Tuesday’s municipal election will see three contested town board races — in Garland, Roseboro and Salemburg.
While the race between Garland mayor Winifred Murphy and town commissioner Ralph Smith is the lone contested mayoral race in the county, there are six candidates vying for three open seats on the Garland board. Three incumbents, Denise Toler, Michael Toler and Haywood Johnson (who fulfilled the unexpired term of Coleman Johnson last year), are being joined by challengers Judy C. Smith, S.J. Smith and Carolyn Yolanda Melvin.
The ballot for the Roseboro Board of Commissioners race is just as packed, with six individuals vying for two open seats. Current board members Anthony Bennett and Alice Butler are joined in the race by Cary Holland, Steven Heath, Barry C. Templin and Laura Nicole Owen Gray.
In Salemburg, the only other municipality with a contested election on the ballot, incumbents Joe Warren and Arnold Page, as well as challengers Johnnie Parker and Dickie Walters, are running for three open seats.
As election day draws near, candidates for Roseboro’s Board of Commissioners are honing in on their top priorities for the town.
Up for re-election, current board member Alice Butler shared that promoting Roseboro “as a great place to live, work, shop and play” is important to her as she considers the town’s future.
“When I ride through other small towns, I realize just how much Roseboro has to offer. We are so fortunate to have everything you need — grocery, furniture, hardware and general stores; many restaurants; medical offices; hair, nail and barber salons; banks; auto sales and repairs; tire services; gas stations; florists; funeral homes; day cares; schools; two parks; churches; a post office and library — but our best asset is our people.”
One way, Butler pointed out, that she has already worked to promote Roseboro is by creating a new website for the town, www.roseboronc.com, “which has detailed information about our town and the surrounding areas.”
Butler added that the widening of N.C. Hwy. 24 is also very much on her radar as it is “presenting the town with many opportunities to grow.”
“Currently, I am the leader of the STEPS Grant program for Roseboro. We are working on improving signage and other ways to create even more opportunities for our citizens and businesses,” she said, stressing that “Roseboro has a lot to offer and I look forward to continue to promote and grow our community of ‘Just Good Folks.’”
Growth was also very much on the mind of fellow board member Anthony Bennett, also up for re-election, who stated that his number one concern is “to continue the growth of Roseboro and not just downtown but in Roseboro in general.”
“I want Roseboro to be a safe place to live, for the residents and for those coming into Roseboro,” he added.
For challenger Barry C. Templin, growth is just one of the many things that he would like to help improve if elected to Roseboro’s town council.
“I think it (the town’s growth) is hindered by the condition of the structures there now,” he pointed out, calling the vacant businesses a “discouragement.” “It makes people want to run away instead of come in.”
Templin also listed improving communication as a top priority for him.
“I’d like to see the communication between the town and the town council improved. There seems to be a lack of that,” he said before turning his attention to the moratorium that the current town council placed on the discussion of citizens not being allowed to keep backyard hens in the town limits.
“I think that’s wrong,” said Templin of the moratorium, calling it a “muzzle.” “The citizens should be able to bring up any topic for discussion that they want. That’s their right. One of the first things I’d want to to do is lift that moratorium and move to never use it on any subject again. I just think it’s a slippery slope.”
“I’m going to be a voice for the community,” he continued. “People can come to me and ask questions and I’ll give or find them answers. I want to be more of a conduit, more informative, and I want to get more people to come out and get involved.”
The remaining candidates — Cary Holland, Steven Heath, and Laura Gray — could not be reached for comment.
Challenger Judy Smith said she is seeking to be the voice for a contingent of Garland citizens she feels has not been well represented.
“I’ve recently retired so I have time to serve,” said Smith, who was a reading specialist for Clinton City Schools. “I do feel our town is moving forward and I feel like I have time to give. I feel like there is a group of people whose voice has not been represented and I think I am the person who can represent them well. It is the Christian voice.”
Smith said she knows there should be consensus on any board, and the capacity to be able to reach a sound decision through informed discussion, but also feels there is a great deal of “like-mindedness” on the current board. There needs to be more diversity, she said.
“We need to come together and I think we do need to come to a consensus, but we also need to represent all groups of citizens in Garland,” Smith remarked.
She pointed to a public hearing last year in which the Garland Board of Commissioners asked for public input before making a decision to approve Sunday beer sales in the town. However, Smith and others who spoke at that meeting said there are moral and religious issues they believed trumped the need for more revenue. They implored the board not to move forward with Sunday sales, stating that those who wished to buy alcohol could do so any other day, but the sales were subsequently approved.
“I feel like we were heard, but we were not listened to,” Smith said. “I feel there was no one that provides an adequate voice. I feel like I’m going to be the candidate who will be that Christian voice. I am running as a Christian for that board.”
Smith said she has not put up any signs, running solely on her name and the knowledge that others know who she is, her faith and what she is about.
“There are people who believe like me and will vote for me,” she remarked. “It’s not political with me. It’s what I feel and what I believe.”
Regardless of the outcome, Smith said she will continue to attend meetings, stay informed and support the town and its board members. She said she believes there has been some negative publicity for Garland, but things are going in the right direction.
“I feel like the town is moving forward,” she said. “I’m going to stay active regardless, and support the board and pray for whoever is in that position.”
But she wants to ensure everyone has a voice.
“I’m willing to step forward and be that voice,” she said.
Haywood Johnson declined to comment. The Tolers, Carolyn Melvin and S.J. Smith could not be reached.
“Everything is pretty good in Salemburg,” said Johnnie Parker. “I want a chance to serve the public.”
Parker said that he felt that the town needs better law enforcement coverage and that was something he would work on if elected.
Incumbent Joe Warren said he would try to get more industry in the town. He wants to attract more businesses with the N.C. Hwy. 24 expansion.
“We think that is really going to help Salemburg,” said Warren. “We are hoping with the new road we can get someone in the vacant buildings downtown.”
Arnold Page and Dickie Walters could not be reached for comment.
Election Day voting will be take place from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at the main Sampson County Board of Elections building, as well as convenient locations in each municipality.
Those locations will be Autryville Town Hall, 215 S. Gray St., Autryville; Clinton City Hall Auditorium, 221 Lisbon St., Clinton; Garland Town Hall, 190 S. Church Ave., Garland; Harrells Fire Department Training Center, 924 Ward Road, Harrells; Newton Grove Fire Station, 313 W. Weeksdale St., Newton Grove; Roseboro Municipal Building, at 101 W. Pleasant St., Roseboro; Salemburg Municipal Building, 100 Methodist Drive, Salemburg; and Turkey Town Hall, 51 Market St., Turkey.
For more information about early voting or Election Day locations, contact the Sampson County Board of Elections at 910-592-5796.
Staff writers Chris Berendt, Lauren Williams and Emily M. Hobbs contributed to this story. To reach the Sampson Independent, call 910-592-8137.