Chris Driver, a recent Governor’s Medallion Award winner for his volunteerism in the community, has announced that he will run for Sampson County Clerk of Superior Court in 2018.
The official announcement was made during a dinner at Oasis Oyster Bar & Grill on Wednesday night, attended by about 50 friends and family members. Driver, speaking to The Independent, said he was fired from his job as deputy clerk last week when he informed Sampson’s current Clerk of Superior Court Norman Wayne Naylor of his intentions to run. Driver served as deputy clerk in the estates/special proceedings division for nearly four years.
“We knew it could happen, we just didn’t think it would happen,” Driver said of the firing. “We’re not necessarily caught by surprise, but I think it’s the respectful thing to do for me to approach him just to let him know, other than finding out elsewhere. When I approached him Thursday (June 1), he was fine, had no issues. Friday (June 2) is when he terminated me.”
“I think it’s unfortunate. When you make decisions, you have to suffer the consequences, and I think their actions speak louder than any words I could ever say to try to get back at them,” Driver continued.
Driver, a Republican, said he plans to file early next year to run against Naylor, who is also a Republican and has confirmed that he plans to seek another four years. Driver said he wants to continue a family legacy of representing the GOP.
“I’ve been involved in the Republican Party for years,” Driver remarked. “My great-grandfather (Arthur Naylor) is in the local Republican Hall of Fame. I hope to carry on that tradition.”
Driver recently received the Governor’s Medallion Award for Volunteer Service in recognition of his efforts to the Diaper Bank of Sampson County. Since it was founded in 2015, the bank has distributed over 70,000 diapers and had over 2,800 participants.
Driver and wife Allison have two young daughters: Taylor, 2, and Spencer, 3 months. Driver stepped away from heading the Diaper Bank for his second daughter’s birth, leaving it in the hands of Pastor Thom Miles, who is with Enlighten the World Ministries. Driver said he is now back.
Along with the Diaper Bank, Driver is involved with the Downtown Dash Committee, Republican Executive Committee, Young Republicans, Sampson County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce and Young Professionals.
“I think my accomplishments speak for themselves,” said Driver. “It’s time we have somebody in there who has active leadership, someone who can be held accountable for what is going on there. It’s time for a new vision; it’s time for a new perspective. I know I can do it better.”
According to the N.C. Office of the State Controller, Naylor is paid an annual salary of $88,188 as Sampson’s Clerk of Superior Court.
Naylor, who formerly served as a Sampson County commissioner, Sampson Regional Medical Center trustee and Herring volunteer firefighter, ran unopposed in the November 2014 election. Reached by phone at his office Thursday, Naylor answered questions, but was sparing with his words.
Informed of Driver’s announcement the previous night and whether he wished to comment on the firing in particular, Naylor answered “no sir.” Asked if he planned to run again, Naylor said “yes sir.” In regard to Driver’s comment, Naylor was specifically asked what he thought Driver meant by the Clerk of Court seat needing “active leadership.” He answered, “I don’t know.”
In closing, asked whether he wished to offer any comment or say anything at all, Naylor remarked “No — no I don’t.”
The Drivers own SweetFrog in Clinton and Driver said he is not worried about future employment prospects, saying he has job offers “rolling in left and right.”
“I’m going to take about a two-week vacation, then I’ll go somewhere, but I’m not worried about a job,” he stated. “Contributions are kind of beginning to trickle in as well because of this, so it’s actually an advantage to me. Obviously, they backed themselves into a corner and they know it.”
While he has received support, Driver said it troubled him that some of his former co-workers invited to Wednesday night’s event were “fearful” of repercussions — and possible termination — should they be seen or photos taken of them at the announcement.
“That speaks volumes, in my opinion. They are walking on eggshells,” said Driver, who doesn’t blame them but the environment in the Clerk’s Office. “They want us to get upset, they want us to stoop down to their level, and we’re not going to do it. They’re upset and they’re threatened.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.