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Hope Mills board considers making town historian an official position


HOPE MILLS - The Hope Mills Board of Commissioners on Monday night agreed it needs an official town historian and plans to write a policy that includes the responsibilities and requirements for the position.  

The board at its Feb. 7 meeting unanimously approved a letter awarding former Historic Preservation Committee Chairwoman Pat Hall the title of historian emeritus. The item, which was presented by Mayor Jackie Warner prior to the start of official business, was not listed on the agenda. Since then, commissioners have had questions about what that means for Hall.  

Commissioner Joanne Scarola asked that the topic of historian emeritus and the reason for the board’s Feb. 7 vote be placed on Monday night’s agenda. She has said she wanted to hear more from Warner about why the board felt like it was retiring Hall.

“I spoke with Pat Hall, and she had no idea she was being retired from the position, so I’m just trying to get some clarification,’’ Scarola said. 

Warner said the town doesn’t have a policy for a town historian.

“The position of town historian was an appointed position by the mayor,’’ Warner said. “Prior to that, Mayor (Eddie) Dees was self-appointed because he had written a book about our history.”

When Dees died, Hall was chairwoman of the Historic Preservation Committee and had been very active, Warner said.

“I guess the requirement was to fill the position. There is no policy. There’s no requirements,” she said. 

Warner held a copy of Dees’ book in her hands.  

“This (book) goes back to 1991. So what’s happened from 1991 to the current time? We’re missing so much,’’ Warner said. “The idea is to move forward with our history.” 

Warner said nothing has been done since regarding record-keeping.

“What I was finding was, that wasn’t happening,’’ Warner said. “When I called Mrs. Hall to ask if I could appoint someone else to the position, I was told her position was for life, that she had the position until she passed away. I don’t understand because I can’t find that policy written anywhere.”

The offer of historian emeritus was to honor Hall and to allow her to participate in future meetings, Warner told the board.

Warner said the status of emeritus has been bestowed before, such as for former mayor Al Bradford and his wife, Edith.

“It allows the person to still be active and a part of the committee and attend meetings, but they are nonvoting,” Warner said. 

“This was not to retire Pat Hall, this was an opportunity to get someone into the position who had the time and who is a member of our historic committee, which Hall no longer is,” Warner said. 

Warner said there is no documentation or policy related to a town historian. She also said she was open to having an official historian. She said it would be possible to come up with the duties for that person.

"Also, we don’t have any position in our town that’s life long. If you’re on a committee it’s two years,” Warner said. 

 Warner emphasized the intention of her letter for Hall.  

 “It wasn't to retire Hall, it was to honor her,’’ Warner said. “I was hoping she would stay. I wanted to give her credit where credit was due.”  

 Commissioner Jerry Legge asked to rescind the  Feb. 7 vote regarding the historian emeritus status for Hall. 

 Commissioner Grilley Mitchell suggested they go to the Historic Preservation Committee and get input for a policy related to town historian. “So we can begin to do it the right and correct way,” Mitchell said. 

 Mayor Pro Tem Kenjuana McCray agreed with Mitchell about drawing up a policy and also liked the idea of a two-year term.  

 “I agree with everything Commissioner Mitchell said. I don’t believe in anybody being appointed anything for life,’’ McCray said. “We need some perimeters around the historians so that we can bring history forward. We’ve got a story to tell.”

“We can tell the story of Hope Mills in a beautiful way bringing ways to bridge us together, rather than divide us,” McCray said. 

Mitchell asked Warner to table the vote rather than rescind it until commissioners talk to Hall. Commissioner Bryan Marley told Warner he didn’t want to rescind the Feb. 7 vote and asked for more time to review efforts to define the role of a historian. Legge then withdrew his motion to rescind the vote.  

The letter that awarded Hall historian emeritus status is still in place. 

“We got a chance to do this right and move from this point forward,” Marley said.

Public Safety Building update 

The board also heard an update on the Public Safety Building from architect Scott Garner. Garner told the board the roof was in place and now the building is dry-sealed.

Garner said it was time to move forward with the interior of the building and presented the board with new options for interior details, such as an epoxy floor that Garner said would save the town money in maintenance in the long term.

Board members asked Garner in the future to present them with a breakdown of his research and suggestions and give them more time to consider recommendations before voting on them. The board voted unanimously to move forward with Garner’s suggestions for the building’s interior.

Hodges family honored

Also on Monday, the board honored the family of Samuel Jasper Hodges and their contributions for their advancements to Hope Mills and North Carolina. Sharon Reeves, chairwoman of the Historic Preservation Committee, gave a video presentation on the Hodges’ family history.

Descendants of Samuel Jasper Hodges were in attendance as Warner read a proclamation making Feb. 21, 2022, Hodges Family Day in Hope Mills.  

Also on Monday night, members of the VFW Post 10630 recognized Officer William Cannon as Law Enforcement Public Servant Officer of the Year for 2021. Scarola and Mitchell, both veterans, helped present the award.  

Jason Canady covers Hope Mills for CityViewTODAY. He can be reached at jcanady@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Hope Mills, Board of Commissioners, town historian, Pat Hall, Jackie Warner