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Bill Kirby Jr.: Mayor, City Council have challengers in wait

Filings for city, county, state and federal offices resume Thursday, and many eyes will be on city races.


Some eyes will be turning this week to the yellow-brick building along Fountainhead Lane.

Filings resume Thursday for candidates seeking city, county, state and federal offices. And the truth of it is, many eyes will be on the Fayetteville City Council.

“I am anticipating the candidates that didn't get the chance to file will be in,” says Angie Amero, interim director for the Cumberland County Board of Elections, “and candidates that were unsure if they wanted to file have had the opportunity to change their minds and file if they so choose.”

Filings will be accepted weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The filing period ends at noon on March 4. Primaries are scheduled for May 17, Amaro says, with the City Council general election either July 5 or July 26, contingent on the need for a second primary.

“This city is in dire need of fresh blood and ideas at City Hall,” Jose Rodriguez, 47, was saying recently. “What the citizens should be asking is, what do we do to get rid of these folks at our earliest convenience? … Ultimately, the best way to hold politicians accountable is to vote them out of office.”

That’s what Rodriguez is hoping to do in the council’s District 1. Rodriguez already has filed in his bid to oust Kathy Keefe Jensen, the four-term councilwoman for north Fayetteville and currently the mayor pro tem. Jensen has yet to file for a fifth term.

Yvonne Kinston, who represents District 9, for now is the only council member without opposition. She is in her first term as a councilwoman.

Mayor Mitch Colvin has challenges from Franko Webb, John Antoine Miner and Efrain “Freddie” Delacruz. Colvin, the city’s second African-American mayor, is seeking a third term as mayor. He previously served as the District 3 representative having first been elected in 2013.

Janene Marie Ackles is challenging incumbent Shakeyla Ingram in District 2. Ingram is also serving her first term and has not filed for re-election.

John Zimmerman, Mario Benavente and Kurin Keys have filed for the District 3 seat now occupied by Antonio Jones. Jones was selected by the council to fill the seat vacated Nov. 9 by Tisha Waddell. Waddell, 42, resigned after a falling out with the mayor and other council members over what she alleged was a lack of transparency over the potential sale of the Fayetteville PWC and other issues.

Councilman D.J. Haire has opposition in District 4 from Thomas C. Greene. Haire is a 10-term councilman.

Johnny Dawkins of District 5 is being challenged by Frederick Lachance III. Dawkins is seeking a fourth term.

Chris Davis has a challenger in Joy Marie Potts for the District 6 seat. Davis is a freshman councilman.

Larry Wright is being challenged in District 7 by Myahtaeyarra (Myah) Warren, the 24-year-old political activist and leader of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests at the Market House in the spring of 2020. Wright is seeking his fourth council term.

Michael Pinkston is running to unseat Courtney Banks-McLaughlin for the District 8 seat. Banks-McLaughlin is in her first term on the council.

In-your-face candidate

One race will be particularly interesting – the District 7 showdown between Wright and Warren, who is an in-your-face candidate and not the least bit afraid to tell you just what she thinks or how she feels about an issue.

“I do believe a lot of people want this council gone,” she says.

Not just the council, but the city police chief, too.

Warren says Chief Gina Hawkins was not “100% transparent” in the Police Department’s handling of the Jan. 8 shooting death of Jason Walker at the hands of a Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office off-duty deputy on Bingham Drive.

“In order to be a police chief,” Warren says, “you have to be transparent.”

Hawkins turned over the investigation to the State Bureau of Investigation, she says, to avoid any conflict of interest or the appearance thereof. Her decision was supported by Billy West, the county district attorney.

Warren says, too, the City Council should have allowed the Fayetteville Audit Committee to hire an independent agency to investigate allegations that Waddell cited in her resignation letter about the mayor and other council members.

“I believe conversation was brought back because they got a lot of backlash,” Warren says about the council’s unanimous Feb. 14 vote to send the allegations to the Fayetteville Ethics Commission. “If not for this being an election year, it wouldn’t have been brought back. This was to save face. I know you can’t please everybody, but it’s the consistency of not being transparent. For that reason alone, people are fed up.”

To be fair here, council members Kinston, Ingram, Banks-McLaughlin and Jones did vote to send the matter to the Audit Committee. Jenson, Dawkins, Davis, Wright and Haire voted against Kinston’s motion. The mayor recused himself. He also was not present at the Feb. 14 vote to send the matter to the Ethics Commission.

No question, this is not a popular City Council. There’s infighting and there have been two censures – one of Dawkins and one of Ingram, and both within six weeks of each other. Dawkins snapped at Kinston at a work session. Ingram was called out for a remark at a Dec. 6 work session where she said, “This is the most corrupt-(expletive) board I have ever served on.”

Whether Ingram’s remark was during the work session or after it was adjourned is under review by the city clerk at the request of the council.

Truth is, censures don’t amount to much. A censure is just a political slap on the wrist and little more.


All we can do now is wait to see if any more City Council filings are in the offing.

Maybe there will be.

Maybe, if you give an ear to Linda Devore, there won’t be.

“I believe there are two factors regarding the City Council filings,” says Devore, a member of the Board of Elections that includes Helen L. Nelson, chairwoman; and Irene Grimes, James H. Baker and Billy R. King. “One is relative to the recent controversies and dissatisfaction, which may bring out candidates, but the other is that the term length for those winning a seat will be short — just over a year before we do it all again. It will be interesting to see how much effort - time and expense - will be invested in a campaign for such a short term. Taking out an incumbent is rarely easy, and even potential donors could see it as minimal return on investment.”

That could be a saving grace for the mayor and some council members.

But at least 13 challengers don’t see it that way, and the ensuing days until March 4 will tell us if there are others who believe the City Council needs some new blood when it comes to city governance.

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

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