McLaurin: Much work remains to be done

Outgoing senator: ‘I do not plan to rest now’

As this term in the North Carolina Senate comes to a close, I want to thank you for the privilege of serving and working for you.

Gene McLaurin

Gene McLaurin

While in office my priorities have not wavered — to be a strong voice for our five county rural district, to support policies to help create jobs here at home, to provide a quality education for our children and grandchildren, to help those among us who through no fault of their own deserve our assistance, to fight for clean drinking water for our citizens, and last but not least — to be a good steward of your taxpayer dollars.  Getting to know you — small business people, teachers, farmers, seniors, veterans, young emerging leaders, working families and people from all walks of life — and serving you has been the honor of a lifetime. I am truly grateful for your support, trust, encouragement and friendship.

Thank you for voicing your opinions to me and for sharing your hopes, dreams and concerns.  I’ll never forget the many hours spent in classrooms listening to teachers describe the challenges they face, students telling me about their dreams for the future, seniors worried about health care, veterans unable to receive the services they deserve for their courageous service to our nation, and average ordinary people sharing how hard it is to make ends meet in this still struggling economy.  Hearing your stories and concerns has made me a better legislator and a better person.

I’m proud of my record of service where I worked in a bipartisan manner to support and advocate for you.  In every decision and vote, my guiding principles were my conscience and my constituents.   As a small businessman, I proudly supported reducing unnecessary regulations and assisting farmers with common sense legislation.  I stood up for open government by requiring that public funds and public information be disclosed in a more transparent way and I was a strong advocate for our public schools and teachers.  As a product of North Carolina public schools, community college and one of our fine public universities, I understand the key to economic prosperity and good jobs is a quality education.

I was honored to be recognized by the North Carolina League of Municipalities with the Community Champion Award for my support of cities and towns during the recent legislative session.  I was a strong voice for local government and local control and supported many projects- everything from grants and assistance from state government to dam assessments to protecting property values to supporting economic development projects which created jobs to finding funds for highway upgrades to educational improvements to special cost-savings projects.  I’ve stood up for everyday citizens needing help navigating through the bureaucracy of our state agencies. I’ve stood up on the Senate floor and been a voice for people who were being ignored even though they had legitimate concerns about their family’s health due to possible threats to water quality right here in our district.

I am a positive and optimistic person, but I feel it important to share a few disappointments which will now be some of my priorities going forward:

* Because we are politically polarized in our state and nation, we are in desperate need of an independent nonpartisan committee to draw boundaries for state legislative and congressional districts. Politicians whose ultimate goal is self-preservation should not be in charge of this process. Elected officials should be motivated to work together, build consensus, and serve all people so that everyone can have a voice.

* Public education should be our top priority in North Carolina.  We should pay our teachers more, at least the national average, instead of making unfulfilled promises. Our veteran teachers deserve to be rewarded for their service and commitment and should not be left out of pay scale changes. Our young people should view education as a worthy career where they can support their families and be fairly compensated for the impact they have on our children.  It is an embarrassment for our state to be ranked near the bottom of the nation in per pupil spending and teacher pay.

* Our public schools need more funding for career and technical education. Every student will not go on to a four-year university.  We have community colleges standing ready to teach our health professionals, brick masons, automotive mechanics, welders and more.

* State sovernment needs greater openness and transparency in how we account for your hard-earned tax dollars.  Every legislator should be required to hold a public hearing in their home district before casting a vote on the $21 billion state budget that affects everyone of us.

* Protecting our drinking water should not be an afterthought in North Carolina.  Appropriate regulations need to be in place to protect consumers.  Powerful large corporations should not control our policies.

* Our rural economies need to be better promoted and targeted rural economic incentives should be in place to help attract better jobs for our citizens.

* Tax reform policies should help working families and small businesses, instead of providing loopholes and giveaways for wealthy individuals and large corporations.

These and other goals will continue to be a part of my focus in the future.  My young grandchildren, Holden and Laurin deserve to grow up in a state that is positive, visionary and forward thinking.  Sadly, in my view, many recent decisions and policies in Raleigh have set us on a path that is regressive and fails to lift up our middle class and those at the lower ends of the economic scale.  Many of these recent decisions and policies have damaged North Carolina’s reputation as a state that has been a leader in education, research and protection of our natural resources.

As you know, public service has been an important part of my life.  Having served as a mayor for 15 years and state senator for two years, I do not plan to rest now.  There are too many unmet needs in our communities, so you can depend on me to be active and open to new opportunities to serve and to work for the best interests of our community and our state.  I challenge you to join me and find a way to use your God-given talents to help one another and to help make our communities a better place to live, work and raise our families.  We must work together to be the change we want to see in our communities and in our state.

I learned my values from living and working in this district — faith in God, hard work, personal responsibility, service to others, and a belief that we must give our children and grandchildren a shot at a future more prosperous than our own.  These values will continue to guide me as I seek God’s guidance in this next chapter of my life.

In closing, I am so grateful for your support and friendship.  Donna and I wish for you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.   Joy to the World!

Submitted photo

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