01/29/09 — Wayne's freshmen state senators get first look at new jobs

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Wayne's freshmen state senators get first look at new jobs

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 29, 2009 1:46 PM

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Freshman state Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, and his wife greet those seated around them as they wait for the opening of the 2009-10 session of the North Carolina General Assembly Wednesday. Seated directly in front of fellow freshman Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, in the Senate chambers, Davis said he is "excited" about getting started.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In this part of an occasional series, The News-Argus talks to Wayne County's two freshmen senators about their thoughts and experiences Wednesday at the opening day of the 2009-10 session of the state General Assembly.

By the time freshman Sen. Don Davis arrived at the Legislative Office Building in Raleigh Wednesday morning, family in tow, many of his colleagues had already begun the walk across the bridge separating them from the chambers.

But with more than an hour to go before the noon start of the 2009-10 legislative session, Davis didn't seem to be in a rush. Rather, sitting in retired Sen. John Kerr's old office, Davis, a Democrat and former mayor of Snow Hill, was reflective about the challenges he knew he would soon begin facing.

"These are really interesting times," he said. "This is an intersection where energy is at an all-time high and challenges are at an all-time high. But I believe we're going to be OK and that we'll get through this as long as residents stand with us and are engaged in this process. We're in this together, and I count it truly as an honor to have this opportunity.

"Right now, there is so much complexity ... we're really shaping our history right now and creating a new North Carolina."

Speaking more specifically, he noted the need to balance the budget, to keep taxes down and to generate jobs.

"All these things are on my mind as I come here today," he said. "I see a tremendous responsibility we have this session."

Those issues were on freshman Sen. David Rouzer's mind as well, as he stood outside the Senate chambers just a few minutes before the opening, his grandmother and the widow of Jesse Helms waiting for him inside.

"Without a doubt today is a very special day," he said. "But this is going to be a challenging session. We need to rethink the way we do business. It'll be interesting to see how all this unfolds."

But it'll likely be at least another week or two before he has that chance, because before any substantive work can begin, committee assignments have to first be made.

And for his part, Rouzer, a Republican and former congressional aide for U.S. Sens. Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole, has his eye on the Senate agricultural, transportation, appropriations, health and finance committees.

"We'll see how it all shakes out and what they decide to let me have," he said.

Regardless of where he ends up, though, he promised to look after the interests of the whole district, both Wayne and Johnston counties.

"This means a lot," he said. "It's very humbling. This is not my seat; it's the people's seat. I'm just grateful to be given the opportunity and privilege to serve for the next two years."

And though they are from different parties, it's an attitude he shares with Davis, who actually sits directly in front of Rouzer in the Senate chambers.

Davis, who also pledged to remain connected to his district and to not forget his ties to Goldsboro -- his father's hometown -- and the rest of Wayne County, added that one of his most immediate priorities will be working to ensure the continued viability of Cherry Hospital.

"(Resigning as mayor of Snow Hill) was truly bittersweet," he said. "But I'm excited to get to work for all the people in the district.

"I do feel prepared, and I really look forward to working with the rest of the delegation. I think we have a good team that will work hard for Wayne County."

But for Davis, Rouzer and the state's 48 other senators, Wednesday wasn't the day for that work.

Instead, it was a day of celebration and family, and Davis' son Ryan Warren, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, made sure to chronicle it all.

"This is an educational experience for him," said his mother, Yuvonka Davis, explaining that he was excused from school, but only if he wrote a report on the day. "This is a very special experience for Ryan and myself.

"As soon as he came in he took the camera and started snapping pictures. He said this was cool."