Alden E. Starnes, 86, the longest serving Caldwell County Commissioner and one of the longest serving County Commissioners in North Carolina, passed away Tuesday, August 25, 2015.
Starnes was known as a laid back “country boy” whose only priority in his official roles was serving the people of Caldwell County. He was elected and served 32 years as a County Commissioner. His terms were from 1968 to 1976, 1980 to 1992 and 1994 to 2006.
“Alden was the consummate public servant,” says Dr. John W. Thuss, who served as a Commissioner for 16 years with Starnes. “He was a good ‘ole country boy who only wanted to do what was best for his people, the people of his county. Because of Alden, Caldwell County citizens have a water system to be proud of, county wide zoning, a good school system, getting better by the minute; all because of him and what he fought for.”
Choking up, Dr. Thuss continued, “We didn’t always agree. We would fuss and argue with each other but we always worked out what was best for the citizens. I am going to miss him.”
“A simple, good man who cared about the people of Caldwell County” is how former fellow Commissioner Herb Greene, described Alden Starnes. “For all those 32 years, what was always upmost in Alden’s mind was doing all he could for the people of Caldwell County. “ Greene served 10 years as Commissioner with Starnes.
Alden Starnes was born March 18, 1929 in Caldwell County. A life-long resident, he devoted much of his life to public service. He was first elected County Commissioner and sworn in on December 17, 1968.
Throughout his 32 years as Commissioner, Starnes was an integral part of the development of the:
County Water System
County ambulance Service
New Law Enforcement Center
The Wilson Creek Wild & Scenic River Designation and Wilson Creek Visitor Center
The Faye A. Broyhill Teaching Center
In November of 2006, the Caldwell County Commissioners voted to name the county office building the Alden E. Starnes County Office Plaza. A painting of Starnes, commissioned by his family, hangs in the lobby of the first floor.
“I think of all his accomplishments, and there were many, Alden would be most proud of the County water system,” says Bobby White, who served as Caldwell County Manager for 15 years while Starnes was Commissioner. “No citizen out in the County had public water when Alden and the Board began working on it in the late 1960’s. By 1971 the County Water system was in place.”
“I first met Alden in 1971, 44 years ago” continues White. “When I came on as County Manager, Alden could not have been better to work with. He took time to really learn all he could about all the projects, and policies that were involved in County government. He was a truly caring gentleman; a true gentleman. We never had a cross word and I never heard a cross word about him in all those years. Everyone loved working with him.”
“Alden was a true statesman on a county level,” says Mike LaBrose, Caldwell County Commissioner and longtime friend of Starnes. “His reach went far beyond just Caldwell County. He gave so much of himself and he never let political pressure sway him. He was determined to do the right thing for the citizens of Caldwell County and he always did. We need more public servants like Alden.”
In addition to County Commissioner, Starnes served on numerous local, state and national committees including Chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Health, Chairman of the Western Piedmont Council of Governments, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Agricultural Committee and the National Association of County Commissioners Agricultural Committee.
A lifelong Republican, Starnes lived in the Dudley Shoals community with his wife, Margaret. He worked in construction for years as well as raising tobacco and cattle. The couple had one son, Dr. Vaughn Starnes of California, and several grandchildren.