ELIZABETHTOWN — Charles Ray Peterson surely has numerous plaques, certificates and mementos of appreciation for the years of service he’s given to countless organizations in Bladen County over the years as an elected official and volunteer.
On Monday, he was presented with what may be the centerpiece of those honors.
During the Bladen County Board of Commissioners’ regular meeting, Peterson was presented with the On Point Award by Breeden Blackwell, director of government relations with Cape Fear Valley Health Systems.
“I was completely shocked,” Peterson said. “I had no clue it was coming.”
In fact, when Blackwell showed up for the meeting, Peterson figured something was up and there would be something big ready to happen — but an award was the furthest thing from his mind.
“When they rolled in a cart with something covered up on it, I really thought it would be a model of a new hospital for Bladen County,” Peterson said.
Instead, Blackwell told the board and those in attendance that Peterson was just the third recipient of the On Point Award. The first two were Rep. David Lewis of Harnett County and Dr. John Kaufman, dean of the Campbell University Medical School.
“We want this to be a special award, so it’s not going to be something that is given out regularly,” Blackwell said. “It’s going to be given for special circumstances.”
He went on to say that Peterson rose to the top during the negotiations between the county and Cape Fear Valley to establish a partnership with Bladen County Hospital. The leadership role taken by Peterson during that time was also noticed by County Manager Greg Martin.
“In 2007 the county was looking for a partner, and Cape Fear Valley came to the table,” Martin said. “There was a lot of negotiating, and Charles Ray was a big part of that. He brought a lot to the table as a county commissioner and member of the Bladen County Hospital board; he had a great understanding of the situation.”
Blackwell recalled that Peterson was the glue that kept the negotiations alive.
“We negotiated with the county for a long time, and those negotiations broke down a couple of times,” he said. “But Charles was always the steady hand.
“We knew Bladen County Hospital was going to close and we wanted to be their partner,” Blackwell added. “There were some heated moments and when others were ready to fold the tent and go home, Charles kept on and said it had to be worked out for the residents of Bladen County.”
The On Point Award is a replica of a Gladius Sword — a short sword used by the elite Roman gladiators in close hand-to-hand combat. The phrase “on point,” is a military term that refers to assuming the first and most exposed position in a combat military formation.
“It’s very representative of how Peterson was always in the middle of things, fighting to keep things moving ahead,” Blackwell said.
Martin said the award is well-deserved.
“It’s a great honor for Charles and really came as a result of a great deal of work and effort on his part,” he said. “It’s also a good thing for the county.”
Peterson, hardly the kind to toot his own horn, still understood the significance of the On Point Award.
“I’m real proud to be recognized like this, especially since it’s only the third one given,” he said. “But I just try to do what’s in the best interest of Bladen County.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.