Dr. Jeanette Council stands on the precipice of an historic 2009.
    The freshly minted chairman of the Cumberland County Commissioners has achieved a position of status that she — an African-American woman — says she never would have believed possible 25 years ago.
And the fact that the president elect is also of African-American descent has been the icing on her New Year’s cake.
    “I have always been positive about changes in politics and society,’ said Council, “but I never dreamed all this would have happened in America in 2008. When Obama spoke in 2004 we were all mesmerized by his ideas and to see his vision come to fruition has been a wonderful thing.
    {mosimage}“As for myself, being elected chairman of the Cumberland County Commissioners, of course it’s an honor to selected by your peers,” said Council. “But at the same time, it is an awesome, awesome responsibility to represent the views of the commissioners and to make the right decisions in doing so.”
    While Council is pleased and optimistic about the recent displays of equality shown in the national and local political processes, she is concerned about a number of issues that will confront the county in 2009, citing the economy and clean water as priorities.
    “We don’t know what funds the state government will withhold,” said Council. “So of course the economy is an uncertain thing. And we’ve got to concentrate on providing clean water forevery one of the citizens living in Cumberland County.”
    The cost of a countywide water system has been estimated at $650,000. Four of the counties bordering Cumberland — Robeson, Harnett, Bladen and Hoke — have countywide water systems. However, those counties are so poor they have received substantial aid from the state to implement those systems — something Cumberland County may not qualify for because of its tax revenues. It is unknown at this time where Cumberland County would raise the funds for a countywide water system, though the commissioners have hired a Lumberton engineering firm to look into the feasibility of such a system.
    In addition to the water problem and the state of the economy, other hot-button issues Council says are confronting the county in 2009 include completing the I-295 loop and improving emergency services at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center.
    “Right now, we want to provide an instant level of service to our citizens because of the state of the economy,” said Council.
    Council’s fellow commissioner, Breeden Blackwell, also agrees that the water issue and economy are at the forefront of the county’s concerns in 2009.
    “Of course, the water situation is something that’s got to be addressed,” said Blackwell. “I would ask the citizens of Cumberland County to be patient with us on this issue.
    “We usually don’t get much, if any, money from the state, so we can’t plan on any extra funds,” said Blackwell. “We’re going to have to tighten out belts across the board economically, but that doesn’t mean any employee layoffs. But everybody needs to cut back.”

Contact Tim Wilkins at

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