Bill Sue: A Reflection on Brunswick County Life
Motivated by a love for his birthplace, Bill Sue is one of the pioneers who helped establish the framework for the growth in Brunswick County today.
Bill Sue is a man of many passions. Most days you can find him riding a tractor on his 45-acre family farm, tending his garden, caring for his beehives or making a bit of local wine from the muscadine grapes he harvests. Take a peek inside his home office and you’ll find a flag for the N.C. State Wolfpack (his alma mater) displayed proudly on his desk and an American Flag hanging on the wall. Spend a little time talking to Sue, however, and you’ll quickly discover his first true passion, the one he holds for the county he’s called home for much of his life.
Born in Leland in 1934, Sue grew up in a little red house on Lincoln School Road. He graduated from Leland High School in 1952 and from N.C. State in 1956. After being commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the army, Sue spent the next two years serving active duty as a missile officer, followed by 10 years in active reserves. While in the reserves he married his first wife, Daphne, and the couple had two children. Those years also included a variety of plant management positions that led Sue and his family to Texas, Illinois, Virginia and Florida, but he never lost the desire to return to his hometown in Brunswick County.
An open management position at the Wilmington DuPont plant finally gave Sue the opportunity to return to Leland. Shortly afterward his position switched to the Kinston plant, where he spent the next 23 years until his retirement in 1993. During that period Sue also served two terms on the Brunswick County School Board (1973-76, 1978-82). It was during his second term that Sue helped pave the way for the opening of Brunswick Community College in 1979 as well as push for the school system’s accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1983.
“One of my platforms during my term was to get that accreditation, because when I came back to Brunswick County, all I kept hearing was ‘Don’t move to Leland because their schools aren’t good!’” remembers Sue.
Sue’s work on the school board isn’t the only way he made his mark on the county. In December of 1994 Sue took a seat as Brunswick County commissioner and he served on the board for 18 years. He and his fellow commissioners made many advances at a time when the county’s population was growing rapidly.
“When I first started, there were no subdivision ordinances and no zoning ordinances,” Sue says. “We made those effective in 1995. We moved our credit rating up to AA and we built a new courthouse, a new sheriff’s facility, a new jail, a new department of social services and several schools. I served during one of the biggest growth periods we’ve had up until now.”
During his tenure, Sue and the other county commissioners also greatly extended the area’s water system. By starting a centralized sewage system, the board made possible the growth that the county is now experiencing. “I think my biggest accomplishment as a commissioner is the fact that we provided the infrastructure to substantiate the growth in the county,” he says. “We were able to maintain a strong financial position that at the same time met the requirements of growth, all while trying to keep what growth we had environmentally friendly.”
Although many who surrounded him encouraged him to run for higher politics during his years as commissioner, Sue believed he could accomplish more for his county on the local level. His tireless efforts were rewarded in 2012, when the Governor of North Carolina honored him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine. Considered to be one of the most prestigious awards a civilian can receive, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine is presented to individuals who exemplify extraordinary service to their state.
“Bill Sue was among Brunswick County’s most influential leaders, and his vision and hard work established the framework for the Brunswick County we see today,” says Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman. “Bill Sue loves the area he was born in and has and always will be the head cheerleader of Brunswick County.”
These days Sue can be found working on his farm or keeping busy with his family. After Daphne passed away in 1999, Sue married his current wife, Bidgie. The two enjoy spending time with Sue’s five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Sue is also an active member of the First Baptist Church of Leland, the very same church he attended as a child.
“Bill is a compassionate man,” Bidgie says. “He has a heart of a servant when it comes to his church, his family, his friends and his county. He might have an image of being quite gruff at times because he says what he means and is always honest. That’s what I love about him.”
As for the future of Brunswick County, Sue is hopeful for the great things still to come.
“I don’t think Brunswick County is going to stop growing,” he says, “and the reason why is because of our location and environment. We’ve got one of the lowest tax rates in the state, we’ve got beaches, creeks, woods and a good climate. It’s a great place to live, and we still have so much potential.”