Representatives get proper send off to Raleigh

by Alan Hodge

Montcross Chamber President Ted Hall, left, with Sen. Kathy Harrington and Rep. Kelly Hastings at the chamber meet and great session.

A large gathering of Gaston County politicians, business and civic leaders met Tuesday at Belmont Abbey to not only discuss concerns of their clients and constituents, but to also see off new officials to the North Carolina General Assembly that will convene on January 26.

Among those on hand Tuesday were N.C. Senator Kathy Harrington (R) representing District 43 and Representative Kelly Hastings (R) who will represent District 110. Both are first term senators. Also returning to the N.C. Senate will be 11-term Senator James Forrester (R) from District 41, N.C. House member Bill Current (R) from District 109 who will serve his fourth term, and newcomer John Torbett (R) from District 108.

The event was organized by the Chambers of Gaston Alliance, including the Gaston Regional, Cherryville, Bessemer City and Montcross chambers of commerce. The Montcross Chamber includes the Gaston County side of the Mountain Island Lake region in its territory.

“We wanted to give the representatives a proper farewell before they depart for Raleigh,” said Gaston Regional President and CEO John Kimbrell. “This event will give the business community a chance to give the representatives their thoughts and put a face with a name.”

Several members of the Gaston County Board of Commissioners were also at the gathering.

“It is critical that the representatives remember where they came from when they get to Raleigh,” said Commissioner Donnie Loftis. “For the new ones, they will see there is a big difference between running for office and actually holding one.”

According to Harrington, the state budget will be an important issue to consider.

“The budget is job number one,” Harrington said. “There is more money going out than coming in. We need to look at everything and prioritize. Our work is cut out for us in Raleigh.”
Hastings agreed with Senator Harrington on the budget, and had some ideas of his own on other areas of concern.

“I am going to look at economic development, education, and public health and safety,” Hastings said.

Hastings said he has received appointments to committees on appropriations, banking, utilities and job creation.

Duke Energy Region Director for Government and Community Relations Tim Gause praised Harrington, Hastings and their colleagues heading for Raleigh.

“They are volunteering of themselves in one of the most economically challenging times ever,” Gause said. “It takes a lot of courage. They will have to make some very, very, tough decisions.”

Former Mayor of Stanley Chad Brown  attende Tuesday’s event. In addition to being newly elected to the Gaston County Board of Commissioners, Brown is also a member of the Mountain Island Lake Marine Commission and shared his thoughts on an important political topic relating to that waterway.

“One of the biggest needs is countywide water and Mountain Island Lake will be a big part of that in the future,” Brown said. “We need to keep Mountain Island Lake water clean and safe. You can’t grow water.”

Another important aspect of Tuesday’s meeting was presentation of the Gaston Regional Chamber’s Legislative Agenda 2011. Heading the list of concerns was job creation. Other topics included transportation, especially the proposed Garden Parkway, the rising cost of healthcare, tax reform, labor and workplace issues, and education and workforce development.

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