The end of an era

When the doors to Mooresville’s NCDMV license plate agency close on February 14, it’ll mark the end of an era. 

Pam Morgan, who took over ownership of the office from her mom about a decade ago, is retiring. And when she does, the longtime NCDMV office on Main Street will permanently close. “On Valentine’s Day, I’ll close the door at 5 p.m, and on the 15th, the state will come in and remove all the equipment and inventory,” Pam said.

NCDMV oversees license plate agencies — commonly referred to as “the tag office” in Mooresville — but the businesses are privately owned. Pam’s mom, Peggy Earle, opened Mooresville’s tag office in the early 1970s on the corner of Center Avenue and Main Street. Pam started working there in 1983. The office moved in 1995 to the Markade on North Main Street. Then Pam took over ownership after her mother died in 2015. 

“I let her go to her grave knowing I had it,” Pam remembered. “I signed the contract the day of her funeral. I waited four months to find out if I was approved, and here I am.” 

Last February, the office moved to its current location at 125 N. Main St. 

Upon learning of Pam’s impending retirement late last year, NCDMV began looking for another contractor to open a new license plate agency in Iredell County. “The state is looking for contractors now,” Pam said, adding that until a suitable applicant is found, the closest full-service tag offices to Mooresville will be Statesville, Kannapolis, Concord and Salisbury. 

Mooresville is going to feel the loss … in more ways than one. 

“Sometimes we’ll have 200 to 300 people come through here in a day,” Pam said. “Sometimes we’ll handle 500 stickers in a day.”

But perhaps the biggest hit will be the emotional one. 

“I was just in there this week and it was the most pleasant experience,” Becky Brawley Thompson wrote on a recent Scoop post about Pam’s upcoming retirement. 

Added resident Lisa Carver: “I will miss Pam. Getting to talk to her made the whole process more pleasant.” 

“Best one to go to,” Alice Rimmer wrote of the Mooresville tag office. 

“Pam and her mother, Peggy, have been such a part of Mooresville for many, many years!” wrote Janice Lail. “Very happy for Pam to retire as she has worked hard in that office to maintain what her mother started.”

The closing is sure to be emotional for Pam, too. She has years of memories from watching her mom work in the office … then working with her mom. She recalled a time when a customer “threw a whole box of screws” at her mom when she was working at the counter. Another time, a customer slammed his hands down on the counter in front of her mom, and “she never worked the counter again after that,” Pam said. 

When asked how she remains so positive with those kinds of experiences in her recollections — and, to be sure, in some modern-day interactions — Pam smiled. “It’s a lot, but it’s normal to me,” she said and pointed to a paper pinned near her computer. On it is a quote from Christian pastor Charles Swindoll: 

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

Pam said that while her daughter has worked in the office, she had a baby a year ago and doesn’t have an interest in taking over ownership. “It takes over your life; it consumes you,” Pam said. 

“And these girls don’t want it,” she added, nodding to the ladies — Karen Platt, Andrea Tumalty, Natalie Drew and Debbie Cehon — who work at the office. “They said they’d be here until the end. I have great girls here. You’ve gotta like people to work here.”

Karen overheard that statement and ran over. “You’ve gotta be half-crazy,” she said laughing, then ran back to the waiting customer at her counter.

How will Pam spend her time in retirement? “Moving dirt,” she said. “I’m ready to play in the woods.” 

It’s time to take care of her family, she said. But her time at the tag office will never be forgotten. 

“It’s been an awesome ride,” she said. “We’ve been here to serve the community, and I love this job.”


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About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.


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