02/10/08 — Atlas Price will not run for re-election

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Atlas Price will not run for re-election

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 10, 2008 2:04 AM

After nearly 30 years of holding elected offices in Wayne County, Atlas Price announced Friday that he would be retiring from the county Board of Commissioners at the end of his current term.

"I'm not planning to seek re-election," he said.

It was, he explained, a decision made only after much thought and deliberation.

"It's a decision I don't want to make, but it's the right time. I've agonized with this thing for a while, and the more people ask you about it, the more you think about it," he said. "I don't spend any time with my family because I don't have time. Age is another consideration -- not that I'm an old man, but health also enters into it.

"I just feel like I need to step aside and spend some time doing some things that I want to do -- like growing tomatoes."

Price, a Wayne County native, has spent 18 years on the county commission and 10 on the county school board.

He was first elected to the school board in 1976.

His first term as an at-large commissioner came in 1986.

Because of a redistricting lawsuit brought against the county by the NAACP, though, he only served two years before running again in District 5 in 1988.

Then, in 1992, he lost his bid for a third term after having open heart surgery, but was back in 1996 running for the at-large seat -- the position he's continued to hold.

Since then, he has spent nine years as the commission's chairman and three as the vice chairman. He has also served on the executive board of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, and in 2005, was voted Commissioners of the Year -- the same year he was named to the Wayne County Hall of Fame.

'I've just always had a real interest in the county, the county's growth and what direction it takes," Price said. "And I still have a vision for Wayne County."

But, he continued, though he hopes to remain an active member of the community, it's no longer his turn to push his vision forward.

"I feel like on some things we're headed in the right direction. I feel like the present board is aware of the needs and is trying to carry things forward," he said. "I don't want to stay around too long and be in the way.

"I think it's time for me to give somebody else the opportunity to bring some new ideas to the table. But if they don't, I'll pester them enough to let them know I'm around, so they're going to have to do something."

After all, he noted, he was never lacking for action during his time in office as he helped deal with two bond referendums for schools, as well as for the county's industrial park ParkEast, the Wayne Water Districts and the courthouse annex and jail.

He also helped oversee the merging of the Goldsboro City Schools and the Wayne County Schools, and took part in two long-range strategic planning efforts.

"There's been a lot of things," Price said. "I've been a leader in the county since I've been on the boards and I've enjoyed it. It's been a great ride."

But that doesn't mean there aren't things he thinks could have gone better -- especially in terms of schools and future planning.

"I wish we could have done some things a lot earlier," he said. "We've done a lot of planning and probably did all we could do to follow the proper processes. I just hope we haven't been too slow in planning for the future growth of Wayne County."

No longer, he explained, can Wayne County have a complacent attitude -- its biggest threat.

"I think we all in the past have had a tendency to just let things happen, but times have changed, and you can't wait to see what happens anymore. You've got to be ahead of things," he said. "We're changing, and we've got to stay ahead of that change.

"I definitely think that we fell behind in our planning, but we've got a plan now, and I think it's a good one, but it needs to be expanded on."

That need, he explained, is especially evident in terms of planning for future infrastructure such as water, sewer and solid waste disposal, as well as in terms of growth management and protection of residential and agricultural areas.

But it's most evident in terms of public school facilities, he said.

"I wish we could have done them a lot earlier," Price said. "It would have been nice if that could have been done a long time ago with less bickering. But there's only so much money and there's some difference of opinion with the school board as to what you can do with those dollars.

"That's where some of this has come from -- that and, I think, personality conflicts have played a big role. I think it really took the business community to get some of that ironed out."

Now, though, he is OK with how he is leaving both boards and the rest of the county.

"I feel comfortable with what I've done and I feel comfortable with where Wayne County is and where it's headed," Price said. "There's always room to ask if I did everything I could do. Have I made some mistakes? Yes. But I also have done a lot for Wayne County.

"I'm proud to live here. I don't want to live anywhere else."

And he is not quite done working yet. He still has about 10 months to go.

"I'm not quitting until the last day. If the good Lord's willing, I'm planning on serving my full term," he said.