By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
After the final precinct reported the last votes for the Tarboro mayoral race, cheers and applause erupted in the Edgecombe County Administration Building auditorium, where candidates had assembled to witness the results of the Edgecombe County municipal elections. The results showed Rick Page would be the new mayor of Tarboro.
Immediately, a handful of well wishers congratulated Page before he could get to his wife. After weaving through the foot traffic, Page reached his wife and they celebrated with a kiss.
In a surprising landslide victory, Page collected 1,031 votes compared to John Wooten's 540 and 441 for Donnie Hale.
"Being a religious person, I put it in the hands of the Lord," Page said. "I said, if it is His will, I will get elected. If it is not His will, then whatever happens, I will be satisfied."
One week after the election, the mayor-elect had gotten over the shock of the surprising margin and began working on some immediate plans for his four-year term.
"I don't think the mayor's job is just ribbon cutting and reading proclamations. A mayor needs to be involved in the way the town is run. I would like to be a strong mayor. I plan on having an office in town where people can come and talk to me whenever there is a need," he said. "I haven't worked the details out with the town manager yet. I want to be accessible. I want the citizens to know my email address, I want them to know my cell phone number, I want them to know where they can reach me."
Although the margin of victory was lopsided, Page wasn't a shoo-in. On the day of the election, he wasn't sure how the final outcome would end and literally campaigned from sun-up to sun-down. He said he still didn't have an inkling to how the race would end — until the early votes showed he was leading by 115 votes over the second-place candidate Wooten. Then, after each one of the precincts' votes were tallied, Page's lead increased. By the time the third precinct had reported, Page had all but unofficially won the mayor's seat.
Page, 67, is a Wilson County native, who moved to Tarboro in pursuit of a career with the town electric department as the utility director. After 24 years, he retired in March 2009. It was in his latter years as the director when the aspiration of becoming a politician arose. Soon after retiring, Page ran for Ward 3 council seat which was left unopposed by Danny Hayes. About midway through his term, rumors begin swirling about former mayor Donald Morris, saying he would not seek re-election. Morris served 32 years on the council including the last 18 as the mayor. If Morris had sough re-election, he had a good chance of retaining the seat.
"I had an interested of becoming a mayor, but can't say that I saw it becoming true," Page said. When Donald decided that he wasn't going to run, then I decided it was an ideal time to put that dream into a reality. I would have never run against Donald because I had a lot of respect for him. Once he decided that he wasn't going to run, I wanted everybody to know that I was interested."
Now that he has the job (after being sworn in next month), Page said he will build upon the good that the town is already experiencing.
"We have a lot going for us," he said. "We have a lot of industries in town doing great things. We have a lot of growth that is coming about. I think we will soon see Taboro turn it around. I want to try to get behind that effort and let people know that Tarboro is growing and they are surviving and looking for better things ahead.
I also would like to establish a good working relationship with the county, with Princeville, with Rocky Mount because as the area grows, so does Tarboro. We're not in this thing by ourselves. It take all of us working together."
In the other Tarboro council races, former councilman John Jenkins regained his seat by defeating Candis Owens in Ward 5 seat and Othar Woodard defeated Gerrelene Walker and Carl Benson in Ward 1 while Steve Burnett won in Ward 3. Taro Knight was unopposed in Ward 7.