The 2015 Municipal Election in Sampson brought a shakeup in town leadership that, when the votes were unofficially tallied Tuesday night, saw Roseboro elect its first female mayor, Newton Grove welcome back a familar face and new chapters begin after long mayoral tenures in Salemburg and Autryville.
Alice Butler made history Tuesday night as she became the first female mayor of Roseboro, taking more than half the total votes to run away with the election. Butler, with 137 votes, beat out current commissioner Anthony Bennett, 73 votes, and Gilbert Owens, 57 votes.
For the last four years, Butler has served the residents of the western town as a commissioner, something she says has been very enjoyable and rewarding.
“I have enjoyed working with the mayor, commissioners and citizens the last four years,” Butler said. “It has been a very rewarding experience and I would encourage more people to get involved in their communities. After having several people ask me to run and an unexpected event, I discussed the opportunity with my husband and others and decided to put my name on the ballot.”
As Roseboro’s mayor, Butler said she will continue working with the town’s board and employees at improving the town for its citizens.
“We take a lot of pride in the way the town looks and also in the way it functions,” Butler added. “We plan to continue to make it the best small town it can be.”
For the last two years, Butler has been instrumental in implementing the NC STEP program in Roseboro and working to ensure the town’s progress with N.C. 24 became a reality.
“With the new road construction, the intersection of highway 242 and 24 is going to be a great growth potential for our town,” Butler shared. “We will be working with John Swope and others on how to develop it and bring more visitors, residents and businesses to Roseboro.”
Humbled by the votes and support she has been shown during her time as a commissioner and in her efforts to become mayor, Butler said it was through those many people working behind the scenes she was elected.
“I am so humbled by everyone who voted for me and helped me get this victory,” Butler said. “Friends made phone calls, invited me to their churches and used social media to help me win. There were also many people working behind the scenes that I have just found out about today. To everyone who helped, including my husband and sons, I say a heartfelt thank you and I look forward to serving you the next four years.”
By just four votes, Gerald Darden defeated Stephen Jackson in the Newton Grove mayoral race.
“It was a good, clean race,” Darden said about the 65-61 victory.
Jackson is currently a commissioner for the town. Darden was the mayor of Newton Grove for the past 12 years before stepping down in 2013.
“I would like to thank the voters for supporting me again,” Darden said.
Darden also served as a town commissioner, been on the fire department, and was a captain with the rescue squad. He retired from both the fire department and the rescue squad with over 20 years of service under his belt.
In Newton Grove, the mayor’s office is being vacated by Barbara Burch.
“I just decided to get back into it again,” Darden said about returning. “Mayor Burch has done a great job and I will continue with some things that she started. I’ve been living here just about all my life. I love Newton Grove and I want to see it progress.”
While discussing progress, Darden mentioned the town’s proximity with Interstate 40.
“I know we’re a small community and we don’t grow by leaps and bounds,” the mayor-elect noted, “but I would like to see some more growth.”
In Salemburg, Joe Warren will be the town’s new mayor, netting 108 votes without competition on his way to taking the reins from longtime mayor and mentor Bobby Strickland.
“I just love this town and I want to see the town do well,” Warren has attested. “It’s hard to improve it much because Mr. Bobby did so well but I want to maintain it and continue what he’s started.”
A lifelong resident of Salemburg, Warren attends Salemburg Baptist Church and has been a volunteer firefighter for over 42 years, also serving on the first responder truck for the Salemburg Fire Department when it was in operation.
“It has been my pleasure to serve as commissioner for the town of Salemburg for the last 18 years and 10 of those years as mayor pro tem, during which time I have worked closely with Bobby Strickland,” Warren said. “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.”
Warren operates Warren’s Service Center in the heart of town, taking over the business from his father in 1988. The business has been in operation for more than 60 years. Warren, who lives right next door to the family business, said he takes pride in his status as a Salemburg citizen just as he knows many others do — he knows most everyone in town.
Like the new leader in neighboring Roseboro, Salemburg’s mayor-elect has high hopes for growth in his town, which he hope will be facilitated by a booming N.C. 24 and 242. He has already been working closely with the Western Sampson Commerce Group and John Swope, the executive director for the Sampson County Economic Development Commission, in search of land in that area.
“I hope to make contact with new businesses,” said Warren, “and hopefully attract them to our community.”
Across the county
In other towns, Autryville’s longtime leader Patricia Williams was unseated along with Turkey’s Tim Clifton, according to unofficial results.
Williams was knocked off by current commissioner Larry Autry 29-13, while Donnie Myers was elected to the mayoral office in Turkey, acquiring 52 of a total 82 votes to beat out Clifton.
“I have some things I want to implement in this town,” Myers said. “That’s why I decided to run. I appreciate the votes the citizens gave me and appreciate the confidence the people have in me.”
Calls to Williams and Autry were not immediately returned before press time Wednesday.
In Garland, four people ran for two open town board seats. While current commissioner Ralph Smith cruised, easily retaining his seat with 115 votes, while commissioner Denise Toler, with 59 votes, did not win re-election. Smith previously left the board in June and returned the next month, just in time to file for another term. Challengers Larry Lee Anderson and Judy C. Smith both received 73 votes for the second spot available on the board.
Ashley Tew, director of the Sampson County Board of Elections, said Wednesday that Anderson has demanded a recount, which is scheduled for this Monday, Nov. 9. If a tie still exists, the votes will be hand-counted during the canvass on Tuesday, Dec. 10. Any provisional ballots will be counted as well.
“Hopefully, that will break the tie,” Tew said.
If the tally is still the same, a lottery system — possibly drawing a name from a hat — will be used to determine the winner.
There were other dead-heats in Salemburg and Autryville for board positions.
Current commissioners Shirley Cooper and Bobby Tew won re-election, and will be joined by Don (Mack) Honeycutt, who tallied the third-highest votes at 72, just edging out Tommy Jackson, who had 71. In Autryville, current board members Jakie Faircloth and Carolyn Cashwell will retain their spots on the board, with Dana Hairr edging out Ricky Spell by a single vote, 21-20, for the third open seat on the board.
The single vote separating Honeycutt and Jackson in Salemburg and Hairr and Spell in Autryville will stand unless a recount is requested. The deadline for a candidate to make that request is 5 p.m. Nov. 12, Tew said.