11/04/05 — Five seats on ballot in Mount Olive race

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Five seats on ballot in Mount Olive race

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 4, 2005 1:49 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- At-large town commissioner Ray Thompson will face two challengers when the polls open Tuesday in the Mount Olive municipal election.

The seat is just one of five up for grabs this November.

Jesse Jack Faison and Rick Kraft will ask voters to choose one of them to sit in the seat Thompson has held since 1999.

Thompson said he has done a lot of volunteer work in Mount Olive, and he sees serving on the board as another one of those contributions to his community. He said he has lived in Mount Olive since 1953, and he loves the town.

"I want to make sure Mount Olive is continuing to go in the right direction and will not go back to the way it was at one time," he said. "It was stalled. Nobody on the board could agree. There was a lot of fuming and fussing."

He said people in other towns would ask him, "What's going on?"

Challenger Jesse Jack Faison said when he was on the board in the mid-1990s, the board members were "at each other's throats, and we'd get things done. It wasn't personal. We'd get the business done, and then we'd go out for a Coke. And no hard feelings. It wasn't personal, but everybody got their views across."

But he said he feels some of the board members now are apathetic. He said he thinks Thompson lacks leadership and "sits back and says, 'yes, yes.'"

Neither extreme is good, challenger Rick Kraft said. Mount Olive has a town manager with whom the board members always agree, Kraft said. He added the town manager seems to be calling the shots, with nobody on the town board knowing what steps are being taken. He said he feels the board needs to be much more involved.

"The way I see it is the town board has the responsibility of identifying what needs to be achieved and to formulate a plan to solve problems," Kraft said. "And then they'd say, 'Town manager, seek out ways we can do this and report back to us. Don't just go and do it. Come back to us and make some suggestions.'"

Thompson surprised everybody in November 1999 by defeating then-at-large commissioner Gene Lee as a write-in candidate. Lee was unopposed on the ballot.

Later in the month Suzanne Southerland in the Wayne Elections Board office said questions were raised about the race. Thompson's margin increased from 13 votes to 18 with the unofficial results. The official canvassed total votes ended up being 387 for Thompson and 369 for Lee.

Thompson has kept the at-large seat since 1999. Lee tried unsuccessfully in 2001 to unseat Thompson. And this November, Lee is seeking the District 4 seat held by commissioner Jimmy Kornegay.

Lee was on the town board 17 years. He said his previous experience as a town commissioner gives him the expertise needed to help keep Mount Olive moving forward.

Kornegay said he has the time to give, and he will always be open to taking people's calls, to listen and to hear their ideas. He said in the four years he has been a town commissioner, the board has made a lot of progress.

Newcomer Tom Preston and former commissioner Billy Rivenbark are seeking the District 3 seat vacated by Lloyd Warren, who did not seek re-election.

Preston has been in Mount Olive 26 years, and he said he loves the town. He said he has seen a lot of changes, and he thinks the town has potential to move forward.

Rivenbark was on the board eight years in the 1980s and early 1990s. He retired after 30 years at the Piggly Wiggly in Mount Olive at the beginning of the year, and he said he wants to devote his newfound free time to the town.

District 2 commissioner Paul Smalley and challenger Hosea Manley see the job they are seeking in different ways. Smalley said he sees himself as a commissioner for the entire town, not just for people in his district. And Manley said he wants to be the eyes and ears of the people who live in his district.

District 1 challenger Kenny Talton has nothing but high praise for incumbent Ora Truzy, but he said he feels it's time for a change. Ms. Truzy said she has been an advocate for strong neighborhoods, encouraging people to form community watch groups ever since she was first elected in 1997, and Talton, who was the town's building inspector until recently, said he wants the town to develop a comprehensive land use plan.