What NowOn Nov. 24, I wrote about how our local elected officials in Fayetteville and Cumberland County could learn a lot about cooperation and teamwork, recently demonstrated by our Cumberland County Legislative Delegation led by Chairman Rep. Billy Richardson.

Undoubtedly, congratulations are in order to him and the other members of the delegation, Sen. Kirk deViere, Sen. Ben Clark, Rep. John Szoka, Rep. Diane Wheatley and Rep. Marvin Lucas, for their hard work and perseverance in passing North Carolina's first budget since 2018. Thanks to their efforts Fayetteville and Cumberland County will receive $412 million for projects and programs that will impact the residents of Cumberland County for decades. This money will address local infrastructure needs and funding for health care, K-12 education, broadband expansion, Fayetteville Technical Community College, Fayetteville State University expansion projects, expanded medical research, etc. The tax policy portion of the new budget is pro-growth and lowers personal income tax and corporate income tax rates. And, thanks to the perseverance of Szoka and Wheatley, who were co-sponsors of House Bill 83, North Carolina Veterans' military pensions will no longer be taxed. HB 83 is a massive win for both our veterans and our state. According to Szoka, North Carolina will become more attractive to military retirees from all over the country and aid in retaining retirees here in our community. Another major budget highlight and a massive win for Fayetteville is the $59.6 million earmarked for the North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center. Here we have another example of teamwork, cooperation and perseverance by project Chairman Mac Healy, Co-Chair Mary Lynn Bryan, and members of the North Carolina Civil War and Reconstruction History Center's board of directors.

This state-run venue will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to our community; create jobs, and infuse millions of dollars of economic growth and development. Undoubtedly, at $412 million, this community has never achieved success of this magnitude.

Why and how did this happen, you may ask? Because, today, we are fortunate to have in place a dedicated local elected Cumberland County legislative delegation that understands the importance and value of teamwork. But, what about tomorrow? With the new district changes and the prospect of an additional Congressional District, our Cumberland County delegation and many of our city and county elected leadership will change, producing some new faces. Like many others, my question and concerns are whether these elected newcomers will embrace the same spirit of teamwork and cooperation when it comes to "doing the right things, for the right reasons" for the residents of Cumberland County; this is a very valid concern. After all, now that we have gained $412 million for improving our community, we must be confident that the people responsible for spending it are competent. They must have the talent, intelligence and common sense to execute their duties prudently and for their intended purposes.
The haunting question is, will future leadership follow the bipartisan examples of our current leadership by working and cooperating to better the city, county and state? Or will they retreat to the safe havens of their self-serving "what's in it for me" silos? Only time will tell. We have much at stake here. Cumberland County is losing population, and more importantly, we are losing our young professionals to other more progressive cities. Making the community better and serving all the citizens of Cumberland County diligently and honestly should be the highest of all priorities. No one political affiliation has all the knowledge, talent or intelligence needed to move a community into prosperity. It takes everyone. It takes teamwork. As demonstrated by our current bipartisan legislative delegation, it takes working together for a common cause.

Now is the time to pay attention to those seeking elected leadership positions. The 2022 elections have been delayed again until May 17, 2022. We should start now vetting candidates and ultimately vote for those who have a platform to better the quality of life in our community and not be just elected placeholders. We must elect honest and trustworthy leaders who understand the importance of transparency and citizen involvement. With $412 million, we have an excellent opportunity to transform Fayetteville and Cumberland County into a prosperous "Can Do" community, but only if we all work together. We must demand that our city and county elected officials work together. We must demand positive, cooperative actions and not empty promises.

The future of the Fayetteville and Cumberland County communities is in our hands. As demonstrated over the last decade, you can be assured that we will ultimately get the kind of leadership and local government we deserve. Let's all hope that we deserve the best.

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