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The Kirby File: Diversity is our strength, mayor says, not our weakness

“Our future is bright,” says Mitch Colvin, who emphasized that addressing gun violence and ending racism is incumbent on all of us. “Our time is now.”


Mayor Mitch Colvin would begin his fourth term Wednesday night with a pledge to address gun violence as a Fayetteville City Council priority, while reminding us that no matter our ethnicities, our differences or the color of our skin, we are a stronger community when working with one another.

He would remind us what our city does today will be measured by generations of tomorrow.

“My prayer is that for us to all collectively work twice as much on things that make a difference, rather than our differences,” the 50-year-old Colvin would tell the more than 250 people who gathered at J.W. Seabrook Auditorium on the Fayetteville State University campus for the inauguration of the latest City Council that include two new members.

Others who would take their oaths were Dist. 1 Councilmember Kathy Keefe Jensen, 58, for her sixth term; Dist. 2 Councilmember Malik W. Davis, 28, to his first term; Dist. 3 Councilmember Mario Benavente, 33, to his second term; Dist. 4 Councilmember D.J. Haire, 64, to his 12th term as Haire joins with the late Eugene Plummer as the longest-serving council member in city history; Dist. 5 Councilmember Lynne Greene, 61, to her first term; Dist. 6 Councilmember Derrick Thompson, 62, to his second term; Dist. 7 Councilmember Brenda McNair, 62, to her second term; Dist. 8 Councilmember Courtney Banks-McLaughlin to her third term; and Dist. 9 Councilmember Deno Hondros, 47, to his second term.

“As a proud resident of the city of Fayetteville with a rich history and promising future, I am keenly aware of the immense potential and unique challenges we face,” said Jensen, who was voted 9-1 by the council as mayor pro tem for a second time in her council career. “I am committed to working tirelessly to address the needs and concerns of our district and our city."

"As I take the oath of office, I’m reminded of the tremendous responsibility that comes with representing the people of District 1," Jensen continued. "I pledge to continue working tirelessly to address the needs and concerns in the community to advocate for policies and promote economic growth, quality of life and public safety.”

Councilmember Banks-McLaughlin, who affirmed she will bid for the N.C. House Dist. 42 seat being vacated by Rep. Marvin Lucas of Spring Lake, was the dissenting vote to Jensen’s nomination for mayor pro tem, telling CityView Today she does not believe Jensen is “the right candidate.”

Jensen was nominated by Councilmember Haire. Hondros seconded Haire’s motion.

Jensen is a north Fayetteville businesswoman and daughter of late Cumberland County Commissioner John Keefe.

‘You keep dreaming’

Malik Davis would draw a notable inaugural welcome as he prepared to take his Dist. 2 oath.

“If I could just take a point of privilege,” Cumberland County Chief District Court Judge Toni King would tell Davis before administering his oath. “You are no stranger to service. You serve the community through the District Court Judges’ Office as a staff member, and you serve citizens in the most difficult position with compassion and professionalism. Although we miss you dearly, we know that you'll continue the great works of District 2 and the great works for the city of Fayetteville. It is my honor and privilege to administer your oath.”

Flanked by nephew Hakim Madyun Jr., 5, K'Marii Campbell, 9, and 17-year-old Terry Sanford High School junior Dillon Cromartie, the Dist. 2 councilman would offer touching and poignant remarks.

“I have them standing here, because if you followed my campaign, you heard me talk about making the positive impact and being a positive influence for the next generation,” the freshman councilman said. “So, today, I'll come to show you what that actually looks like, and so I'm here to show you what I did not have. So, they are here because I wanted to share this moment with them, because I realize everything I do is bigger than me.”

The young Black men by Davis’ side were the councilman’s focus.

“I want them to know publicly that you will live to see your success,” the councilman said. “Don't ever let nobody tell you that you can’t do it. That you're too young. That you’re too old. And I want you to know that anytime its trials and tribulations come, remember that you can do anything and everything. And don’t ever let no one tell you that you three young Black boys will not be successful, because you will. Don’t never let nobody tell you your dreams are too small or too big. You keep thinking. You keep dreaming.”

Give me, Davis would tell Dist. 2 residents, a predominately underserved district, 1% of your trust.

“I promise you,” he said, “I will earn the 99% and bring results to District 2, because your first voice has officially made it to the table.”

Malik Davis may be soft-spoken, but the young councilman’s voice and presence resonated this night throughout Seabrook Auditorium.

‘Standing at a crossroads’

Lynne Greene’s oath as the council’s Dist. 5 representative was a culmination to what was one of the city’s more contentious contests in council history, resulting in a decided victory over Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Dawkins, a three-term councilman.

“We have strong personalities, but we are all here for a common purpose to serve the citizens,” said Greene, a businesswoman, who was sworn in by N.C. House Rep. Diane Wheatley, with Greene’s 82-year-old mother by a daughter’s side. “We were elected to be the voices of our districts, but in that singleness of the council, we are also called to be the collective voice for the city we all love. I pray that throughout the next two years we are able to each individually represent our districts, while not losing sight of our bigger goal, which is to continue to grow and foster a city that we are all proud to call home.

“I believe we are standing at a crossroads tonight,” she continued.

“We have an opportunity before us to be the change that voters have clearly told us they desire,” Greene said. “We should champion those things that other councils have done well in the past, while also recognizing those things that we can do better.”

Other council voices

D.J. Haire would join Plummer as the longest-serving member in City Council history after taking his oath from retired N.C. Supreme Court Justice Michael Morgan, who is a Democratic candidate for governor.

“My spirit is high,” he said. My heart is tender. Twelve terms … 23 years I have served this city. Thank you, Fayetteville.”

He thanked his supporters and constituents, saying one constituent who reminded him that he is a councilman who always is there “to get things done” for Dist. 3. And he thanked his wife for attending Community Watch meetings when he couldn’t because of an October surgery that limited his mobility.

Benavente would reiterate his belief in an Office of Community Safety for “vulnerable neighborhoods and community members trapped in cycles of poverty and violence, because the city is only getting involved after the emergency or after the harm has occurred and our response only really comes with legal consequences that perpetuate that collapse.” The OCS was ratified by the council earlier this year.

Derrick Thompson called for a vision of hope “where our children dream without limitations and where every resident feels optimism about what tomorrow holds.” He said that “unity, tranquility and civility” will lead to a better city.  “We must be the architects of a community that helps offer hope and facilitates healing together. We can be a community that stands as a beacon for others to emulate.”

Brenda McNair said her Dist. 7 representation is a partnership with her district residents and that crime prevention is on her radar in the ensuing two years.

Courtney Banks-McLaughlin assured Dist. 8 constituents that her campaign for the N.C. House Dist. 42 seat is genuine.

“I love this city just as you do, so, I'm not leaving the 8th district,” she said. “I'm just going up the road returning with investments resources for our ‘Can Do’ city, county and state. I do not foresee any other individual more capable of being committed to serving District 42 than myself.”

Deno Hondros called serving as a council member “a profound sense of responsibility,” while subtly reminding us that the people’s trust is paramount. “We must build trust. Trust is the bedrock of leadership. When people trust you, they feel that their interests are safe with you and they have confidence in your judgment, your ability and your grit to see things through. We must restore the people’s trust.”


Call this a good night for Fayetteville, one with promises made and one with promises to keep. One with a renewed hope for the next 24 months to come as Mayor Mitch Colvin would remind us of challenges this City Council will face to include escalating gun violence and addressing juvenile crime and a racial fracture.

“We all are charged that we have the duty to invest and to save and to create a path of safety and prosperity for our next generation,” said Colvin, who is the 32nd mayor in city history, according to the city. The only four-term mayor along with Tony Chavonne (2005-2013), George Herndon (1953-1961), James D. McNeill (1910-1919), William Cook (1893-1902) and Archibald McLean (1858-1867).

“Youth gun violence in this country is unacceptable, and any of us and all of us have a role to play," Colvin said. "So, I hope as we move into this next term that we make gun violence and youth gun violence and proactively investing in our youth and our young people in a way that mitigates and charts a path for positive and quality of life forward … I believe that now is the time for more investment in our young people and our next generation, preparing them for life or offering alternatives and options for those who are at risk or in high-risk areas.”

And, he would remind us about that united as a community we will stand, and as a racially divided community we will fail and fall.

“Diversity is a strength in this community and not a weakness,” he said. “We are a huge melting pot of different races and backgrounds and ethnicities and opinions that makes us stronger and not weaker… As we continue to move this city forward, it was because that we've embraced inclusion and we've made diversity of strength and not a weakness.”

He would leave the new council and residents with a pledge.

“I promise that we will bring, and I will bring, a commitment every day to make this city a better place,” the mayor said. “Our future is bright. Our time is now. Let’s make it happen together. May God bless you and God bless our city.”

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

fayetteville city council, inauguration, mitch colvin, kathy keefe jensen