By William Holloman
A standing-room-only crowd packed the Town of Mount Olive court room for the swearing in and sitting of new town board members and the mayor. Some could not even get in the room as outgoing Mayor Ray McDonald, Sr. passed the gavel to incoming Mayor Joe Scott and area dignitaries took the podium to swear in three new board members and two incumbents.
McDonald, who has been on the local political scene for the past 50 years, told the audience that board members must have public support and he urged the public to continue their support of a new board.
McDonald has served in a variety of positions as Mount Olive changed over the years to its current position. He has been a county commissioner, a town board member, the town manager and the mayor. “I know all of these people who are taking office tonight and I think what we see is the most qualified board of town commissioners we have ever had,” he said.
McDonald passed the gavel to incoming Mayor Joe Scott. Scott handily won a three-way race for the mayoral seat after McDonald decided not to seek another term. Scott’s vacant district 4 town board seat was taken by the Reverend Dennis Draper, who ran opposed.
Two other new faces also joined Mount Olive’s government. Retired businessman Steve Wiggins ousted incumbent Jerry Harper for the town’s at large seat and local activist Vicky Darden won the District 1 seat not sought again by Kenny Talton. Ms. Darden beat Hobert Yates for the seat.
Barbara Kornegay, the other incumbent, ran unopposed for the District 3 seat that she was appointed to last June in filling the vacancy of Tom Preston, who resigned for business and relocation purposes.
New Mayor Scott took the oath of office from Wayne County District Court Judge Curtis Stackhouse. Judge Stackhouse also swore in Ms. Darden. State Senator Louis Pate swore Wiggins to his seat.
Mayor McDonald gave the oath to Ms. Kornegay, Draper, and Harlie Carmichael.
All five board members made it clear they are there to serve the citizens of Mount Olive and plan to work together to move the town forward.
The first order of business for the new board was the selection of Harlie Carmichael to serve as the new mayor pro tem.
In other board action, outgoing Mayor McDonald and Mark Weeks were named by Mayor Scott as new members of the board of directors of the Mount Olive Housing Authority. The Housing Authority was abolished by the town board last month and is undergoing reorganization. A vacancy remains on its five-member board of directors.
Mayor Scott said McDonald will serve as acting chairman of the housing authority board until a resolution can be reached about the current legal issue between the town and the authority. Scott said he expects to appoint another member to the housing authority board before the next meeting.
Mayor Scott also announced that the January meeting of the board has been moved the second Monday of the month, January 8.