Choosing his hometown over the pomp of a Capitol City ceremony, new District 25 Sen. Gene McLaurin was sworn in on Friday at Rockingham City Hall.
Had McLaurin accepted the invitation to be sworn in in Raleigh, he would have been allowed less than a dozen guests. Instead the former Rockingham mayor chose to become a senator in the building where he served for 15 years, surrounded by hundreds of supporters, friends and family.
“These are the folks I am going to represent in Raleigh,” McLaurin said. “I had 10 tickets for a Wednesday morning swearing in in Raleigh or I could get sworn in here in my home district among the people who made this possible. That’s why we are here.”
McLaurin was sworn in by Superior Court Judge Tanya Wallace. Attendees filled all of the seats in City Hall and spilled out into the hallway as McLaurin raised his right hand just after 2 p.m.
“I’m overwhelmed with the number of people that showed up from all five counties in the district,” McLaurin said.
Prior to being sworn in McLaurin was honored with a plaque by a number of city councilman with whom he served as mayor and presented with the placard bearing his name and the title of mayor that once marked his seat on the board.
The mostly buoyant event included several applause breaks. At McLaurin’s prompting, attendees rose in unison to recognize retired Sen. Bill Purcell of Laurinburg for his service to the district and the state.
“Sen. Purcell has left big shoes to fill,” McLaurin said before turning to Purcell and thanking him for his help during the campaign process and during the transition.
“(Purcell) told me to think of it this way: In Rockingham you were helping make decision for 10,000 people. Now you’re about to go to Raleigh to help make decisions for ten million people.
“That’s a pretty awesome responsibility to think about.”
Offering the highest praise he could, Purcell said during the reception that he only felt comfortable retiring when he heard that McLaurin had agreed to seek the office.
“I really felt very confident having someone like him to come in and take my place. I’m so pleased about him doing it.”
During his address McLaurin took the time to thank his family for their support, singling out his wife Donna, saying that she was “the best friend” he has.
“She has done so much this year to help me, after 37 years of marriage … I’m sure when she said ‘I do’ she didn’t mean ‘I do want to be a mayor’s wife’ and ‘I do want to be a Senator’s wife.’”
The state’s newest Senator also thanked his campaign workers for their help as well as the leadership group with whom he served as mayor for making him who he is. He also acknowledged former state Sen. Charles Deane Jr. of Rockingham, saying that on a recent trip to the capitol building he sought out Deane’s photo among those of former senators.
“I am excited and I feel prepared because of what all of you have done for me.”
Dedicating himself to the promotion of openness and transparency while in office, McLaurin encapsulated his governing philosophy before concluding his remarks: “Our children and grandchildren deserve a shot at a future that is more prosperous than our own.
“It will be an honor to serve you.”