Two seeking Garland mayoral seat

Chris Berendt Staff Writer

October 31, 2013

GARLAND — The Garland mayoral race Tuesday pits two people against each other who were both elected to the board as commissioners during the last municipal election, in 2011.

Garland mayor Winifred Murphy is being opposed by current commissioner and mayor pro tem Ralph Smith in the town’s mayoral race. Murphy and Smith were voted onto the board as commissioners two years ago, but Murphy vacated her commissioner’s seat just months later when she was appointed mayor following longtime mayor Anthony Johnson’s resignation in January 2012. Smith’s term as commissioner does not end until 2015.


Murphy, who has led the town through tough times over the past two years, said she wants to continue to work to offer more opportunities to the town’s residents, especially those through the comprehensive N.C. Small Towns Economic Prosperity grant.

“In my previous years as mayor, I have worked diligently to increase opportunities for all citizens – through the NC STEP grant, the Community Transformation Plan for a multi-use plan, citizen and business recognition, and hosting positive activities such as the Easter Egg Hunt, the 1st Annual Christmas Tree Lighting, Back to School Celebration, cultural other special events,” the mayor said. “Also, as mayor I will continue to listen to (citizens’) concerns and continue to protect (their) financial interest by ensuring accountability.

Being a positive advocate for local businesses is critical, while working together with town officials to ensure all possible opportunities are made available for both businesses and citizens alike.

“As a positive advocate for Garland, networking with businesses, citizens and working as a team with commissioners, I feel that I can help to make our hometown a grander place for all of us to work, live and play,” said Murphy. “The ongoing N.C. STEP grant and other resources will assist in restoring Garland and providing quality and much needed services for all citizens and businesses.”

Prior to entering politics, Murphy said she enjoyed her career as a teacher, school counselor and school administrator for over 34 years. “These professional experiences and also being a lifelong learner has enabled me to continue to thirst for knowledge and shared learning,” she said.

“If re-elected as mayor for the town of Garland, I will continue to work to improve the infrastructure of Garland — water/sewer, streets — downtown development, job creation, increase recreational opportunities and services for all citizens such as restaurants, a pharmacy and businesses,” Murphy stated. “These changes are possible with teamwork from the board, from citizens and by positively promoting Garland as a grand place to live, work, and play.”


Smith said he wants to see Garland escape the cloud of negativity that has loomed over it by serving residents as their voice of reason, without so much negative press and controversy.

“Garland has been being portrayed in a negative light and is becoming the laughing stock of the county,” Smith said. “Controversy, chaos and division is not what our town needs.”

What it does need, he said, is improvements to its water and sewer system, which are currently in the works and for which potential funding options are being explored. The town also needs road maintenance and repairs, more affordable housing, more business and employment opportunities and additional child and family recreational opportunities, Smith noted.

“As mayor, I plan to engage the citizens of Garland and ask that they come forward and be active members of their community and help us in identifying and solving our obstacles,” Smith said. “Cooperatively and collectively we can improve the quality of life for all of us and regain a positive image of our hometown.”

Smith said his vision is to see Garland as an “active thriving community that we are all proud to call home,” and said he wants to work with the board and citizens to see that dream come to fruition.

“I feel effective leadership is key to accomplishing any goals and dreams,” said Smith. “I want to provide an open forum where everyone’s input is welcomed and respected in an atmosphere that is free of intimidation and ridicule.”

Prior to his last two years as commissioner, Smith served as mayor of Garland for 12 years, from 1989-2001, and town commissioner from 1985-89. During his tenure, the town received two block grants used to restore and renovate senior housing and a water/sewer grant to make needed repairs. He was honored by the Garland Fire Department twice for his support and said he looks forward to seeing the new fire station built.

Prior to retirement, Smith was employed for more than 20 years as a truck broker overseeing hundreds of deliveries weekly and was responsible for managing a yearly budget in excess of $9 million. He was the mechanical supervisor for a local trucking company for 22 years, during which time he was responsible for managing eight employees.

“As a leader and supervisor, I understand respect is earned not demanded,” he said.

Smith is a member of Garland Pentecostal Freewill Baptist Church and served as president of the Garland Rotary Club for two years. He was a member of the National Guard from 1957-60 and a member of the Army Reserve from 1960-64, receiving an honorable discharge. He has been a resident of Garland for 54 years and said he has a vested interest in the southern Sampson municipality.

“My children were educated here, we own and operated a business here for years and I have a vested interest in seeing Garland prosper as this is where I call home and where my heart is,” he said.

For the Garland board itself, there are six candidates vying for three open seats, with three incumbents, Haywood Johnson (who fulfilled the unexpired term of Coleman Johnson last year), Denise Toler and Michael Toler being joined by challengers Judy C. Smith, S.J. Smith, a longtime commissioner himself, and Carolyn Yolanda Melvin.

Early voting at the Sampson County Board of Elections is available through Saturday. Election Day voting for Garland’s races will be held at Garland Town Hall, 190 S. Church Ave., throughout the day Tuesday, Nov. 5. For more information, call the Board of Elections at 910-592-5796.

Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at