going to become a bigger force in helping our children succeed,” he said.


Town to consider police body cams By Richard Sullins The Town of Broadway has been presented with a proposal to spend up to $50,000 over a five-year period to purchase body cameras for its police department. Retiring Police Chief Todd Hinnant presented the proposal received from law enforcement equipment technology firm Axon at the town board’s meeting Monday. Mayor Pro Tempore Thomas Beal had requested that Hinnant obtain the quote before his retirement at the end of the year. The quote includes a camera for each of the department’s four full-time officers and a fifth for use by reserve officers. It also includes four tasers, software licenses, and upgrades and replacements as they become available. Payments for the equipment would be made in installments of approximately $10,000 per year. Video and audio captured by the data would be retained in a cloud-based system that is operated by Axon, although the Chief would decide who has access to the recordings. Mayor Donald Andrews says that the town already has a policy governing the use of tasers but would have to adopt guidelines for how body cameras might be employed. Axon body camera equipment is currently used by both the Sanford Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. According to the company’s website, the largest purchase of its equipment was for 22,000 Axon cameras by the London Metropolitan Police Service and in the United States, the largest purchase was for 7,545 cameras by the Los Angeles Police Department. Beal asked Hinnant how the use of cameras would benefit his officers and Hinnant replied “it can protect them from a certain type of liability. But it also protects the community from officers who might be heavy-handed and from incidents that might result in people coming in with complaints.

The taser is a secondary weapon that our officers can use in place of a gun. It gives the officer a choice.”

HORTON PARK UPGRADES CELEBRATED BY COUNTY Lee County moved another step closer to a revitalized park system in November when a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Horton Park to celebrate the “soft” reopening of the facility with new equipment and landscaping. Lee County Commission Vice Chair Arianna Lavallee spoke on behalf of the county and said that she was “excited for the memories that will take place here.”


Sanford Mayor Pro Tempore Byron Buckels was reminded of the park’s history.

Mayor Andrews informed the board that documents contained within the town’s time capsule that were opened on Oct. 16 have been frozen as a document preservation company in Greensboro prepares them for eventual public display.

“For some of us, our first kisses may have taken place here,” which got a big laugh from the 125 people who braved a chilly afternoon to attend the ceremony, many of whom brought their children or grandchildren.

The items were interred in a child’s burial vault during Broadway’s 100th Anniversary celebration in 1970 at the northern foot of the town’s water tower. In the ensuing years, the seal on the container deteriorated and when someone fired a gunshot into the base of the tower and water leaked to the ground years afterwards, water seeped inside and about an inch of it was present in the bottom when the container was opened.

“There have been a lot of family memories made at Horton Park over the years and I’m excited about being a part of the team that will continue to provide the opportunities for those family memories,” said Lee County Parks and Recreation Director Joseph Keel. “The state-of-the-art playground and ADA surfacing is a great asset to the community.”

The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources referred the town to The HF Group in Greensboro, an Ohio-based corporation that is the only document preservation company with an office in the state. At the direction of the company, the documents inside the capsule were placed in Ziploc bags and put into a freezer for stabilization until the company could begin working with them. Andrews reported that in his most recent phone call with the company, “they told me they have seen worse, so there’s reason to be optimistic.” Newspaper accounts from the period indicate that the capsule contained a copy of a book published in 1970 as part of the centennial celebration and entitled “Broadway, North Carolina,” the fall 1970 Edition of McCall’s Pattern Book, favorite recipes of the time collected from the wives of the nation’s governors, 1970 Census reports from Broadway and Lee County, a local newspaper, articles by five local ministers and more.

The original plan was to refurbish the park and demolish the pool and pool house because they had fallen into disrepair. But members of the community began attending meetings of the County Commissioners and their voices were heard. “The community heard about it, and they stepped up. That’s how government is supposed to work,” said Buckels. Horton Park is the second of four county parks to be revitalized this year. In October, Kiwanis Children’s Park reopened after remodeling and renovation. Temple Park, located at Seventh and McIver streets, is presently undergoing a makeover and is next on the list for completion if weather permits. Work on O.T. Sloan Park is also under way. The soft reopening will allow community members to enjoy portions of the park while the pool will be refurbished over the next few months. A full reopening has tentatively been scheduled for July. — Richard Sullins

The Rant Monthly | 37

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38 | December 2021

APARTMENT COMPLEX COMING TO TRAMWAY Clearing of a forested area behind the Food Lion along U.S. 1 in Tramway has begun in order to make room for a 252 unit apartment complex to be known as Pine Reserve. Plans on file with the Sanford-Lee County Planning Department show the proposed complex to include 10 buildings (three of which will be done in a first phase, with the remaining buildings to come in a second phase), and a swimming pool. Access to the 14.5 acre site will be from Center Church Road, as well as from the adjoining shopping center.

PROPERTY TAX ISSUES COMING As the county board prepares for its January retreat and the setting of county priorities for 2022, board member Cameron Sharpe said that further tax reductions should be near the top of the list. The county’s property tax rate was reduced from 77.5 cents per $100 in valuation to 76 cents by the commissioners as part of their annual budget approved last June. Commissioner Robert Reives said there is another issue related to property taxes that is deserving of immediate attention. “Property owners are finding developments that are going up around them and causing their property taxes to go up, and that’s something that needs to be looked at,” he said. “That’s a real thing, and it ought to be looked at sooner than later because I can see it coming in Lee County.”

PFIZER VACCINE CLINIC FOR CHILDREN DEC. 17 Lee County Government Health Department will continue administering the Pfizer-BioNtech Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11 years on Dec. 17. The second dose of the vaccine will be administered on Jan. 7. The clinics will be held from 2-4 p.m. at the Wicker Civic Center.

The Railroad House Association will receive $100,000 for funding capital improvements, and nearby Depot Park will receive $500,000 for improvements in the $25.9 billion state budget signed into law in November.


Several local projects included in $25.9 billion state budget By Richard Sullins


ts official title is Senate Bill 105 — “Base Budget Appropriations for Current Operations of State Agencies” and within its 628 pages is the State of North Carolina’s spending plan for the next two years. Sanford, Broadway and Lee County fared very well in the $25.9 billion state budget signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper on Thursday, the first comprehensive spending plan that the state has had in place during the past three years. “Congratulations to everyone in North Carolina and especially here in Sanford,” said Mayor Chet Mann during the City Council’s meeting last week. “Sanford will be a big

recipient of funds for some really outstanding projects that we have been wanting and working at doing, and I am thrilled that this has happened. I’m really excited for Sanford because the money that is in the budget for them will really benefit this community. A lot of hard work has been put into them and now the reward is going to come.” Among those projects Mann spoke of is a directed grant of $100,000 in non-recurring funds that will be provided to Outreach Mission of Sanford, which operates both men’s and women’s shelters in the city. Outreach Mission has been in existence for over 30 years and assists those who experience homelessness in the community. The funds will assist the homeless shelters in their general operations budgets

through June 30. The Raleigh Executive Jetport at Sanford-Lee County will receive a $9 million appropriation in non-recurring funds for capital improvements, to be provided through the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The Jetport is one of the largest general aviation airports in the state and has 184 aircraft stationed there as of November 1. Mann said that the budget also contains $34 million in funding for expansion of the city’s water plant, something “that will put Sanford in a considerably great seat moving forward in serving our community and in economic development.” And there is more for items that increase

The Rant Monthly | 39

The Railroad House Historical Association was named as the recipient of $100,000 in funding for capital improvements to the Railroad House. Nearby Depot Park will receive $500,000 in funding for capital improvements there and the city will get $10,000 for a mural project. The Town of Broadway will be provided $50,000 toward its Veterans Memorial and Lee County was awarded $80,000 for unspecified capital improvement projects. The budget covers a wide range of spending priorities aimed at helping the state’s economy continue to get back on its feet after the COVID pandemic and addressing years of educational funding levels that fell below the national average. One of its highest-profile items is a five percent pay raise for most state employees and an average five percent pay raise for teachers over the next two years. Additionally, most teachers would receive a $2,800 bonus from federal funding in their paychecks. State employees will receive bonuses as

per child, and eliminates the state income tax on military pensions altogether.

“This budget moves North Carolina forward in important ways. Funding for high-speed internet, our universities and community colleges, clean air and drinking water ... are all critical for our state to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.”

Negotiations over the budget had dragged on for four months as Cooper continued to press for expansion of Medicaid and Republican leaders persisted in refusing its inclusion. In the end, Republicans agreed to form a study commission to look at the issue and make its findings to the legislature by the end of 2022.

— Gov. Roy Cooper

well, again by using federal funds: $1,500 for state employees who make less than $75,000 and $1,000 for state employees who make more than $75,000. Law enforcement, correctional officers and staff, and 24-hour residential or treatment facility employees will receive a $1,500 additional benefit.

Cooper said he believed the good contained in the budget outweighed the bad and he chose to sign it into law, vowing to work on what he called its missed opportunities. “This budget moves North Carolina forward in important ways,” he said. “Funding for high-speed internet, our universi-

ties and community colleges, clean air and drinking water and desperately needed pay increases for teachers and state employees are all critical for our state to emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.” The Governor said he “will continue to fight for progress where this budget falls short but believe that, on balance, it is an important step in the right direction.” The budget is a two-year spending plan that includes the allocation of another $27 billion in funding for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, 2022, although legislators typically tweak the second year of the budget based on revenue projections and funding priorities that arise before the original plan is completed.

Tax cuts are a centerpiece of the budget’s fundraising priorities, too. It increases the zero-tax bracket to $25,500, cuts the personal income tax rate to 4.99 percent in 2022 and to 3.99 percent by 2027, increases the child tax deduction by $500

Brian Mathis, CFP® Financial Advisor


the livability of the communities among those who call it home.

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40 | December 2021

TAYLOR PHILLIPS TO HOST BENEFIT CONCERT DEC. 19 Sanford native and country songwriter/artist Taylor Phillips will perform a benefit concert to raise funds for suicide awareness on Dec. 19 at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center in Sanford. “Taylor Phillips HITS Lee County with Friends” will include music from Phillips as well as country musicians Colt Ford, Craig Campbell, Frank Ray, and Andrew Jannakos. Other artists are expected to perform as well. The concert is in memory of Brian Kindle and is presented in conjunction with the Sanford Tourism Development Authority. Doors for the show open at 6 p.m. on Dec. 19, and the show will begin at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets for $50 here.


Zoo Keeper Alexis Rowe at the North Carolina Zoo’s Black Bear Habitat in Asheboro. The eight-part National Geographic series, released in 2020, was added to Disney Plus earlier this fall. (National Geographic/Kyle Roebuck)


Nat Geo series highlighting NC Zoo comes to Disney+

Sanford native Aslan Freeman appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Nov. 1 night alongside Lainey Wilson as the budding country music star performed her hit single, “Things a Man Oughta Know.”


The single hit the top of the country music charts in October, and Wilson’s performance on Kimmel marked her and her band’s late night debut (the band performed on the Kelly Clarkson Show earlier this year in a taped performance). Wilson also recently appeared at the Country Music Awards, performing a short acappella duet with Deana Carter.

Not everybody realizes that with 2,600 acres, large natural habitats and more than 1,800 animals in its care, the zoo in Asheboro is the world’s largest.

Watch the performance on Kimmel at

ocated less than an hour from Sanford, the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro is not only a popular destination for adults and children in our area, it’s one of the biggest draws in all of North Carolina.

North Carolina Zoo was the focus of an eight-part National Geographic WILD series called “Secrets of the Zoo: North Carolina” in 2020. The series was added to Disney Plus this fall — reaching a far bigger audience with Disney’s more than 118 million subscribers. “Secrets of the Zoo: North Carolina” features several Zoo staff, including keepers and

veterinarians, and highlights their stories, including routine animal husbandry, emergency procedures and the zoo’s work in conservation and rescue and release of injured wildlife. The show immerses viewers in life at the zoo with revealing stories, including the following: •

Strike a Pose: North America’s oldest African bull elephant shares the key to longevity — daily yoga practice.

Love at First Sight: Zookeepers pair two critically endangered wolves on a blind date with the hope of creating a love match that could eventually result in pups.

Baby Fever: In a last-ditch effort during mating season, the staff tries

to persuade two polar bears to mate to help save their species. •

Growing Pains: Juvenile lions get ready for exams that determine if they are ready to leave their parents and pride.

Double Act TV, a London-based production company, produces the series. “The North Carolina Zoo is already widely known as one of the most spectacular natural habitat zoos in the world,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the N.C. Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources. “We are so excited for this opportunity to share with a worldwide audience the stories of our zoo, the animals and their keepers.”

The Rant Monthly | 41

Keeper Nicole Pepo, Keeper Jordan Strobel, Animal Supervisor Sally Adams, Head Vet Dr. J.B. Minter, Keeper Kim Van Spronsen and Keeper Cat Clauson with Nikita the Polar Bear. (National Geographic/Kyle Roebuck) Spectrum News reported in October that only one season of the series has been filmed (in 2020 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic), and no plans have been announced for a second season. Zoo director J.B. Minter told Spectrum that the first season highlighted the zoo’s veterinary program and the health care of animals, and there are more stories to tell.

“We’ve got people going out and doing conservation work, horticulture teams,” he said. “There’s a lot more to spotlight and we’re really hoping to do so.” “Secrets of the Zoo: North Carolina” can be streamed on Disney Plus and at Both streaming services require a subscription or TV provider login.

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42 | December 2021

CONSIDERING A CELL PHONE FOR YOUR CHILD THIS CHRISTMAS? Are you wondering if this is the right year to gift your child a smartphone for the holidays? While age may seem important, maturity levels play a big role in letting you know if your child is ready to handle the responsibility of owning a connected device. It’s always important to weigh the pros and cons. The good news is that there are many safety and monitoring apps and tools available, some at low or no cost to you. For example, T-Mobile offers Family Mode, an app that allows the primary account holder to monitor a child’s internet access when the app is downloaded on the device. T-Mobile also offers Family Allowances, an app that for a small monthly fee, allows you to assign allowances for the number of minutes, texts, downloaded content and money spent on downloadable apps. It also allows you to block your child’s use of their devices during certain times of the day, such as school, during homework, dinner time or at night. Google Family Link is another option that is free of cost and provides you with the ability to monitor your child’s web activity, limit daily phone access, and approve or decline downloadable app purchases. You can also check with your internet provider or wireless smartphone provider to see what child safety features are available with your current plan. If your child isn’t quite ready for a phone, but you still want to have the ability to monitor and communicate with them, a connected smartwatch may be the next best option. T-Mobile recently launched SyncUP KIDS Watch, which features real-time location tracking, talk and text with approved contacts only, virtual boundary alerts, silent mode to use during school, and a help button that alerts pre-set emergency contacts when pushed. It has safety feature that parents want, but is also fun for kids, with a camera to snap and record moments, plus interactive games. — StatePoint Media

PODCAST TRUTHS & HALF-TRUTHS Local instructor’s book looks at detective novels to examine ideas of truth and relativism


r. David Watson, a humanities instructor at Central Carolina Community College, is author of “Truth to Post-Truth in American Detective Fiction.” The book, Sanford native Watson’s first, is described by its publisher as examining “questions of truth and relativism, turning to detectives, both real and imagined, from Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin to Robert Mueller, to establish an oblique history of the path from a world where not believing in truth was unthinkable to the present, where it is common to believe that objective truth is a remnant of a simpler, more naïve time.” Watson joined the Friends of The Rant Podcast in November to talk about his book. A partial transcript of the interview is below (listen to the full interview by finding the Friends of The Rant podcast wherever you download podcasts. _____________________ THE RANT: So our guest on the Friends of The Rant podcast today is Dr. David Watson, humanities instructor at CCCC, who’s just published his first book, “Truth to Post-Truth in American Detective Fiction.” Welcome, Dave. Tell us more about your book. DAVID WATSON: You have to write a dissertation to get a PhD. And as you know, my journey through my PhD program was long. As fate would have it, I spent a large amount of time in 2015 in a hospital. And there’s not much to do except watch TV. And

Dr. David Watson is a humanities instructor at Central Carolina Community College. so I basically saw the whole 2015 run up [to the 2016 presidential election]. RANT: Hospital stay notwithstanding, that seems like it was a simpler time. WATSON: In retrospect, it certainly does. At the time, it didn’t feel so much like that. My background is in philosophy and rhetoric. I get interested in the way people talk about stuff. And so when the discourse started using words like “post truth” or “fake news,” that gave me an idea, which was fortunate because the hardest thing about the PhD was coming up with a problem to have enough to say about. So essentially, I was trying to figure out how we had gotten to a point that it sounded like people were talking as though they lived in two completely different worlds, like in realities

that had different rules and structures. And so to find a way to talk about that — without getting into really abstract ideas of truth that I don’t find so useful — I wanted to talk about detectives, because a detective either has to solve a case or not. It doesn’t matter what language they speak, what culture they’re from or any of that other stuff, you’re either going to solve it or not. And so I started with Poe, and showed books from different periods up until the present to try to sort of see the background assumptions about truth and how they could gather consensus. I’m not saying that things were simpler then or anything of the sort. But I’m saying the way they imagined their world when they wrote about it is different than the way we imagine our world and write about it.

The Rant Monthly | 43 RANT: What drew you to detective fiction? I guess if you’re going to study truth, there’s a number of different directions you can go. It’s interesting that you chose detective fiction. So what was the thought behind that? WATSON: I don’t think people go so much from truth to falsity or something like that. I think people go from doubt to belief. And I think the detective, in a symbolic way, has that structure. So in a classic detective story, there’s a murder or something like that in the beginning, and we have doubt, and we wonder who did it. But we also have doubt about the moral order. And at the end, it’s not a mystery anymore, doubts are resolved, and you have closure. And that process is basically how I think you can talk about truth and get somewhere, as opposed to other models that have been popular to try to locate truth. Think of the truth like it’s a proxy, and I’m sort of imprisoned by my language. And truth can’t get through that if we spoke a different language or cultural relativism, the idea that culture is sort of a prison and I can’t get through it. I think the belief in those things causes a lot of the reality of those things. But I think if you could sort of just stopped believing in the idea that you’re in a bubble, basically, it would be a lot easier to get out of it. RANT: How does an idea for a dissertation become a book? Is this something you had to pitch to somebody? Did somebody read your dissertation and say that you could expand on this and make it into a book? How did that work? WATSON: My dissertation director, Christian Moraru, and I started to talk about this, and thought we could get published, which, you know, if anyone’s ever went through dissertation titles, some of them are very, very, very specific. So after I had the dissertation, since it was on something that was relevant, I sent it off to [the publisher]. It’s written for an academic community. But for the book, I took out phrases like “this dissertation argues,” and structured it more like a book. I added a big chapter about the Cold War and added a big chapter about the Jan. 6 insurrection. I tried to make it as current as possible. They sent it off to readers for peer review. And I was well received, and people had good things to add. In general, they seemed pretty happy with it. RANT: How long was the process, start to finish? WATSON: In terms of submitting it to the publisher, they went pretty quick. I think

I submitted it maybe a year and a half ago or something like that. And as for the deadline, I got them the draft on Aug. 1, and it was published about a month ago. So they turned it around pretty quickly, which was nice. It was probably maybe three years of work or something like that and you know, 20 years of reading.


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THE RANT: Are there any plans for another book? WATSON: So after I finished it, I immediately wanted to do another one, because I need projects — they give me order and make me wake up in the morning. And I know what I’m going to do that day. So yeah, I’ve got some other ideas. I’ve got a book chapter accepted on police and policing in the 21st century. I’m going to write about artificial intelligence — and while I don’t necessarily think AI is going to be able to do what they think it will be able to do, I think there’s some assumptions about how human beings are situated in the world that has larger implications. THE RANT: This is going off topic, but you say artificial intelligence, and you think that it may not be able to do what they think it’ll be able to do. Do you mean, what people fear it may be able to do? There’s a lot of fear.


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WATSON: The example I’m using is like with robots. Boston Dynamics had a police dog out, and I’ve seen a few other companies make these little patrol bot kind of things. And it seems to me that the goal is eventually, we would see them [in use] — I don’t have paranoid ideas, but it’s usually like I would imagine a scenario where something gets deployed somewhere else — some act of war or something like that. And pretty soon we end up seeing some kind of police robot and situations where protests are up or something. Humans just kind of know what’s relevant and what’s not. And it’s hard to explain how you learned situatedness. You know, if I toss a ball at you, you kind of just know how much it weighs. There’s not a rule in your head that says here’s how I catch balls when they’re thrown in. A robot’s gonna need all of that information. And so I feel like there’s this sort of gap there. THE RANT: Dave, we appreciate you joining us. I can’t wait to read this book. Let us know how people can find it. WATSON: There’s a chapter that’s for free right now on There will be a softback edition coming that should drop the price down some and make it more affordable.

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44 | December 2021


BROADWAY GOLD STAR FAMILY HAS MORTGAGE PAID BY NONPROFIT The family of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Scott Bohle — killed in the line of duty on Sept. 16, 2009, in Afghanistan — was among 35 Gold Star Families in the U.S. to have their home mortgages paid in full by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, an organization created after 9/11 to support the nation’s first responders, veterans and their families. Bohle’s wife Lizzie and their two daughters live in Broadway and are one of seven families residing in North Carolina among the 35 nationally. Scott Bohle was assigned to Fort Bragg before his deployment and had been in the military since graduating high school in 1998. He was a medical sergeant in the 7th Special Forces Group and was on his second deployment in Afghanistan when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device while conducting a mounted patrol in the Afghan city of Ghur Ghuri. “Bradley Scott Bohle dedicated his life to serving his country, and it is an honor to provide stability and support to his wife and daughters with this mortgage payoff,” a spokesperson from Tunnel to Towers Foundation told The Rant. The organization began the mortgage pay-off gesture in 2014 following the deaths of two NYPD detectives, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu and vowed to continue the act for every police officer or firefighter killed in the line of duty. The Foundation launched the Gold Star Family Home Program in 2018 with the same goal in mind for servicemen and women killed in the line of duty.

The Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center presented 14 participants of the fall 2021 RISE (Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs) program with certificates on Nov. 1, at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic and Conference Center.

RISE program graduates fall class


he Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center presented 14 participants of the fall 2021 RISE (Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs) program with certificates on Nov. 1, at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic & Conference Center. Two participants were awarded $5,000 each in startup funding to assist in opening their businesses in Sanford. The certificates were presented for completion of the RISE program, an eight-class entrepreneurship series created in collaboration with the Sanford Area Growth Alliance — Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Sanford, Inc.

Participants in the program attend a series of seminars, create a business plan, have their business plans reviewed, and prepare a pitch on the final evening of the program to a review committee. Graduates of the program who open a retail business in downtown Sanford, Jonesboro or Broadway may apply for a $5,000 start-up grant. Terrance Simpson, who was one of the grant recipients, plans to open an arcade and museum in downtown Sanford. “My wife and I together with my business partner Garland Coffer and his wife gained a vision and drive during the RISE program,” said Simpson. “It gave us a practical plan.

Opening a business for us was a big elephant to try to eat, and we wondered where do we even start? RISE gave us a fork and knife and told us to take one bite at a time. We look forward to opening GT’s arcade in Sanford and are excited to add some family-friendly entertainment to our community.” Jacob Black, owner of J&J Precision Engraving, also received a $5,000 start-up grant. He plans to open a retail business in Sanford offering custom laser engraved gifts and options for local organizations interested in fundraising solutions. Black said that the RISE program “pushed me to dig deeper and work harder on my business model,

The Rant Monthly | 45 providing much-needed direction to make necessary changes. RISE provides you with a community of entrepreneurs looking to see your business succeed. I’m looking forward to planting roots here in my town and helping to bring awareness to the importance of small businesses.”

Cheer Extreme Sanford athletes and coaches at the Mayflower Madness event in Myrtle Beach on Nov. 13 and 14.

Awarding two grants from one class was a first for the RISE program, which has been offered since 2020. Funding for the grants was received from the City of Sanford and a local donor, J&R Homes. RISE is scheduled to begin a new session in early 2022. Individuals interested in starting a small business in Lee County are encouraged to apply. Visit for more information or contact Terri Brown at, Meg Moss at mmoss@, or Kelli Laudate at SALMON APPOINTED TO DISTRICT COURT JUDGE Local attorney Brad Salmon was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve as District Court Judge for District 11 covering Lee, Harnett and Johnston counties. “I am humbled by this appointment.” Salmon said. “It’s an honor to serve and I will do my very best to promote justice and ensure confidence in our District Courts.” Salmon fills the seat left vacant by the retirement of Judge Caron Stewart. “Brad Salmon has demonstrated leadership skills and legal knowledge throughout his career,” Cooper said in a press release. “I am grateful for his willingness to serve the people as a District Court Judge.” Salmon is a founding partner of The Salmon Law Firm where he focused on criminal law, civil matters, wills and estates, and served as a defense attorney for the District 11A Veterans Treatment Court. From 2014 to 2016, Salmon served in the North Carolina General Assembly representing Harnett and Lee Counties (District 51). He is a graduate of North Carolina State University and Campbell University’s Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law.



Two City of Sanford projects have received an Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of North Carolina (ACEC/NC).

Lee County Emergency Management Director Shane Seagroves was awarded the Colonel Phillip Nicholas Waters Award, which is presented to the local emergency management director who has “demonstrated outstanding achievement in their Local Emergency Management Program and has contributed to the overall good and achievement of the Emergency Management System” in North Carolina.

Each year, ACEC/NC recognizes engineering firms for projects that demonstrate a high degree of achievement, value, and ingenuity. For 2022, both Project Forge and the Moncure Megasite Sewer Extension received top honors. WithersRavenel was the primary engineering consultant for the City of Sanford on Project Forge, a 98-acre economic development site project that became the site of Bharat Forge. The team ushered the project from start to finish despite a tight schedule and multiple partners. Freese and Nichols, Inc. was recognized for innovation and extensive stakeholder coordination in extending sewer from the City of Sanford to the Moncure Megasite. This was the final step needed to make the site eligible for certification from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. For more information about the Excellence in Engineering awards, visit the ACEC/NC website at

Seagroves, who has been with Lee County as fire marshal since 2007 and became emergency management director in 2009, was presented with the award at the North Carolina Emergency Management Association awards banquet on Nov. 2 in Wilmington. The Association acknowledged Seagroves’ willingness to assist other jurisdictions and the number of times he has assisted North Carolina Emergency Management by deploying to other parts of the state and country during major disasters. His leadership in the response to the tornado of 2011 and his department’s actions over the last 16 months to assist with the county’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic were singled out as examples of his contributions to Lee County.

LOCAL CHEER TEAM EARNS THREE FIRST PLACE AWARDS, ONE ‘SUPREME GRAND CHAMP’ Cheer Extreme Sanford took three of their seven teams to Mayflower Madness, hosted by Maximum Cheer and Dance, in Myrtle Beach on Nov. 13 and 14. Team Halo (Senior Level 4) came home with first place and got perfect difficulty scores on their jumps and basket tosses. Team Smoke (Junior Level 3) came home with first place with perfect difficulty scores in jumps, basket tosses and stunts. Team Ice Queens (Junior Level 2) came home with first place with perfect technique scores in jumps and basket tosses. They had no deductions in their routine and won Grand Champions, which consist of the highest scoring team in their age group. In addition, they won Supreme Grand Champions, which consist of the highest scoring of all teams in the entire competition. The Ice Queens earned a bid to the 2022 All-Star World Championship in Orlando on April 21-23. Cheer Extreme Sanford is celebrating its 18th year. For additional information about CEA Sanford, email


46 | December 2021

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ROSSER, BARBER NAMED N.C. HOMETOWN HEROES Detective Sgt. Megan Rosser of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Chief Wayne Barber of the Sanford Fire Department were honored on Nov. 16 for being a Hometown Hero by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association. Rosser was nominated by Sheriff Tracy Carter for her work as a Lee County Sheriff Detective and for her dedication and contributions in the community.

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“Megan Rosser exemplifies every category as a law enforcement officer,” Chief Detective Capt. Jeff Johnson said during Rosser’s recognition. “She’s hardworking, honest and has a true devotion to her community. Megan has dedicated her career to working with and for children — from being a deputy, to a school resource officer and currently as a detective sergeant. Most recently, in September, Megan investigated a case where two children tragically lost both their parents. She took it upon herself to set up a GoFundMe fundraiser for the children, and has raised over $6,000 for a college fund for them. This act of kindness is just one example of Megan’s dedication of going above and beyond the call of duty. It gives me great pleasure to recognize her at today’s Hometown Heroes event.”


Barber was nominated by John Hiester Automotive, and his award was presented by Sanford Deputy Fire Chief Ken Cotten.

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Cotten’s remarks focused on Barber’s nearly 50 years of service at the Sanford Fire Department, which began on Feb. 14, 1975. In addition to the formal reading of the nomination,

(Top photo) Sanford City Manager Hal Hegwer, Deputy Fire Chief Ken Cotten, Fire Chief Wayne Barber, and Mayor Chet Mann at the Hometown Hero recognition ceremony on Nov. 16. (Above) Detective Sergeant Megan Rosser of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was also honored at the ceremony on Nov. 16. Cotten noted that Chief Barber “has served the Sanford community faithfully, generously and with a giving heart.” The purpose of the NCADA Hometown Heroes Program is to recognize First Responders in North Carolina. According to the association’s website, NCADA believes “these heroes of our community work tirelessly to make our backyards a safer place. We want to be able to give back to them as much as they’ve given us.”

The Rant Monthly | 47

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48 | December 2021


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