Longtime Former Mayor Richard G. "Dick" Sears has passed away following an almost two-year battle with cancer.
Sears served as mayor of Holly Springs for 20 years, from 2001 until 2021. During his two decades as mayor, Holly Springs quadrupled in population, transforming from mostly a bedroom community to a vibrant town of 46,000, while becoming known as one of the most desirable towns in North Carolina.
"Dick Sears was one of our town's greatest champions and influential leaders shaping Holly Springs into the amazing community we have today," said Randy Harrington, Town Manager. "He advocated fiercely for kids, strong healthcare options, public safety, parks and greenways, new infrastructure, and economic development that created new jobs and grew the town's tax base. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with former Mayor Sears. He will be greatly missed."
"Former Mayor Sears had such a tremendous influence on our community," said Mayor Sean Mayefskie. “He was a model for mayors to come. Not only did he shape Holly Springs when it came to big issues, including transportation, healthcare, and economic development. Former Mayor Sears developed countless genuine connections with so many people in our community. He always had time to sit with anyone who wanted to talk about any issue in his office. His deep and genuine care for Holly Springs will be felt for years to come."
Funeral arrangements are being arranged by the family.
Throughout his tenure, Sears pursued a vision of Holly Springs as a place where residents could live, work, and play without needing to go out of town for most services. At the same time, he prioritized the retention of Holly Springs' small-town charm.
Under his leadership, Holly Springs solidified its reputation as a preferred location for life sciences companies. The landing of Amgen and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies in 2021 followed many years of groundwork to position Holly Springs as a home for biotech. Residents are thankful for the addition of the 50-bed UNC Health Rex Holly Springs Hospital that Mayor Sears spent years attracting to town. Helping bring a hospital to Holly Springs was one of his biggest goals as mayor.
Sears moved to Holly Springs in 1995 after a long career with Sears, Roebuck & Co. in New York and Chicago. He had risen to National Group Marketing Manager for the Women's Store, which had one of the most successful divisions in the company. He also founded the Gray Group Consulting Network, Inc.
In 2001, Sears ran for office on a dare from a Town Council member and friend who thought he could make a difference. Sears' then 3-year-old granddaughter was his campaign manager. He ran unopposed in 2005, and was re-elected three subsequent times.
Through all his successful campaigns, Sears' motto remained, "If it's good for the kids, it's good for Holly Springs."
Sears founded the Mayor's Youth Advisory Board and the Mayor's Anti-Bullying Committee. He also was a founding member of the Fuquay Youth Initiative, an after-school program for middle school students.
Dick and his wife Mollie were married for more than 60 years and have three children, 13 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
A native of Indiana, he was an Eagle Scout. In high school, Sears served as class president and was selected for the National 4-H Club Congress. He graduated from Purdue University in 1961 with bachelor of science degrees in psychology and economics and a minor in English. He was president of Theta Chi Fraternity chapter.
His more than a quarter century in Holly Springs included community involvement in numerous capacities. Among these were charter memberships in the Kiwanis, Civitan, Lions, and Rotary clubs, and board membership in the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce. At his retirement, he was recognized by the governor's office with the Old North State Award, which celebrates "dedication and service beyond expectation and excellence to the Great State of North Carolina."