Garland continues budget talks; Brown offers resignation

By Chase Jordan - [email protected]
Brown -
Commissioner Austin Brown reads a letter of resignation. -

Garland Commissioners are preparing to move forward with a $889,000 budget, with the future of the police department in question.

During a Tuesday meeting, a public hearing was held to discuss spending plans for the fiscal year scheduled to start July 1. In May, the board voted to suspend operations for a year because of budget concerns, with commissioners Eddie Bronson Jr., S.J. Smith and Mary Brown in favor of it. Mayor Pro Tem Austin Brown voted against it.

The budget, made available to the public online at, still includes a police department request for more than $89,000. In a news release, Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy believes it would be fiscal irresponsible and the money could be used for other services such as recreation, renovating buildings and other infrastructure projects such as paving streets.

During the public hearing, John Jones, a local business owner, supported the mayor and her decision and applauded her efforts with the town’s financial growth.

“There’s a lot of bashing and a lot of stuff that’s going on,” Jones said about residents against the mayor’s feelings towards the police department and financing. “Put your energy towards helping this town. There’s (a lot of people saying the mayor is doing this and the mayor is doing that), but look at the good that she has done.”

After the closing of the public hearing, Jo Strickland spoke about the police department decision. Strickland went on to accuse the mayor of not liking the police department because she wasn’t in control of it. She continued and said a law enforcement presence from the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, stopped a lot of crime such as the selling of illegal drugs. Strickland added that issues such as motorist speeding through town continue to be a problem.

“You, the supposed town leaders have decided that we, the tax payers who fund this town, do not deserve any type of protection without any input from the residents,” Strickland said.

Before the police department was re-established in July 2017, Garland was covered by the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office, but Garland commissioners ended a contract in 2016 after the sheriff’s department requested more funding. With the help of a consultant, Ron Matthews was hired as the chief.

The commission is scheduled to continue discussions and actions for the budget at its next meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 18.

Brown resigning from board

After several years of service on the board, Mayor Pro Tem Austin Brown is stepping down.

During a Tuesday meeting, Brown submitted and read his letter of resignation. While addressing commissioners and residents, Brown felt it was best to make room for someone with time and positive energy to fulfill the position.

“It has been a pleasure being part of the Garland Board of Commissioners,” Brown said. “Although we didn’t see eye to eye on matters, we did what we had to do for the betterment of the place we all call home.”

Brown was sworn in 2017, becoming the youngest to serve on the board. In 2019, he made more history by becoming the youngest Mayor Pro Tem elected to the board after Commissioner Ralph Smith was unable to carry on the duties because of medical matters. Brown said his time on the board was a great learning experience for him.

After a closed hearing, Commissioner Eddie Bronson Jr. made a motion to accept the letter of resignation, but it died for a lack of second. The next day, Mayor Winifred Murphy said she spoke with Brown about reconsidering his decision. An announcement will be made soon.


Commissioner Austin Brown reads a letter of resignation. Austin Brown reads a letter of resignation.
Police Department suspension on table

By Chase Jordan

[email protected]

Reach Chase Jordan @ 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Chase Jordan @ 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.