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Dante Patterson in the sound and light room at the Lincoln Cultural Center.

When Dante Patterson describes what he does both for his job with Lincoln County and for his beloved community, the picture of Oz in the “Wizard of Oz” comes to mind. Patterson’s the guy behind the curtain who runs Oz, or in his case, the technology that runs Lincoln County. Patterson was named Lincoln County Man of the Year at the recent Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Banquet.

Unlike Oz, however, Patterson is all he's cracked up to be, even though he’s so terribly humble, he won’t admit to it. 

“I was overwhelmed and humbled,” he said of finding out he had received the award. “I’ve known a lot of people who have had this particular honor, and throughout my 30 plus years of public service working in Lincoln County, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some amazing leaders. To be put on this list is super humbling and quite an honor.”

Patterson is the man behind the curtain, making community productions come to life and keeping Lincoln County’s technology up and running. Unlike Oz, Patterson is unlikely to tell someone to come back another time. With this well-deserved award, attention is now being paid to this man behind the curtain.

Patterson has been instrumental in helping with the lights and sound for Lincolnton High School plays, he’s also helped with community concerts and Lincoln Theatre Guild productions.

“Those things are very visible but that’s not really the core of what I’ve been over these years,” he said. “My heart is public service and my community. That is who I am and what I was born to do. One of the things that you may not have read or heard somewhere else, is that I was a founding member and a board member when the Lincoln Cultural Center was built.”

There was an added benefit to his involvement with the Cultural Center in that Patterson met his wife, Sarah, during a play they were involved in during the early years of the Lincoln Theatre Guild.

“I’d never been in a play before, but I had enough ham in me, so I thought I’d be able to do it,” he said. “As God is my witness, I was literally walking up the aisle and I saw this really cute brunette sitting there.”

That was almost 35 years ago, back in the days where instead of all the buttons on the sound and light board and built-in, state-of-the-art stage lights, the Theatre Guild started out with light tresses made from 2x4s holding up flood lights enclosed in large tomato cans, spray painted black, with a household dimmer to control them.

“Obviously we’re more technically savvy now, but back then we were a bunch of people who loved theater and the community,” Patterson said. “I loved being a part of it.”

At one time, Patterson thought he was going to be an artist and that’s how he started with the City of Lincolnton. He was hired to draw maps on a part-time basis. He even wanted to be a rock star, at one time. That didn’t quite work out.

For his current job as the Chief Information Officer for the Information Technology Department within Lincoln County, Patterson makes sure all the technology is working as it should. He’s even involved with the City of Lincolnton’s technology now due to a cooperation agreement with the county. In these days of high tech, that means Patterson and his department are part of just about everything that happens in the county.

“If it’s technology in the government, it’s what I’ve done for almost 35 years now,” he said. 

While he couldn’t make it to the recent open house at the new 911 Center, Patterson was involved with every television on the wall, every cable in the building and everything that connects to those cables, all the computers and servers and the networks built around them.

Every Halloween, Patterson, along with his wife, friends and neighbors, put together a spectacular show for the community. It’s something that his father used to do when he was little, and Patterson has kept that going – because he likes to see people happy.

There’s no place like home for Patterson. His mother is from this area and he’s lived here for much of his life. 

“You couldn’t drag me out of this community with wild horses,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place. I really learned the value of the community here. The more we invest in ourselves, the more we all become. It’s very simplistic and I don’t want to overcomplicate it, but I’m deeply rooted in being here. There’s no place I’d rather be.”

There’s a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that Patterson said really resonates with his personal mantra for service:  “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived - that is to have succeeded.”

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