NEWTON GROVE — Gerald Darden smiled as Barbra Burch cheerfully handed over keys to the town hall’s mayor office.
After taking a hiatus as mayor, Darden is looking forward to picking up where he left off and continuing the work of Burch, who stepped down. During a Monday meeting for Newton Grove’s Board of Commissioners, Darden was sworn in as the new leader for the town.
“I would like to thank the citizens of Newton Grove for having faith in me to serve as their mayor,” Darden said.
During the 2015 municipal election in November, Darden defeated Stephen Jackson by a slim margin. He served as mayor for 12 years before he decided to leave the position in 2013.
In addition to mayoral work, he has served as a town commissioner, been on the fire department and was the captain of the rescue squad. Darden later retired after 20 years of service. During his current tenure, he would like to help Newton Grove grow.
“We’re a small community, but we still like to see things continue to grow and get stronger,” he said.
He’s also looking forward to helping with the process of installing new lighting and a landscaping project to improve Weeks Circle. A resolution was recently approved after town officials requested the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NC DOT) and the Weeks Circle Enhancement Project to assist with landscaping in the area.
Currently, he does not have any long-term goals, but he would like to see growth in Newton Grove through new businesses. It’s a task he’s familiar with.
“I worked on that when I was the mayor before,” Darden said about bringing in more commercial businesses such as restaurants and convenience stores.
For Darden, one target area around town is the Interstate 40 area, near exit 341.
“That’s one of the things that I’ll be working on for sure — more growth,” he said.
In addition to Darden, incumbent Alan Herring and recently elected Cody Smith were sworn in during the meeting. Both candidates ran unopposed. Former commissioner Laura Wheeler did not seek reelection since she was moving out of town. Herring was sworn in as mayor pro tem.
After the ceremony, Burch made remarks and thanked town officials, board members and welcomed the new mayor. Commissioner Teresa Wilson presented her with a silver platter with her name engraved
“I can’t thank you enough for letting me serve as mayor,” Burch said. “I hold this town very dear to my heart. This was the town I grew up in, I was raised in and I hope Newton Grove is where I die. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done and letting me serve as mayor.”
Burch worked with Darden for 10 years on the board and said he’s capable of taking care of the town and the board. Darden responded and thanked Burch for moving the town forward during her two years as mayor.
“Twelve years was not enough for you, so you had to come back,” Burch said humorously before passing on the gavel along with the keys. “You know what it’s all about, so I don’t have to tell you anything. But I will tell you that this board is more vociferous, than the board you had before. So get ready. I wish you the very best.”
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