GARLAND — The Garland board got a new look Tuesday, with a newly-elected mayor and three commissioners swearing their oaths of office during the regular board meeting.
Mayor Winifred Murphy, seated alongside the revamped Garland Board of Commissioners at the gathering inside the American Legion building, preached the importance of unity and community involvement as the town moved forward.
“We want to thank the many, many volunteers, the ones who have helped today, the ones who have helped in the past and the ones who will help in the future,” the mayor said. “Because none of us can do this without each other. As mayor, I can not do anything alone. We cannot do anything without your support, without prayers, without God and without all of us getting your input.”
A reception was held prior to the town board’s regular meeting, at which Murphy, commissioner Haywood Johnson and commissioners-elect Carolyn Yolanda Melvin and Sanford J. Smith were administered their oaths of office.
Only Melvin is totally new to the board, although the recent election affirmed the positions of Murphy and Johnson, who were previously appointed to their posts. It also marked a return to the board after a two-year hiatus for Smith, a longtime commissioner who lost his seat in 2011. He has served the town for nearly 40 years as a commissioner and town employee.
Murphy, who won a commissioners seat in 2011, vacated that seat at the beginning of 2012 when she was appointed as mayor. Johnson, who previously served as commissioner before being voted out with Smith in 2011, was appointed to the board to fill the unexpired term of former board member Coleman Johnson just a few months later in early 2012.
“We are very thankful and we have so much more work to do,” said Murphy. “And we are going to move forward together, but it takes all of us to do so … we need to pull (all citizens) in so that we can make sure everyone’s voice is heard. We want to listen to our constituents. We have to have engagement. That’s why I thought it was so important to have the young people here this evening.”
She was referring to students from Pearls Academy who were in attendance, as were many from the community, including family members of students and board members, as well as local officials, business representatives and volunteers who assisted with the reception at the American Legion building.
Murphy thanked Pearls Academy staff, the American Legion and the many volunteers, as well as reception sponsors Envirolink, CenturyLink and Sampson-Bladen Oil Company.
Following the oath of office ceremony, new board member Melvin and the Rev. Ronald Highsmith sang a selection entitled “Let it Rain (Open the Floodgates of Heaven)” before Murphy called on the board to work together and the community to get involved in supporting the town.
Opening the meeting, Murphy said she was interviewed by a young girl in a Junior Leadership class during the preceding reception. The girl wanted to know why it was important that she, as a teenager, be involved in town issues.
“Decisions that are made in Garland today will affect us 30, 40, 50 years from now,” said Murphy. “The good decisions we made in the town of Garland are affecting us now — that’s why we’re still here. There have been some decisions that didn’t help us, such as the closing of the school. We need to make sure we listen to everybody’s voice.”
Murphy pointed to Garland’s voter turnout which, despite its small population, was the highest in the county during last month’s municipal election, with more than 65 percent of the registered voters in Garland casting ballots. If the town can get those people to come to the table and be heard on the issues, no matter how they voted, the town can have every viewpoint represented and be better for it.
“It takes all of us to make that happen,” said Murphy. “I thank each of you for being here and, as we move forward together, let’s continue to let our elected officials know what is on your mind and what’s in your heart, and don’t just sit back and say ‘well, they should’ve done this and they should’ve done that,’ let us know.
“We might not always be able to make it happen, but we can make it happen moreso with your help than we can by ourselves,” Murphy said. “I look forward to working with all of the five board members. We have a lot of work ahead of us and I know that we can work together in a positive way because we all care about Garland. We all love Garland.”
Also at the meeting, the town also selected a new mayor pro-tem. It is the mayor pro-tem’s duty to step into the mayoral role if the mayor is unavailable, absent or unable to perform their duties. Murphy offered for the board’s consideration Johnson as the next mayor pro-tem.
Commissioner Ralph Smith, who has served as mayor pro-tem for the past two years, made a motion to appoint Johnson in the capacity, seconded by Melvin. The vote was unanimous. The board also voted to present plaques to former commissioners Denise and Michael Toler for their years of service.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.