Lee Sharpe, longtime owner and publisher of The Taylorsville Times, received two honors at the Monday, April 4, 2022, meeting of the Alexander County Board of Commissioners. Sharpe was first presented a “Key to the County” and was then surprised with the prestigious “Order of the Long Leaf Pine” award, which is an honor granted by the State of North Carolina to individuals who have shown extraordinary service to the state.
Former Sheriff and State Representative Ray Warren and Dr. Warren Hollar worked with county staff and community leaders to secure the state award for Sharpe in recognition of his many years of dedicated community service, both as a citizen and as a newspaper publisher. Both awards were also presented in honor of Sharpe’s upcoming 80th birthday on April 9 and for the newspaper’s 100th anniversary, celebrated last fall.
“Thank you so much for this great honor. I am very honored to have had the opportunity to spend almost fourscore years in Alexander County. I am very thankful for my family and for the opportunities that have been afforded to me. Jane [his late wife] and I were very delighted to be able to pursue our vocation and to raise our family here. The pastures are green in Alexander County – the place that I relish as home,” Sharpe stated.
Chairman Ronnie Reese expressed his sincere appreciation to Sharpe for his servant leadership in Alexander County.
“It is our honor and privilege to recognize you with the ‘Key to the County’ and the ‘Order of the Long Leaf Pine’ award. We appreciate everything you’ve done for Alexander County as you have helped tremendously in so many ways,” said Ronnie Reese, Chairman. “I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this recognition. We wish you many more years of happiness with your family and at your newspaper.”
Dr. Hollar outlined Sharpe’s many accomplishments during his life and career in the areas of civic clubs, chamber of commerce, recreation, health care, history, and much more, calling Sharpe
“a servant leader.”
“So many people do things because it feels good or because of what others might say. Lee constantly gave his time to community service for the good of all those in his sphere of influence. He lives a mantra that an individual does little by himself, but in concert with others, opportunities are then magnified and endless,” Dr. Hollar stated.
“Without exaggeration, Lee has written thousands of articles and columns in support and recognition of individuals, recreation groups, civic clubs, churches, and community development groups. He has also served on dozens of county and community improvement projects in education, health, recreation, churches, economic development, Chamber of Commerce, chronicling county history, civic clubs, county improvement initiatives, Red Cross, county sesquicentennial celebration, and so on,” Hollar continued.
During Sharpe’s tenure, The Taylorsville Times was named a National Blue Ribbon Newspaper by the National Newspaper Association.
“Lee Sharpe is one of those special people who understands that community improvement comes by the efforts of people,” Dr. Hollar said. “A few special people show up in our lives who bring about change through empathy, encouragement, and service leadership in our communities. Alexander County is a better place because of our friend, Lee Sharpe.”
Sharpe received a standing ovation and round of applause from the large crowd of supporters who were in attendance at the meeting.
In other business:
• Commissioners approved an agreement with West Consultants PLLC for engineering services for an elevated water tank in Bethlehem. David Moose, Compliance and Procurement Specialist, said the county issued a Request For Qualifications for engineering services in January. Two submittals were received. Staff determined West Consultants PLLC to be the most qualified firm for the project. The cost for engineering design, construction bidding, and construction administration totals $360,000, which will be state funded.
• Commissioners also approved an agreement with McGill Associates for engineering services for the Bowman Court sewer pump station project. Moose said the County issued a request for qualifications for engineering services in January. Four engineering firms submitted responses. Staff determined McGill Associates P.A. to be the most qualified firm for the project. The cost for engineering design, construction bidding, and construction administration totals $152,000, which will be state funded. The pump station project is estimated to cost $1,554,000 and will be paid with funding from the American Rescue Plan through the State Fiscal Recovery Fund that the NC General Assembly allocated as 100 percent grants.
• Commissioners approved a resolution to partner with Yadkin Valley Telephone Membership Corporation (Zirrus) on a Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) grant application. Moose said the GREAT grant program is administered by the NC Department of Information Technology and provides funding to private internet service providers to help expand broadband access into rural areas. GREAT grant applications are scored based on a number of factors. To attain the highest possible score, the company must secure a financial match from a partnership with the local government. If the GREAT grant is awarded, Alexander County’s match would be up to $163,815 appropriated from the county’s American Rescue Plan funding.
• Commissioners approved a four-year agreement between Alexander County and EnergyUnited Water Corporation. County Manager Rick French said the county will sell up to 500,000 gallons of water per day for $1.50 per 1,000 gallons to EnergyUnited to increase capacity in the company’s water system and provide water to more customers
• County Manager French presented a resolution naming April 4-10 as National Public Health Week in Alexander County. Commissioners approved the resolution.
• County Manager French presented nine budget amendments, as well as a project budget ordinance for the Alexander County EDC site development project which utilizes a $500,000 grant from the NC Railroad Company for site preparation and grading in the Alexander Industrial Park.
The next meeting is set for Monday, April 18, at 6:00 p.m. in Room #103 at the CVCC Alexander Center for Education. Regular meetings are recorded, and can be viewed on the county’s Government Channel on Spectrum channel 192 or on the county’s YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/alexandercountync.
The text of Dr. Warren Hollar’s presentation on Lee Sharpe is shown below.
Walter Lee Sharpe – Servant Leader
Walter “Lee” Sharpe, owner/publisher of The Taylorsville Times in Alexander County, is a servant leader. For the past 70 years, Lee has gone about providing empathy, encouragement, and leadership to the continued improvement of Alexander County. He has little interest in self-promotion but prefers to deflect his leadership impact to the work of others in numerous areas such as his business, his church, his community, and Alexander County.
So many people do things because it feels good or because of what others might say. Lee constantly gave his time to community service for the good of all those in his sphere of influence. He lives a mantra that an individual does little by himself, but in concert with others, opportunities are then magnified and endless.
Family has always been important for Lee as he speaks lovingly of his recently-deceased wife, and sons, and the servant heritage that was taught to him by his parents, Conway and Irene Sharpe. At an early age, they helped develop his work ethic and service to community through their ownership and support of the county through The Taylorsville Times. Lee began part-time work at The Taylorsville Times at the age of 10 as a floor sweeper and errand boy.
Without exaggeration, Lee has written thousands of articles and columns in support and recognition of individuals, recreation groups, civic clubs, churches, and community development groups. He has also served on dozens of county and community improvement projects in education, health, recreation, churches, economic development, Chamber of Commerce, chronicling county history, civic clubs, county improvement initiatives, Red Cross, county sesquicentennial celebration, and so on.
Lee was born on April 9, 1942, to Conway and Irene Hendren Sharpe. A graduate of Hiddenite High School and Lenoir-Rhyne College, he married the former Jane Fox in 1964. Jane was a servant leader in her own right as she supported Lee in his endeavors. Lee would agree that his successes were made possible through the many sacrifices by Jane.
Two sons, Wesley and John, were raised by Lee and Jane. Two grandchildren, Evan and Taylor, lighten and enrich Lee’s life.
Lee had just turned 22 and graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne when he became managing editor of The Taylorsville Times. Today, he serves as owner and publisher of the local newspaper. Just six months ago, Lee lost his beloved wife Jane due to complications from a fall.
Operation of County Newspaper
The Taylorsville Times provided historical supplements on anniversaries of the county. The issues included the sesquicentennial edition, the 150-page 1976 bicentennial edition highlighting Alexander County and its people, and most recently the 100-year anniversary of the publication of The Taylorsville Times. Lee initiated the launch of The Bethlehem Star newspaper, a monthly publication in the fastest growing section of the community.
To keep up with changing needs, he worked to modernize the printing and publication of The Times including the advent of linotype, computers, computer-to-film, and now computer-to-printing plate. This modernization assisted the paper with sharing the successes of individual communities, clubs, churches, and individuals. Printing services to local businesses, schools, and individuals included special inserts for the Hiddenite Celebration of Arts, Taylorsville Apple Festival, Alexander County Schools Report to People, etc.
During Lee’s tenure, The Taylorsville Times was named a National Blue Ribbon Newspaper by the National Newspaper Association.
School Operation and Improvement
Lee understood the importance of providing strong school facilities and programs as he served on numerous education committees. In 1966, Lee was active on an education committee that encouraged the
Division of School Planning Study to build a completely new consolidated high school on a new site. He was active in the bond referendum to pay for a new school and on the site selection for the school location.
In the 1970s, Lee played a key leadership role for school facility improvement. He again was instrumental in the passage of a bond in 1980 with funds used to replace schools in disrepair. His leadership provided the impetus for plans to replace facilities built in the 1920s and 1930s at the end of the 20th century and even continues improvements today including new schools and a county auditorium.
He also served on the Catawba Valley Community College Alexander Center Advisory Board. His sons’ schools reaped the benefits of his guidance as he served as president and other offices in school PTAs.
As a lifetime member of Hiddenite United Methodist Church, Lee served as a lay leader, Sunday school teacher, council chairperson, finance chair, and other positions. A quote from a fellow church member said it best — “Lee goes quietly about a task, and no one knows he does it. He doesn’t ask for fanfare.”
Civic Clubs, Chamber of Commerce, and Recreation
Leadership positions in the Taylorsville Jaycees included president, vice president, and state director. He received special awards including the Distinguished Service Award and Spark Plug of the Year. During his leadership, the Taylorsville Jaycees provided direction for the development of community projects such as Jaycee Park.
The Alexander County Chamber of Commerce received the benefit of 25 years of service as Lee collaborated with other community-minded persons. He served as retail chairperson, secretary, director, vice-president, and president. In 1984, he received the Alexander County Citizen of the Year Award.
His involvement in recreation included coaching league sports in t-ball, baseball, basketball, and football for his son’s teams. He served as president of the Taylorsville Recreation Association and a leader of the Alexander County Recreation Commission. Special assistance was provided for the development of East Alexander Park and Bethlehem Park. He also helped promote a plan to pay off a large debt for Bethlehem Park. He advocated for additional open space for recreation as new schools were built.
The Sesquicentennial Celebration in Alexander County, the Alexander County Christmas Parade, and the Miss Alexander County Pageant were also developed with his leadership.
Health Care and Hospital
Appropriate health care was important to Lee as he chaired the Alexander County Citizens for Expanded Health Care, served as president of the non-profit Alexander Cares, and served 14 years on the Alexander County Hospital Board of Directors. Lee understood the importance of recruiting doctors to Alexander County, Red Cross Blood Drives, and health clinics. Lee worked diligently in the last half of the 20th century to develop the Alexander County Hospital through a county-wide initiative. Unfortunately, the hospital did not survive during the 21st century because of financial issues despite his diligent efforts.
State and Regional Committees/Awards
Lee expanded his influence in areas such as the NC 2000 Committee in Alexander County, North Carolina’s 400th anniversary committee, and as a finance volunteer for the Piedmont Council Boy Scouts.
Lee received the North Carolina Governor’s Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service and was selected as one of the 1970 Outstanding Young Men of America.
The history of Alexander County was chronicled through thousands of Times articles published on the topic personally and through encouragement of writings by amateur historians. In 2006, Lee coordinated the 128-page book entitled A Pictorial History of Alexander County, which was produced by The Taylorsville Times. The newspaper received the NC Press Association’s first-place award for Full Color Retail in the community newspaper division.
Other awards included the Barrier Award of Excellence from the North Carolina Society of Historians for the Golden Anniversary edition of the Hiddenite High School. As president of the Alex History Group, LLC, the book, Alexander County Treasures: A History of Remarkable People and Precious Gems, was published in 2012. The 368-page history book on Alexander County received the 2013 Willie Parker Peace History Book Award from the North Carolina Society of Historians.
Lee Sharpe is one of those special people who understands that community improvement comes by the efforts of people. He emulates many of the characteristics learned from his parents that individuals have a God-given intelligence and should use it wisely. Lee exhibits a quiet, gentle manner, which shows his love of family, God, and community. He believes that God has blessed him during life’s journey. He deflects personal recognitions, preferring to tell how people have been gracious in sharing their love, knowledge, and time. A few special people show up in our lives who bring about change through empathy, encouragement, and service leadership in our communities. Alexander County is a better place because of our friend, Lee Sharpe.
It is my sincere pleasure to ask Mr. Lee Sharpe to come forward to receive the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest volunteer award in the State of North Carolina.
As Lee comes forward, we also recognize his deceased wife, Jane Sharpe, without whose assistance all these successes could not have been brought to fruition. I would like to ask Ronnie Reese, chairman of the Commissioners, to present this prestigious award.