Columbus County November 2022


County Seat

Median Income

Population Density Designation

Our first visit in Columbus County unfolded at the tribal lands of the Waccamaw Siouan tribe. We were greeted by several tribe members as well as the Waccamaw Siouan Chief Preacher Michael Jacobs, and Nadine Patrick who is one of the Waccamaw Siouan representatives on the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs.

We had a rich conversation regarding the history of the tribe, including their presence in the Green Swamp near Lake Waccamaw since at least the 1700s.1 We were able to tour their healing gardens, as well as see the preserved remains of a canoe belonging to the Waccamaw Siouan tribe that was recently recovered from the lake.

Our visit ended with a beautiful song performed by Patrick who told us, “We have been invisible to many for a long time. We’re working hard to not be invisible anymore.”

Our second visit in Columbus County was located in the meeting space for the county commissioners in the county’s government complex. We were fortunate to be greeted by both an array of local leaders and a lunch spread from a local resident who had prepared BBQ pork, an array of side dishes and glazed croissants from a local baker.

Blue Cross NC President and CEO Dr. Tunde Sotunde opened the conversation by telling the gathered leaders that Blue Cross NC has a “responsibility to all residents of North Carolina.”

Sotunde went on to say the responsibility to serve the entire state has led to the Extra Miles Tour in an effort to directly hear from residents of all 100 counties regarding both the opportunities and challenges of improving the health and well-being of our communities.

Randolph Keaton, the Executive Director of Men and Women United for Youth and Families, was one of the first community leaders to join in the conversation. Keaton’s nonprofit focuses on connecting local residents to jobs, as well as helping to grow young leaders in their late teens through leadership development, mentorship and providing them with an opportunity to be entrepreneurial. Keaton was born and raised in Columbus County.

“People here deserve a great quality of life. We are working to build a resiliency hub for this community,” declared Keaton.

Providing young leaders with an opportunity to stay and thrive in Columbus County was a consistent theme throughout the conversation. Marc Whichard, the Superintendent of Whiteville City Schools, declared, “Our kids need a vision that they can stay — and thrive — here. They need to know they can succeed in our community.”

Both Eddie Madden, the County Manager, and Dr. Sylvia Cox, the Vice President of Student Services for Southeastern Community College, anchored Whichard and Keaton’s comments. Madden noted the county has an opportunity for real growth as neighboring counties continue to see high growth.

With this potential, there is a need for the county to lay a foundation for future success according to assembled leaders.

“Any future industry interest must be met by a well-trained workforce,” noted Cox. “Our most precious commodity is our children and young adults. We have to prepare them to succeed in a wide range of careers right here in Columbus County.”

Meet Dr. Algie Gatewood

Dr. Algie Gatewood is only the fourth President to lead Alamance Community College (ACC) since it opened in 1958. During Dr. Gatewood’s tenure at ACC, the college won its largest ever bond referendum – nearly $40 million – in 2018 to fund a number of major capital projects and expansions. The college also secured $16 million in county funding in 2014 to build the Advanced Applied Technology Center. Other notable accomplishments include creating a Biotechnology Center of Excellence, introducing an Early College, facilitating an apprenticeship program, and introducing nearly two dozen new academic programs and articulation agreements with state universities.

All other trade names are the property of their respective owners.

U39702, 2/23