Republican Dwight Williams Jr., endorsed last year by Clerk of Superior Court Norman Wayne Naylor prior to Naylor ceding his post, has formally expressed his intention to make that succession a reality.
Surrounded by family, friends and supporters during a Thursday evening reception at the Ashford Inn, Williams said he would be filing to run for Clerk of Superior Court. He talked about his life of service, saying he wanted it to continue as Sampson’s clerk.
“As of this evening, I am announcing that I am a candidate for Clerk of Court for Sampson County,” said Williams, flanked by Naylor and his wife, Norma, to his right and U.S. Congressman David Rouzer to his left. Others in attendance included Sampson natives Sen. Brent Jackson and Judge William (Billy) Sutton.
He listed the many family and friends on hand while introducing the group that will be helping him on his campaign, including manager Shannon Naylor.
“I am surrounded by my family and friends. I’m blessed with a lot of family,” said Williams, who thanked wife Debbie and their children — they have two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren between them — as well as other close friends at the reception. “A lot of you aren’t kin to me, but I consider you family.”
Since January 2015, Williams has served as district director for Rouzer in North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District. The congressman sang Williams’ praises, saying he has always been diligent in his duties and would be greatly missed.
“I’m sorry that we will lose him, but this will be great for Sampson County,” Rouzer attested. “I am glad to have you support him, be it financially or through your prayers.”
While filing for the general election begins next month, the Clerk of Court seat in Sampson is currently vacant.
That clerk appointment is expected in the very near future, with new Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Albert D. Kirby Jr. holding interviews with several Republican and Democrat hopefuls in recent weeks. Kirby, sworn in at the beginning of this week, was appointed to fill the void left upon the passing of William Douglas Parsons in September.
When Gov. Roy Cooper made the judicial appointment official last month, Kirby said he was well aware that one of his first orders of business was to make an appointment of his own — for the head clerk’s post. That appointee will hold the office until November, when the election takes place. Primaries will be held in April following the filing period next month.
“I promise you as Clerk of Court of Sampson County, I will work and I will serve. I have a server’s heart,” said Williams, who asked for support. “I need you in the primary and hopefully I will need you in November.”
Clerk since 2002, Naylor said in August that he intended to step down at the end of 2017, cutting his fourth term short by 11 months. He endorsed Williams to fill out his unexpired term, which ends in November 2018. Williams accepted Naylor’s offer, however no succession plan — which would have required Parsons’ approval — was in place prior to his sudden passing.
Williams has been a force in the Sampson County Republican Party for years, serving as a precinct chairman, precinct judge, county treasurer, county vice-chairman and ultimately as chairman, a position he held for more than five years. Williams also served for a short time on the three-member Sampson Board of Elections.
“I’ve been approached a number of times to serve in some elected capacity, but the time never seemed to be right,” Williams said in August. “This time it does. My management style is simple — listen to those you serve first. Listen to those you employ second. Then, strive to fulfill the needs of both without conflict.”
With Naylor by his side, Williams reflected on what the former Clerk of Court meant to the community. He called it “most humbling” to have Naylor’s support.
“When I think of what Norman Wayne Naylor has provided to Sampson County, it has meant a great deal,” said Williams. “Due to unfortunate health situations, he had to take early retirement. So, without fanfare, he simply got into his car on Dec. 31 and went home, becoming an everyday citizen, ending a life of service.”
He pointed to Naylor’s many roles over the years. Along with his 15 years as Clerk of Court, he served as a Sampson County commissioner, a Sampson Regional Medical Center trustee and founded the Herring Volunteer Fire Department.
“Sampson County owes him a debt of gratitude,” said Williams.
Williams also has a long list of service. A lifetime resident of the Vann Crossroads community, Williams attended Herring Elementary and Midway High School, graduating in 1969. He graduated from N.C. State University in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science in biological and agricultural engineering.
He worked with the family farming operation for a number of years, with H.N. Carr, Inc. of Clinton for a short time and then for the next 27 years with the North Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance and American Farm Bureau Insurance Services in their Crop Insurance Divisions. He served in various managerial capacities until his retirement at the end of 2014. Williams has also served on the advisory board for BB&T Bank, and its prior local affiliates, since 1985.
He is also a member of Hopewell United Methodist Church, serving in multiple capacities, notably as music director for more than 25 years.
The Clerk of Court hopeful said he wants to continue to serve his community, this time within the courthouse.
“I have had a desire most of my adult life to serve the people of Sampson County in any way that I could,” said Williams.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.