It has been one of my greatest honors to serve the people of Cumberland County over the last two terms in the North Carolina Senate. I thank you for trusting me with your voice. I am thankful for the loving support of my wife Jenny and son Grey who have sacrificed family time so I could serve.
As I look back over the last 4 years at what we accomplished together, I am reminded that what’s most important are the people I serve. While I can talk about historic funding levels or new laws, I’d first like to talk about the people whose lives I was able to touch and in return, touched mine. People like Angelina and Gerald who didn’t have adequate housing for their families but now do; and Carrie, a veteran and mother, facing eviction because she had lost her job during the pandemic but now lives in a better home with a new job; and Ginger and hundreds of people in our county navigating the state unemployment system for help during COVID; and the healthcare business owners who were not receiving reimbursement for their services who with our help, broke through the industry red tape and began receiving overdue payments; and the many families and seniors that we helped through the state’s slow-moving hurricane recovery program, RebuildNC. My senate office handled over 4,000 constituent issues, and I am thankful to my staff and agencies who assisted me in doing my #1 job as your senator – helping people.
When elected, I said I would always represent you in Raleigh. I vowed to put people first and politics second. It was important to me that Cumberland County was relevant at the state level – that we had a strong voice. I am proud of the relationships, both at home and in Raleigh, that allowed me to be in the middle of hard conversations that moved our state forward.
These conversations included reopening our schools after the COVID pandemic began to subside and a vaccine was available. I took a hard stand, one that was against many in my party, including the governor. Through bipartisan discussions, we created a compromise the governor and general assembly supported which allowed schools to reopen and put children back into the classroom. We also had conversations around justice reform which led to bipartisan bills improving policing and expanding expungement programs; bipartisan COVID relief bills; and state hurricane recovery funding.
The state budget was another test of “people over politics” after Medicaid expansion was taken off the table as part of the discussion and negotiations had stalled with the governor and republican leadership. I reached across the aisle and worked with Republicans and other fellow brave Democrats to find a compromise for a state budget for the first time in 4 years. The $25.9B budget included an increase in public education funding; an increase in pay for teachers and state employees; the largest investment in PFAS protection and research; significant broadband investments; tax cuts for working families; and investments in childcare, early childhood education, and mental health. And so much more.
I am proud of my work in this budget to lower tuition to $500 a semester at FSU through NC Promise, which will afford more young people access to a college degree without the fear of massive student debt. As a veteran, I am also proud to have championed eliminating the state income tax on military pensions- an incredible way to honor our veterans and encourage them to make our state their final home.
I worked diligently to ensure Cumberland County was not left behind. I helped bring back close to $500M to our community over the last 2 years, including funding for construction at FSU, FTCC and Cape Fear Valley; direct support for CFRT, Civil War & Reconstruction Center, and MLK Jr. Park; investments in local governments including funding homeless centers, affordable housing, and pedestrian crosswalks and sidewalks, and stormwater protection; investment in our rape crisis center, community health centers and substance abuse programs; funding for sexual assault nurse examiners training; support for our fire departments; investments in our parks and recreation area across the county; and millions of dollars to support minority businesses.
As I leave office, I hope you see someone that fought for you every day; someone who did what was best for the people in his community; someone who was more concerned about the people he represented than keeping his senate seat; and someone that was at the table and worked across the aisle for solutions.
What is next? Many people have asked me this question. I plan to spend more time with my son who is growing up too quickly and my wife who has shouldered the load for our family while I served. I plan to focus on the growth of my company which many times took a backseat. I will still be in the community but maybe not at so “present” for everything. As for elected office – we will see what the future holds, but Jenny does say that “service is in my DNA”. I do recognize and know that we have God’s hand on us in this journey so we will continue to trust Him and see where he leads me and our family.
Thank you again for trusting me with your voice. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to serve you. God Bless.