Moore County’s municipalities have enjoyed unusual longevity among their mayors. From Pinebluff to Robbins, our incorporated communities have kept the same titular leaders for some time.
There’s significance in such stability. Although our towns operate under a “weak mayor” form of government, the top elected executives tend to set the pace and tone for the rest of their boards. Together, those councils make the big decisions that professional staffs execute.
Generally, this county’s municipalities govern appropriately and work well with each other and the Moore County Board of Commissioners. The occasional squabble or disagreement isn’t unusual, but the relationships built among seasoned elected leaders return dividends to us as electors.
We say all this by way of noting that we will see two significant departures from elected office come November. Southern Pines Mayor David McNeill and Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Fiorillo, both of whom rose to their offices in 2011, have said they will not run for re-election this year. They are choosing to go out on their own terms while affairs of state are stable and thriving.
“Things are good and I think two terms is enough,” said McNeill. “This opens the opportunity for new people to come in with new ideas.”
Seasoned and Experienced
Fiorillo and McNeill did not run their respective municipalities — the two largest in the county — but they did preside actively, and they shared a vision these last eight years for how their communities should grow.
It wasn’t always easy or unanimous. Governing never is. But it helped that both of them had long careers of government experience. McNeill was a county manager for years here and in Guilford County. Fiorillo was a county planner.
Those backgrounds served them and southern Moore County well over these past eight years as Southern Pines and Pinehurst have wrestled to cope with almost continuous growth from an influx of military-connected families.
And while focused on bettering their respective hometowns, neither McNeill nor Fiorillo were provincial in their thinking. Together with Mayor Robbie Farrell in Aberdeen — he took that town’s top spot two years later, in 2013 — the three have worked to increase cooperation on common issues ranging from recycling to transportation. And they did it with great civility.
The three mayors have accomplished a great deal in their time, but above all else they were tireless champions to obtain new elementary schools for their communities. The schools in Aberdeen, Southern Pines and Pinehurst were among the oldest, most run down and most inefficient in the county. Farrell, Fiorillo and McNeill led an unceasing effort to convince the Board of Education and Board of Commissioners to prioritize new schools. Their work paid off last year. Two of the three schools are under construction, and work on a new Pinehurst Elementary begins later this year.
The Way Forward
So what now for Pinehurst and Southern Pines? Who will raise their hand and step forward to run for mayor? We have some guesses, but we’ll hold those until the filing period for candidates opens in a couple of months.
For those two municipalities — and any others in Moore County — we need to see candidates who are progressive, who do not seek to live in Moore’s past. We need candidates who are willing to accept growth but on specific terms that protect our Eden in the Pines. We need candidates who respect the will of the people but who are not afraid to state a vision and do some consensus building.
We need candidates willing to speak truth to power with our state leaders, the latter of which are intent on stripping local control away in ever more numerous ways.
More than anything, we need candidates, like McNeill and Fiorillo, willing and able to lead and achieve results without worrying about who gets the credit.
All these are uncommon traits. But we have them. Let’s keep them.