SNOW HILL – Ed Lee has not decided quite what his future holds after stepping down from the NAACP presidency, but he knows his future will include working for the community.
Lee stepped down as president of the Worcester County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) last week. Lee said he plans to stay involved in local government and advocating for the minority population, but he said he was not prepared to disclose any specifics as far as what those initiatives or avenues may be.
“I live here. I’m not going anywhere. Certainly, I plan to be involved and working to help continue to improve the quality of life in Worcester County,” Lee said.
Thinking back on his 10 years as president of the local NAACP branch, Lee identified several accomplishments that bring him pride.
After the court case that forced Worcester County to create a minority-majority voting district, there was a lot of bad blood in the county, Lee said.
“There was division in this community,” Lee said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is the healing of those wounds.”
He also points to building up good, productive relationships between the NAACP and local and state governments and agencies as well as local clergy. Those relationships have been key to accomplishing goals set by the NAACP, Lee said.
The improved relationship between the NAACP and the Worcester County Board of Education has been particularly fruitful, Lee said, helping to narrow the African American student achievement gap and providing support for all students, particularly through the establishment of pupil advocates, a move Lee and the NAACP lobbied for over several years.
The NAACP under his leadership also lobbied for an elected school board, which did come to pass, he said.
Lee also led the local NAACP in pursuing Thornton funding for education, and supporting the maintenance of effort level of funding for county schools last year, he noted.
“Once that was behind us we began to go to the table where decisions were made,” said Lee. “That was not an easy undertaking. We encountered resistance.”
Lee acknowledged that he and the NAACP have had a reputation for pushing hard, sometimes seen as too hard, for their goals.
“Our administration in some areas may have appeared to be confrontational, may have appeared to be disruptive, but in the final analysis we were at the table,” he said.
He is also happy that the NAACP is no longer considered just a black organization in the county.
“A significant part of our membership are from the larger white community,” said Lee.
The NAACP and Lee still have issues to face in the future.
“We have a tremendous resource sitting out on 113 that is under-utilized and that is the tech center,” Lee said.
When the new Worcester Technical High School was in the planning stages, Lee said he advocated creating a true campus there worthy of blue ribbon status.
The tech center could be the heart of job training and creation in Worcester County, Lee said, if it is used to capacity.
Wallops Island is planning to invest $28 billion in that facility over the next 15 years, and the technical high school could produce skilled workers for the spaceport, said Lee.
With the technical high school as a job training center, the county could also attract more light industry, Lee felt.
WTS needs the right person in charge, someone with vision, Lee believes, to become a conduit for not just job training but job creation in Worcester County.
Affordable housing has been a focus for the NAACP for years, and work still needs to be done on that issue, Lee said. Without affordable housing, the county will not have the workforce to attract new businesses and industry.
The heritage trail proposed two years ago would also promote economic growth in the county and greater region, Lee said. All four towns contributed $15,000 each two years ago for development work on that concept.
A heritage trail would direct tourists through the county to areas of local historic interest, providing small business opportunities, Lee said, from Ocean City, to Pocomoke, and west to the Harriet Tubman heritage project in the Easton area.
“In the next two or three years, it could be up and running,” Lee said.
The Freedom Fund that provides college scholarships for low-income students is another cause dear to Lee. Much of the fundraising for the fund is done through the Freedom Fund event at the Ocean City Convention Center in October.
“It is about the county. It is about our children … These scholarships are for all students of need in the county,” Lee said.