The two-week filing period concluded at noon Friday, setting up mayoral races in Autryville and Newton Grove, as well as crowded town board contests in both Autryville and Salemburg, and another race in Turkey, which is poised for a new mayor. At least four towns — Clinton, Newton Grove, Salemburg and Turkey — will welcome new board members by the end of the year.
Garland, as it tends to be, was the cause for some excitement on the final abbreviated day of filing, as three commissioners filed for as many vacancies on the board. That includes Austin Brown, who resigned from the board last month, but will now serve out his own unexpired term after filing Friday to fill the void he left.
Brown was one of eight people who filed at the Sampson County Board of Elections on Friday, bringing the total to 40 candidates vying for 28 open seats. That includes mayoral posts in all of the seven Sampson municipalities that elect one.
In Garland, Mayor Winifred Murphy and two commissioners — Mary Brown and Ralph Smith — are seeing their terms come to their natural end, while Brown, elected as Garland’s youngest ever commissioner in 2017, left an unexpired post. It was to be designated as such — a two-year term — for anyone seeking it.
Brown did just that Friday.
“I went in today to Sampson County Board of Elections and filed to be reseated to my unexpired two-year term that ends in 2021,” Brown stated. “After much thought, prayer, and talking over with my family and more prayer, I could not just walk away from my term without finishing what the wonderful voters of Garland elected me to do in 2017. We have done many great things as a board in the time I served and we have much more to get done.
“I ask that everyone continue to pray for me and give me guidance to make the right decisions for Garland and know that it will always hold a special place in my heart and will always be called home.”
Murphy filed to seek her fourth term as mayor, doing so on the first day of the filing period, July 5.
Murphy was first elected as commissioner in November 2011, appointed as mayor in 2012 and elected to the post in 2013 — the first ever African-American to serve in the role. She was subsequently reelected in 2015 and 2017.
Along with Austin Brown, Carolyn Robinson Melvin and Barbara Ann Peterson also filed Friday, and seem poised to replace Mary Brown and Smith, neither of whom are seeking reelection.
Melvin is a retired school teacher. Peterson, an assistant teacher for the Exceptional Children’s Program and bus driver in the Union District of Sampson County, said she filed because she wants to help her hometown grow.
Austin Brown echoed those sentiments on Friday.
“I hope I have not lost the support of those people,” he said. “Garland is moving in a positive direction, and I feel in my heart that my calling is to return to the board and finish the work that has been started. After all, greatness grows in Garland and continues to grow every day.”
Faces in the races
It is status quo in Roseboro and Harrells, while Clinton is poised for a new Council member, as Holden DuBose filed for the District 4 seat being vacated by Jean Turlington, who will not seek reelection.
Mayor Lew Starling and District 2 Councilman Neal Strickland both look to retain their seats, neither having opposition. It will be Starling’s 10 consecutive term as mayor.
In Autryville, Mayor Larry D. Autry will face off against Richard Spell for the mayoral post. Autry was first elected as mayor in 2015 and reelected in 2017.
For the Autryville town board, it will be five people vying for three seats. Commissioners Lawrence (Larry) Bernstein, Carolyn L. Cashwell and Dana Tyndall Hairr are each seeking to keep their places on the board, while Grayson B. Spell and Mickie Wilton Spell have also thrown their hats in the ring.
Down in Harrells, James Moore, Johnny “Ray” Powell and Katie Greer all filed to keep their seats as aldermen for the town, with no opposition presenting itself. The mayor is not decided by the people in Harrells. Aldermen are elected and they are responsible for choosing who among them will be mayor. Moore has served in that capacity for nearly two decades.
Up in Newton Grove, Mayor Gerald Darden will again face off against Stephen Jackson, a repeat of the 2015 mayoral race, with Jackson in the middle of his commissioner term. Jackson remained commissioner for the town until 2017, when he didn’t seek reelection. Darden was the mayor of Newton Grove for 12 years before stepping down in 2013. After his election in 2015, he regained the post in 2017.
In Sampson County, town board members are all elected to four-year terms. Mayoral terms are two years in Autryville, Clinton, Garland and Newton Grove, and four years in Roseboro, Salemburg and Turkey.
On the Newton Grove board, longtime commissioner Alan Herring did not file for reelection, paving the way for newcomer Dana Ellington-Ruiz to take his place on the board alongside Cody Smith, who is poised for reelection with he and Ellington-Ruiz being the only filings for two town seats.
In Roseboro, Mayor Alice Butler is expected to get a second term. Butler made history back in 2015 when she became the first female mayor of Roseboro, succeeding longtime mayor David Alexander. She will return to her leadership position along with commissioners Ray Clark Fisher, Richard Barefoot and Cary Taylor Holland, all of whom filed and are unopposed.
In Salemburg, it is another crowded one.
While Mayor Joe Warren is set for his second term — he is unopposed,as he was four years ago — there are three town seats up for grabs and a whopping 10 people vying for them.
There will be at least one new commissioner, as Shirley Cooper did not file for reelection. Incumbents Don (Mack) Honeycutt and Bobby Tew are hoping to retain their seats, while eight others want a place on the town board. They are: Grady Collier, Donald R. Comer, Joel Faircloth Jr., Juanita Faircloth, Michelle Hill, Kenneth Mashburn, Barbara Thornton and Jimmy Williams.
In Turkey, there will be a new mayor, and at least one new board member, by November.
Donald Myers’ four-year mayoral term is nearing its conclusion and he has chosen not to file for a second term. Commissioners Max Pope and Mike Smith are seeing their terms expire, and Pope is the lone mayor filing and appears poised to become Myers’ successor.
There are three vying for two board seats. Smith is seeking reelection as commissioner, with Beverly C. Clifton and Tracie Pryor also in the race.
The one-stop early voting period will extend from Oct. 16 to Nov. 1 leading up to Election Day on Nov. 5.
Editor Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 2587.