A Councilman’s Promise ‘We Will Bring This City Together’

Former Fayetteville City Councilman Bill Crisp at the May 5 unveiling of the site for the Bill Crisp Senior Center in West Fayetteville. At left is Mayor Mitch Colvin. At right is Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen. (Photo courtesy of the City of Fayetteville)

 

Bill Crisp was a believer that today could be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today. That this is a city of good people, and no matter our differences, all of us will come together when all is said and done.

            “You got some fine people in the city of Fayetteville,” a frail Bill Crisp said on May 5, when Mayor Mitch Colvin and Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Keefe Jensen joined with fellow Fayetteville City Council members in unveiling plans for the Bill Crisp Senior Center in his beloved west Fayetteville.

            A day and an honor, Bill Crisp told us, he would cherish for all of his remaining days, and beyond.

            “I don’t have many more days,” he said from his electric-powered scooter.

                  But even in his last days, Bill Crisp would remind us that in the throes of racial unrest and other issues in this city, our best days and the best of all of us would come.
            “We have white and black, but not all of us are fighting each other,” he said. “All of us will not fight each other. We will bring this city together. We will win. Because we have the will to do that. We will win the battles, and we will bring this city into total unity. That’s my promise to you.”

Voice Of Reason

            This community came to know Bill Crisp in 2005, when he was a voice for Cumberland County Citizens United, an organization of residents fighting against what would become known as the “Big Bang” involuntary annexation into the city of an estimated 40,000 residents in west Fayetteville neighborhoods.

            You saw him at City Council public forums.

            He spoke with conviction.

            He was a voice of reason.
            He was passionate in his plea that west Fayetteville annexation was too much and too hurried for residents of neighborhoods to include Arran Hills, Arran Lakes, Arran Lakes West, Rayconda and Wells Place.

            Bill Crisp would not win the annexation fight, but it would inspire him to aspire to a City Council District 6 seat, and he would serve six terms from 2007 to 2018, where he distinguished himself as one of the more distinguished council members in its history.

            He studied city issues.

            He reviewed council agendas, and he always was prepared.

            He listened to other council members, evaluated their positions and then offered his wisdom. He was not careless in his words. He didn’t pander to the camera or posture just to hear his own voice.

            And his vote was his conscience.

            “The most valuable thing I have is my integrity,” Bill Crisp told Jeff “Goldy” Goldberg on Dec. 11, 2019, on what was his 84th appearance on “Good Morning Fayetteville,” a daily radio broadcast on WFNC 640 FM radio. “I won’t sell it.”

City Flag at Half Mast

            William Joseph Leon Crisp died July 28, 2021.

            He was 81.

            The municipal flag at City Hall, by order of Mayor Mitch Colvin, flew at half-staff through July 30, 2021.
            “We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of former Councilman Bill Crisp,” Colvin said in a city news release. “He was a true role model and a servant to his country and his community. Mr. Crisp was a U.S. Army veteran who protected our freedoms both here and abroad. He was a true example of a servant leader. I would like the story of his impact on my life and the lives of others to be a story that’s shared throughout our community forever.”

            For Kathy Keefe Jensen, the mayor pro tem, Mr. Crisp’s passing was heartbreaking.

            “When I was elected in 2013, we were assigned mentors on the council by Mayor Nat Robertson,” Jensen said. “I personally requested Councilman Crisp. I sat beside him in council chambers my first term. He answered all of my questions and we learned real quick that we were a good team, even when we disagreed.

            “I learned no matter how the vote goes, it’s over and you move forward together as a council. I learned from him that this job is bigger than any of us on council, and it should be represented with respect, grace and class. And I learned from him not to ever think an idea that would benefit our city was bad or an impossible idea.

            “The biggest thing I learned is that I could feel like someone’s daughter again,” Jensen said, referencing her late father, a former Cumberland County commissioner. “I truly am heartbroken.” 

            Christopher Davis was Mr. Crisp’s protégé and succeeded him in the District 6 seat.

            “Family is the keystone of any leader’s job,” Davis says he learned from Mr. Crisp. “A leader who fails his family will eventually fail his community. We never spoke without having family come up as a topic of discussion.”

            Davis says Mr. Crisp was not afraid to speak the truth, even it was an unpopular subject.

“People want honesty,” Davis says, “even if they are upset about the topic. And serving as an elected official is an honor to be cherished; not a right or something you are owed.”

            Ted Mohn is a former council member who served with Mr. Crisp.
            “The most important lesson I learned from Bill as a councilman is to be receptive to new ideas, analyze the proposals, listen to the potential pros and cons, and vote based on all data presented,” Mohn says. “Then make an informed decision.”
            Neighborhoods in west Fayetteville from Beaver Creek, Canterbury, Emerald Gardens, Hickory Grove, Kingswood, Landsdowne, Meadowwood, Middleton Plantation, Porter Place, Quailridge, Preston, Robinwood, Shadowlawn, Shenandoah, Surry Meadows, Tarleton Plantation, Westgate, Williamsburg Plantation and Winter Park are the better because Bill Crisp took the time to listen and the time to care.

Epilogue


             “I’m content that I gave 100 percent of myself,” Crisp told Jeff Goldberg in that Dec. 11, 2019, radio interview. “I gave my all. I visited Community Watch meetings outside my District 6. My concern was not just for District 6, but for all of Cumberland County. The whole city was my beat. I sincerely believe I left Fayetteville better.”

            You’ll find Bill Crisp’s DNA on everything from a downtown baseball stadium to a new parking garage to a decayting hotel now providing condominium living to a Fayetteville Area System of Transit hub to neighborhood sidewalks and paved streets to a gathering place for senior citizens in west Fayetteville. A new generation of young people enjoy swimming pools and splash pads throughout the city, too.

            And tomorrow, Bill Crisp would want all of us to know, will be better than today, and the day after better all the more.

            Services for William Joseph Leon Crisp are scheduled for 2:30 p.m on Aug. 7 at Galatia Presbyterian Church, with interment to include full military honors for the Vietnam veteran at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery.

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961