Up & Coming Weekly

December 01, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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10 UCW DECEMBER 2-8, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NEWS Holiday wreaths endure despite COVID-19 by JEFF THOMPSON Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy has directed Arlington National Cemetery to reverse course and allow the annual wreath laying at graves by Wreaths Across America. Cemetery officials had said that the annual December wreath laying would be canceled because of COVID, sparking an "outpour- ing" of concern to cemetery officials, as well as to Wreaths Across America, said Karen Worcester, executive director of the organization. rough public donations and volunteers, the nonprofit has placed more than 2 million veterans' wreaths at more than 2,000 cemeteries nationwide, including those in Fayetteville, for nearly three decades. e most well-known of those locations is Arling- ton National Cemetery, where the tradition started in 1992, and Wreaths Across America has had a "collaborative, good relationship" with cemetery officials for 29 years, Worcester said. ere won't be thousands of volunteers this year, and they're work- ing with cemetery officials on the logistics. "We don't know what this will look like, but we do know we will meet the challenge," she said. As for the other cemeteries across the country, conversa- tions are ongoing with those cemetery officials, and the organization has asked that volunteers adhere to local regulations. In some cases, the events may be limited online. In some places, there will be "drive-through" events where people will be handed wreaths. "It's been a difficult year, and we didn't want to have another disappointment," Worcester said. After having de- veloped various options over the last seven months to use at any level of COVID mandate, her team "jumped into action" and had a discussion with the cemetery's leadership team. Worcester said they were contacted by people from all walks of life, asking what they could do to help. Some were angry, some were indignant, some were "very, very sad," she said. "ere are no bad guys. Everybody is trying to take care of everyone," she said. rough this adversity, Worcester is hop- ing the attention will be an opportunity to share the organization's mission throughout the year, which is to remember, honor and teach. Worcester's husband Morrill began the tradition in 1992, after founding the Worcester Wreath Com- pany in Harrington, Maine. at year, the company had a surplus, and he saw it as a way to honor veterans with wreaths at Arlington National Cem- etery. He was inspired by Arlington cemetery when he visited there as a 12-year-old. Worcester read a message from her son Michael, who wrote that remembering the fallen service men and women can't become one of those "used to be activities" that fade away because of the pandemic. "Do you think for one moment that any of the brave men and women would have thought twice before running into battle?" he wrote. "Why would it even be an option to take a year off from remember- ing and honoring them?" Next generation of leaders could come from new commissioners by KARI TRAVIS Republicans won a strategic victory on Election Day in North Carolina, claiming several formerly Democratic county commission boards and adding to the pool of candidates they'll groom for positions in higher public offices. Politicians aren't born. ey are trained — of- ten in small roles and in rural parts of the state. Democrats and Republicans strategize carefully years before an election, preparing lower-level of- ficials to rise through the levels of state and federal government. So while it's easy to focus solely on the outcome of the marquee elections, local results offer a peek around the corner. A look at the lineup of minor-league politicians who may become major players in just a few years. is year, 308 county commission seats were up for grabs. About one-third of them were decided by primary elections and appointments before Election Day, the N.C. Association of County Commissioners said in a Nov. 17 news release. One hundred and five of the state's 587 commis- sioners are new — about 18% of total seats. Repub- licans will lead 61 of the 100 county boards. Demo- crats will hold 37. When adjusted for population, however, about half of North Carolinians now reside in counties with Democratic commissions and half in counties with Republican ones. Majority control will flip from Democrat to Republican in six counties, the association said. Caswell, Franklin, Guilford, Lee, Montgomery, and Richmond counties turned from blue to red. Just two county boards are split evenly between Republi- cans and Democrats. Control of 61 commission boards will set a record for Republicans. Democrats held 89 county com- missions in 1976. Republicans then began gaining ground in fits and starts. But it took until the 2010s for the GOP to hold a majority of county commis- sion boards. e wins give Republicans a strategic edge, says Mitch Kokai, senior political analyst at the John Locke Foundation. "at's good news for Republicans because it is helpful for them as they train the next batch of state legislators and run for statewide office," Kokai said. Plenty of heavy-hitting North Carolina politicians started in local roles. Republican U.S. Sen. om Tillis began his career in 2002, on the board of commissioners for the town of Cornelius. From there, Tillis ascended into state politics. He ran for the N.C. House in 2006 and was re-elected three times. In 2010, Republicans won control of the House for the first time since 1998, and Tillis was named speaker. He served in the role until 2014, when he ran for and won a U.S. Senate seat. Tillis recently won re-election to the Senate, edg- ing Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham by two percentage points. Josh Dobson, North Carolina's newly elected labor commissioner, also got his start in local politics. Before running for the N.C. House in 2014, Dobson was a commissioner for McDowell County. From there, the Republican became a member of the state House. He announced his candidacy for labor commissioner in 2019, and he won the race against Democrat Jessica Holmes — a Wake county com- missioner — by just one point. e trend has a long history. Republican Gov. Jim Martin served three terms as a Mecklenburg County commissioner in the 1960s. Martin also served as a president of the state commissioners association. Twenty percent of the 2020-21 General Assembly is made up of former county commissioners, the association said. Newly elected members of the "county caucus" include: •Bertie County Commissioner Ernestine Baze- more (N.C. Senate, District 3) •Alamance County Commissioner Amy Galey (N.C. Senate, District 24) •Former Craven County Commissioner Steve Tyson (N.C. House, District 3) •Former Wake County Commissioner Abe Jones (N.C. House, District 38) •Former Cumberland County Commissioner Diane Wheatley (N.C. House, District 43) •Harnett County Commissioner Howard Penny (N.C. House, District 53) •Richmond County Commissioner Ben Moss (N.C. House, District 66) •Former Davidson County Commissioner Sam Watford (N.C. House, District 80) •Former Buncombe County Commissioner Tim Moffitt (N.C. House, District 117) •Haywood County Commissioner Mark Pless (N.C. House, District 118) •Macon County Commissioner Karl Gillespie (N.C. House, District 120) JEFF THOMPSON, Reporter. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. Wreaths Across America has been placing wreaths on veterans' graves at Arlington National Cemetery since 1992. KARI TRAVIS, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200.

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