February 24, 2010
This week, Pinehurst lost a dedicated public servant when Mayor George Lane died. I lost a friend.
That may sound strange. Typically, journalists are suspicious of politicians and politicians are suspicious of journalists. Journalists are always trying to get the big story. Politicians are always trying to push some agenda. Usually, journalists and politicians keep each other at arm's length. They go together like oil and water.
That wasn't the case for George and me. We had an understanding with each other. I know I had great respect for him, and while I can't speak for him, he always seemed to have respect for me.
I still remember the day I took over the Pinehurst "beat." I had been an intern for about a month and was wide-eyed when I walked into the council's conference room for a work session.
George quickly put me at ease. He shook my hand and welcomed me warmly, which was typical of him.
For the next year and a half, we got along great. He knew where I was coming from. I knew where he was coming from.
In this business, there are certain phone calls you dread making. Some people just don't trust you or don't want to talk to you. Some will talk but are evasive.
I always liked calling George because he would shoot straight with me. If he couldn't comment, he'd say so. If he could, he'd give me a direct - often blunt - answer. No frills, no fluff.
But most of all, I enjoyed George's sense of humor. He could make a painful, three-hour council meeting go by a lot faster.
Just a couple of months ago, the Pinehurst Village Council held a retreat at the Pinehurst fire station. Much of the afternoon session was dedicated to discussing the village's approach to water, -especially the Wagram proposal, which George passionately supported.
So I'm sitting there, trying to transcribe the conversation, which rambled on for about an hour. A couple of times, George paused before he spoke, and asked me to "relax my pen," his way of telling me not quote him.
Each time he said it, I replied that it was an open meeting and everything was fair game.
The last time he did it, I laughed and replied, "George, you're killing me today!" The room broke out in laughter.
After the meeting, he shook my hand and told me that on reflection, it was OK if I decided to print his comments. All I could do was smile.
Back in December, just before Christmas, I was covering a village parks and recreation public input meeting. George just sat down next to me.
As the residents completed a survey on what they wanted to see the parks and rec department do in the future, we started talking. I told him I missed dinner at my parents' house. He was just going to heat up some soup at home. So we decided to go to dinner at Player's in the Theater Building. That's a meal I'll always cherish.
There, I really got to get to know George outside Village Hall. Of course, everyone in the joint knew him and came to the table pay respects. Someone even picked up our tab.
We talked for probably close to two hours, about everything. I heard all about his life before Pinehurst. We talked about sports.
It happened to be the day Kansas football coach Mark Mangino was fired for allegedly abusing his players.
"If the media were like this when I was coaching, I'd probably be in jail," he said with a laugh.
We walked across the parking lot after dinner to our cars. As we parted ways, George remarked that he loved the Christmas music echoing through the village center.
That was George. There are some who -didn't see eye-to-eye with him on every issue. He could be opinionated. But I don't think anyone could deny his love for Pinehurst and Moore County, and that he genuinely had the community's best interest at heart.
I miss him already.
Contact John Krahnert III at (910) 693-2473 or by e-mail at email@example.com.