Chris Berendt Staff Writer
January 19, 2014
SPIVEY’S CORNER — Jarvis McLamb, the longest tenured Sampson County commissioner, has announced he will be stepping down after his fourth term as representative of District 1 and is endorsing local businessman Clark Wooten for the seat.
“I have been privileged to serve the citizens of Sampson County as commissioner for over 15 years,” McLamb said Friday morning, just inside the entrance to Wooten’s standing room-only Tri-State Turf offices on Timothy Road. “As a conservative I have aggressively tried to stop wasteful spending and make sure expenditures are made in the best interest of all the residents of our county.”
McLamb said his goal has always been to make sure all citizens got the best service possible from the most efficient and effective government possible. In Wooten, he said be believed he found a worthy — and equally conservative — successor who would follow in those footsteps.
“I believe at the end of this term, it will be time for me to step aside and support someone I believe shares a conservative philosophy and will be a good steward of the taxpayer’s dollars,” McLamb said. “Clark is a well-known successful businessman who has proven himself as a community and business advocate. He knows his community and has a track record of public service.”
A farmer by trade, McLamb said he was pleased to introduce, and endorse, Wooten as candidate for the District 1 seat. McLamb has served on the Sampson Board of Commissioners since December 1998, as both chairman of the board and currently as its vice chairman, a full two terms longer than any other current board member.
He said he believed Wooten, who was a Democrat up until about two years ago, would represent the district just as well, and considered him an extension of himself.
“To tell you how strongly I feel about you,” McLamb said during the announcement, addressing Wooten, “you going in will make me feel just like I was still in there. I would just as soon have you in there as myself. There’s nobody I can think of that I would try to put in there ahead of Clark.”
He implored that others work with him to make Wooten the next Republican commissioner for the district. Wooten said he was grateful for that support, which he hoped would continue.
“It certainly feels great,” said Wooten. “I’ve had a lot of support in the community and a lot of people have spoken very positively for me. Mr. McLamb has been the hero of District 1. He has done a fabulous job in our district and I regret that he’s not going to continue, but I certainly welcome the opportunity to step up and hopefully be his replacement.”
There were about 30 people packed inside Wooten’s offices, including family, friends and community residents. Wooten was joined by wife Linda, son Houston and nephew Wes and his wife Jessica, along with many others. Wooten also has a daughter, Celia, who was unable to make it back from N.C. State for the announcement.
On Friday, Wooten lauded McLamb him for his service. McLamb always took what he did on the board seriously, with a no-nonsense conviction that kept his local community and the county at heart, he said.
“That’s why we’re all so proud of what (McLamb’s) done,” Wooten remarked. “The one thing I do know about Jarvis McLamb (is) you might not like what that man says, but when he says it you can take it to the bank. That’s exactly what I intend to do as well. That’s some mighty big shoes to fill, but I’m going to work hard to fill them.”
McLamb said the seat does not come without its critics, whether at the party level, constituents or among fellow board members. He said Wooten should stand firm in representing the district and not be afraid to ask questions when it comes to the budget and other county issues.
“They can get a little peeved off at me at times down there for asking so many questions,” McLamb said. “I might have 50 different questions to ask, and they wanted to get through with it and get to their personal business or whatever, but I’d still ask them.”
Following Friday’s announcement, McLamb said it will “feel odd” not to be on the board after this year, but that he would likely still attend meetings when he could. The commissioner conceded that, as of Friday morning, he had not yet told the board of his intention to retire. By Friday afternoon, however, news had already spread throughout the county.
“It will probably be (received with) mixed feelings, possibly. We all work together pretty good. We disagree on some things sometimes,” said McLamb, 77, who noted health did factor into the decision. “I knew I needed to step down because of my health (he suffered a stroke last March) and I knew I should step down and give someone else a chance to make some decisions for the county.”
For McLamb, Wooten was the logical choice.
“Clark and I have been talking for years,” he commented. “It hasn’t really been that tough (a decision) because we’ve been talking about it for such a long time. I think he’ll follow in my steps as far as being conservative. What he says, you can depend on.”
Sandra Carroll, campaign manager for McLamb for all four of his successful elections, will now be running Wooten’s campaign. She expects that it will be Wooten sitting as District 1 representative by the end of 2014.
For years, she said, “nobody would run against Jarvis.” Then, in 2010, McLamb overtook newcomer Hubert Hall in the May primary, before coasting to his fourth term with no opposition in November. Carroll fully expects competition for Wooten, possibly multiple candidates, in both the May primary and November’s election.
“He’ll probably have some competition both times,” said Carroll. “We want (Wooten) to win by a landslide. We’re going to work for that.”
McLamb conceded he has not always seen eye to eye with the local Republican party, and was unsure how Friday’s announcement would play out for the upcoming election, but said he anticipated Wooten would get the backing of his longtime supporters.
“I agree with the party on a lot of things, but there were some things that I totally disagreed with them on. I don’t think the party is as conservative as I am. I don’t know about the party, but as far as the district community, he’s going to have support from the citizens,” said McLamb.
It is a community that knows Wooten and his family well.
A graduate of Hobbton High School and UNC-Wilmington, Wooten grew up in a farming family with strong Sampson ties.
For decades, his grandfather farmed land and ran a country store in the Spivey’s Corner area at a crossroads known simply as “Timothy.” Wooten’s turfgrass production company Tri-State Turf Inc. found its origins as a one-man operation in that store nearly 30 years ago. While the store has since been moved to the History Museum grounds and restored, Wooten kept his business at the same site.
The home where he grew up, and has raised his own family, can be seen right out the window from his office at Tri-State Turf and its modest headquarters at the intersection of Timothy Road and Easy Street.
On Friday, from that very office, Wooten pledged to commit himself to the community. Education and fiscal policy were issues close to his heart, and ones which he would work to improve.
Wooten said he would be at the Sampson County Board of Elections at 8 a.m. Feb. 10, when filing kicks off, to make his intentions official.
“I live in a great community and I have some great neighbors. It’s a very special place,” said Wooten. “I intend to represent the people of District 1 and this county to the best of my ability. If I’m fortunate enough to be elected, I will certainly try to spend our money conservatively and wisely. My focus has always been my local community, and that’s what I intend to continue.”
“It’s going to be hard to improve on Mr. McLamb and what he’s done,” he said, “but I look forward to the opportunity.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.