Very soon, confetti will fly, the crystal ball in Times Square will drop and midnight kisses will seal the start of another new year. Closer to home, locals will enjoy watching the acorn in Raleigh or the pickle in Mt. Olive descend. As we take part in the New Year’s festivities, we cannot help but reflect on the past year, the good and the bad, and earnestly hope and pray for better things to come in 2013. As many resolve to lose a few pounds, quit smoking, or do something that scares them, a few of Sampson County’s leaders have, not necessarily resolutions, but heartfelt hopes for their beloved community.
Representing Sampson County in the N.C. Senate, Brent Jackson of Autryville “hopes that we can continue the path to economic recovery and job growth that we have been working on in Raleigh the past two years. We’ve made progress, but I look forward to making an even better North Carolina and the positive impacts it would have for Sampson and surrounding counties.”
Clinton mayor Lew Starling also has economic development on his mind, hoping that the new year brings additional industry to Clinton. “We’ve got a lot of prospects that we are looking at,” says Starling. “We also want to improve our water and sewer systems and just continue to clean up the town, making it the best it can be.”
Starling adds that the past year brought positive changes to the city. “I think one of the best things about 2012 for Clinton was completing the third phase of downtown. We got our art up and the jail site was cleaned up.”
While Starling admits that there were some challenges in 2012 as well, he looks back on the past year fondly, mainly due to the people of Clinton and Sampson County. “Of course, there were challenges with the finances and the budget but we worked through it. Overall, we had a good year and the main reason for that is because we have good employees and good citizens.”
For local law enforcement, reflecting on 2012 can be painful. “We’ve had a lot of tragic situations in the past year. We had the shooting of the 4-year-old child, the shooting of the 13-year-old by her father, and that’s just in our area. Of course, there was also the school shooting in Connecticut which is still very much on everyone’s mind,” says Sheriff Jimmy Thornton. “It’s sad that we live in a time and place, even in our own area, where children are targets. Like the elderly, children unfortunately fall prey to violence far to often.”
Looking ahead to the new year, Thornton adds, “If there has to be violence in the new year, I hope that children are not a part of it; there’s no sense in that. “
Despite the tragic events of 2012, Thornton finds positives in the past year, one being the county’s agriculture business. “Agriculture is our county’s main industry and it has helped sustain this county during this past year; we did survive 2012 and agriculture was a big part of that,” says Thornton. “I think everyone is concerned about the economy. With that in mind, I hope we have a prosperous year in 2013. It’s imperative that we support local agriculture because it does help keep this county going.”
As he anticipates the new year, Thornton is also thankful for a local community that is strong and has the power to make Sampson County better than ever. “We are fortunate that our community does come together and rallies to make our county better. It’s critical that we take a stand to make our community better because no one else is going to do it.”
Likewise, Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley reflects on the past year with much thankfulness and appreciation. “Looking back on 2012, we’re grateful for the support we’ve had from our citizens and government officials. We’re thankful to have such a special relationship with the citizens. Personally, I am thankful for the police staff, for all their hard work and the sacrifices they make on a daily basis.”
Tilley admits that “there was a lot going on in 2012; it was a busy year and we hope it’s not quite as busy in 2013.”
Among the things Tilley is looking forward to in 2013 is the Police Department receiving their national accreditation. Additionally, “we hope to develop partnerships with local businesses and government agencies to enhance our education and community policing efforts.”
Lastly, Tilley wishes everyone in Sampson County “a safe and happy new year.”
Given what our community and our nation has been faced with this past year, it is the simple things, like safety and happiness, that all are hoping for in 2013.
Rochelle Stuart, director of the Sampson Crisis Center, agrees and simply hopes that “it gets better.”
“It’s been a tough year for us. The need has tripled for food, utilities, everything. However, I have to say that something that really stands out about the past year is the strong support we’ve had from the community, inside and out,” says Stuart. “We hope we continue to have such good support. To anyone who has helped us in any way, we are very appreciative and thankful from the bottom of our hearts. “
Despite the challenges that came with 2012, Sampson County leaders remain optimistic. They are thankful for the past year’s positive events, are determined to learn from the hard ones, and are anticipating 2013 and its promise of a new start.