Meet NC's Mayors

Credit Steven R. Shook / Asheville Post Card Company

Many mayors are the anti-politician politicians — accessible on their cellphone, at a baseball game or in the grocery aisles.

During this pandemic, their leadership styles are put to the test. Some mayors personally installed road barriers to keep visitors out, others planned socially distanced funerals.
 

Hear personal stories from local leaders as they paint a proud picture of life in North Carolina towns, big and small.

 

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North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

When Hurricane Matthew flooded his hometown in 2016, Mayor Bobbie Jones understood the magnitude of the decisions ahead. As the National Guard drained the floodwaters back into the Tar River, some of the 2,200 residents considered relocation. 

Deuel News Co./UNC Libraries Commons

Coming of age in a decaying milltown is a common American recipe for brain drain. While growing up in Canton, Zeb Smathers anxiously watched his community struggle with the fallout from globalization. 

Pittman Drug Co. / UNC Libraries

Summers were spent at his father’s gas station. Charles Townsend met all sorts of folks while manning the ice house. In the muggy lowlands of Robeson County, ice was a sought after commodity — no matter if you were raising tobacco or bidding on it in the warehouses. But as the cash crop went into decline, and Townsend considered his career prospects, he chose to leave the town of 2,000 people to work in retail. 

Courtesy of UNC Libraries

Work-arounds are his specialty. In the Bull City, ID cards are available to undocumented residents, and a chunk of property tax revenues recycle back into affordable housing initiatives. But Steve Schewel’s use of establishment power to bend establishment norms took some practice. 

A large-letter post card of Fayetteville
Steven R. Shook / Schiffer Publishing

He leads in ribbon-cuttings and celebrations of life. Mitch Colvin took over his family’s funeral home before running for office. His day-job provides insight into buileint community in difficult times. 

Illustration of a downtown street.
Courtesy of UNC Libraries

He personally put up the barricades to keep visitors out in order to protect his mountain hometown from the coronavirus. But James Reid remembers when the problem was folks no longer stopping through Andrews. 

Steven R Shook

She did not expect to be the only person of color in a classroom, and certainly not as the teacher.  Before she was elected mayor of Elizabeth City, Bettie J. Parker taught math for 33 years at the local high school.