On an evening when The Greater Fayetteville Chamber would reach out to the Cumberland County delegation that brought more than $400 million to the county in the state budget, Rep. John Szoka sent a powerful message to the Fayetteville City Council and the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed the $25.9 billion budget into law on Nov. 18.
“If you work together for the greater good, you can work together and make things happen,” Szoka told those gathered Thursday at the Yarborough-Bank Theater of the Airborne & Special Operations Museum. “I challenge the City Council, the county commissioners and any body of a board to work together. We need to be an example for the state, and I dare say, the nation.”
Rep. Billy Richardson - who led the delegation of Reps. Marvin Lucas, Diane Wheatley, Szoka and Sens. Ben Clark and Kirk deViere - said the community should not be thanking the delegation.
“We should be thanking you,” Richardson said. “It’s you in this community who sent us to Raleigh and had faith in us to do our jobs. This community is so special. We should celebrate not just what we did in Raleigh, but we should celebrate the people of this community.”
Funding included more than $163 million for Fayetteville State University, more than $64 million for city and county government to include Hope Mills and Spring Lake, $27 million for military and veterans, and $87 million for capital investments to include the Cape Fear Valley Health System.
“Politics is hard because we divide into ideological groups,” Richardson said. “Sometimes we are so busy trying to keep our jobs, we forget to do our jobs. These five people were not going to try to keep their jobs, and instead do their jobs. They are your heroes and I hope and pray they get to keep their jobs or jobs they are aspiring to because they deserve to be public servants.
“We took a chance together. We dared to try.
“Let’s not run from our problems, but accept the challenges,” Richardson said. “Let’s never forget what we can make for our children and grandchildren to live here.”
Lucas said working with the delegation was his proudest moment in his 22 years in the state legislature.
“It was bringing back the bacon,” he said. “We don’t have the resources like the Research Triangle Park or the banking industry in Charlotte. But we had the grit. We were able to bring some money home.”
DeViere said the work of the delegation was an investment in the people of this community.
“This community for far too long was overlooked in this state,” said deViere, who helped lead the way in tax exemptions for retired military veterans. “This investment is transformational for this community. We cannot take our eye off the ball.”
Clark said that as negotiations neared an end for the state budget, the delegation realized it could make a difference for this community and surrounding communities.
“I expect you all to step up to the plate,” he said, “and deliver what you’ve been given.”
Wheatley, the freshman delegate, wanted money for all entities large and small.
“I wanted to make sure all of those little communities got what they needed, too,” she said of Falcon, Eastover and Wade.
Tammy Thurman, chairwoman of the chamber’s board of directors, thanked the delegation for making this the “Can Do” county of North Carolina.
Shari Fiveash, the chamber president and chief executive officer, said, “From the bottom of our hearts, we say, ‘Thank you.’ ”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at email@example.com or 910-624-1961.