Election filing begins

Neal Strickland, surrounded by family and friends, files for re-election to Clinton’s District 2 on Monday, the first day of the filing period for the 2015 Municipal Election.

City Councilwoman Jean Turlington files for re-election to Clinton’s District 4 on Monday.

Salemburg’s own Joe Warren, with wife Linda by his side, files his candidacy for town mayor.

There will be at least two new mayors in Sampson County by November, and one of those prospective leaders wasted no time in making his candidacy official Monday, one of just five filings on a relatively quiet day for the local Board of Elections.

Monday kicked off the 10-day filing period for the 2015 Municipal Election, which will extend to noon Friday, July 17. In Sampson, seven mayoral seats are up for grabs this year, as are 19 other town board seats, with virtually every municipality having the potential of a hotly-contested race should candidates show up during the filing period.

Aside from Salemburg Commissioner Joe Warren throwing his hat in Salemburg’s mayoral race, however, it was all incumbents on Monday. Warren filed Monday morning, seeking the position held for 34 years by Mayor Bobby Strickland. Also filing Monday were Harrells Mayor James Moore and town alderman Johnnie Ray Powell, as well as Clinton City Council members Neal Strickland and Jean Turlington.

Moore and Powell are two of three Harrells aldermen whose terms expire this year, with Katie Greer being the other. The mayor is not elected in Harrells. Aldermen are elected and they are then responsible for choosing who among them will be mayor.

In Clinton, Strickland and Turlington have both served on the board for more than a decade, for District 2 and District 4, respectively. Both were appointed to fill out unexpired terms in the early 2000s, Turlington for her late husband Thomas and Strickland for Albert Kaleel. Both were then elected for their first full terms in 2003, and within moments of each other Monday announced they will each be seeking their fourth terms.

The mayor is elected every two years in Clinton, Council members every four. Clinton Mayor Lew Starling will see his seventh term run out this year.

On Monday, Strickland and Turlington said they were excited to serve on Council and expressed their mutual hope that service would continue even as Clinton continues to grow — and is braced for even more growth in the coming years.

“We have a lot of stuff going on,” Strickland said, flanked by friends and family, including wife Jonelle and daughter Madison. “With the widening of N.C. 24, I want to be a part of that growth.”

Through the growth that Clinton has already seen and will undoubtedly experience in the future with the massive state construction project, he expressed his hope that a younger generation establishing roots in Clinton and Sampson County. He pointed to Madison, who he said will be coming to Clinton to start her professional life. He wants that to be a sign of things to come.

“We want to bring young people back to Clinton and Sampson County and provide them opportunities to to move back and enjoy life where they grew up,” said Strickland.

Turlington said she hopes she, along with Strickland and Starling, are re-elected to the Council so that good work can continue. She said the Council, which has been intact with its current board members for years, has a good chemistry. It has never been about politics, but rather the matters of the city, she said.

“It’s been such a pleasure to serve in this city. It’s so exciting. The City Council gets along so great and we’re so compatible,” Turlington beamed, heaping praise on Starling and Strickland, as well as her other fellow Council members. “Hopefully I get to go back on (the Council) with them. Everything is going so well right now and I’m excited about the prospects of more industry that growth will bring.”

A lifelong resident of Salemburg, Warren has served as a commissioner for the town for the past 18 years and 10 of those years as mayor pro tem. He 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.

Whoever is elected as the next mayor in Salemburg will have huge shoes to fill in maintaining the progress the town has enjoyed under Bobby Strickland, he said. That is exactly what he is hoping to do.

Like Clinton’s Council members, he cited the growth that will come with the construction of bigger, better roads, notably a widened N.C. 24.

“In the future, if I’m elected, I hope to make contact with new businesses and hopefully attract them to our community,” Warren articulated, saying he is seeking the mayoral post due to the love he has for his town. “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.”

Open seats

The other Sampson mayor stepping down this year is David Alexander, who said he would not seek a second term in Roseboro. Along with the mayor’s post, three commissioners seats are open in Roseboro. 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.

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.

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

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

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