Danny Alderman: Beyond the bedroom community
This story is one of seven vignettes in the series Rural by Choice: Navigating Identity in the Uwharries.
Danny Alderman puts 1,200 to 1,400 miles on his truck each week.
As the general superintendent of North Carolina projects for Branch Builds, he oversees about $250 million worth of work across the state, including schools in Cabarrus County and Indian Trail — as well as the rare project close to home, the new high school in Montgomery County.
“I’m in such a rat race during the day,” he said. “That’s why I choose to live in the Uwharries.”
He and his twin brother, David, moved to the Uwharries with their father when they were 10. David still lives there, as do Danny’s two kids and three grandkids. Danny and Tanna, his wife of 29 years, currently reside just north of Troy, but they recently bought 70 acres off Okeewemee Road, next to former Carolina Panther Kerry Collins’ Blue Q Ranch. Danny is itching to get started on their retirement home.
“I give it 110 percent during the week, but on the weekends, I want to hunt and fish,” he said. He hunts deer and bags mallards and wood ducks on local rivers. He often participates in bass tournaments at one of the nearby lakes – Tillery, Badin, Tuckertown or High Rock. While he enjoys winning a cash prize, it’s really more about bragging rights.
Danny sacrifices for that lifestyle, spending long days on the road. The Uwharries are centrally located, but they’ve been described as being “an hour from everywhere and ten minutes from nowhere.”
When Danny checks on a project in Avery County, he’ll do the seven-hour round trip in a single day, mostly so he can be at home overnight with Tanna, who suffers from disabilities resulting from brain surgery nine years ago. Early in his career, he missed spending time with his kids.
“I was out on job sites all the time, trying to make a name for myself. If I had it to do over again, I’m not sure I would.” Now that his son also works with Branch Builds, they spend more time together.
In an industry that suffers dramatically during economic downturns, his work generally remains consistent. That’s one reason he’s willing to commute to urban areas for large municipal projects such as schools and hospitals instead of working locally. “Once bond money has been approved for a project, it’s going to get built,” he said, even during a recession.
He commutes to the Branch Builds office in Charlotte two or three times per week, and has noticed an uptick in traffic congestion. One recent September morning, he left the Uwharries at 6:30 and didn’t reach the office on Tyvola Road until 9:15.
“Independence was at a standstill,” he said.
While stuck in that traffic jam, he noticed two children waiting for the school bus in the parking lot of an extended-stay hotel.
“I got to thinking about their situation,” he said. “When they’re out of school, they have no place to play but a sidewalk or parking lot. No yard or woods to roam around in. You just want to pick them up and carry them out to the Uwharries.”
He recalls taking his kids to Disney’s Animal Kingdom years ago and how excited they were to see a bald eagle at an exhibit. “Now, I can take you out on my boat on Lake Tillery and show you bald eagles. They’re almost always up near the dam.”