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The Kirby File: 18th Hope Mills mayor promises board transparency to town residents

The Fayetteville City Council inauguration is scheduled for tonight at J.W. Seabrook Auditorium on the Fayetteville State University campus, and the Town of Falcon has a new commissioner from the North Pole.


HOPE MILLS – Thoughtful, Jessie Bellflowers was on this Monday night before his inauguration as the town’s 18th mayor.

But even with the mayoral gavel in wait, he would pay homage to his predecessor.

“One more round of applause for Jackie Warner,” the 67-year-old Bellflowers would call on a capacity audience at town hall to express their gratitude to Warner, the six-term and longest-serving mayor in Hope Mills history.

He would point to photographs of all former town mayors hanging on a wall in the back of the commissioners’ chamber, “and we’ll add another,” Bellflowers would say of Warner, whom he defeated in November with 757 of official votes cast, or 52.5%, to Warner’s 677 votes, or 46.95%.

Past Hope Mills mayors, according to the town, are Warner, 2011-2023; Eddie Dees, 2005-2011; Edwin S. Deaver, 1991-2005; R.E. “Ed” Anglin, 1981-1983; Edward L. Herring, 1979-1981; J. Fulton West, 1973-1979; William F. “Bill” Luther, 1971-1973; Al Brafford, 1969-1971 and 1983-1991;  McKinley “Macky” Hall, 1965-1969; James A. Gray, 1959-1965; Ralph J. Deaver, 1953-1959; John T. Henley, 1947-1953; L.C. “Buck” Bullard, 1943-1945; E.N. Brower, 1939-1943 and 1945-1947; Bert Jones, 1927-1929; Alexander Bullard, 1919-1921 and 1923-1925; and Simeon Cotton, 1891.

“I’ve probably attended 300-plus board meetings,” the 73-year-old Warner would say before leaving the chamber. “My gavel is well worn.”

Bellflowers, who says he has not spoken with Warner since Nov. 7, would take his oath of office from Cumberland County Chief Superior Court Judge James F. Ammons Jr.

Others sworn to two-year terms were incumbents Jerry Legge, 80, to his 25th year as a commissioner; Kenjuana McCray; Joanne Scarola; Bryan Marley; and newcomer Elyse Craver, who returns to the board after serving from 1985 to 1987. McCray was unanimously voted by the board to a second term as mayor pro tem.

“This is your new 2023-2025 town board,” Bellflowers would tell the audience that would include a who’s who of politicians to include N.C. Sen. Val Applewhite (D-Dist. 19); former N.C. Sen. Kirk deViere (D-Dist. 19); N.C. Rep. Frances Jackson (D-Dist. 45); Cumberland County Commissioners Chairman Glenn Adams; Cumberland County Commissioner Toni Stewart; Cumberland County Commissioner Marshall Faircloth; Spring Lake aldermen Marvin Lackman and Raul Palacios; and former Hope Mills commissioner Meg Larson.

Larson, a staunch opponent of Warner when Larson was a board member, said Bellflowers will be an upfront mayor with the nearly 18,000 residents of Hope Mills.

“He is going to do a fantastic job,” Larson, 54, said. “Jessie is all about transparency and working with the board for the people. He was that way as a commissioner.”

Bellflowers was a commissioner from 2017 to 2021 before losing to Warner for the mayoral gavel.

Longtime town resident Sally Bailey said that while she did not support Bellflowers for mayor, “he is the mayor and I will support him. I look forward to good things happening in Hope Mills,” and hopefully new sidewalks. Bailey said, too, that she is opposed to a proposed hotel at Golfview Road that once was a town golf course near a neighborhood of homes.

Craver, 76, said she will not vote for a hotel at the site.

“It’s not the place to put this one,” she said.

Craver said she believes the board will serve the town well.

“We’ll work well together,” she said, and bringing back volunteer committees and addressing traffic congestion will be among issues of significance.

Bellflowers said he also is opposed to the proposed hotel, but not a new hotel for the town.

“I’m against the location,” he said after adjourning Monday’s meeting. “I believe in protecting the integrity of neighborhoods.”

The new mayor said the economic growth of the town is healthy.

“There are so many businesses waiting to start here,” Bellflowers said. “But we’ve got to provide services for them, too.”

Bellflowers also says he wants to discuss with the new board about the county’s decision to calculate sales taxes for county municipalities that may lead to a $1.8 million deficit to town income.

Bellflowers said that as the town’s elected presiding officer, transparency with residents will be paramount and there will be no compromise.

“It’s a priority for this board,” he said, and for Jessie Bellflowers. “What I know, this board will know and we’ll share with residents.”

City, Spring Lake inaugurations

Inaugurations continue tonight, where Mitch Colvin will be sworn in at 6 p.m. to his fourth term as mayor on the Fayetteville City Council.

The meeting is scheduled for J.W. Seabrook Auditorium at Fayetteville State University, with Ricardo Morgan as master of ceremonies.

Colvin, 50, will be sworn in by Sandra Morrisey, a notary public, according to the city. Dist. 1 Councilwoman Kathy Keefe Jensen, 56, will be sworn in by Cumberland County Superior Court Judge Claire Hill; Dist. 2 newcomer Malik W. Davis, 28, by Cumberland County District Court Judge Toni King; Dist. 3 Councilman Mario Benavente, 33, by N.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anita Earls; Dist. 4 Councilman D.J. Haire, 64, by retired N.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan, who is a Democratic candidate for governor; Dist. 5 newcome Lynne Bissette Greene, 61, by N.C. Rep. Diane Wheatley; Dist. Councilman Derrick Thompson, 62, by Walter Pikul, a notary public; Dist. 7 Councilwoman Brenda McNair, 62, by N.C. Sen. Val Applewhite; Dist. 8 Councilwoman Courtney Banks-McLaughlin by Applewhite; and Dist. 9. Councilman Deno Hondros, 47, by Cumberland County District Court Judge Cull Jordan.

With his 12th term, Haire will become the longest serving councilman in city history, according to the city, joining the late Eugene Plummer with the title.

Following the oaths of office, the council will vote for a mayor pro tem, with Haire, McNair, Banks-McLaughlin and Hondros said to be among consideration.

Spring Lake installs its new board on Dec. 11 to include Mayor Kia Anthony and Aldermen Sona Cooper, Robyn Chadwick, Adrian Jones Thompson, Marvin Lackman and Raul Palacios. The 42-year-old Anthony will take the town gavel for a second term. The inauguration is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the at the Grady Howard Conference Room at town hall.


The little municipality of Falcon will have a unique commissioner, who apparently came from the North Pole to take his oath from former Cumberland County District Court Judge Talmadge Baggett. 

“I have had the pleasure of administering the oath of office to many officials, but this is a first,” Baggett says. “Dwayne Dunning, commissioner for the Town of Falcon, took his oath in his full Santa regalia.”

There were reports of an unruly reindeer at the swearing-in.

“Snap it up, Santa,” the misbehaving reindeer was heard to say during the oath. “You’re slower than Christmas. And how about laying off those sugar cookies, Santa. Hauling this sleigh with all these toys, you know, ain’t easy, and we’ve only got 20 days ‘til our annual midnight ride.”

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

jessie bellflowers, jackie warner, hope mills, 2023 elections