SALEMBURG — Joe Warren, at Bobby Strickland’s right hand for the past decade as the town’s mayor pro tem, is seeking to become his mentor’s successor.
Joseph Aaron Warren Jr. has officially announced his candidacy for the next mayor of Salemburg and will file in July leading up to November’s election. During an interview with The Independent, Warren talked about his admiration for the longtime mayor and the love for his hometown, which has prompted him to throw his hat in the ring.
Whoever is elected to the post, he said, will have huge shoes to fill in maintaining the progress the town has enjoyed under Strickland. The longtime mayor, who convened his first meeting as mayor of the town of Salemburg in November 1981, announced to his board last month — some 34 years later — that he would not seek re-election to the post.
“When Mr. Bobby announced he was retiring, he said he had some bittersweet news to tell us,” Warren recalled. “I hate that he’s retiring and I begged him to stay on. He said he knew it was just time to step away.”
Over the years, Warren said, Strickland has led initiatives for the town that have seen the receipt of revitalization grants, new LED street lights and the wastewater treatment plant. Currently, he is working toward getting the streets repaved. Throughout, Warren has stood in awe, and said he wished to continue the great work that has been done.
“It is hard to believe his chapter is coming to an end,” Warren stated. “Following in his shows will be a hard job to do.”
But that is exactly what Warren’s intentions are.
“I just love this town and I want to see the town do well,” Warren attested. “It’s hard to improve it much because Mr. Bobby did so well but I want to maintain it and continue what he’s started.”
Since 1981, Strickland has helped to secure some $3.1 million in funding to better the town of Salemburg in one way or another. But Strickland takes little credit for the impact that has been made on the town since he took office, preferring instead to talk about the teamwork it has taken to ensure his missions were accomplished.
Warren has already inherited Strickland’s modesty, saying he only wants to do what is best for the town.
Owner and operator of Warren’s Service Center in the center of the town, Warren is married to wife Linda and they have two children, Joseph Aaron Warren III and Laura Warren Faircloth, as well as a granddaughter, Grace Faircloth. Warren’s mother Janice still helps at the family service center, which his father opened up in 1953.
“He passed away in 1988 and I took over the business, so we have been in operation for about 62 years,” Warren said. While the branding might have changed a few times over the years — it began as a Pure Oil in the 50’s and has changed a couple times before before taking on the Valero name in 2013 — it has always been Warren’s Service Center.
Warren, who lives right next door to the business, said he takes pride in his status as a Salemburg citizen just as he knows many others do — he knows most everyone in town. A lifelong resident of Salemburg, Warren attends Salemburg Baptist Church and has been a volunteer firefighter for over 42 years, also serving on the first responder truck for the Salemburg Fire Department when it was in operation.
And, along with his community and business involvements, Warren has represented the town on its Board of Commissioners for nearly two decades.
“It has been my pleasure to serve as commissioner for the town of Salemburg for the last 18 years and 10 of those years as mayor pro tem, during which time I have worked closely with Bobby Strickland,” Warren said. “I have always loved the town of Salemburg and support it whole-heartedly by giving not only of time, but financially supporting the schools and the community.”
If elected as Salemburg’s next mayor, Warren said he has goals that he wants to see carried out for the town and its surrounding area.
“In the future, if I’m elected, I hope to make contact with new businesses and hopefully attract them to our community,” Warren articulated. “At the present time, I am working closely with the Western Sampson Commerce Group, especially with John Swope, the executive director for the Sampson County Economic Development Commission, in search of land in the proximity of the new 24/242 Superstreet.”
That could mean a development boom for Sampson that could benefit Salemburg and other local municipalities, he said.
“It is hopeful that with the new road being built between Interstate 40 and 95, we are sure businesses will want to locate within the district and create new jobs,” he attested.
The town is always first, Warren noted, explaining that even if he was not elected, he is content in the fact that Strickland will still be around to provide some guidance as a consultant to his successor.
“The good thing about Mr. Bobby is he’s going to be here for whoever gets it,” the mayoral candidate remarked. “He’s a natural born leader and his heart is in it.”