Stewart Steps Aside as Carthage Mayor
Carthage bade a fond farewell to its mayor and longtime commissioner Tommy Stewart last week.
Stewart served a decade on the Town Board — from 1991 to 2001 — and then returned by request to fill a vacancy created by former Mayor Larry Caddell’s election to the Moore County Board of Commissioners.
The town gave him a new rocking chair as a symbol of his latest “retirement” — Stewart’s Carthage home has a porch full of rocking chairs. He put the new one inside, by the fireplace.
There were a number of surprises. State Sen. Harris Blake made a special trip to present a state flag to Stewart, who mentioned that he had once had the flag raising job himself. He was a page under legendary Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn.
Once, on a windy day, the cord tangled. He couldn’t get the flag up. That brought a stern admonishment from the speaker. The sight of the flag flying over the capitol means Congress is in session, and in those days representatives and senators looked for that as a signal. That’s how they knew they were meeting
Stewart said Rayburn told him to get that flag up no matter what.
“Look, if you don’t do anything else, you make sure that dadgum flag gets put up!” Rayburn told young Stewart. He did. Stewart told Harris this flag meant a lot to him.
In one of his last acts as mayor of Carthage, he gave the oath to returning Mayor Pro Tem Jean Riley.
At this meeting, it was Caddell — now chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners — who administered the oath of office to his old friend Catherine Graham, who had often done the same for him when she was clerk of court.
Graham was elected in the November election. It is her first time on her town’s board.
“Well, I just think it is an opportunity to serve the town,” Graham said. “I’ve lived here for 25 years, and I would like to see Carthage continue on. We are probably going to see some changes.”
She said she wants “Sweet Carthage” to be known as more than the county seat of Moore — the place you go for speeding tickets, lawsuits and paying taxes.
“I think we can do that,” Graham said. “I don’t think it is going to require a lot of money. It is going to require a lot of citizens input. I am looking forward to seeing some positive changes. Carthage has always been a good place to live. We just want to make it a little better.
“I like the peacefulness of Carthage; it is a peaceful town. It is a pretty town. I’d like to see it a little cleaner, and there are some things we can do to accomplish that. I am looking forward to serving. I have got ‘to pay back’ the citizens of Carthage who have been good to me and Moore County. It is time to ‘pay forward’ I guess.”
Graham retired three years ago as Clerk of Court, but continued in public service. She is a trustee of Sandhills Community College and chairs the county board social of services.
“I am doing what I enjoy doing,” she said.
Caddell first had sworn in Lee McGraw as the new mayor of Carthage. McGraw, who ran successfully in November, said he had wanted the attention at this meeting to be on the former clerk of court and the departure of Stewart.
“I asked Larry to do my oath, and Catherine said she’d like him to do hers as well,” McGraw said. “We were trying to think of every way we could honor Tommy. He administered the oath to Jean Riley first. It meant a lot to me that he could do that, while he was still mayor. We were supposed to break for a reception to honor Tommy, and I said I would like for him — one last time — to hit the gavel. So he did that.”
After refreshments, handshakes all round, and a short time for talk, Mayor McGraw gaveled the board back into session.
The commissioners changed seats once the new board reassembled, with Graham moving to sit between Artie Barbour and Milton “T” Dowdy, whose new seat is to the right of the mayor’s. Jean Riley, who remains Mayor Pro Tem, sits to his left. McGraw’s old place on the board is vacant. Commissioners decided to wait on making any appointment of a new commissioner to fill McGraw’s seat until other residents who might wish to serve can apply.
Forms for that purpose are available at the Carthage Municipal Building, and interested persons have until Friday, Jan. 6, to submit their names for consideration and say why they would like to serve.
“I tell you, it is just like when I was commissioner,” McGraw said later. “I am just anxious to try to get something done with the town — try to get businesses filled up. I really am. I don’t have a vote, but I have a voice.”
Contact John Chappell at email@example.com.
More like this story