Four mayoral races, host of others come November

By: By Chris Berendt -

By Chris Berendt

Filing for the 2015 Municipal Election ended with a whirlwind, as 38 people ultimately filed their intent to seek office in an election that will see hotly-contested races for mayoral posts in four towns — including a three-way race for Roseboro mayor — and a six-way race to fill half as many seats on Salemburg’s board.

The filing period for the Nov. 3 election concluded at noon Friday. Come November, seven mayoral seats and 19 other town board seats are set to expire in Sampson. There will be at least three new mayors, as Bobby Strickland and David Alexander chose not to seek re-election in Salemburg and Roseboro, respectively, and Barbara Burch won’t seek another term in Newton Grove. But, even as some mayors are stepping down, one is stepping back up.

Former Newton Grove Mayor Gerald Darden, a late filing on Friday, is attempting to take the gavel back in the northern Sampson town, which will join Autryville, Roseboro and Turkey as those having a mayoral race in November.

Darden was the mayor of Newton Grove for 12 years before stepping down in 2013, serving as town commissioner prior to that. He was also on the town’s fire department and served as captain of its rescue squad, retiring with over 20 years of service under his belt. Now he’s seeking another stint.

The Clinton City Council and Harrells Board of Aldermen will stay intact, as all incumbents have filed for re-election and no challengers have come forward. That is where the status quo ends however, as Sampson’s six other municipalities will have 32 people seeking to fill 20 available seats.

In Autryville, there will be races for mayor and commissioner, as longtime mayor Patricia Williams and current commissioner Larry Autry face off for the lead post, and four people contend for three open commissioner’s seats. Current board members Jakie Faircloth and Carolyn L. Cashwell have filed to retain their spots on the board, and challengers Dana T. Hairr and Richard (Ricky) Spell are joining them on the ballot.

In Garland, four people are vying for two open town board seats.

Current commissioners Denise Toler and Ralph Smith will be on the ballot, as will hopefuls Larry Lee Anderson and Judy C. Smith. It was a busy week for Ralph Smith, who after resigning from the Garland Board of Commissioners last month, re-joined it on Tuesday and filed for re-election on Thursday.

In Newton Grove, Darden will be pitted against current commissioner Stephen Jackson for the mayoral office being vacated by Burch, who succeeded Darden’s long tenure as the town’s leader. The terms of Burch and Commissioners Laura Wheeler and Alan G. Herring are coming to a close and only Herring is seeking another. Herring joined Darden as a late filing and is poised to return to the board as one of only two vying for as many seats, challenger Cody Smith being the other.

In Roseboro, there is a three-way race to the mayor’s office, with town commissioner Anthony Bennett joined by Gilbert Owens on Thursday and Alice Butler, the current mayor pro tem, on Friday. There are three commissioner seats open and Richard Barefoot, Ray Clark Fisher and Cary T. Holland have all filed to retain their spots on the board — Fisher and Holland were previously appointed to fill the unexpired terms of Roland Hall and James McLean — while challenger Cynthia (Cyndi) Templin joins them.

While the race for Mayor Bobby Strickland’s successor in Salemburg has essentially been conceded to Joe Warren — he currently serves as mayor pro tem, filed for the office on the first day possible and watched as no challengers stepped forward — the make up of the board is far from a done deal.

The race for Salemburg commissioner is crowded to say the least, with six people vying for three open seats, including Shirley Cooper, Donald Comer, Thomas (Tommy) Jackson, Don (Mack) Honeycutt, Johnnie C. Parker and Bobby Tew. Current commissioners Cooper and Tew are seeking re-election to the board. Donald Nance chose not to file for another term. Warren would leave an additional commissioner seat open once he takes the helm as mayor, requiring an appointment be made to Warren’s unexpired commissioner term which extends until 2017.

The race for Turkey mayor includes incumbent Leon (Tim) Clifton and challenger Donald (Donnie) Myers while Max Pope and current commissioner Mike Smith, the only two candidates for the two vacant seats on the board, are poised for election.

In Clinton, Mayor Lew Starling will gain an eighth term, and City Councilman Neal Strickland (District 2) and Councilwoman Jean Turlington (District 4) will extend their long tenures on the Council. Strickland and Turlington filed on the first day and no challengers followed, and likewise Starling will be unopposed yet again in November.

The status quo will remain in Harrells, with current aldermen Mayor James Moore, Johnnie Ray Powell and Katie Greer all filing for re-election and no one challenging. 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 held that post for more than a decade.

Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.