Vance Co. Commissioner Tommy Hester Announces Plan to Run for NC Senate


Thomas “Tommy” Hester, Jr., lifelong Henderson native, long-serving Vance County Commissioner and local businessman, has announced that he will file for the NC Senate District Three seat in the 2020 election. The filing period begins Monday, December 2, 2019.

NC’s third district is currently represented by Democratic Senator Erica Smith-Ingram and includes Vance, Warren, Northampton, Bertie, Martin and Beaufort counties.

With Smith-Ingram expected to file for federal office as opposed to filing for reelection to the state senate, Hester said the time is right to seek an office that “can help bring jobs and education – the two most important factors in economic growth – to rural NC counties.”

Tommy Hester announces to the local media on Wednesday that he will file for the NC Senate District Three seat in the 2020 election. The filing period begins Monday, December 2, 2019. (WIZS photo)

All six of the counties comprising district three are considered Tier 1, a distinction that makes them among the most economically distressed in the state. Rankings are based on an assessment of a county’s unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita, according to the NC Department of Commerce.

As a resident and county commissioner in a Tier 1 county, Hester said he is prepared to bring jobs and education to the district and believes his experience on the North Carolina Golden Leaf Board of Directors and Chairman of the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority, in part, make him an ideal candidate.

“Being involved in Golden Leaf and being in Raleigh with the Rural Infrastructure Authority for six years has given me the background on what needs to be done to help rural counties,” stated Hester.

In addition to his many service roles in Vance County, Hester has connections to other rural NC counties including the three years he was stationed in Warren County as part of his 15 years of National Guard service and connections made through wife Jenny, a Northampton County native.

Locally, Hester has served the Henderson-Vance Economic Development Committee as its elected Board Chair. He was also named Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 2017 and has been recognized with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian award.

A Vance County Commissioner for 14 years, Hester said he will only resign the local office if he wins the senate seat. If elected, Hester would also be required to resign from the Golden Leaf Foundation and the Rural Infrastructure Authority.

Hester pointed to recent examples of growth in Vance County, many of which he was either directly or indirectly involved with, as proof that the tide can turn in counties categorized as “economically distressed.” Examples included:

  • Expansion of the Henderson-Vance Industrial Park located off US-1
  • Mako Medical Laboratories opening in Henderson, bringing 100+ jobs (to date)
  • New Vance Charter School Building and Salvation Army Building in Henderson
  • Wireless Broadband agreement to provide service to 95-98% of Vance County
  • Vance County’s water expansion project, currently on phase 3

While he is proud of the strides made in Vance County in recent years, Hester said he also wants to help expand that growth to other rural counties via the third district senate seat.

“There’s no one running right now or announced to run except for me. I’m running for it because I care about NC and I care about rural counties. If we help one rural county, we are helping all surrounding counties.”

The general election for the North Carolina State Senate will be held on November 3, 2020. A primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020.

If elected, Hester would assume office the first day of the new General Assembly in January 2021. Members of the state senate serve two-year terms and are not subject to term limits.

Town Talk 11/13/19: Contributions Needed for Shop With A Cop Envelope Raffle

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Shop With A Cop Envelope Raffle 

Sponsored by the Henderson Police Department, Vance County Sheriff’s Office and Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce.

Thank you for your assistance with this fundraiser to benefit “Shop With A Cop.” When all the envelopes $1 – $180 are sold, collected, and returned back to the Chamber office, our local law enforcement will receive $5,000 to take Vance County disadvantaged youth Christmas shopping at Walmart.

Our Chamber will also be benefiting from the proceeds and using our funds to initiate new programs and enhance value to our Chamber member businesses

Law enforcement will select 60 of the envelopes and the Chamber will have the remaining 120. Envelopes are numbered $1 – $180 and include a raffle ticket. When you approach someone you know, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, you are going to get a check (made payable to the Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce) for the amount on the front of the envelope. They may also contribute cash.

The contributor will fill out the raffle ticket. They keep the stub and you return the completed raffle ticket portion with their name and phone number in the envelope to the Chamber office. Remind your contributors that their name will be entered into a raffle drawing for cash prizes. 

The contributors giving $1 – $40 will be entered to win $200. When they give $41 – $80, they will be entered to win $500. Those contributing $81 – $120 will be entered to win $1,000. And our grand prize of $2,000 will be for those contributing $121 – $180.

To hear the Shop With A Cop interview in its entirety, please click the play button below. Listen live to WIZS’ Town Talk Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on 1450AM, 100.1 FM or online at

City of Henderson Releases Sanitation Schedule for Thanksgiving Holiday

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-Information courtesy Esther J. McCrackin, City Clerk, City of Henderson, NC

The City of Henderson has released the sanitation schedule for the Thanksgiving Holiday. The schedule will be as follows for recycling and yard debris:

Monday, November 25 –  Monday and Tuesday customers will be collected

Tuesday, November 26 – Wednesday and Thursday customers will be collected

Wednesday, November 27  – Friday customers will be collected

Please note that Waste Industries garbage collection will follow a different schedule for Thanksgiving. Their schedule is as follows:

Monday, November 25 – No Change

Tuesday, November 26 – No Change

Wednesday, November 27  – No Change

Friday, November 29 – Waste Industries to collect Thursday customers

Saturday, November 30 – Waste Industries to collect Friday customers

If you have any questions, please call the Assistant Public Works Director, Lee Owens at (252) 431-0419

VGCC Drama to Present ‘Appalachian Geisha’ Dec 6-8

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-Press Release, Vance-Granville Community College 

VGCC Drama is excited to present Appalachian Geisha December 6 through December 8, 2019, at VGCC’s Main Campus.

This presentation represents a first of its kind collaboration across the North Carolina Community College System. Three Colleges: Vance-Granville Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, and Wake Technical Community College are joining forces to stage this regional premiere. The play—written by Kim Stinson, Director of AFA Theatre and a Professor at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory—will be staged five times over three days.

Front row: (left to right) Rose O’Malley, Blake Lee, Mary Parish, and Rebekah Varker; Middle Row (left to right): Kathleen Zoldos, Brian Johnson, Ashley Asycue, and Lane Wade; Back Row: (left to right): Daniel Thorpe, Savannah Morgan, Ronnie Brodie, Amanda Cease, and Matthew Varker (VGCC photo)

Performances will begin at 7:30 p.m. on December 6 and 7, with matinees at 2 p.m. on December 7 and 8. There is a special campus matinee on December 6 at 3 p.m. All performances will be in the small auditorium, in Building 2, on the Henderson campus.

Betsy Henderson, director of the show and department chair of Fine Arts and Humanities at VGCC, also serves as Vice-President on the NCCCS AFA Association Board of Directors with Stinson and Lauren La May of Wake Tech. Together, they have worked alongside university partners to draft Comprehensive Articulation Agreements for the AFA Theatre degree for both the UNC system and Independent colleges. This working relationship is where an idea to collaborate across colleges was born.

Stinson, a BFA graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts, also holds an MA in Theatre from Miami University and an MFA in Playwriting from Spalding University. Kim is also a member of the Dramatist Guild, and an award-winning, published playwright.

Geisha was born out of Stinson’s own personal experiences, “Many years ago, I worked with a woman who never wanted to leave home. She didn’t enjoy traveling and had absolutely no desire to go anywhere. That way of thinking seemed so strange to me. I wanted to explore the way that someone else’s mind worked. At the same time, my love for other cultures always drew me to Asia and Asian theatre styles.” Stinson added, “Appalachian Geisha started as my creative thesis for my MFA in Playwriting degree and has grown and changed in subsequent versions. It is a work in which I explore combining western and eastern cultures, along with writing a main character who is so incredibly different from me, in an attempt to understand my former co-worker.”

Lauren La May, a BA graduate in Theatre Design and Production from UNC Asheville, also holds an MA in Theatre from the University of Toronto, and a PhD in Theatre from the University of Georgia. Currently, she is a Theatre Instructor within the Communications and Theatre Department at Wake Tech Community College.

La May began working as a dramaturge while at the University of Georgia. After receiving her doctorate, she gained a position with Virginia Stage Company in their educational division to create curriculum and study guides for shows. Le May says, “Through Dramaturgy, I get to continue in my love of history and research while working with playwrights, directors, actors and designers. I love the chance to work with a production team again and am excited for this collaboration with my colleagues from other community colleges.”

Henderson was interested in giving VGCC drama students the opportunity to work so closely with a playwright and dramaturge, and to have these theatre professionals be a part of the rehearsal process. “Not many young actors get to have such an experience,” says Henderson. Both Stinson and La May will also be attending performances of Geisha, where they will take part in a talk-back discussion enabling audiences to ask questions of the cast, crew, playwright, and dramaturge. Talkback discussions will occur immediately following the Friday and Saturday evening performances and there is no extra charge for the audience to attend.

The cast and crew are comprised of both VGCC and Early College students (Vance and Warren Counties). Actors include Savannah Morgan, Brian Johnson, Mary Parish, Rose O’Malley, Daniel Thorpe, Kathleen Zoldos, Blake Lee, and Ashley Ayscue. Brother and sister Matthew and Rebekah  Varker serve as Stage Managers.

The production crew includes Lane Wade, Josh Nehy, Ronnie Brodie, Tre’quan Johnson, and Amanda Cease.

Admission is $15 for the general public and $10 for students and VGCC employees. Tickets may be purchased at the door, but attendees are encouraged to secure their seats by purchasing tickets online. Tickets can be purchased at

For more information, contact Betsy Henderson at (252) 738-3371, or [email protected]

DEA’s Drug Take Back Day Yields Highest NC Total Ever Collected

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-Press Release, U.S. Department of Justice

North Carolinians participating in the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) 18th National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day Initiative (NTBI) held on Saturday, October 26, turned in 38,541 pounds of unwanted or expired medications for safe and proper disposal at sites set up throughout the state. This was the highest amount ever collected during the previous 17 Rx drug take back events.

Now in its 10th year, this event continues to remove large volumes of opioids and other medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens.

Beginning with October’s campaign, DEA accepted vaping devices and cartridges in addition to medications at all of its drop-off locations. With hundreds of confirmed lung injuries and dozens of deaths attributed to vaping use, DEA is working diligently in our communities and through our outreach efforts to spread the word about the dangers of vaping. Although no vaping devices/cartridges were reported to have been collected locally, these items may have been collected nationally (pending confirmation).

“Robert J. Murphy, the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the DEA Atlanta Field Division commented, “DEA’s eighteenth Prescription Drug Take-Back campaign was a success both locally and nationally. While North Carolinians turned in 38,541 pounds of unwanted or expired medications, nationally, nearly 883,000 pounds of expired and unwanted prescription medications were collected at nearly 6,174 sites made available across the United States. Also, in an effort to combat another emerging public health threat – particularly to our nation’s youth – we’re proud to have extended the same opportunity to those looking to dispose of harmful vaping products.” I would like to thank the multitude of partners (both law enforcement and nonlaw enforcement) who worked tirelessly to make this event another great success.”

The public has embraced Take Back Day events because they provide easy, no-cost opportunities to remove medicines languishing in the home that are highly susceptible to misuse, abuse, and theft. Public demand for safe and secure drug disposal has also resulted in a significant increase in year-round drug drop boxes at law enforcement facilities, pharmacies, and elsewhere, making drug disposal even more convenient.

Complete results for DEA’s fall Take Back Day are available at

DEA’s next National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 25, 2020.

The DEA encourages parents, along with their children, to educate themselves about the dangers of legal and illegal drugs by visiting DEA’s interactive websites at, and Also, follow DEA Atlanta via Twitter at @DEAATLANTADiv.

News 11/13/19

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Town Talk 11/12/19: Sadie’s Coffee Corner Open for Business in Downtown Henderson!


Dr. Stephen Pearson, co-owner of the newly opened Sadie’s Coffee Corner in downtown Henderson, was the guest of honor on Tuesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program.

On Saturday, November 9, Pearson and wife Amanda celebrated the grand opening of the coffee shop located in the former Gupton’s Gun Shop building at 324 S. Garnett Street.

“The grand opening was awesome,” said Pearson. “We got to meet all kinds of people from town. A lot of people expressed joy in having a place to come, sit down, relax and get a good coffee.”

With local offerings from Wake Forest-based Black and White Coffee Roasters, Lake Gaston Coffee, Durham-based Big Spoon Roasters, Enfield Honey Farm in Halifax and baked goods from Strong Arm Baking Company in Oxford, the Pearsons are investing in the area they now call home.

Formerly based in Tampa, FL, the Pearsons began to familiarize themselves with the area when Stephen’s job as a contract worker for the government required travel to nearby Youngsville and Raleigh-based customers.

“Amanda fell in love with North Carolina and we decided to find somewhere that would be a great place to live,” explained Stephen. “We came to Henderson and saw some opportunity. We saw a town that possibly could use some investment.”

Alluding to the Henderson-Vance Downtown Development Commission and the City of Henderson’s efforts to reinstate the area to North Carolina Main Street status, Pearson said part of the attraction to downtown was the revitalization movement.

“To get a Main Street running the way it’s supposed to you need to have a barbershop and a coffee shop – places where people can do communal things. A place where people can have disagreements without arguments, talk politics or religion. When we came here, we were looking for a place like that and couldn’t find one. So we knew there was a natural need for it, and we believe downtown can grow from that.”

As for the name of their new venture, Pearson said the couple needed to look no further than their own loyal dog.

“Every day when I come home, my golden retriever Sadie sits at the door, wags her tail, has a big smile on her face and is happy to see me. When you walk through our doors, we want to put a smile on your face and know that you’re welcome,” said Pearson.

Sadie’s Coffee Corner is open seven days a week; Monday – Friday from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m., Saturday & Sunday from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.

For more information, please visit the website at, check the shop out on Facebook (click here) or call (252) 557-1165.

To hear the interview with Pearson in its entirety, please click the play button below. Listen live to WIZS’ Town Talk Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on 1450AM, 100.1 FM or online at

(This is not a paid advertisement)

Salvation Army’s Lt. Smith Talks ‘Phenomenal’ Grand Opening of New Building

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Lt. Derrick Smith, with the Vance County Salvation Army, and Henderson Mayor Eddie Ellington were on Monday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss the grand opening of the new Salvation Army building.

Located at 2292 Ross Mill Road in Henderson, the new location held a two-part grand opening event on Sunday, November 10. According to Smith, the 11 a.m. church worship service was attended by approximately 175 community members and leaders.

“It was a phenomenal day; the weather was beautiful,” Smith said. “It was exciting to have so many from our community and to have the support of the community all in one place, at one time.”

At a separate 3 p.m. service, Smith and his wife Lt. Odessa Smith welcomed guests for a ribbon-cutting and official grand opening celebration.

Ellington, who was in attendance, echoed Smith’s assessment on the celebratory mood of the event and said many citizens are likely unaware of the impact the Salvation Army has on the community.

“The mission of the Salvation Army throughout the world and our community speaks volumes. A lot of people don’t know the impact the organization has right here in Henderson and Vance County,” Ellington stated.

Also present for the occasion were former Salvation Army Captain Rick Langley and wife Angie, who headed the local operation from 2012 until their retirement in June 2019. Smith said the event was special for the Langleys because they saw the new building through from concept to completion.

“They are really good folks,” said Smith. “They were here for about seven years, so to follow behind them makes our job easier.”

With the grand opening, the Salvation Army is now fully operational in the Ross Mill Road location. Smith said the first order of business will be to focus on Christmas efforts, such as the annual red kettle campaign that begins Friday, November 15.

The Salvation Army also operates its new store – located at 218 Raleigh Road in Henderson – while maintaining the former store – located at 222 W. Montgomery Street – for storage and organization purposes.

The completion of the new location and planned ball fields on the 40-acre lot located near Mako Medical Laboratories and Vance Charter School will allow the Smiths to focus on what previous studies have indicated is a big need for the community – youth services.

In a prior interview with WIZS, Odessa Smith said, “One of the biggest needs is youth development. We would like to have after-school programs, mentoring programs and partnerships with local schools and other community organizations.”

While the Salvation Army will continue to work with community partners to expand services, Smith said the mission of the organization is strong and already established.

“This is a building for the community,” said Smith. “It will help us in our mission to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.”

To hear the interview with Smith and Ellington in its entirety, click here. Their segment begins at the 22:20 mark. Listen live to WIZS’ Town Talk Monday-Friday at 11 a.m. on 1450AM, 100.1 FM or online at

FREE Fresh Produce Available at Second Thurs. Food Distribution

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-Information courtesy Betty Boyd

The Second Thursday Food Distribution will be held at the Vance County Regional Farmers Market off Beckford Drive in Henderson on Thursday, November 14, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. No identification or paperwork is required to receive food.

Participants remain in their vehicles and volunteers place a box of fresh vegetables and fruits in the vehicle at no charge. One box is available per adult.

Law enforcement is on-site to assist with traffic control

This is a joint partnership of St. James Missionary Baptist Church and First Baptist Church of Henderson to bring fresh produce to the citizens of Vance County.

Mark Your Holiday Calendar for ‘Cookies & Milk With Santa’

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-Information courtesy Tara Goolsby, Henderson-Vance Recreation and Parks Facilities Supervisor, Aycock Recreation Center

Mark your calendar for “Cookies & Milk With Santa” at the Aycock Rec. Center, 307 Carey Chapel Rd., Henderson, on Saturday, December 14, 2019, from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m.

Enjoy free cookies and milk, make a holiday ornament and visit with Santa. Don’t forget to bring your camera to photograph your child with Santa!

For more information, please call Crystal Allen at (252) 431-6091 or email [email protected]