Forests in search of the perfect tree

Emory Rakestraw—For The North State Journal
Dan Forest

WEST JEFFERSON —— The day before Thanksgiving, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest arrived at Peak Farms in West Jefferson accompanied by his wife, Alice, three of their four children and the family dog, Jack. They were in search of the perfect Christmas tree. It seemed Peak Farms was the appropriate place to do so given their award-winning Fraser firs have graced the North Carolina Capitol Building, Executive Mansion and “The Blue Room” of the White House.

Forest was taking the day to spend time with his family, and while not an annual tradition, it was the perfect escape after the stress of elections and the then ongoing gubernatorial race. Plus, just days before the election, the Forests’ Raleigh home was destroyed by a giant tree, uprooted by the winds and rain of Hurricane Matthew.”We were all in the house at the time that the tree hit,” said Forest. “It missed my oldest daughter by a couple feet as it crushed the bathroom; the ceiling collapsed around my youngest daughter in her bed and also in our basement where my son and I were watching TV. Half of our house was destroyed, everyone could have been killed, but by God’s grace no one was even hurt. It certainly put many things regarding campaign season, and life in general, in perspective.”

In November, Forest’s grassroots support among Republicans gave him a second term, winning against Democratic opponent Linda Coleman 51.8 percent to 45.3 percent. Forest ended up with more votes than Gov. Pat McCrory. That is a shift from four years ago when Forest beat Coleman in what was then was one of the state’s closest races. His first term as lieutenant governor made him the second Republican to fill the position since 1897.”I am humbled that the people of North Carolina have placed their confidence in me to serve them for another four years,” said Forest. “We did some great work in our last term, but we also spent time to travel the state and get to know people face to face. … I also hope that our positive campaign had something to do with our success. Once again, we ran an entire campaign without a single negative ad or comment about our opponent. I believe people are tired of negative politics and negative campaigns, and I hope this shows that an issues-oriented approach can win.”

For 22 years prior, Forest was an architect by trade and served as senior partner at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, one of North Carolina’s largest firms. Yet his entrance into the political realm is not completely surprising: he is the son of former Charlotte mayor and U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick. Lieutenant governor is the second highest position in the state and the only one that has control in both the legislative and executive branches. In addition to serving as president of the N.C. Senate, Forest has focused on creating more options for parents in educating their children. He is a voting member of the State Board of Education, Community Colleges, Economic Development and chairman of the E-Learning Commission.

“The one-size-fits-all approach to education is an invention of the past that no longer meets the needs of today’s competitive global economy,” said Forest. “Choice should include traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, home schools and online schools. It’s not saying that one option is better than the other, it is just saying that there are options and the parent should pick the one that suits their student’s needs the best.”The Forests’ oldest son, 23-year-old Jake, just graduated from UNC Chapel Hill, and their daughter, Haley, is a junior at NC State. Their two younger children, Max and Olivia, are still at home. With a welcome break for the Christmas season upon them, the Forests’ 30-minute hike in search of the perfect tree yielded a beauty. They ended up going back to the first tree they saw, sure that it will be the centerpiece of the Christmas in a rental home while their own home is being repaired.”Our entire family enters the holiday season with a different kind of thankful heart,” said Forest. “Our house will be rebuilt, our stuff will be replaced and our family is intact. But there are still many families out there that were impacted by the storm that have a different story. I hope we will keep them all in our prayers.”