Thumbs up and down

May. 11, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

THUMBS DOWN: Vote-buying

Whispers of vote-buying in Lee County have been around for a long, long time. The Lee County Board of Elections held a hearing this past week on the subject following a complaint filed by Lee County Commissioner Jim Womack and agreed to send information regarding the complaint to the state’s board of elections and the local district attorney’s office. The hearing (detailed in a story in Thursday’s edition) was contentious, but what’s important to note is that Womack’s particular complaints date back to 2010.

Accusations of vote-buying, however, date back even farther. Prior to 2010, a candidate for Lee County Commissioner told The Herald in an off-the-record interview that he was approached and given the opportunity to buy several hundred votes at a cost of between $5 and $10 each. The candidate didn’t want to go on the record for various reasons, but he turned down the offer to purchase votes. He later told The Herald that his opponent did purchase the votes — which were enough to give his opponent the seat.

Was the candidate’s story true? Who knows what to believe, but because this involves a felony, and because specific names have been provided to the appropriate agencies, maybe this time we’ll get a better explanation of decisions by investigating bodies.

THUMBS UP: Tony Lett & Buck Harris

Long-time broadcaster Charlie Gaddy of WRAL-TV fame was the star attraction at this week’s Small Business Banquet, but local honorees also got to share the spotlight. Tony Lett, whose family has owned and operated Lee Builder Mart for many years, was named the 2013 Small Business Advocate of the Year in honor of his efforts toward workforce development. And insurance agent Buck Harris, a third-generation head of Harris and Co. Insurance, was named the 2013 Small Business Person of the Year.

Both men are involved in more than just business – they’re community builders, volunteers and servants who are keeping the tradition of business excellence and community contributions alive. We congratulate both for what they mean to their businesses and to the Lee County area.

THUMBS UP: Teacher of the Year

Patrice McNeill’s joy at being selected “Teacher of the Year” for the Lee County Schools system was itself a joy to see. The SanLee Middle School language arts teacher shed tears when she received the honor this week — the use of a free car for a year, a cash prize and more certainly helped with the excitement quotient — and told those attending the ceremony she was better at speaking in front of a classroom than a room full of adults anyway.

But the best thing McNeill said is something so many teachers in our school systems can say: “I’m very happy that I get to do things that I love every day.”

As was noted in our story about the award this week, McNeill began her career in 1993 at Greenwood Elementary School, where she spent five years teaching fourth and fifth grade. She taught for a year in the Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program at Tramway Elementary School, and in 1999, she began teaching middle school. McNeill taught at East Lee Middle School for nine years before moving in 2008 to SanLee Middle School — when the school opened — as a sixth-grade English teacher and head of the school’s language arts department.

A graduate of Meredith College, McNeill also has a master of education degree from Campbell University. She’s been a member of the school’s leadership team since her arrival in 2008, and she has served as an Art of Collaboration Educator with the North Carolina Museum of Art since the year before that.

Congratulations to McNeill and each of the other district nominees for “Teacher of the Year.”