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More MS news articles for November 2003

MS doesn't hinder political goals

Cary candidate recalls epiphany

Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Demorriss Lee
The Associated Press

Hard work is a way of life for Ernie McAlister. For 24 years he labored in the high-pressured banking world 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week. He decided whether million-dollar loans would be granted or a new bank branch would open.

But in January, McAlister made the hardest choice of his life. He departed banking. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis five years earlier, McAlister said he needed a "lifestyle change."

"You don't get a diagnosis like that without it causing you to step back and evaluate where you are, where you're going and were you want to go," McAlister said.

Leaving the banking world gave McAlister the opportunity to tackle things he always wanted to do. One goal was to be elected the mayor of Cary. On Nov. 4 voters will decide whether he or town council member Julie Robison will get the job.

McAlister said he has a mild case of what's called recurring-remitting MS, the most common form of an autoimmune illness that damages the central nervous system. McAlister's biggest symptom is fatigue. He can't work 10-hour days back-to-back anymore, but he believes he can serve as Cary's mayor.

After McAlister, 46, retired from Capital Bank, he launched his campaign in June. Standing before nearly 200 people at Montague Lake, he explained why he needed a lifestyle change.

"Many of you are aware that five years ago I was diagnosed with MS," McAlister said he told the crowd "Once diagnosed, I realized I had it for years. When I worked at First Citizens Bank, when I helped start Capital Bank in 1998, when I was chair of the Chamber [of Commerce]. I had it through a 24-year career in banking."

McAlister was the top vote getter in October's primary, garnering 40 percent of the vote and winning in 26 of 37 Cary precincts. Robison, who won 31 percent of the vote, said that McAlister informed her that he had MS in May.

"I never questioned it," said Robison, a public administration specialist at Research Triangle Institute. "It's an issue between him, his family and his doctor. I never raised the issue and for me, it's not an issue that I consider my business."

Current Mayor Glen Lang said he thinks a person diagnosed with MS can successfully serve as mayor. The job, if done properly he said, takes about 30 hours a week. Lang, who lost a bid for re-election in October, has found being mayor less stressful than working in the private sector.

"In my mind, stress is related to speed and urgency and the government in general moves much slower than the commercial world," Lang said.

Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press