Lea Praised, Interim Manager Named at County Board Meeting
Accolades for two outgoing county officials, the naming of a new interim county manager, and a decision on live streaming characterized Tuesday's regular meeting of the county board.
County Commissioner Tim Lea and County Manager Cary McSwain are both leaving their positions in the coming weeks. Politicians, veterans' group representatives, board members and county employees offered speeches of praise and appreciation during Tuesday's regular meeting of the county commissioners.
The meeting marked Lea's final appearance as a member of the board after he chose not to run for reelection following eight years of service. He will be replaced by Randy Saunders as the county's District IV representative in December.
Sen. Harris Blake and Rep. Jamie Boles each presented Lea with plaques from their respective branches of government.
"Occasionally, I see you (board members) agree on something, but in the Senate we never agree," Blake said. "I also brought you a lapel pin that has been worn in the Senate. If you make it to the Senate one day, you can take this with you and wear it."
Boles next approached the podium and waited until Blake had left the room before he spoke.
"Now that the Senate's gone we can get something done," he quipped to laughter from the assembly. "I didn't bring a cake," he said in reference to food presented by a local veteran's group. "I can't bake, and I don't think you want my merchandise," he said to more laughter. Boles is the owner of a funeral home in Southern Pines.
Michael Gast of American Legion Post 12 thanked Lea, a Marine Corps veteran, for his service to area veterans' groups. Vietnam Veterans of Moore County Chapter 966 President Chuck Spelman also read a statement of gratitude.
"Thank you, Tim, for all you stand for and for the assistance the veterans were able to acquire through your continued effort and unselfish drive to serve those who needed you when the call of duty came.
"It has been a privilege and an honor to know you as a person as well as a commissioner."
Spelman then approached the podium and stood before Lea, where the two saluted. "Semper Fi, Marine," Spelman said.
Commissioners' Chairman Larry Caddell congratulated Lea for his hard work.
"We haven't always agreed, but that's ok" he said. "Look at what we've accomplished, with 90 percent of our votes a unanimous 5-0. That's what this is all about.
"I don't know anyone who's worked harder, put in more time, or attended more meetings than Tim Lea. I prayed for this group five years ago, I've prayed ever since, and I will pray in the future for him and his family. I know that whatever he does, he will give it all he's got."
Caddell also presented a plaque to Lea on behalf of the board.
McSwain, who will retire at the end of this month, received similar treatment from the board and from county employees.
Assistant County Manager Ken Larking spoke on behalf of the county employees under McSwain.
"We would like to thank Cary for all the work he has done," Larking said. "I learned a lot about management, and the staff appreciates your service."
McSwain complimented the staff in return.
"We have a fantastic staff with a strong work ethic," he said. "They are well trained, have a great initiative, and are of a culture characterized by innovation and creativity. I am very confident they will carry on what we've set in place."
In other news, the board took action on a long awaited decision regarding McSwain's temporary replacement.
Jim Westbrook, a former interim city manager in Fayetteville who has worked in Moore County governmental departments on several occasions, was unanimously approved by the board to take over as interim county manager.
"I recently met with Jim Westbrook, and he said he was definitely interested in the position," Commissioner Craig Kennedy told the board. "He is ready to begin on Nov. 26."
McSwain said that Westbrook is very familiar with county government.
"When we needed an upgrade to our 10-year capital improvement plan, we asked Jim to work on the plan with us," McSwain said. During that same period we needed a Public Works director, and he did that. We lost our assistant county manager, so he filled both positions for a short term.
"When we had a need for a finance director, he did that as well. I think he will do an excellent job for the county."
In other action, the board voted to allow the live streaming of their twice-monthly meetings in a 4-1 decision with Kennedy dissenting.
"I just don't see the benefit," he said. "Earlier in the meeting our interim county attorney Jon Maxwell said that there was a chance that a small percentage of the public could disrupt the meeting by coming in, using bad language and making a scene, all live on the Internet. I hope that doesn't happen."
Caddell gave Lea the last word of the evening after he and the other board members made brief comments of congratulations and praise to their outgoing colleague.
"At one point we have all had personal relationships with each other," Lea said. "But as they say, friends can't always be in business together, and friends can't be in politics together. But our interaction has been hardy. I applaud the board and I wish you godspeed. I know you will continue to do what is in the best interest for this county."
The board meets again on Dec. 3.
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