Business approach needed
It’s easy to say public service runs in Chet Mann’s family.
Mann’s grandfather, Tommy Mann Sr., served on Sanford City Council, then the Board of Aldermen, for nearly two decades and eventually the city’s mayor in the 1960s. His father, Tommy Mann Jr., held “practically every unelected office” in Sanford. Now the third Mann hopes to hold the city’s highest title.
“My granddaddy was a (Great) Depression-era kid who believed in hard work,” Mann said. “... He was also big in the Boy Scouts. He instilled that Boy Scout motto. If you are going to take from the community, you have to give back.”
Mann, a local mortgage banker who has served in a variety of positions for civic and business organizations, is challenging Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive for the mayoral seat. Mann and Olive, both Democrats, will appear on the upcoming Sept. 10 municipal primary ballot; because there are no Republican challengers, the winner will take the seat in December.
“I feel led right to it,” he said. “I think right now we need strong business-oriented leadership. The role of the mayor can help those boards. It can education. It can help economic development. The mayor role was the most likely place to begin to move Sanford forward.”
Sanford is at a crossroads, Mann said, providing quality city services at a reasonable cost, supporting downtown Sanford and recruiting people to live and work in the area will all be important aspect of the city’s future, he said.
“I hope people will appreciate what I am doing and what I am trying to do,” he said. “I hope they will get behind me and encourage and inspire others like-minded, business, young people to serve.”
The city must access its inventory and assets to determine where it hopes to be in future, Mann said. Looking at the economic return on investments in the community and carving niches for Sanford will be vital to improve the outlook of Sanford, he said.
Outside his work as branch manager of PrimeLending, Mann said he’s an avid Tar Heel fan and enjoys hunting, hiking and fishing with his two sons, 15-year-old T.C. and 12-year-old Elliot.
“Of lately it’s been perpetuating my son’s love for music and his bands,” Mann said. “And my other son’s love for sports and coaching his youth sports. That has dominated my time, but it’s all good and I love it.”
Mann is a former Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors chairman and current chairman of the Lee County Education Foundation and Central Carolina Community College Trustee, although he and three other trustees are suing the state and the college after being removed by a recent law which changed the board’s structure. A court injunction allows Mann and the other three trustees to continue to serve at this time. This background in community service, he said, prepares him for public service.
“It certainly helps,” he said. “I’ve made a decision to serve and volunteer with organizations that mostly work with families, children and education. I believe, and my family, has always believed, that education is the key.”
Sanford is too small to be disjointed, he said. Resources should be pooled and the various governmental entities, boards and commissions should be working together to move Sanford into a new era.
“For me, one of the reasons I am being encouraged to run and one of the reasons why I can be effective as mayor is that the city needs to be run more business like,” Mann said. “I think we need to look at the city (mayor) as a CEO and its council as a board of managers of the corporation. We need to be more professional and impactful in the things that we do.”