Tuesday’s City Council meeting began with a moment of silence in honor of late Councilwoman Maxine W. Harris and ended with the announcement that her successor was being sought, and would likely be appointed in April.
“We have the very, very sad task of appointing someone to fulfill the term of Maxine Harris,” Mayor Lew Starling said.
Harris’ term as Council representative for District 5 will expire in December.
The mayor encouraged anyone who would like to be considered for the post to send a letter to City Clerk Elaine Hunt, including some biographical information and their request for appointment. All letters are due to City Hall by 5 p.m. Friday, March 24. Applicants must be a resident of District 5.
“We will receive these applicants at our April 4 meeting to tell us something about themselves and why they want to be on the Council,” the mayor remarked. “I would anticipate Council will appoint someone at that meeting. So it is very important that anyone who wishes to be considered have their letter to the clerk by the close of business March 24. If you do not meet the deadline, I am not sure Council will consider the application.”
Starling pointed out that all letters will be subject to an “open and fair process” by which they will also be offered to local media for public dissemination upon submission.
Starling led a packed City Auditorium in a moment of silence at the top of Tuesday’s meeting in memory of Harris, who passed away Feb. 21 of natural causes at the age of 75.
“She fought hard for the betterment of the the community and she’ll be missed,” Starling said following her death. Other Council members shared similar feelings of mourning for Harris, who served as a councilwoman since December 1997 and was elected mayor pro tem by the Council in December 2001.
Harris made history by becoming the first woman to serve on the Clinton City Council and the first African-American to serve as mayor pro tem. Resolutions of respect were read into the record by City manager Shawn Purvis honoring both Harris and former Councilman John Sumner Eakes Jr., who passed away two days after Harris.
“She faithfully and honorably served the City Council of the City of Clinton,” the resolution honoring Harris’ stated. “Harris was truly a trailblazer and the Mayor, City Council and the citizens of Clinton benefited from her dedication, concern and love for Clinton.”
A Sampson native, Harris earned a degree from North Carolina A&T University. When she returned home, Harris began making a difference in her community, working first as a social worker, then as a counselor and assistant principal in the local schools. As a member of the Council, she fought for her District 5 constituents, especially toward expanding affordable housing opportunities in her district.
As part of the resolutions of respect, the Mayor and City Council sent condolences to the families of Harris and Eakes. Mayor Lew Starling personally delivered the resolutions to the families of Harris and Eakes. Starling acknowledged that the Eakes family also sent a letter of gratitude to the city.
Eakes, who served on the City Council from July 7, 1959 until July 6, 1971, passed away on Feb. 23 at the age of 96. Before serving as a Councilmember and as mayor pro tem, Eakes served on the Clinton Planning and Zoning Board. Sumner was a member of the Rotary Club and was an active member of First Baptist Church of Clinton, having served numerous terms as a member and chairman of the Board of Deacons and as a member of many church committees.
The city similarly offered its condolences to Eakes and its deepest sympathy to his family.
“The Mayor, City Council and the citizens of Clinton benefited from Councilmember Eakes’ dedication and love for Clinton,” the resolution read, “and Mayor Starling and City Council wish to send its condolences to the family of Mr. John Sumner Eakes Jr.”
For more information about the District 5 Council vacancy, call the Clinton City Hall at 910-592-1961 or fax letter of interest to 910-590-3127. Letters can be mailed to or dropped off at 221 Lisbon St., Clinton, N.C. 28328.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.