Editorial: A lifetime of service

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 12, 2007

The South Rowan Regional Library might still be on the drawing board if Frank Tadlock hadn’t pushed for it.

The project came up for debate in November 2002, when the economy was not going well and was about to get worse. Pillowtex was floundering. County government had frozen new positions for two years.

Commissioners Arnold Chamberlain and Gus Andrews said the timing was not right for the $3.5 million project. The county should wait, Andrews said; if the country went to war in Iraq, interest rates and construction costs might fall.

Tadlock disagreed. “The time is right,” he said. “I’m more optimistic.”

That sums up Frank Tadlock. Among the conservative members of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, Tadlock was the more optimistic one.

Tadlock died Tuesday after battling cancer. His tenure on the county commission had ended last month — and he determinedly served every bit of it — but his impact on the acounty will be felt for generations.

The naming of the Frank T. Tadlock South Rowan Regional Library last fall was a tribute to more than his support of the project. It recognized a lifetime of service to the community in ways both public and private, a lifetime that combined both conservative principles and an optimistic outlook. Where some people see conspiracies, waste and endless negatives all around them, Tadlock saw a brighter picture. He didn’t spend freely, but he was a big believer in hope and opportunity.

He also knew good interest rates and construction costs when he saw them.

No one’s perfect, and Tadlock had the misfortune of being commission chairman when the Common Sense scandal broke. He was among the three commissioners who acquiesced behind the scenes to County Manager Tim Russell’s witch hunt for the anonymous letter writer.

But Tadlock deserves to be remembered for much more. When doubters suggested taking the $76.9-million school bond off the ballot in the fall of 2002, Tadlock was among the county and school officials who decided to push on with it. The bond passed, and Rowan-Salisbury now has three new schools.

Tadlock also championed setting aside money to repay teachers for classroom supplies they had been paying for out of their own pockets.

And when a drought forced water restrictions on China Grove and Landis, Tadlock supported running a water line from Salisbury to the towns to avert future water crises.

Those are details. Most of all, people will remember Tadlock as a great gentleman and a humble servant.

“There’s nothing real flashy I can wear, or say, or do to get votes,” Tadlock said when he ran for re-election in 2002. “I don’t have all the answers. I’m still running scared and I’m still asking for votes, and I’m willing to listen.”

Listen he did — and then he got results.