Former Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin was sworn in to the State Senate at a well attended ceremony Friday at Rockingham City Hall.
The council chambers were packed so full, people spilled out into the hallway and watched on TV monitors in the lobby as Rockingham City Manager Monty Crump introduced notable people in the audience, such as council members of other towns, Richmond County commissioners, and other members of local government. People from other counties attended the event as well, such as Anson County Sheriff Tommy Allen.
After introducing the Rockingham City Council, Crump noted that McLaurin had turned in an official letter of resignation, effective Friday, Jan. 4.
Mayor Pro-Tem John Hutchinson gave a speech about McLaurin and a conversation the two had on McLaurin’s last full day as mayor. Hutchinson said they spoke about their families and the holidays that just passed, and also about the many years McLaurin has spent as mayor.
“I asked him what he thought his biggest accomplishment was,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said he was surprised the McLaurin didn’t list the remodeling of city hall, the police station, Hinson Lake’s lodge, the establishment of Plaza Jams, expanding the city limits, helping bring NASCAR or Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham to the area.
“He answered quickly, and said, ‘The working relationship we have with the county and the other towns.’ It took a minute to sink in,” said Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said McLaurin has taught him and the council “what big dreams can lead to.”
“We are sending our best to Raleigh,” said Hutchinson, before the council presented McLaurin with a plaque.
Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Tanya Wallace then administered the oath of office to McLaurin.
McLaurin mentioned later in his speech that the Bible used during the swearing in belonged to his son, who couldn’t be there.
McLaurin’s speech started with his history in Rockingham as he pointed out some of his close friends. He said he was pleased to learn he could be sworn in right here at home, and share the moment with close friends and associates.
“Because you’re the ones responsible for me being here,” said McLaurin. “You encouraged me, supported me and inspired me. It’s because of your hard work that I’m going to Raleigh next week. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished together. You gave me too much credit.”
McLaurin won the District 25 State Senate seat in the November General Election, defeating challenger Gene McIntyre. Both men were after the senate seat held by Democrat William “Bill” Purcell, who chose not to run for another term. The district includes Richmond, Scotland, Anson and Stanly counties.
In his speech Friday, McLaurin said Purcell came to his house on election night. The results were late, and as they came in, Purcell rang his door bell around 11:30 p.m.
“He congratulated me personally,” said McLaurin. “I can’t tell you how much it meant to me.”
As McLaurin walked Purcell to his car that night, Purcell said McLaurin would go from serving 10,000 citizens in Rockingham to serving 10 million people in the state. The overwhelmed McLaurin slept on that note, but said Friday that he is excited and feels prepared to lead on this next level.
“Mr. Purcell is a tough act to follow, but I followed another tough act, G.R. Kindley, when I became mayor,” said McLaurin.
McLaurin promised to work on giving rural areas a strong voice, reaching across party lines, creating jobs, providing quality eduction, helping those who need assistance due to no fault of their own, being a good steward of tax dollars, promoting open government and taking his Rockingham values to Raleigh.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.