Yesterday, the residents of Surry County and surrounding areas lost a public servant.
State Sen. Don East, while recovering from back surgery, died from sudden complications related to the procedure.
In addition to a career spent in law enforcement, the 67-year-old East served Surry County as a commissioner for six years, and then served in the state senate for seven terms and was in the midst of a re-election battle with Ric Marshall, seeking an eighth term in office.
During those years in office, East built a level of respect among his colleagues, and gained a certain amount of seniority that put him in position to even better serve his constituents in Surry County and the surrounding areas. By all accounts he was a family man, and a man of high professional and personal principles.
Like all politicians, he made stands on issues that some agreed with and others disagreed with. We found him to be particularly forceful on issues of illegal immigration and taxation — often for the good of his district, occasionally in ways that had us wondering a bit.
But no one can question his commitment to the people who elected him to office or his commitment to public service. Perhaps his opponent, Marshall, put it best Monday when he spoke of East.
“Despite the fact that Sen. East and I disagreed on issues of policy and politics, we agreed that service to the citizens of North Carolina is an honorable and worthwhile endeavor. His service and dedication to the people of Alleghany, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties — both as an elected official and a police officer — will not soon be forgotten. Some things are just more important than politics and my thoughts and prayers go out to Sen. East’s family and friends,” Marshall said.
We should all be saddened at his death, and use his lifetime of public service as an example of how each person can make a difference.