In the recent general election on Nov. 5, the town’s voters returned sitting commissioners Jessie Bellflowers, Jerry Legge and Pat Edwards to the board, brought back former commissioner Bryan Marley and made history with the election of Dr. Kenjuana McCray, the leading vote-getter of all the candidates and the first African-American woman elected to a position on the Board of Commissioners.
The commissioners are listed below in the order of most votes received by each.
McCray, the only person elected to the board this time who is a complete neophyte to the job, thinks the town has a number of projects on the table right now but also doesn’t think the funding is readily available to complete all of them.
One item that’s at the top of McCray’s to-do list is the completion of Heritage Park in the vicinity of the Hope Mills dam.
The previous board put a lot of effort into getting a greenway and walking trail open at the former Hope Mills golf course property, but McCray thinks it’s time to focus attention elsewhere.
“Whatever we do at Heritage Park, there needs to be a clear plan on what we are going to do with the golf course,’’ she said. “I don’t think we need to do one project without knowing the direction of the other projects.’’
McCray thinks time needs to be devoted to public transportation and the pending issue of the Interstate 295 outer loop. She wants to learn what the Department of Transportation has in mind for Hope Mills that could aid the town’s ongoing problem with traffic.
McCray has lived in Hope Mills for 13 years and serves as lead coordinator for social sciences and humanities at Fayetteville Technical Community College. She takes both her community and her new role as a commissioner very seriously.
“I know everybody is watching,’’ she said. “I have no doubt I’m going to make the people of Hope Mills proud."
Marley said it was a good feeling to return to the board after a two-year hiatus following his loss in the 2017 election.
A longtime employee of the town of Hope Mills as a firefighter, Marley is currently the Fire marshal and emergency management director for neighboring Hoke County.
“I’m from here and have lived here my whole life,’’ Marley said. “I’m glad the citizens saw fit to give me another chance.’’
Marley said the new board needs to be more unified than its predecessor. “The town is a business and it’s got to be run like a business,’’ he said. “You can’t let personal stuff get in the way of handling business.’’
Marley thinks one of the first things the new board should do is restore some of the powers of office to Mayor Jackie Warner that the previous board took away.
He feels clear lines of communication between members are crucial. “I feel this new board is going to get it together, and we’ll start moving the town forward,’’ he said.
Edwards returns to the Board of Commissioners hopeful that this new group will be far more harmonious than the board of the last two years.
She agreed with her fellow incoming commissioners that there are some big projects on the table that need immediate attention.
All of them are going to require funding. Edwards thinks the town staff can help build partnerships with businesses. “They know all the grants that are available,’’ she said. “We can save a lot of money.
“Let people talk to us and negotiate,’’ she said.
Legge hopes the new board is ready to put conflict aside and unite for what’s best for the town.
With the exception of McCray, Legge said he has previous working relationships with all the members of the new board. He feels McCray brings excellent skills to the job that will help her to quickly become a good commissioner.
Like many of the other board members, Legge lists completing the Heritage Park project along with the Episcopal Church and parish house projects as important, along with the development of the golf course.
He also thinks time needs to be devoted to the Interstate 295 outer loop.
“I think it’s very important we establish what we see out there, although we can’t control all of that,’’ he said.
“I really do look forward to the challenge of being able to sit down and work with these people,’’ he said of the new board.
Bellflowers first congratulated the members of the incoming board, calling it an exciting group. “We’ve got some challenges and opportunities ahead of us,’’ he said.
A major focus for the next two years will be ongoing projects like Heritage Park, development of the golf course and the construction of the new public safety complex for the police and fire departments.
He also called the Interstate 295 outer loop a huge project for the town.
He sees all of those items as topics the board needs to focus attention on during its first 60 to 90 days in office.
He’s hopeful the new board will approach all of the challenges facing the town from a team perspective.
”I’m hoping that’s how we get started, because it’s going to take a team effort of everybody rowing the boat in the same direction with these challenges and opportunities we have the next two years,’’ he said.
At a projected cost of $16 million, Bellflowers said the public safety facility gives him a reason for pause.
“We desperately need the building, but how are we going to pay for the building?’’ he asked. “That’s a lot of money. It may take two or three years for economic development to develop and be sustainable.’’