After serving the people of Lincolnton for the past 35 years, Carroll Heavner was honored Thursday night with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. One of the most prestigious awards one can receive in North Carolina, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented to individuals who have a proven record of extraordinary service to the state.
State employees are eligible if they have contributed more than 30 years of dedicated and enthusiastic service to the state. With three and a half decades of service under his belt, Heavner received the award after deciding to retire from his city council position.
“Lincolnton is a better place to live, work, and rear a family because of Mr. Heavner,” Mayor John Gilleland said during the celebration.
For many people, relocating for careers is inevitable. Hometowns become nostalgic memories to occasionally reflect fondly upon. Heavner, however, is the exception to this rule. He was born and raised on Lincoln County farmland.
“I grew up five or six miles away from the city,” Heavner said.
While Heavner enjoyed his rural childhood, he knew that farming was not his top career choice.
“I grew up on a farm, and I knew I didn’t want to be a farmer,” he said. “So, I started looking for other ways to make a living.”
Heavner decided to expand his job search to Charlotte, where he worked for a year at Duke Power. He soon came to realize, however, that the drive from Lincolnton to Charlotte was too lengthy of a commute, and he had no desire to leave his hometown. After marrying Lincolnton native Mary Hoffman, Heavner left Duke Power and returned to the Lincolnton workforce.
There, he launched his career in the banking industry, landing a job at First National Bank. Heavner seemed to have found his niche, staying with the bank for 46 years until retiring in 2001.
“The bank changed names several times, but I’ve only worked on Main Street,” Heavner chuckled.
Although he was quite content with his banking job, several citizens felt Heavner had the leadership potential to pursue a role in government. In 1971, he was elected to serve as the city alderman.
Heavner explains that, at that time, the mayor and town clerk ran the city. Buster Lentz served as the mayor, and David Lowe served as the town clerk. In 1982, Mayor Lentz passed away. Heavner was appointed mayor soon after.
During Heavner’s four years as mayor, changes were made to the government power structure.
“In 1983, we changed the form of government to a city-manager style of government,” Heavner said. “We also changed the role of city alderman to a city council.”
After serving his term as mayor, he retired from city government to focus on his banking career. This retirement was short lived. Six years after the end of his mayoral term, citizens began urging him to run in the 1992 city council elections.
“They talked me into it,” Heavner said. “They took me up to the election board and paid for my filing fee. So, I ran for city council.”
Having lived in Lincoln County his entire life, Heavner has seen quite a rise in the county’s population.
“When I was first elected, the city had about 5,000 residents,” Heavner said. “Now, we have about 10,000. And of course, the county and the surrounding area of the city has grown tremendously over the last several years.”
According to Heavner, political opinions have also shifted in the county.
“The county was mostly Democratic for years, and also the city,” he said. “And then I would say the county changed probably 10 or 15 years ago and became more Republican. In the last two years, the city changed for the first time in 50 years to Republican. That was the last election. Up until then, it had been all Democrats in the city.”
Other than the rise in growth and changes in political viewpoints, Heavner does not feel there have been any major changes.
“I think Lincoln County and the city is a good place to live and work,” Heavner said. “I think the friendly people have a lot to do with it. Lincolnton’s always had a friendly atmosphere.”
Now that his retirement is on the horizon, Heavner plans to spend his days on the golf course or with family.
“I love the competition involved with golf, and it’s good exercise,” Heavner said. “Once I retire from the city, I’ll have more time to do that. I was 40 years old when I was first elected, and now, I am 83 years old. It’s time to retire.”