On Nov. 18, 1981, Salemburg Bobby Strickland convened his first meeting as mayor of the town of Salemburg. Some 34 years later, Strickland announced to his board that he would not seek re-election to the post.
He made it official during Thursday night’s town board meeting, reading a letter stating his intention not to run again.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent prior to that announcement, the long-time mayor said his decision not to seek another term was bittersweet, but one he had given much thought and prayer to.
“I think a person knows when it is time to pass the torch,” Strickland said. “I believe, for me, that time is now. I am 82 years old and my mind is not as sharp as it used to be. It’s not that I would worry about not making the right decision, the problem would be that I might not take advantage of all the benefits available to the town of Salemburg.”
And Strickland has always tenaciously worked for the betterment of the town, something he has prided himself in since that first year in office.
From planting flowers around the town hall and mowing the grass there to lobbying for Golden Leaf funds to assist in the town’s growth and prosperity, Strickland has had his hand in all aspects of town government.
“I love this town,” Strickland attested, “and everything I have ever done while mayor has been for its betterment.”
With his wife, Pauline, by his side, Strickland talked about his years in the mayoral position and shared his promise that while he won’t be holding the position a year from now, he’d never be far away should he be needed in any capacity.
“While I won’t be sitting behind the mayor’s desk anymore or leading the meetings, I will always just be a phone call away and ready to share all my experience and provide any advice I can to continue to help the town of Salemburg move forward.”
Strickland has had a storied career in the 34 year’s he’s led Salemburg, having brought about many changes in the town, something he set out to do shortly after taking the helm. He made it his mission from the beginning to improve the appearance of the town, giving it a better image, and to ensure a prosperous and wholesome future for the Salemburg community at the most affordable cost possible.
During his tenure, Strickland has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds, money that has been spent on everything from water system improvements and the extension of water lines to Lakewood Country Club and two miles along Bearskin Road to purchasing fire trucks, revitalizing downtown buildings and constructing a building to house a grocery store.
Along the way, the town’s sidewalks have been repaired and money was secured to make capital infrastructure improvements and other beautification efforts in Salemburg’s downtown.
Since 1981, Strickland has helped to secure some $3.1 million in funding to better the town of Salemburg in one way or another. But Strickland takes little credit for the impact that has been made on the town since he took office, preferring instead to talk about the team work it has taken to ensure his missions were accomplished.
“I am very proud of the accomplishments that the town of Salemburg has been able to achieve during the 34 years that I have served as mayor. It is because of the town’s leadership, the (town) commissioners and the town’s dedicated staff working together to make Salemburg a better place to live and work,” he asserted.
While Strickland acknowledged that there have been many significant changes in the town during his tenure, he said it was hard to pinpoint one or two as standouts. “I don’t know that I can call one change the most significant because there have been many. Each new change in Salemburg has been significant to some citizen here.”
But as he thought back, Strickland said while he couldn’t say which might be most significant, there were several things, brought about by the hard work of many, that deserved mentioning. Among them, he said, was the widening of streets, the installation of sidewalks “from one end of town to the other, with curb and gutter,” a public sewer system, beautification programs around the town, business growth, expansion of the N.C. Justice Academy, the arrival of Tarheel ChalleNGe, the Salemburg Royal Hal of History, the new Southern Bank building and Salem Woods apartments.
“There are many, many others, but those are the ones that stand out in my mind,” Strickland pointed out
A retired farmer and businessman, Strickland has earned countless awards and received dozens of accolades for his volunteer efforts while mayor, including a certificate of appreciation from the Total Life Crusade for his dedication to improving the quality of life for residents while a public official; being named recipient of the prestigious Jack Brock award for exemplary dedication to the interest of local government; being given the Distinguished Service Award from the Roseboro Area Economic Development board; being named Citizen of the Year by The Sampson Independent; receiving the Governor’s Award for outstanding community volunteer services; earning the Campbell University Presidential Medallion Award; and, most recently, earning the coveted Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Strickland has also been very dedicated to his church, Salemburg Baptist, where he has served as a church trustee, chairman of the deacons, chairman of the personnel committee and chairman of the building and grounds committee.
In an interview several years ago, Strickland said his constant involvement in public service and his volunteer efforts were his way of giving back some of that which he has been blessed to have.
“I believe it is important to give back, to volunteer, to do your part for the community in which you live,” Strickland was quoted as saying in a 1999 article in The Sampson Independent. “Salemburg is my home; doing things to help the town and its citizens is not just a duty, it is a privilege.”
His decision not to run again for mayor, he said, was not an easy one, but one he believed was sound.
“Leaving my position as mayor will be bittersweet. After doing anything I could for the town for 34 years, it has become a part of my everyday life. While it has never been a burden, I will probably not realize how much time I spent fulfilling my duties as mayor. I am sure there will be a huge void, and that will take some time to get used to, but I will have to find other things to take up my time, like spending it with my growing family.”
As he prepares for life away from the mayor’s office — something that won’t happen until a new leader is sworn in come December — Strickland said his greatest hope is that Salemburg will continue to flourish.
“It is my greatest hope that the new mayor will work to carry on the legacy and uphold the mission, that the town remain a clean, quiet and friendly town. Salemburg is a great place to live, work and raise a family. I hope that the next mayor realizes how great an opportunity it is to serve the town and its citizens, and how much of an impact serving in this role can positively affect them.
“It has been such a great privilege to serve as mayor of this fine town, and I feel very blessed by the influence the town has had on me and my family through the years,” Strickland said.