Bennett is finally out of the woods

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 20, 2003

JACKSON – After 30 years, Mike Bennett is finally out of the woods.

Amid family and friends, co-workers and benefactors of his handiwork, Bennett formally stepped down as Northampton County Forest Ranger here last week during a retirement luncheon held in his honor at the Rehobeth Methodist Church Fellowship Hall.

&uot;The time has come for me to move on,&uot; said Bennett, a Nash County native who came to Northampton County fresh out of Wayne Community College back in 1973. &uot;I feel that I had a great career and had the opportunity to work with some mighty fine people, but 30 years is long enough. It was time for a change.

While his career in the traditional green and tan Forest Service colors is now officially over, Bennett, at age 50, is far from finished.

&uot;I’ve got a few irons already in the fire,&uot; he noted. &uot;I’ve been helping with the (debris) clean-up from the hurricane and I’ll be working with a farmer this fall helping to get his crops in. I’ll stay busy. I’m not one to sit around.&uot;

Bennett hit the ground running in 1973 when he accepted the Assistant Forest Ranger’s job in Northampton, then under the command of Leroy Wheeler. Following Wheeler’s retirement, Bennett was promoted to Forest Ranger in 1985.

Since that time, his accolades speak louder than words.

&uot;There was nothing broke in Northampton County, so why try to fix anything,&uot; quizzed Reid Hildreth, District Five Forester with the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources. &uot;Mike posted some incredible numbers in Northampton County. Three thousand acres of reforestation per year was not unheard of in Northampton County.&uot;

Hildreth then paid Bennett the best compliment any Forest Service employee can ever receive when he offered, &uot;The woodlands in Northampton County are better now than when Mike found them in 1973.&uot;

He added, &uot;Mike Bennett can trace his professional success to two things – 1) he treats people with respect, and 2) he’s a man of his word.&uot;

Northampton County Forest Service equipment operator Earlie Boone pointed out Bennett’s two true loves, of course outside those feelings for his family.

&uot;First of all, Mike loved working with the landowners and the Forestry Association,&uot; said Boone. &uot;But he also loved the volunteer firemen here in this county. He knew they were his biggest ally and he would go out of his way to make sure their needs were met.&uot;

While one &uot;family&uot; element turned out in great number last week, as evident by the sea of green and tan seated within the Fellowship Hall, Bennett was surrounded by his real family – wife Joy, sons Bryan and Daniel and his father and mother, Dwight and Mavis Bennett.

&uot;They have been so supportive,&uot; stressed Bennett of his family. &uot;They allowed me a chance to work at a job I so dearly loved. I thank them for that support.&uot;

Bennett was presented several gifts, including the State Flag of North Carolina and plaques and mementoes representing his years of service to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Division of Forest Resources, District Five and Northampton County.