LUMBERTON — State Sen. Michael Walters, whose District 13 includes Robeson and Columbus counties, had no idea when he walked into the Pinecrest Country Club on Wednesday for a candidates forum sponsored by the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis and Rotary clubs that he would walk out the recipient of a newly established chamber award.
Walters, who announced in January that he is not seeking re-election, was called to the podium by Bo Biggs, chairman of the local chamber’s Legislative Committee, and presented a plaque “in recognition of having the highest Free Enterprise score among the North Carolina Democratic Senate Caucus during the 2013 Legislative Session as rated by the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation.”
“Michael was the most supportive of business issues and pro-jobs advocate of all the members in the state Senate Democratic Caucus during the last legislative session,” said Biggs, who serves on the board of directors of the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation. “Although we have had other Democratic legislators who have scored high in the rankings, we have never had the top scorer in the Democratic Caucus from our region.”
“It’s very humbling to receive this award,” said Walters. “When I voted on issues I never voted before first considering what I believe to be in the best interest of the citizens of Robeson County… I never thought about voting for something just because it would favor business.”
When he finishes out the remaining year on his current two-year term, Walters will have served in the Senate five years. He was appointed in 2009 by former Gov. Beverly Perdue to replace Sen. David Weinstein, who gave up his Senate seat to head the Governor’s Highway Safety Program. Walters, the president of Claybourn Walters Logging Company, which is involved in agriculture, timber and real estate development, was then elected to two-year terms in both 2010 and 2012.
At the time of his appointment in 2009, District 13 included Robeson and Hoke counties.
Walters earlier this year said that one of the highlights of his years in office was being the primary sponsor of a bill protecting the private property rights of landowners. This bill, he said, protected property owners from hunters using their property without their permission.
Walters also said he is proud to have been a primary sponsor of a fracking bill that would allow the state to search for natural gas and use the product as an alternative energy source.
Joe Stewart, executive director of the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, said that Walters rightly deserves his top ranking in the state Senate Democratic Caucus on business issues, as well as being a worthy recipient of the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce’s first Free Enterprise Award.
“He has been a consistent advocate on business issues during his time in the North Carolina Senate,” Stewart said. “These rankings are significant because they are the most reliable and objective evaluation of a legislator’s true business disposition.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-272-6117