Log in Newsletter

Opinion

Bill Kirby Jr.: From Breezewood to the classroom to county commissioner

Former Cumberland County Commissioner Kenneth Edge speaks to family and friends gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday at Luigi's restaurant.
Former Cumberland County Commissioner Kenneth Edge speaks to family and friends gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday at Luigi's restaurant.
Photo by Bill Kirby Jr.
Posted

Kenneth Edge thought his 80th birthday celebration would be a family affair with his wife, Brenda; the couple’s sons and daughter and their spouses; and those seven grandchildren.

Well, they fooled him.

“This is a total surprise,” Edge was saying on Oct. 9, when old friends from his teaching days and his four terms as a member of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners gathered to celebrate at Luigi’s Italian Chophouse and Bar. “I appreciate this so much.”

There were so many familiar faces from his teaching days with Cumberland County Schools, when he served as principal at Stedman Elementary School, Seventy-First High School and later Sherwood Park Elementary. Among them were Lawrence and Ann Buffaloe, Ralph Spivey, Cheryl Lewis, Larry and Betty Neil Parsons, Steve Bates and Jerry Wood.

And former Commissioners Marshall Faircloth and Billy King, who both served with Edge during his four terms from 2000 to 2016. Former Commissioner Virginia Thompson Oliver was there, too.

“He was like a mentor,” Faircloth would say. “You could always count on him.”

He was, Faircloth says, a commissioner who was a man of his word.

On this day of surprise, it came as no surprise to those of us who knew Kenneth Edge long before he ever became an educator, a member of the county school board or a county commissioner.

Little house by the railroad tracks

Edge grew up the only child of Cronzia and Mary Edge in the little white pillbox house by the railroad tracks along Breezewood Avenue. His daddy was an auto mechanic for Bleecker Motors and, later, Yarborough Motors. His mama worked in the cafeteria at Seventy-First High School some but mostly was a homemaker. The old home is long gone, giving way to the tall, brick real estate buildings, dental practices, insurance companies, and, yes, the publishing headquarters for the CityView digital newspaper and CityView Magazine.

But long before that in the 1950s and 1960s, there were the kids of Breezewood. There was Lacy Miller and all his children, and all of Lacy Miller’s beagles barking in the kennels by the railroad tracks. And not to forget Dan, the old brown horse that Lacy Miller’s sons, Greg and Craig, rode up and down the street.

There was Charles and Richard Outlaw at the end of the street, and Mike, Larry, Brian and Susan Windsor across the street, where Linda and Cynthia Kennedy lived. And right where the CityView building stands four stories tall today was the home of Jimmy and Lucy Little, with that big backyard for flag football. Sons Jimmy, Lee and Mike had a go-cart, and it didn’t have a governor to limit the speed.

Life was innocent.

“I remember all the fine people that lived on that street.,” Edge says. “The Millers, Mitchells, Windsors, Penlands, Outlaws, Willifords, Littles, and Thompsons. And just down the street, the Wootens, and around on Arlington, the Tingens and the Meredith sisters. All of the people were like family, worked hard, had fun playing and just being friends.”

Bunce’s Store was nearby for a soft drink and a pack of crackers. All of us remember when the Lone Ranger and Tonto stayed somewhere around 1959 at the old Thompson Cottages Motel, and that week in 1957, when Oral Roberts brought his evangelistic crusade to Raeford Road before there was Highland Centre.

Kenneth Edge was a Seventy-First High School boy, Class of 1960, under Loyd Auman, the principal who cared as much about students as Auman did his own children. Edge was studious and determined. A member of the basketball team, too, under Dwight Miller, and Kenneth Edge could shoot a hoop pure as you ever saw.

“I remember playing basketball in my backyard with Jean Miller, Craig Miller, Tommy Bennett and anyone else that wanted to play,” Edge says. “And playing softball in the street, which was dirt then.”  

Teacher, principal, commissioner

Kenneth Edge would earn his undergraduate degree in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 1964, taking his first teaching job at Guilford High School in Greensboro. He was hired in 1965 by Auman at Seventy-First High School as a teacher and coach. He would receive his master’s degree in education administration in 1972 from East Carolina University.

“Mr. Auman taught me many things too numerous to remember,” Edge says. “One was the four F’s — friendly, fair, firm and frank. That still rings true with how you want to be treated and how most people want to be treated. We had good role models and many others who taught us.”

Edge was principal of Stedman Elementary School from 1974 to 1976, at Seventy-First High School from 1976 to 1982 and at Sherwood Park Elementary from 1982 until his retirement in 1993. He was president of the Cumberland County Schools Principals Association from 1984 to 1985.

He served on the Cumberland County Board of Education from 1994 through 2000, before being elected to the Board of Commissioners and serving three of his four terms as chairman.

“I wanted to be a commissioner because I had seen a lot from an education point, and I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to make Cumberland County a wonderful place to live and raise a family,” he says. “Not knowing at the time that I would be elected president of NCACC and could help the state to be better with the help of other commissioners.”

Edge took the role of a county commissioner seriously. He studied county issues and county needs. Aside from serving three terms as chairman, he was elected in 2011 as president of the N.C. Association of County Commissioners.

During his 16 years on the board, he served with Commissioners Lee Warren, John Henley Jr., Tal Baggett, Breeden Blackwell, Jeannette Council, Billy King, Marshall Faircloth, and Diane Wheatley and current Commissioners Jimmy Keefe, Charles Evans and Glenn Adams.

“Funding found for the school system,” he says, is his proudest accomplishment as a commissioner, along with “hiring Amy Cannon as our county manager and being elected to the state Association of County Commissioners.”

His one regret is that the county did not have a better relationship with the Fayetteville City Council.

“All the other municipalities seemed to work better with us,” he says. “It was hard for those serving, and the public didn’t understand that our responsibilities as defined by the general statutes are different,” he says. “County commissioners are responsible for the human services. Everyone lives in a county, and they provide services along with the state regardless of where you live. You might live in a municipality, but you still live in a county.” 

Family and friends

Kenneth Edge, born Sept. 20, 1942, in Lumberton, looked around at the faces and the memories of those who have been with him on his life’s journey — Brenda McKethan Edge, the woman he fell in love with as a junior in high school and married Aug. 23, 1964, at Campground United Methodist Church; two sons and a daughter; grandchildren; and a lifetime of friends from Wayne Spears, Bill Owen, Jerry Wood, to Lawrence and Ann Buffaloe.

“I look around this room, and I couldn’t have done all the things in my life without my family, my friends and my faith,” says Edge, who now lives in Johnston County. “Life is a continuance of stair-steps, and you sometimes stumble. I look around. I’ve had a most supportive wife, three wonderful kids and seven grandchildren.”

And those friends.

Epilogue

He is the kid from Breezewood Avenue with the blond crew-cut who wanted the best for students, teachers and his county — north, south, east and west. He wanted to make a difference, and he dared to try, with family and so many friends urging him along his way. What would any of us be without friends?

“Friends,” Kenneth Edge would say, “are friends forever.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.

 

Fayetteville, Kenneth Edge, Bill Kirby Jr., Cumberland County

X