Council Hears from District 3 Applicants

By Bill Kirby Jr.

           They came Monday to say why they believed themselves best qualified to represent District 3 on the Fayetteville City Council.

            Mayor Mitch Colvin and the City Council listened and asked questions of the 11 people bidding to replace Tisha Waddell for the District 3 seat the two-term councilwoman abruptly resigned in November.

            Now, they wait for the council to choose.

            “The council will pick December 13,” Doug Hewett, the city manager, said after the five-hour work session at the FAST Transit Center downtown. “They will pick and we’ll swear them in the next day. My hope is to do a ceremony, and it will include their family.”

            Colvin said he was impressed with the applicants.

            “It was nice to put a name with a face,” the mayor said. “We’ll review the applicants, and have someone next week.”

            Applicants are Antonio Jones, 48, a Realtor; Cynthia Swinson Leeks, 60, a retired human resources officer with the state; Guillermo “Bill” Ayerbe, 54, a teacher and musician; Jesse Brunson, 70, a retired minister; John Zimmerman, 52, an Army veteran and businessman; Kathi Harrington Gibson, 64, a small business owner and retired educator; Kurin Keys, 44, a downtown business owner; Mario Benavente, 31, a third-year law student at N.C. Central University; Melesia Lane, 52, a legal analyst; Mike Dobs, 55, a retired Army veteran now working on Fort Bragg; and Raymond Makar, 62, a retired Special Forces soldier who now works on Fort Bragg.

            “I think cities need to feel safe,” Dobs told the council, alluding to the escalating crime rate in the city this year alone.

             Leeks was asked about crime, too.

            “I hear gunshots and sirens,” she said about her District 3 neighborhood. “There are some issues in my area, and as I have talked to people, I’ve encouraged them to call 911. It’s something I hope to work on.”

            City crime concerns Gibson.

            “I know a lot of people are looking at the crime rates,” she said.

            Others said they hoped to concentrate on infrastructure, traffic safety, stormwater issues, housing issues and homelessness.

            “The root of crime is poverty,” Benavente said.

            Most all said they wanted to be accountable to residents of District 3.

            Keys said, if appointed, he would be a representative for his constituents.

            “Not their king,” he said.

            Councilwoman Shakela Ingram and Councilman Larry Wright asked most of the questions. Other council members limited their inquiries, primarily in the interest of time.

            There were few inquiries about a private equity firm’s attempt to assume management of the Fayetteville Public Works commission, a contentious issue earlier this year that played a part in Waddell’s resignation on Nov. 9, when Waddell claimed the mayor was not transparent with the council about discussions with Bernhard Capitol Partners.

            “Her comments are baseless,’’ Colvin said after Monday’s meeting. “I have nothing more to say about it.”

            Waddell alleged deceptive and unethical conduct by the mayor, and suggested in her resignation letter that city residents call for an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation or the FBI.

            The applicants have spoken.

            The council has listened.

            Soon enough, we’ll know.

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