Dennis Anthony – Class of 1975
Mayor of Drexel, NC; Head Custodian, Heritage Middle School

East Burke graduates have found many ways to be productive members of the community, and many of them continue to serve in more than one role. Dennis Anthony is one such public servant who has taken on different responsibilities, all providing for the good of the citizens.

Dennis has been active in local government for eight years. He was elected to the office of alderman in the town of Drexel in 2014 and has served as the mayor since April 2022. He has also worked as the head custodian at Heritage Middle School for six years. While these jobs may seem very different, both require similar skills and focus in order to better achieve specific goals.

“It was Carroll Franklin who encouraged me to run for public office,” says Dennis. “Carroll was an alderman and thought it might be a good fit for me as well. He was also my baseball coach at both Drexel High School and at East Burke. He had been a major influence on my life for a long time, and when he gave me advice, I usually took it seriously.

“I worked at a number of jobs before I came to Heritage, and each of them has been great training, providing me with skills that I use every day. For example, I worked for five years as the warehouse manager at Garden Ridge in Statesville. I also worked in warehouses at Rent-a-Center and at Aden in Hildebran. These jobs require a person to be organized, manage inventory, and keep everything up to date. These are all skills that I use both at school and with local government. Before coming to Heritage, I also worked in the custodial staff at Salem Elementary and Draughn High and was head custodian at Drexel Elementary for over five years. The larger the school, the more the responsibility.

“I have also worked for more than twenty years as a referee for basketball, baseball, and softball. I have refereed games at the middle schools and for Burke County and Morganton recreational organizations. Being a referee really helped me develop people skills. Sports competitions can often lead to conflicts both on an off the field, and keeping a cool head, listening to all sides, and learning to patiently resolve a heated situation are all abilities that help me with being mayor.

>“The mayor of any town or city, large or small, has to be a ‘people person’ and exercise diplomacy in most situations. Sometimes people just want to be heard, so it’s important that I listen to the concerns of the citizens and help to find solutions to their issues. I oversee a board of four aldermen who are the ones who vote on issues of town government. As mayor, I can only vote in case of a tie, but it’s my job to keep the discussion on track, be sure that we hear and understand all sides, and encourage everyone to come to a conclusion that is workable and that benefits our citizens. It is also my responsibility to know and follow all the laws and regulations set by the state, so a cool head and a reasonable approach go a long way to making solutions easier to find.

“Here at Heritage, I also supervise a staff of four. Our job is to not only be sure that the school building is clean and welcoming but also follow all rules and regulations, see that everything is up to date, and be sure that we are prepared when the Burke County Schools inspectors arrive. It is our responsibility to meet the important health and safety standards set by the state and local school boards. We also must keep up with the inventory of supplies needed and to calmly and efficiently handle any emergencies that may arise as well as take care of special tasks that the principals may need. The school runs much more smoothly if we all work together to solve any issues that may arise. Administrators, teachers, and students can trust that I and the staff are capable and caring.

“In much the same way, as mayor I must consult and coordinate with the town manager and the police, fire, and maintenance departments. We must be ready to take care of emergencies and attend to the needs of our citizens efficiently and effectively. I am proud of my hometown and am grateful that I am able to take on this important leadership role. I hope to serve and to improve the life of the townspeople.

“When I ran for office, one of my campaign promises was to do everything that I could to keep the R.O. Huffman Center open for the use of our citizens, and I believe that we have done well in that regard. In the past few years, the facility, which has been a landmark in our town for many decades, has been used more and more by sports teams and other organizations. All of our staff members are currently still part time, but we are getting closer to needing to hire a full time director. That is quite an accomplishment in today’s economy.

“In the same way, we in the town government have worked hard to clean up the land where Drexel Heritage Furniture once stood and find new owners who can use the land effectively and provide assets to our community. We have made great strides in that endeavor.

“East Burke played an important role in my life. As a member of the first graduating class, like many of my classmates, I was apprehensive about moving to a new and much larger school, especially for just one year. School loyalties can be very strong, and we didn’t know what to expect. Most students stayed with the people who they already knew and had gone to school with for years – at least for a while. But as the year went by, we began to meet and make friends with people from all across the area, and by the end of the year, we were beginning to come together as a total group.

“In addition to Carroll Franklin, I remember Sherron Prewitt and Coach Bob Bliss as being important teacher influences. There were many others. It was a memorable time. As I look back, I am grateful that we made it all work and that we can be proud of being Cavaliers.”

Published February 2023

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