11/03/05 — Mount Olive mayoral candidate has criminal record

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Mount Olive mayoral candidate has criminal record

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 3, 2005 1:51 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A candidate for mayor of Mount Olive has a criminal record.

Court records showed Gilbert Usher was convicted of felony possession of marijuana in 1995. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and fined $500. He was convicted in 1998 of driving while impaired, and when he didn't pay the $250 fine, his probation was revoked and he served 60 days in jail.

Usher could not be reached for comment.

Incumbent Mayor Ruff Huggins, who is seeking re-election, said he does not believe that Usher's record should be a factor in the race.

Huggins said anyone has a right to run for public office if they think they can contribute to the community. He said he hasn't heard from Usher, who did not participate in a recent candidate forum.

Huggins has been mayor of Mount Olive off and on for 10 years since first being elected in 1995. He said he believes the town's foremost accomplishment under his tenure has been the creation of the Kidsworld Playground.

"(The playground) brought more people together and solidified this town more than anything ever, with the exception of the coming of Mount Olive College," he said. "It's the single most exciting coming-together project we ever had, and the after-effects of it are phenomenal."

He said he's been told Westbrook Park, where the playground was built by the community in only five days, is busy on the weekends with people from other towns. Town officials have to keep a roster of people wanting to reserve the park for events like parties and family reunions to keep it from getting overcrowded, Huggins noted.

"People walk on the walking trail from early morning to late afternoon," Huggins said. "We don't keep it open at night, but people walk on it as long as the daylight hours last. Any time of day, you'll find several people out there."

Huggins said the town has a lot of projects going on, which is good for the town. He said the town is expanding its wastewater treatment plant and preparing for the coming of a biodiesel plant by making sure the company will have plenty of water and sewer service. Mount Olive College is growing, and he said the town is working with the college to provide water and sewer to the campus and to allow for further growth in that part of town. He said it looks like the town can afford to finish expanding its runway at the town airport by another 1,000 feet on the south end. Survey work should be finished this week. He said the town will have about $250,000 left after paying for the survey work.

The town recently received a $595,000 community development block grant to rehabilitate homes in the Hillsborough Street area near Jefferson Street.

The town has been working every day on solving storm water control in the Crest Drive and Valley Road area of town.

"If the Wal-Mart doesn't announce it's coming by Thanksgiving, I'll be the biggest liar. But they have a lot on their minds. To them, we're just another little project. We just have to be patient with them."