Seven mayoral posts, 19 town seats open

Filing for the 2015 Municipal Election is anticipated to be extremely busy this year, as a whopping 26 seats on town boards across Sampson County are set to expire, including mayoral posts in every town except Garland.

There will be at least two new mayors as Salemburg’s longtime leader Bobby Strickland has already announced he will be stepping down after 34 years and David Alexander recently delivered the news he would not seek a second term in Roseboro.

The filing period for November’s election begins this Monday, July 6, and extends to noon Friday, July 17. Seven mayoral seats will be up for grabs, as will 19 other town board seats, with virtually every Sampson County municipality having the potential of a hotly-contested race should candidates show up during the filing period.

In Autryville, the term of longtime Mayor Patricia Williams is expiring, along with those of Commissioners Jonathan Faircloth, Carolyn Cashwell and Larry Autry.

Clinton Mayor Lew Starling will see his seventh term run out, along with City Councilman Neal Strickland (District 2) and Councilwoman Jean Turlington (District 4). The mayor is elected every two years, Council members every four.

In Garland, the terms of Councilman Ralph Smith and Councilwoman Denise Toler will be coming to a close, however Smith just weeks ago resigned his position and the board has been mulling how to appoint his successor. Former commissioner Mike Toler’s name has been thrown into the mix, as he was narrowly beat out for the last available town seat during the last election, however Mayor Winifred Murphy has requested others be given a chance.

Whoever is appointed by the board would have to file before July 17 if they wanted to retain the seat.

Harrells longtime Mayor James C. Moore will be one of three town aldermen whose terms expire this year, with Johnnie Ray Powell and Katie Greer being the others. The mayor is not elected in Harrells. Aldermen are elected and they are then responsible for choosing who among them will be mayor. Moore has been mayor of Harrells for more than a decade.

In Newton Grove, Mayor Barbara F. Burch, along with Councilman Alan G. Herring and Councilwoman Laura Wheeler will see their terms expire this year.

Roseboro will undoubtedly see a shake-up in its town board, with Alexander out of the mayor’s race and three other commissioners seats opening. One of those seats belongs to Commissioner Richard L. Barefoot, while the others are currently occupied by Ray Clark Fisher and Cary Holland, who were previously appointed to fill the unexpired terms of Commissioners Roland Hall and James McLean, respectively.

Alexander’s departure marks another transition for Roseboro, which has seen a wealth of leadership experience leave the town board in recent years.

Alexander sat on the board for the last 17 years, serving as commissioners from 1998-2011, until he was elected to succeed Hall as mayor. Hall stepped down as commissioner last year after 22 years of service to the town, many as its mayor. McLean, who served as mayor pro tem for the town, resigned at the end of 2013 and Alice Butler was named his successor at mayor pro tem.

A long chapter is also coming to a close in Salemburg, where Strickland, mayor of the town since 1981, has already announced he will not seek another term. Commissioner Joe Warren, who currently serves as mayor pro tem, said he intends to file his candidacy for the office. If Warren is elected, that would require an appointment be made to Warren’s unexpired commissioner term which extends until 2017.

Also in Salemburg, Councilwoman Shirley M. Cooper and Councilmen Donald Nance and Bobby Tew will see their terms end. In Turkey, the terms of Mayor Tim Clifton, Councilman Mike Smith and Councilwoman Patricia Tew are all coming to a close.

Election Day is on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Early voting will extend from Oct. 22-31, with the Sampson County Board of Elections at the County Complex being the only site for such voting.