In the big election of 2012, the City of Rockingham lost a mayor but gained a state senator. Long-time mayor Gene McLaurin ran for the senate seat and won.
McLaurin, who’d been mayor since 1997, resigned effective Jan. 4, 2013, the day he took the oath of office for the District 25 senate seat.
McLaurin is soft-spoken, modest, and quick to compliment others. He is a humble man who possesses the tools of diplomacy and tenacity. He is a man who gets things done without making a lot of noise, particularly about himself.
By most accounts, McLaurin’s efforts have helped to keep the City of Rockingham in the winner’s column these last 15 years and beyond. But you won’t hear him shouting about his successes.
So others have to step in and remind the rest of us. This happened last Friday, Jan. 4, at McLaurin’s swearing in ceremony. McLaurin found out he could take the oath right here in Rockingham among his friends and family, so he did just that.
John Hutchinson, a member of the Rockingham City Council and currently the city’s Mayor Pro Tem, took the podium and spoke to the standing-room-only crowd packed into City Hall.
Hutchinson told the crowd of a meeting he’d had with McLaurin on Jan. 3, McLaurin’s last full day as Mayor of Rockingham.
“I had just one question for Mayor McLaurin: I wanted to know what he was most proud of accomplishing during his 15 years as Mayor of Rockingham,” stated Hutchinson.
“It was a hard question, I thought, because Mayor McLaurin’s 15 years in office are marked by a long series of major accomplishments,” he continued. “Mayor McLaurin has overseen the construction of a new City Hall and the renovation of both the Fire and Police Departments. Mayor McLaurin has overseen the construction of the Hinson Lake facility, the canoe and walking trails along Hitchcock Creek, and the creation of the Plaza Jam series of concerts each year … (he) has helped the city, East Rockingham, and the surrounding towns with their wastewater services … (he) has overseen the expansion of our city limits and has partnered with industry and with retail, resulting in an increase in Rockingham’s tax base of more than $300 million … and has kept our tax rate exactly where it was when he took office.
“Mayor McLaurin has even done things we would never have thought possible: He played an important role in bringing NASCAR back to the Rockingham Speedway, and he brought Discovery Place Kids to Rockingham. I doubt anyone in this room would have thought either of those things could be done, yet our Mayor pursued these dreams without fear. And he made them happen,” said Hutchinson.
” … Mayor McLaurin answered that question quickly, and as humble as he always is. He said. ‘I am most proud of the working relationships we have with the county and with the other towns in the county,’” said Hutchinson.
When McLaurin followed Hutchinson at the podium, he was as modest and humble as ever. He thanked the council and he thanked Hutchinson for his kind words. And he was very clear: Any and all of the achievements listed by Hutchinson — from getting Discovery Place Kids to land downtown or helping bring NASCAR back to Rockingham Speedway — all of it was accomplished with everyone’s blood, sweat and tears. Gene McLaurin had no claim alone to these windfalls, it was a genuine team effort, he said.
You can be a champion without pounding on your chest and shouting about your victories.