Monday, March 31, 2014

Walter McNeil Jr, Longest Serving Council Member, Has Died

Sanford public servant Walter McNeil, Jr. died on Sunday, March 30 at Central Carolina Hospital.

Sworn into office in January 1981, McNeil was the first African American member of the Sanford City Council. He served faithfully and consecutively for 33 years and was last re-elected in November 2011. McNeil served three terms as Mayor Pro Tem: December 1993 through December 1997 and December 2005 through December 2007.

McNeil was appointed to the Board of Directors of the N.C. League of Municipalities for 2005-06. As a board member, McNeil represented and advocated for the seventh district, which includes the cities and towns in Lee, Harnett, Cumberland, Hoke, Moore, Sampson, and Scotland counties.

A tireless champion of Sanford and its residents, McNeil started Sanford’s National Night Out crime prevention program in 1993. He was a guiding force in bringing parks to local neighborhoods. The Walter H. McNeil, Jr Park in Ward 4 was named after him by the community as a show of gratitude for his support and dedication.

McNeil was a retired educator who received his B.A. in Education from Winston-Salem State University and an M.A. in Administration from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. He is survived by his wife Billie and son Michael.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mark Your Calendars For The Sanford/Lee County Youth Council's Annual Race To Read

The Sanford/Lee County Youth Council invites runners and walkers to join the Race to Read, an annual 5K fun run/walk on Saturday, May 10.

This is the race's third year. As with last year, proceeds from the race will be used to purchase and donate reading materials to Lee County elementary schools.

When & Where

On race day, runners and walkers will assemble in the rear parking lot of Spring Lane Cinemas (1351 Plaza Blvd) in Sanford. Registration will begin at 8am and the race will begin at 9am.

Who Can Participate?

The run/walk is open to the whole family. Awards will be given to the top three overall male and female participant, as well as the top three male and female participants in each age category.

View the age categories here.

Get Registered

Registration costs $25 in advance if you register before April 23. After April 23, registration is $30. You  will also be guaranteed a shirt if you register by April 23. T-shirts may not be available for those who register on the day of the race.

You can pre-register here or mail in your registration (download a form here).


Get more information about the Youth Council on our website or visit a Youth Council meeting. They are held on the second Monday of each month at 4pm in the West End Conference Room at the Sanford Municipal Center.

For questions or more information about the race, contact Karen Kennedy at 919-777-1113 or

Sunday, March 23, 2014

City Teaming Up With Local Elementary School For Arbor Day

The City of Sanford has partnered with Lee County Schools to get local elementary students involved in celebrating Arbor Day.

Thanks to Superintendent Andy Bryan and school PIO Sharon Spence, the City's official Arbor Day celebration will be held at B.T. Bullock Elementary School and will be the special project of the school's fifth grade class.

Bullock Principal Pamela Sutton's enthusiasm for what this partnership could mean for the school community along with the fifth grade teachers' excitement for new and unique ways to engage their students in science and learning made the school a perfect, says Liz Whitmore, planner with the City of Sanford who organizes the Arbor Day Celebration each year in conjunction with Sanford's Appearance Commission.

Details: The program will begin at 1:30pm on April 9 at the school. The public is invited. There will also be a special Tree City USA presentation.

Long-term goals for the partnership include a learning garden, botanical arboretum, and anti-erosion planting.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Charlie Watson Remembered At Street Rededication

Local leaders, business owners, and community members gathered at Charlie Watson Lane on Wednesday to rededicate the lane and enjoy memories of Watson's legendary character.

Despite the cold and rain, spirits were high and everyone was happy to take a few moments to remember a man who meant so much to so many.

Steele Street in 1950 when Charlie Watson sold papers on the street corner.
Jimmy Haire, local historian and Council member, reminiscing about Charlie.
Everyone took part in the big reveal.

Thank you to everyone who voted in and supported the Benjamin Moore Main Street Matters contest for helping us honor Charlie Watson with a modern sign!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Charlie Watson Lane Rededication Planned For Wednesday

When long-time local Sanfordians think about icons of downtown Sanford, they can't help but include Charlie Watson.

Watson sold and delivered newspapers for The Sanford Herald for more than 40 years. In a 1990 Herald article, Lydia Splitter, a teacher at West Lee (junior high school back then), explained:
To me, Charlie Watson was as much a part of the makings of downtown as the Railroad House and the old depot, to be downtown and not see Charlie, well, it kind of leaves a kind of void feeling.

Rededication & Revitalization

In 1988, Downtown Sanford dedicated the lane beside The Steele Pig to Watson and placed a plaque in honor -- but new plans will result in Charlie Watson Lane becoming more befitting of its namesake.

On Wednesday, March 19, city and community leaders are invited to the unveiling of Phase 1 of the new Charlie Watson Lane, featuring a special sign that also denotes Steele Street as an official Benjamin Moore Main Street.

This unveiling and rededication is the first step in turning the lane into a public space complete with landscaping and art, as rendered here:

You're Invited

Anyone who holds a special place for Charlie Watson and those who are excited to learn more about revitalization in Sanford are encouraged to come out for the unveiling.

When: Wednesday, March 19 at 10am.

Where: Charlie Watson Lane, located on Steele Street beside The Steele Pig.

What: See the new sign and hear from local leaders about revitalization plans.


For more information about Charlie Watson Lane, the Benjamin Moore Main Street Matters campaign, or downtown revitalization, contact David Montgomery at 919-777-1400.