By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
SCOTLAND NECK —
PRINCEVILLE — Mayor Elect Bobbie Jones said getting elected was somewhat of an easy task. Now, he is preparing for much harder work — to turn his troubled town around.
The Baskerville Elementary School assistant principal collected 376 votes compared to 92 for incumbent Priscilla Everette-Oates, 73 for Milton Bullock and 20 for Theresa Williams Tuesday during the municipal election.
"I wasn't surprised by the margin of victory, but I'm very humbled," he said. "The reason why I'm not surprised is that the people wanted a change. They are frustrated with all the negative publicity that Princeville has earned. Through our campaign, we were able to convince the citizens that together we will solve our problems. But I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Although we had a good campaign message, all the credit goes to God first, and then the committee to elect Bobbie Jones, and the voters for electing me to be the next mayor of Princeville."
Jones, along with two other newly elected commissioners, JoeRoam Myrick and Pamela Ransome will be sworn-in during the town's December meeting. The meeting was pushed forward to Dec. 16, due to the Christmas holiday.
Jones will be the first male mayor to hold the gavel since 1996. The town's last male mayor was the late Walter Plemmer, who loss his seat to former mayor Delia Perkins. Since then Perkins and Everette-Oates each served two terms.
Everette-Oates bid to seek a third term failed with Jones, who is a first time politician, receiving 67 percent of the votes. Things will not be easy for the first time politician who will be operating without a town manager for at least one month.
The Local Government Commission (LGC) took over the finances in 2012 due to the threat of the town defaulting on its obligations. In an effort to get the town back on solid ground, the LGC cut several town positions including the town manager slot. The town manager, who runs the town's day-to-day operation, is critical piece in Princeville form of government. LGC, along with a volunteer, Steve Modlin, are currently assisting with handling the town manager responsibilities.
But help is on the way. LGC informed the board that Princeville will be financial stable enough to hire a manager in January. Although that is good news, LGC has not set a timetable to return the town's books.
Another black eye hovering over the town is Everette-Oates facing 17-charges of embezzlement for using the town credit cards. She is due in court Dec. 10. Everette-Oates have repeatedly denied any wrong doing.
"We're not taking the town's trouble lightly, but we're not going to dwell on them either," Jones said. "That is the past. If we spend too much time on the past, we short change the future. We are going to do what is right at all times in an effort to prevent additional problems. We're going to hit the ground running and I want the citizens of Princeville running with us."
About hitting the ground running, Jones is putting his money where his mouth is. Pending board approval, he has tentative plans in the very near future to sponsor several forums for all segments of the population.
"I want to know what the citizens want and what can we do collectively to make it happen," Jones said. "I plan to meet with our senior citizens and clergy first then the business leaders. We will also meet with youth ages 5-12 year old and their parents. Another session will include children ages 13-18. We're not going to leave anyone out. We're going to also meet with 19-34 year old and 35-64 year old. Doing this will be just one part of acknowledging my campaign slogan and promise — "Let Us Make Princeville Great Again."
Jones has already received the backing of his fellow commissioners including Gwen Knight and Ann Howell. Knight is serving a second term while Howell has been on the board over 20 years. It is likely that Howell could be chosen as the mayor pro temp.
"I'd talked to Commissioner Howell and Commissioner Knight and they wished me well," Jones said. "Because of their experience, they are very important to this administration. I've also talked to the new commissioners, Myrick and Mrs. Ransome. All of them said they are going to do everything to help us move Princeville forward and I gladly accepted."
Knight said, "We have a well qualified mayor and commissioners now. We can turn it around.
A high ranking politician in Washington D.C. is also willing to help Jones. Jones said he was very surprised to get a phone call from him the night of the election.
"I looked at my phone and Congressman G.K. Butterfield name popped up," Jones said. "I was honored to be called by this distinguished gentleman. He congratulate me and said Princeville deserves the best. Then he gave me his cell phone number and email address and said, 'You can call me 24 hours a day. If you don't believe it, try it.'
"Congressman Butterfield call lets me know there are many people in our corner. We can bring jobs, businesses and improve the economic welfare of our town. With people like Congressman Butterfield, the commissioners, the citizens and people who live outside of Princeville who have the best interest of the town at heart, working together, we will make Princeville, the oldest town in American chartered by blacks, great again."