Anti-Jail Faction Fails in Carthage
Incumbents swamped anti-jail candidates Tuesday in Carthage's municipal election.
Tommy Stewart, a commissioner who has served on the Town Board for more than 10 years, will be the new mayor. He defeated his next-door neighbor Bert Patrick, an anti-jail challenger, to take the office being vacated by Mayor Ronnie Fields, who did not seek re-election.
Stewart won handily, 258 to 146, according to unofficial returns.
"Hopefully, we have put the controversy on the jail to rest," Stewart said.
Fields was one of the first to congratulate Stewart on his victory.
"I wished all of them well," Fields said. "I hoped we would have a big turnout. What pleases me is that so many people have taken an active interest. That is a good thing for the town of Carthage."
Fields, now a captain in the Moore County Sheriff's Department, has been a strong supporter of county plans for a new public safety and county office complex to be built on long-vacant land purchased from Johnny Grimm. Patrick and other candidates for the Town Board strongly opposed an expansion of the county jail that is part of that project.
"I am sorry," Patrick said on hearing the results. "I was hoping to win the election. But I won't give up on opposing a detention center in that location. It is inappropriate to put it in the center of this historic town. I think the most encouraging thing is that people have gotten involved."
Stewart said he has never been worried about that location for new sheriff's offices, a 911 center and an expanded jail. He has often said it is the best possible use for what has been little more than a large vacant lot in the middle of Carthage.
"I remember the old jail, there under the downtown water tanks," Stewart said before the election, recalling boyhood days growing up across the street. "I remember prisoners looking out the window and singing. That never bothered me, and it never bothered my mother. Children played out in the yards across the street from them."
Patrick, Victoria Botson and others hoped their election to the Town Board of Commissioners would mean they could find a way for the town to block any jail expansion on the downtown site. They felt that the town could refuse to issue building permits. But voters appear to have rejected their position decisively. None of the winners opposes the new detention center plan.
Incumbent Commissioner Milton T. Dowdy was the top vote-getter among six candidates seeking three seats with full four-year terms on the board, with 260 votes. Incumbent Artie Barber was next with 252 votes to retain his seat. Lee McGraw was third, with 170 votes. He knocked off incumbent Commissioner Robert Sullivan, who was fourth with 156 votes, followed by Ronnie Gray with 142 votes and Carl Williams with 69 votes. Sullivan was the top vote-getter in the last election.
Lisa Caddell won election to a seat with an unexpired two-year term with 231 votes. She is the wife of former Mayor Larry Caddell -- now a county commissioner. Lisa Caddell says she is definitely her own woman.
"Absolutely, if you don't believe me, ask my husband," she said. "Well, I can say this: I will be very privileged and honored to serve the citizens of Carthage. I will do the best I can to give them a voice."
Botson, an anti-jail candidate, ran a close second to Caddell with 119 votes in a three-way contest. Michael Campbell ran third in that race with 42 votes.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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