Harry Parker on Monday officially took his seat as the newest member of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners, swearing the oath of office to succeed John Blanton and give the county’s fourth district a new representative — something it has not had in 17 years.
Parker, flanked by his wife, Alvinia, and numerous family members, friends and other supporters, took the oath administered by Superior Court Judge Doug Parsons. Parker won the District 4 seat in a May primary over fellow challenger Joshua McLamb after Blanton chose not to seek reelection.
Parker’s oath followed the one sworn by county board chairman Billy Lockamy, who ran unopposed and officially won reelection last month. Register of Deeds Eleanor Bradshaw, several deputy Registers of Deeds and Soil & Water Supervisor Curtis G. Barwick also took oaths. Fellow Soil & Water Supervisor Thomas Hobbs was not present, but acknowledged as part of the ceremony, held in the courtroom at the Sampson County Courthouse Extension.
The largest contingent of the packed courtroom was made up of those in attendance to see Parker, who was accompanied by a large group of people as he recited the oath with his hand on the Bible.
And his first official day on the job was a busy one.
Following the swearing-in ceremony at the courthouse, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners recessed the meeting and reconvened a little later Monday morning at the conference room in the County Administration Building to hear a presentation about a possible autogas conversion for Sheriff’s Office vehicles.
No action was taken on the issue early Monday, but was expected to be discussed further at the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday night, a third meeting in a single day for the board. Parker, who has been in attendance at the commissioners meetings in recent months leading up to taking his seat on the board, said he was excited the time had finally come.
“It feels pretty good,” said Parker. “I’m excited about it. I’ve started and I’m ready to roll.”
He said he had many goals, and was ready to get his feet wet. “I just want to get in there,” he said.
Now retired, Salemburg resident Parker worked 27 years with Sampson County, first for 13 years as a sheriff’s deputy. A stint as a state employee with the N.C. Justice Academy followed for another seven years before Parker returned to work with the county for another 14 years as a fire inspector, later being promoted to fire marshal. He also served in the U.S. Army prior to coming to work with the county.
Parker and his wife Alvinia have two children, Maggen Draughon and Travis Parker. County service most definitely runs in the family, as Alvinia Parker recently retired following a long career with the Sampson County Department of Social Services.
Parker said he was humbled by the support received by family, friends and supporters throughout this year, culminating with Monday’s ceremony.
“I felt good that they were there, and they put so much faith in me to know that I can do the job, and I’m going to do a good job,” he said. “I feel good because the master is with me. I’m just ready to go to work.”
Blanton receives high honor
At the end of the ceremony, Parsons announced that the governor had awarded Blanton the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest distinction a civilian can be bestowed in North Carolina.
Parsons said it was hoped that Blanton could be present for Monday’s ceremony, but health issues prevented his attendance. Lockamy asked that thoughts and prayers be extended for Blanton, who was able to attend just a couple of commissioners meetings in the past seven months due to ailments that have kept him hospitalized at the VA Medical Center in Fayetteville.
The board honored him last month, presenting him with a Service Award for his lifelong dedication to Sampson County.
“He’s been a courageous man and has meant a lot to Sampson County,” said Lockamy. “Please keep him in your prayers.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.