The Sampson County Board of Commissioners elected Jefferson Strickland as its new chairman Monday night, and beginning his second stint as the board’s leader, Strickland promised to faithfully guide county government through what were still tough times.
The board reorganized during its Monday regular meeting, an annual occurrence. While nothing changed last year, this year a new chairman took the helm. Strickland, who served as chairman from 2009-11 and as the board’s vice chairman for three years prior to that, since his 2006 election to the board, accepted the gavel and the center seat from current chairman Billy Lockamy in a unanimous 5-0 vote.
Strickland thanked the board for the confidence it placed in him, and said he was up for the challenge.
“I’m fully aware of the problems facing us the coming year, fully aware of the challenges that are here,” the new chairman said upon his appointment. “I’m not going to this blindfolded at all. With this board and with this staff and the 600 supporting us, I feel as if I’m up to the challenge, and I accept the challenge. I’m ready to serve Sampson County with the support of our commissioners.”
N.C. General Statute requires that the board elect its officers during its first meeting in December each year. Customarily, the county manager presides over the election of the chairman. Then, the newly-elected chairman presides over the election of vice-chairman. That was the case on Monday night.
Following an explanation of the process by attorney Joel Starling, county manager Ed Causey opened the floor for nominations from the board for its next chairman. Lockamy quickly nominated Strickland for the seat. With nominations not requiring a second, Causey asked if there were any other nominations. There were none.
Causey then asked for a vote, which was subsequently unanimous in favor of Strickland.
Strickland and Lockamy changed seats, and the former promptly opened up the floor for nominations for vice chairman. Lockamy again offered a nomination, this time for Jarvis McLamb to retain his vice chairman post. As with the vote for Strickland, there were no other nominations and the nod was unanimously given.
“I know you don’t want to hear speeches tonight … but I just cannot lose this opportunity to thank our past chairman Mr. Billy Lockamy for the two years that he served and the manner in which he has served — very professional, very open and always with the county’s best interests at heart,” Strickland remarked. “It was very much appreciated by all of us.”
Republicans Strickland and McLamb will serve in their new roles for the next 12 months, at which time it is the duty of the board to organize again and select its officers for the coming year. While the terms are for one year, board members can serve consecutive terms, as fellow Republican Lockamy did and McLamb will continue to do for the third straight year as vice-chair.
Lockamy was first elected to the board in 2009 and, for the first time, will not be seated in either the chairman or vice chairman’s seat. He was vice chairman from 2009-11 while Strickland was chair, before succeeding Strickland for the past two years. The outgoing chairman thanked the county staff and commissioners for their dedication during difficult times, including arduous budget deliberations in the last couple years.
“We went through some hard times in the last two years, and there are still a lot in the county that needs to be done and has got to be done,” said Lockamy. “We know we have a tough job to do. In the months to come before the budget, I know there will be some things we have to solve and there will be some ups and downs that we have to overcome.”
Strickland praised McLamb for his service, saying it was a privilege and an honor to have him as his vice chairman. McLamb is the longest-tenured commissioner on the board, currently serving his fourth term having first been elected to the board 15 years ago. Strickland, the next longest tenured member, has served on the board less than half that time.
“I’ve never seen a person with as much pure hard-nosed determination that Mr. McLamb has exhibited since last March,” Strickland said, referring to the stroke McLamb suffered but returned from in time for budget deliberations just a few months later. “Determination, spirit and a loving family I’m sure all aided him in the level of recovery he has had. Mr. McLamb did not give up and he did not throw in the towel.”
As with the health issues McLamb has overcome, Strickland said he is cognizant of the obstacles facing the county, the likes of which he dealt with during his first term as chairman — and are still very much looming over Sampson and other county governments.
Strickland said he, along with McLamb, Lockamy and Democrat board members Albert Kirby and Harry Parker would need to work together toward progressing the county.
“We’re going to need each other through this coming year,” the chairman said. “We’re going to make it. It’s not going to be an easy job for these next few months, but we’re going to make it. With (the board’s) blessings, and the blessings of the citizens of Sampson County, I whole-heartedly accept the challenge that I know lies ahead in Sampson County.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.