Here are the top ten Hope Mills stories of the year as chosen by a panel of voters:
1. Historic election
In a historic night for the town of Hope Mills, the town turned its elected leadership to not one but two women.
Mayor Jackie Warner, after a bitter campaign fight with sitting Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mitchell, was returned to office for a fifth term, winning easily with 55.5% of the vote.
The history was made by Dr. Kenjuana McCray, an instructor at Fayetteville Technical Community College. McCray, as far as anyone can remember, became the first African-American female elected to the board, leading all candidates for town office this year with 792 votes.
As a result of leading the ticket, she was installed as the town’s Mayor Pro Tem.
2. Youth sports teams enjoy strong seasons
It was a banner year for spring sports teams from Hope Mills. In a town that already has a rich youth sports tradition, the summer of 2019 made it even richer.
Four teams from the town won state titles and advanced to World Series competition in different divisions of the Dixie Youth program.
Taking state honors were the Dixie 14U boys of Richard Martinez, the 10U Dixie Softball girls of Doren Kolasa, the 8U Dixie Boys of Jesse Cox and the 12U Dixie Ponytails softball of Steve Welsh.
The Cumberland Post 32 Bombers of Stan Bagley won the Lady Legion state softball title.
3. Hope Mills Fire Department Honored
The Hope Mills Fire Department won an award that went far beyond a plaque to put in a trophy case.
The North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshall awarded the fire department a No. 2 rating.
The rating, which took effect in August, is a plus for the town’s citizens and businesses as it means insurance premiums charged to them should be less because of the town’s high level of protection from fire.
4. Mayor Warner, son Teddy exonerated
The town’s Board of Commissioners lodged a charge of collusion against Mayor Jackie Warner and her son, Teddy Warner, when the latter made a presentation to the board in his role working for the Fayetteville Cumberland Economic Development Commission.
A board-authorized investigation, which wound up costing the town $26,000, was conducted by attorney James P. Cauley, an acknowledged expert in municipal law.
Exonerating both the five-term mayor and her son, Cauley boiled the divide between the mayor and commissioners down to two factors. “It is attributable to a combination of rookie mistakes and changing governance policies,’’ he said.
5. Hope Mills Dam wins more honors.
The restored Hope Mills dam won its second major award this past July.
The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure presented the town with the Envision Bronze Award.
The award is presented to projects like the dam on the basis of their resilience and sustainability.
Since the dam has been restored it has been through two hurricanes, and the only significant damage sustained was to an eel ladder that allows the animals to migrate around the dam structure.
The dam’s first national award was in 2018.
6. Arts Council created
The new Hope Mills Creative Arts Council was established. One of its first acts was to partner with the Sweet Tea Shakespeare company and bring a live production of "Timon of Athens" to Carleen’s of Hope Mills.
The production resulted in record ticket sales for a Sweet Tea production.
7. Hope Mills leads in military recruitment
According to Defense Department rankings for 2018, Hope Mills leads the nation in military recruitment.
From a population of 2,322 candidates age 17-24, Hope Mills had 374 who enlisted last year.
8. ALMS HOUSE has successful summer program
The ALMS HOUSE of Hope Mills continued its string of successful outreaches to the community, mounting an important summer bag lunch program that provided an average of 20 bag lunches per week to children and some adults in need. Support through food and money donations from the community were essential.
9. Heritage Park plan still on hold
Work on the proposed Heritage Park development remains on hold. The land remains undeveloped as the Board of Commissioners focused more attention on the home of coyotes, Golfview Greenway, while both Heritage Park and the former Episcopal Church and its severely distressed parish hall remain untouched.
10. Golden Knights come to Hope Mills
The United States Army’s famed Golden Knights precision parachute jumping team made an appearance in Hope Mills, jumping in to help with the town’s observance of Heroes Homecoming.
Picture 1: Mayor Jackie Warner
Picture 2: Kenjuana McCray
Picture 3: The Hope Mills dam won a second award in July.