Chris Fann has been a staple of the Clinton and Sampson County community for years, and is seeking to join a long line of family members who have held elected office locally.
Fann plans to file for the Clerk of Superior Court post and expressed his desire with The Sampson Independent to bring his wealth of managerial and customer service experience — he was long one of the faces of Go Toyota, now Deacon Jones — to the clerk’s position.
“I was asked seven or eight years ago that, if the times comes, would I be interested in the Clerk’s job if Norman Wayne stepped down,” said Fann. “It’s been in the back of my mind for a while and this has just lit a fire under me.”
Republican Dwight Williams Jr. swore the oath as Clerk of Court last week to fill the unexpired term of former clerk Naylor, whose retirement at the end of 2017 cut short his fourth term by 11 months. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Albert D. Kirby Jr. announced his decision to appoint Williams to fill the term, which extends until November 2018. That decision followed interviews with seven candidates over recent weeks, including Fann, also a Republican.
Currently, Fann is on the Sampson Community College Board of Trustees, his third stint on the board. He has served since July 2014, having previously been a trustee from 1989-1993 and 2010-2013. He is a past president and current board member of both the Sampson Regional Medical Center Foundation (since 2007) and the Sampson Agri-Exposition Center Board (since 2008). He also served in those capacities for the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce from 1983-2016.
In addition to his other involvements, Fann has served on the advisory council for Select Bank and Trust and New Century Bank since 2003. He has been recognized as Chamber Member of the Year (2001) and Chamber Business Person of the Year (2007). He is a charter member of Clinton-Sampson Rotary Club, involved since its inception in 1993, and was honored as Rotarian of the Year.
“In the Rotary Club, we preach ‘service above self,’” said Fann. “That’s what I’ve tried to live by my entire adult life.”
Fann graduated in June 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree from North Carolina State University and, following graduation, came back home to Sampson.
Following a year as emergency loan supervisor for Farmers Home Administration in Clinton, he went into the car business. Fann was general manager, vice president and co-owner of Clinton Toyota for a decade, from 1980-90, until becoming general manager for Go Toyota from August 1990 until its sale to Deacon Jones in October 2016. He has been sales manager for Deacon Jones Toyota since then.
“I think my business experience separates me from the other candidates — dealing with the public and the pressures that come along with the business itself,” said Fann. “I have a dedication for employees and customers, and I’d like to take that same dedication, commitment and ‘service above self’ mentality to the Clerk of Court’s office.”
Chris’ father, Cranford Fann, served as sheriff of Sampson County from 1972-74, then from 1978-90. Cranford Fann was appointed in 1972 and his son worked on his subsequent election campaigns, including his first in 1974. Chris Fann said he also worked behind the scenes on successful campaigns for Sheriff Jimmy Thornton, City Councilman Steve Stefanovich and Clinton City Schools (CCS) board member Randy Barefoot, as well as co-chairing campaigns for commissioners Jefferson Strickland and Sue Lee.
“I think most people would not know that about me,” said Fann, who noted his family’s long line of local service that includes uncles Bobby Strickland, longtime Salemburg mayor, and Jefferson Strickland, a former Sampson Board of Commissioners chairman. Another uncle, Jasper Boone, served on the CCS board and cousin Neal Strickland was on the Clinton City Council.
But more than anybody else, Fann said he never met a man more committed to service than his father. He recalled the “special memories” during those many sheriff’s campaigns, when his father was at his best, reaching out to the citizens of the county, listening to them, and — most importantly — serving.
“There’s no one I’ve ever met that loved serving Sampson County more than my dad,” said Fann.
Now he wants to do the same.
“I want to take that dedication to employees and customers I’ve had over the years, and continue that as Clerk of Court,” he said.
Fann and wife Kim will celebrate their 40th anniversary in August. Kim was a teacher for both the city and county school systems before retiring after more than three decades. The couple have two daughters, Casi Freeman and Savannah Anders, both of whom are CCS teachers, as well as four grandchildren. Fann attends Grove Park Baptist Church in Clinton, where he is a deacon and Sunday School teacher.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.