WADESBORO — Sen. Gene McLaurin wants to hear from its younger movers and shakers.
McLaurin called on the young people of District 25, comprised of Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland and Stanly counties, to convene at an informal meeting on Tuesday night at Southern Medley Wine Cellar in Wadesboro.
The first meeting of the Young Leaders Advisory Council was held in a trendy downtown wine bar — the kind of place one would imagine 20-and-30-somethings gathering to mix it up and exchange ideas.
As young professionals, entrepreneurs and educators filled room, seating ran out early. But that didn’t stop these energetic personalities from enjoying the company and a glass of wine. Spontaneous introductions and business card swapping began immediately, and the lively conversation made many of those in attendance who had never met before appear as friends.
“I want to welcome everybody who’s come out tonight,” McLaurin said. “This is the first effort I’ve made to put a group together like this, and so far, I’d say it’s a great success.”
The room was filled with nearly three dozen people.
“The purpose of this council,” McLaurin said, “is for you to meet each other. I believe that the future of this district depends on it. I’m proud to see so many of you taking on leadership roles in business, in industry, in education. A good idea is a good idea, and I want to know what’s on your mind. I want to hear your thoughts. I want to know what I can do for you as your senator to strengthen the economy and help create jobs for our children, for our grandchildren.”
David Stogner, 29, of Rockingham came to the council with a clear sense of purpose. An employee of the family business, Stogner Architecture at 615 E. Broad Ave., he expressed concern not only for Richmond County’s growth, but for that of the other counties in the district.
“I ran into Gene (McLaurin) at Henry’s downtown, and he invited me to this meet and greet,” Stogner said. “It’s for networking, and I think all the other counties are well represented here. It’s a place to make new contacts, grow our business, grow theirs and improve all our communities. But I think a lot of these people are from this area, when that’s not the easiest decision to make. They may have left for a while, but they’ve come back and decided to invest in this area. We need more of that.”
All seemed to agree that regardless of their own distinct occupations, the priority must be obtaining funding to help at-risk youth stay out of the court system and providing mentoring services and opportunities in their home towns. Much of the discussion of the group focused on how to empower young children coming up through school districts to change their futures and improve their lives.
McLaurin said 85 of North Carolina’s 100 counties are rural, “and we are the ones who are suffering.”
“I think that’s exactly what we need, incentives,” McLaurin said. “Unfortunately the tax reform reduced our budget by $500 million. Incentives for small communities were not a priority.”
Ultimately, the council served its purpose in providing young community leaders a venue for sharing ideas, expressing their visions for a better future and knowing that they have a voice in the state senate.