Johnston County commissioner Wade Stewart, 68, has died.
Stewart, who has served on the board since 1998, was found dead in his home in Four Oaks this morning.
Stewart was an important figure in the county during a major population boom in the last decade the Census Bureau estimates population there grew from about 122,000 in 2000 to more than 172,000, according to 2011 estimates. He was vice chairman of the board from 2004 to 2008 and chairman from 2008 to 2010.
Under his leadership, the county built new schools in Four Oaks, Clayton, Benson and the Cleveland community. He oversaw the expansion of the county's Emergency Medical Services, which now provides service in the county's largest towns. He sat on the EMS and social services advisory boards.
Stewart, a veteran of the Vietnam War, will also be remembered for his role as an advocate for county veterans. He spearheaded the effort to establish a county veterans services advisory board, which brings together leaders of local veterans associations and supports the county veterans services office.
Commissioner Tony Braswell also a Vietnam veteran said they bonded over their service even though they often disagreed on issues facing the board of commissioners.
"We did sometimes trade some stories about that," Braswell said. " He was always willing to seek help for veterans for any cause...Veterans have lost a great advocate."
Other board members could not be reached for comment. Braswell said he and the rest of the board were "shocked" by Stewart's death.
"Its absolutely heartbreaking to all of us; were like a family together," Braswell said. "He was a great friend and a great servant for the people."
County manager Rick Hester, who has worked closely with Stewart since Stewart was elected in 1998 sent out a short e-mail statement about Stewart's death this morning.
"He enjoyed being a county commissioner because he loved helping people," Hester said. "We will miss him very much.