It was a year or so ago when a staff member of The Robesonian’s newsroom was making his way from Pine Street to Carthage Road through Lumberton, and stopping at stop sign after stop sign when he almost ran through one that was hidden by a low-hanging tree branch and its foliage.
He immediately called Councilman Erich Hackney, who represented Precinct 8, home of that particular hazard. The very next day, while traveling the same path, the staffer noticed that the branch was gone and the hazard history.
That is what a good city councilman does. And make no mistake about it, Hackney was a good city councilman. He loved Lumberton — make that loves — and worked relentlessly as a councilman to make things better for Precinct 8 residents.
Hackney has left the City Council after serving four terms, having lost a spirited — sometimes too much so — campaign with Owen Thomas, a 30-year-old graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke who has built in a short time an impressive resume that is heavy with civic achievement.
In a county where the political pickings on Election Day are too often slim, the people of Precinct 8 were lucky to have two good options on Nov. 7. They elected Thomas, not overwhelming, but by a comfortable margin. Thomas was sworn in on Monday night to a four-year term.
We need more local politicians like Hackney — and are confident that Thomas will be equally as responsive when a constituent calls. He certainly matches Hackney when it comes to energy and enthusiasm.
Sixteen years is a good run for a councilman, but any politician who serves that length of time is destined to make enemies, and Hackney had more than a few. They turned out hard to help defeat him, which is how politics works.
Some of the traits that made Hackney a good councilman, speaking plainly and bluntly, not bowing at anyone’s altar, and being a stickler for the rules, sometimes obsessively, also alienated some of his constituents. It’s human nature that when people go to cast a ballot, the time an incumbent angered him or her is fresher in the memory than that time the incumbent was helpful.
That worked to Hackney’s detriment.
Our relationship with Hackney also had the occasional bump, but we will miss working with him as a councilman because we found him to be responsive when we called, knowledgeable and willing to answer our questions to the extent possible. It is the same relationship that we enjoy with Hackney in his role as an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office, in which he is competent and accessible, often willing to point us in the correct direction.
As he prepared to leave office, Hackney warned against writing his epitaph when it comes to his civic legacy, saying he still plans to work to the benefit of Lumberton, even if not as a councilman. We are sure that is true.
But we don’t believe it’s premature, and in fact is appropriate, that in the days following his departure from council that Hackney’s hard work over 16 years be acknowledged. He leaves with a record of accomplishment.