Meet the Founders

Ray Covington
Ray Covington, a native of Lee County, graduated from Elon University with a degree in Chemistry. He went on to obtain a Masters in Education from UNC-Greensboro and a PhD in Educational Leadership from UNC–Chapel Hill. Ray’s PhD dissertation focused on the positive effects of collaboration. He enjoyed a 20-year career working as an administrator and professor at Elon University, Greensboro College, and UNCG.

Ray retired from higher education in 2006 to run his family’s real estate business. Since then he has built a reputation for building partnerships and collaborating to establish new businesses and non-profits that focus on central North Carolina. Most recently he has enjoyed working with other business leaders to develop the “Lee County 2nd Century Project”, which is a collaboration of business and community leaders who have come together to create a new look and feel for the image of Sanford and Lee County, and to promote the area’s strengths, telling our story in a positive and unified way. He has also been active in the ongoing development of a state historical site around the 1860’s Endor Iron Furnace located on 460-acre site in Lee County on the Deep River. Ray has served in many other leadership roles with his church and other non-profits, including being President of both the Burlington and Greensboro Rotary Clubs.

Ray’s parents are lifetime Sanfordians, Dr. M. Cade and Irene Covington. Dr. Covington was a former “Citizen of the Year” for Sanford and a great passion of his was land. Ray feels blessed to have grown up in Sanford with his five brothers and sister, Marty, Al, Don, Bob, Frank, and Nancy.

In 1974, Chevron drilled an oil exploratory well on one of the Covington farms and discovered natural gas and oil. At that time, they determined that the oil was not marketable. With today’s technology, natural gas very well may be.

Rob Knight
Rob is a graduate of Lee County Senior High. He graduated from Elon University in 1983 with a B.A. in Business Administration. He has been a Financial Consultant for 24 years and lives in Deep Gap NC with his wife and two children.

Having grown up in Lee County, some of Rob’s favorite memories are of spending time with family and friends on the Burns Land on Steele Bridge Road. “We have hiked, hunted and gotten lost out there.” He recalls the day that he, Russ and their dad Dudley were walking on the land. There was heavy cloud cover and we couldn’t get our bearings and apparently were walking around in circles. He remembers seeing some muddy foot prints and asking his dad who could have left these here. It was then that they realized they were lost, if only temporarily.

He has plans of one day building a cabin on this land that he and his family can enjoy.

Russ Knight
Russ Knight graduated from Lee Sr. High School in Sanford N.C. and later received a B.A. in Business Administration from Elon University in 1984. He has always resided in Sanford and has been actively involved in his church, community, and service organizations in Lee County. His work background has been in sales, manufacturing and for the last twelve years, he has owned and managed his own businesses.

At least five generations of the Knight family have lived and worked in Moore and Lee Counties in N.C. His grandfather, Dr. Floyd L. Knight, grew up on Steel Bridge Rd. in north eastern Moore County and was the first surgeon in Lee County. He believed in being a good steward of the land and that belief has been passed down to each generation that has followed. Throughout the years the Knight family has enjoyed spending time on the family land for recreation, creating animal habitat and managing timber for harvest. It is Russ’ hope that this land will be in the Knight family for many generations to come.

Jim Mills – Legal Counsel
Jim Mills, Managing Member of Diversified Energy Software Solutions, LLC, was admitted to the bar in 1974 and served through 1987 as a senior attorney with the U.S. Department of the Interior and liaison with the U.S. Department of Justice, Land and Natural Resource Division. During his tenure with the Interior Department, he was responsible for assisting client agencies in compliance with regulatory requirements, including matters related to conservation, environmental regulation (NEP A), FERC consultation and operational matters (SEP A), mineral and oil leasing on national park and refuge lands, offshore mineral and oil leasing matters (OCSLA), CERCLA and RCRA matters, government contract administration (FAR), and federal land jurisdictional matters (CLJ).

Jim assisted in drafting and promulgation of regulations (AP A) related to rights of way over federal lands for pipeline, electric utility and communication purposes (CFR). He represented client agencies in both administrative and judicial litigation proceedings arising as a result of agency operations, including the landmark regulatory case OFOF v. Interior, 590 F. Supp 805. Jim was appointed hearing officer to preside over hearings convened by the Interior Department for the proposed listing of endangered species (ESA); establishment of ESA Critical Habitats; and wildlife management plans.

From 1988 through 1991, Jim served as an in-house attorney in the Land Department of
Georgia Power Company (Southern Company) – a company he had worked with as a right of way agent the early 70’s – providing legal counsel in matters related to acquisition of rights of way for electric power lines, complex lease negotiation and administration; eminent domain, fiber optic projects and contract administration. In 1996, commenced assisting Diversified Energy Services in the provision of services to gas and petroleum pipeline companies regarding the acquisition of rights of way, permitting and leasing of lands for operational purposes, a list of pipeline companies served by Diversified is attached hereto.

In 2005, Jim became involved as a founding member of Diversified Energy Software Solutions, a developer of distributed software applications for the pipeline industry regarding pipeline integrity and related matters (49 CFR 192 and 195) and the management of data regarding the acquisition of lands through easements and leases in the furtherance of the operational purposes of pipeline companies. Jim also serves as a part-time administrative law judge for a metropolitan county. Jim holds a B.A. degree in Public Administration and a Juris Doctor degree and is a member of the State Bar of Georgia (#509650) and the American Bar Association.

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