Sampson County Board of Commissioners chairman Billy Lockamy is riding off into the sunset.
Lockamy was honored for his years of service as a representative of the county’s District 2 during Monday’s regular meeting.
His peers, including vice-chairwoman Sue Lee and former commissioner Jefferson Strickland, as well as administrative staff, praised Lockamy’s leadership. He reciprocated, crediting county commissioners, staff, employees and his family, including his wife, children and grandchildren, for their support.
Lee presented Lockamy with a plaque, his chairman’s gavel mounted upon it.
“I really want to thank you for your service. Our county is much better for what you’ve done,” Lee told Lockamy. “On a personal note, you have been so helpful and so supportive. When I started, I had no idea —I know a little bit now. You have been so kind. Every time I called, you said ‘call anytime,’ and I continued to call. We the board certainly appreciates your service.”
Strickland talked glowingly about his former colleague.
“I’ve known you as a commissioner, as a vice-chairman and as a chairman of this board. And, on each occasion, you served with dignity, honor and a great deal of feeling for the county. You can’t be taught that,” Strickland stated. “You had a feeling for the people of Sampson County. The things you did reflected that every day.”
He said that Lockamy’s service would not soon be forgotten. Strickland specifically mentioned the pay study and the cost-cutting program put in place to implement it, along with timely audits and arduous budget processes and deliberations.
“Mr. Chairman, you gave your time,” Strickland continued. “Speaking as a citizen, it did not go unnoticed by the people of Sampson County. Your service to the county has been very much appreciated and we thank you — I thank you — very, very much.”
Earlier this year, Lockamy told the Independent it was time to step down.
“Eight years is enough,” Lockamy said upon confirming earlier this year he would not seek office for a third term. “I want to back off and let someone else have a shot.”
Lockamy endorsed local businessman Jerol Kivett at Kivett’s filing for the District 2 seat. Just a day after Lockamy was honored by the board, Kivett was officially elected Tuesday in an unopposed race.
“He’s a really good man with a good head on his shoulders,” Lockamy has said of Kivett, who attended the Monday meeting. “He’ll be good for this county, a strong leader, someone who will represent Sampson well.”
Lockamy leaves the board as its chairman, having served in both that and the vice-chairman capacity.
“I wanted to serve,” he said earlier this year. “That’s why I ran for the board and it’s why I’ve served for two terms. But there are other things I want to do.”
Lockamy won a seat on the Board of Commissioners in 2008. During his eight years, Lockamy said there have been good times and a fair share of tough decisions, but he never regretted being a part of the county’s leadership team.
“I tried to give it my best each and every year, and I would like to think I helped the county ride out the storms we had to go through,” Lockamy noted. “We are on a good course now and a lot of that can be attributed to a good county staff and a great manager in Ed Causey.”
He echoed those positive statements about county administrative staff Monday, saying Causey as a member of USDA helped loan Sampson County money to build schools and revamp the Detention Center “so we hired him to find the money to help pay for it,” he joked.
Lockamy, a business owner and farmer by trade, remembered the farming metaphor Strickland offered him during trying times — “two rows at a time,” Lockamy recalled.
“I’ve tried to be a good leader. I’ve always tried to see both sides and be open-hearted,” said Lockamy, before choking back emotion when addressing his loved ones. “I’d like to thank my family. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
On Monday, Causey shared some fond memories of Lockamy.
“You’re the last board member on the board that was here when I was hired,” the county manager noted.
When he was still fairly new on the job, Causey recalled going by a local convenience station, where he saw a beautiful motorcycle. He approached it and saw a man wearing a helmet, not knowing right away that it was Lockamy. Once he recognized him, Causey began to inform him about a county matter that was weighing on his mind.
“I wanted to tell one of my commissioners about it. Bear in mind this was 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon and he let me get started,” the county manager recalled. “Finally he looked at me and said, ‘Mr. Causey, is there anything realistically we can accomplish today that we can’t do Monday morning?’”
“No sir,” Causey replied.
“Well, there’s not many things I love in this world anymore than getting on this motorcycle and riding to Topsail Beach,” Lockamy said, according to Causey. “I promise you I’m not going to worry about you until Monday morning. Come Monday morning, we will tackle it.”
Now he’s riding off, quite literally, to other horizons.
“I want time to enjoy life, my grandchildren, running my insurance agency and riding my motorcycle,” he said earlier this year. “I’m proud of what we accomplished while I was on the board, but now seemed like the right time to let go.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.