LOUISBURG -- Franklin County Commission Chair Sidney Dunston announced Monday night that he won't seek re-election next year.
For the first time since 2004, residents in District 1 will have someone new representing them on the Board of Commissioners.
"... It's an honor to serve with each one of you and I'm proud of what we've achieved and I'm very proud of my leadership role in these achievements," Dunston told his fellow commissioners toward the end of the board's meeting on Monday night.
"However, I believe that it is time for my departure," he said. "I believe it is time, now, to make room for new ideas, a new vision and new leadership."
Dunston, a pastor, referenced scripture in his remarks, quoting 2nd Timothy, chapter 4, verse 7.
He also noted the "tremendous progress" in Franklin County that he has witnessed while serving on the board, many of those times as chairman.
That progress, he said, included support for the Franklin County Early College High School program, "an investment in some of our best and brightest here in Franklin County, and it will impact Franklin County for many, many generations to come," Dunston said.
He continued, noting that while on the board, Long Mill Elementary School was built, the Miracle League of Franklin County ballfield was installed at that campus, the county's budget has supported upgrades at all of the county's schools, a new Franklinton High School was built and, today, the school system is breaking ground on a new athletic complex at Louisburg High School.
And, for the past three years, county commissioners have fully funded the Board of Education's request for funding.
"... I recognize the importance of educational opportunities for the future here in Franklin County," Dunston said. "That is why it's always been a primary focus for me."
Dunston also noted the diversity in Franklin County government and within its departments.
When current commissioner Cedric Jones retired as the Cooperative Extension Director in 2009, there were no African American department heads in the county.
The county's Department of Aging, Board of Elections, Information Technology, Parks and Recreation, Veterans Services, Solid Waste, and GIS are headed by African Americans.
And many of the county's departments are headed by women, including the county manager position, Dunston noted.
"Together," he said, "we have embraced diversity in hiring here in Franklin County."
Dunston also noted that he was proud of other accomplishments during his tenure on the board, including recruiting new businesses and retaining current ones.
The county is also building a growing airport, has a new county park and is witness to the expansion of U.S. 401 up and through Louisburg.
He also noted that while federal and state governments are being mired in partisan politics, Franklin County has been able to avoid that quagmire for the betterment of its residents.
Dunston's term doesn't expire until the fall of 2020 and he will serve out that time.
Dunston said he decided to announce now that he won't seek re-election in an effort to give others a clearer path to service if they so choose.
"... I'm making the announcement now so that someone would feel freer in coming forth in letting the public know they were interested [in running for commissioner]," Dunston said.
And, Dunston said once his service is done, he'll be freer to do some of the things he's missed out on during what will be 16 years of public service.
"... That's a lot of time that has been taken out of my life," he said. "I will have the freedom to travel and to do things at will.
"I'll have a lot of time to enjoy life and that's what I intend to do."
It was not clear if Dunston's announcement caught fellow commissioners off guard, but there were no other comments made following his decision on Monday night.
Democratic Party Chair Lucy Allen said Dunston's service has been invaluable and his leadership will be missed.