BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Members of the Tarboro town Council will do something when they meet at 6 p.m. today that they’ve not done in 18 years. Meet with someone other than Donald Morris as mayor.
Morris resigned abruptly last week in a brief, 28-word letter, two days after an exhaustive council meeting that last two hours 40 minutes before a closed meeting that went another 100 minutes before being adjourned.
Tonight, council members sans Morris will continue the work from a week ago.
Last Tuesday, Morris told The Daily Southerner the plan was to call the regular council meeting to order at 6 p.m., then adjourn into executive session.
Tonight, Mayor Pro Tem Taro Knight will call the session to order — although it is somewhat unclear if council will need to take any additional action to effectively pass the reins of leadership to him until a new mayor is elected and sworn in following the November general elections. As mayor pro tem, Knight would automatically lead the council in the mayor’s absence.
Morris’ surprise resignation changes nothing in the way of the election, as he had previously announced he would step down at the end of this term, ending 32 years of council membership.
In addition to the mayor’s race, three council seats are up for grabs while Knight is running uncontested for reelection in Ward 7.
As many as three of the seats on the council could have new occupants, while one is a certainty, as current Ward 3 council member Rick Page was the first to file for mayor on July 5. Also filing for that race was Donnie Hale and John Wooten.
Other contested races include:
• Ward 1, when incumbent Gerrelene Walker is being challenged by retired Tarboro policeman Carl Benson and Othar Woodard.
• Ward 3, where three first-time candidates — Steve Burnette, Leshaun Jenkins and Stephen Ribustello — are vying for Page’s current seat.
• Ward 5, where incumbent Candis Owens is being challenged by former council member John Jenkins. Owens beat Jenkins for the seat by 28 votes (138-110) in 2009.)