05/13/05 — What local officials say about BRAC announcement

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What local officials say about BRAC announcement

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 13, 2005 2:32 PM

Goldsboro and Wayne County officials breathed a collective sigh of relief today when military officials announced that Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was not on the list of bases recommended for closure.

Local leaders had worked for months to ensure that the Department of Defense knew of the importance of the base, not only to national security but to the area's economy.

"It's huge for us in Goldsboro," said Goldsboro Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen. "I'm going to sleep a lot better than I have been sleeping the past few weeks."

"It's wonderful," said state Sen. John Kerr. "This is one of the most important days for Goldsboro and Wayne County, at least in my lifetime."

Kerr said that the announcement showed what could be done when a community comes together and made a bipartisan effort to keep "our economic dynamo here."

"And we actually added a presence here in the military," Kerr said. "That really says something about the people in Wayne County, and in North Carolina."

"We got started early and did all the right things to present our case," Kerr said. "We've been military friendly before it was popular. We've treated members of the U.S. Air Force like friends and neighbors."

Kerr said the Legislature had put several million dollars into the campaign, including the hiring of a number of lobbyists. He noted that Wayne County hired its own lobbyist to help protect Seymour Johnson.

"That obviously was a good investment," Kerr said.

He said the state and the community needed to take its cue from the military and be "always vigilant."

The initiatives that had been started, such as addressing noise concerns and encroachment issues, need to continue, Kerr said.

"This would have been a disaster for Goldsboro," he said. "But instead this is a tremendous economic situation."

Rep. Walter B. Jones said he was not surprised by the announcement that Seymour Johnson had been spared. Jones had been predicting for months that the base would not be harmed.

"I have always felt that Seymour Johnson was safe," Jones said today.

He said that staff members at the Department of Defense told him that military leaders wanted to keep bases in communities where they were appreciated.

"That's been a strength of Wayne County," Jones said.

Troy Pate, the chairman of the Seymour Support Council, and Jimmie Edmundson, the chairman of the Goldsboro Military Affairs Committee, released a joint statement expressing their appreciation for the work put into the lobbying effort on behalf of the base.

"As a community, we are gratified that Secretary Rumsfeld and his advisors learned during their review what we have known for years: Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, the city of Goldsboro, Wayne County and the state of North Carolina are a tremendous team," the statement said.

Just as the airmen have worked to protect the nation, the community and state have labored to support the base, its mission and the military personnel and families' quality of life, Pate and Edmundson said.

"As the BRAC process continues in 2005, we will continue to celebrate this successful partnership between our community and Seymour Johnson. We also will remain vigilant to ensure that Seymour Johnson continues its vital role in our nation's defense."

Joanna Thompson, the president of the county Economic Development Commission, said the news should prove a tremendous boost to business recruiting efforts but added that efforts to promote the base should not slow down.

"I'm glad to see that the Department of Defense has recognized the importance of maintaining and growing Seymour Johnson," she said. "North Carolina needs to continue to support and market the military as our strongest industry. This is not a time to rest on our laurels."

Sen. Elizabeth Dole issued her own statement, noting the assistance of both Democrats and Republicans in supporting the state's military installations.

"I am pleased that the Department of Defense recognizes the incredible value of North Carolina's military installations," Sen. Dole said. "Support for our state and our military bases transcends party lines, and the delegation has worked tirelessly to build on our military tradition and strengthen its future."