County shines at statewide conference

By: W. Curt Vincent - Editor

HICKORY –Scotland County stood front and center last month when county commissioners, officials and staff from across the state came together for the 111th annual North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Conference in Catawba County in late August.

Representing Scotland County was Commissioner Carol McColl, who is also a chair of the NCACC’s Environmental Steering Committee, and Chairman Whit Gibson — but it was Noran Sanford, founder of Growing Change in Wagram, who took the spotlight.

“He held 500 elected officials from across North Carolina spellbound,” McColl said.

Sanford delivered the convention’s keynote speech on Aug. 24, explaining to the crowd how Growing Change took a former prison and began turning it into a non-profit facility that is youth-empowered and designed to tackle solutions for those who are entering the penal system. He told about the mission of providing an innovative community based project to transform decommissioned prison facilities into sustainable farming and recreational sites.

“His keynote speech is a very big deal for Scotland County,” McColl said. “It’s important we keep Scotland County visible in North Carolina, and I think Noran did a very good job of that.”

Also part of the conference, attendees heard from author and journalist Sam Quinones, who discussed his book, “Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.” He described how counties have long been at the forefront of a challenging process to rebuild communities that have been impacted by the opioid crisis.

During the business portion of the conference, several counties were recognized by the Local Government Federal Credit Union and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service for establishing innovative partnerships aimed at improving services to residents. Among those honored during a luncheon on Aug. 25 was Scotland County.

The Scotland County Department of Social Services was recognized with an LGFCU Excellence in Innovation Award.

“Attending this conference always presents the opportunity to learn what’s happening in other counties around the state and to share our challenges,” McColl said. “With Growing Change and the DSS award, I was proud to see positive things from Scotland County get highlighted.”

The theme for the conference was “Re-imagine Your County’s Possibilities,” to encourage counties to spark change and work toward imaginative solutions to common issues and challenges.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or

W. Curt Vincent