The Town of Sanford was incorporated in Moore County on February 11, 1874 - 31 years before the creation of Lee County. The stimulus for growth provided by Sanford, along with the towns of Broadway and Jonesboro led to the birth of Lee County in 1907. Lee County was formed with portions of Moore and Chatham Counties, the county seat being a point equal-distance between Sanford and Jonesboro.

Sanford itself sprung up from the crossing of the Western and Chatham Railroads. These rails are now known as the Atlantic and Western and Seaboard Coastline. Colonel C. O. Sanford was chief civil engineer of the now Seaboard Coastline and Sanford is named in his honor. At one point near the turn-of-the-century, citizens debated changing the name of Sanford to Scottsville in honor of Major John W. Scott, but the name Sanford held. In 1947 the name Sanford survived the merger with Jonesboro. The area of Jonesboro became known as Jonesboro Heights. It is ironic that with the decline of the retail hub in Downtown Sanford, two distinct City centers have re-emerged. To this day Jonesboro Heights, as it is now known, retains a special identity and gives Sanford the unique pleasure of having two downtowns.

With the merger of the two incorporated towns of Jonesboro and Sanford a new municipal charter was adopted and the official name became the City of Sanford. The City was governed by seven Aldermen living in separate residence wards until 1991 when the City's wards were redesigned into five wards with two Aldermen being elected at-large.

The City of Sanford is operated under the Council-Manager form of government, which was adopted in 1944. Policymaking and legislative authority is vested in a City Council consisting of seven Council Members and a Mayor who are elected in odd-numbered years. The City Manager is employed by the Council and is responsible to the City Council for the administration of all affairs of the municipality. The City Manager appoints the Department Heads and supervises and coordinates the activities of the departments.

Sanford enjoys steady growth. In 1880 the population was 236; in 1900, 1,044; in 1920, 2,977; in 1940, 4,960; and in 1950, after the merger of the Town of Jonesboro, 10,013. In the late 1950's, growth became more suburban in character. Taking advantage of municipal water and sewer lines, development occurred just outside the City Limits, and population growth became a function of annexation. In 1960 the population was 12,252; in 1970, 12,028; and in 1980, 14,773. Rapid development in the 1980s was contained in the City's Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, but this development did not begin to be annexed into the City until the 1990s. The 1990 population was only 14,755 as a result of this phenomenon. The 1991 population was 18,125; the 1994 population was 20,385; and the 2008 population is in excess of 26,000. During fiscal year 2004-05 the City purchased the county water system from Lee County. The City now provides municipal water to more than 17,000 city and county residents as well as sewer service to approximately 8,900 city residents.

Sanford Chamber of Commerce
Downtown Sanford Inc


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