Seven seek three seats

Published 8:43am Thursday, October 31, 2013

AHOSKIE – Come early December, the Ahoskie Town Council will welcome one new face and possibly two more….the latter hinging on how votes are cast in Tuesday’s (Nov. 5) election.

One seasoned veteran of the Council, Malcolm Copeland, has opted not to seek reelection while the two other incumbents are facing challengers.

Copeland’s Ward A Council seat will be determined by the voters’ choice between Charles Freeman and James Futrell.

Meanwhile, another incumbent, Ward B Councilman Winfred Hardy, has filed for re-election, but will face two challengers in Donald K. Kirkland and New Ahoskie Baptist Church pastor, C. David Stackhouse.

Former Ahoskie mayor Linda Blackburn, who holds the Ahoskie Council’s member-at-large seat after being appointed to that position to serve out the term of O.S. “Buck” Suiter, who resigned, will face a challenger in Charles Reynolds.

Elaine Myers (Ward A), Maurice Vann (Ward B), and Mayor Brien Lassiter are not on this year’s ballot, having earned their respective four-year terms in 2011.

In an effort to provide information to Ahoskie voters on the candidates, the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald offers the following. Please note that Charles Reynolds was asked to provide a brief biography of his life, and the reason he was seeking office, but when contacted chose not to participate.

Ward A candidate

Charles Freeman

For Freeman, he sees his strengths in economics, accounting and marketing as the tools he believes can be used to help Ahoskie grow.

“I would like to see the town improve in the area of having more consumer products and services for the citizens of our town,” Freeman said.

“I would also like to see the maintenance of town-owned property improve, and better overall services for the citizens,” he added.

Freeman, a former high school DECA teacher, holds an AA degree in Business Administration from Chowan College; a BS in Business Administration from Barton College; a Masters in Marketing and Business Education from Virginia State University; and School Administration Certification from East Carolina University.

He was twice named as the Hertford County Teacher of the Year and the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Teacher of the Year; and runner-up for the North Carolina Teacher of the Year. Freeman has served as President of the North Carolina Marketing Teachers’ Association, an organization that named him as their Teacher of the Year. He also earned Marketing Leader of the Year honors from North Carolina DECA.

Locally, Freeman has served as president of the Murfreesboro Chamber of Commerce; was the Murfreesboro Exchange Club’s Citizen of the Year; has twice been named as Citizen of the Week by the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald; and is one of the founders of the North Carolina Watermelon Festival.

Freeman has traveled abroad as a member of the Rotary International Exchange Team to Tasmania concerning education.

Many local sports fans know Freeman as a long-time high school football official. He has twice been selected to referee NCHSAA Class 4-A state championship games.

Freeman is a Deacon and serves as Sunday School Director at First Baptist Church of Ahoskie.

Married to Gloria Britt Freeman, he is the father to two sons, David and Mark.

Ward A candidate

James Futrell

Another newcomer to the political scene, Futrell is seeking the Ward A seat on the Ahoskie Town Council.

Futrell, who resides with his wife, Abbey Askew Futrell, on West Alton Street, is the principal of Hertford County High School, from where he graduated in 2000.

The now 31-year-old holds a Bachelor of Arts in History/Political Science from Elizabeth City State University (2004); a Master of Education in School Guidance and Counseling from Cambridge College (2007); and a Masters in School Administration from Elizabeth City State University (2012).

Within the local community, Futrell serves as Vice-Chair of the Hertford County Board of Social Services, and is a motivational speaker.

“I am seeking the Ward A Town Council seat to focus on the issues that impact the lives of all Ahoskie residents and

represent all citizens with a strong voice,” Futrell said. “I seek to instill trust by ensuring open lines of communication between citizens and the governing body.”

Futrell also seeks to develop and implement a plan that encourages residents to buy locally.”

“We need to revitalize our downtown area to attract citizens, while preserving the town’s rich heritage,” he stated. “We also need to develop additional enrichment programs to keep our children involved in positive activities such as sports, music, arts, etc.”

Futrell said his qualifying characteristics include leadership experience, understanding of budgets and fiscal policy, sound decision making, and loyalty to Ahoskie and its citizens.

Ward B candidate

Winfred Hardy Jr.

Hardy says he has unfinished business to take care of as he seeks reelection to his Ward B Council seat.

“There are some things I have started to work on that I want to see finished,” Hardy stated. “One of the biggest things is our streets. Our streets are in bad shape and I’m working with (Town Manager) Tony (Hammond) on a plan to fix them.”

Hardy, first elected to the Council in 2009, stated he joined with his board colleagues in preventing an increase in town taxes and water rates.

“I also voted against having the town paying for the recycling garbage cans, and we wound-up getting them for free,” he said.

A native of Ahoskie, Hardy is a 1955 graduate of Robert L. Vann High School. After graduation, he immediately sought a job – landing one as a truck driver for Ahoskie Fish & Produce.

However, law enforcement was Hardy’s passion. He joined the Ahoskie Police Department as a part-time officer in 1963. Two years later he was moved to full-time status and remained with the town until 1986, eventually rising to the rank of Captain and briefly served as Acting Chief of Police.

Hardy sought the office of Sheriff of Hertford County, elected in 1986 and served two full terms and three years of another before retiring in 1997.

Since 1998 he has served as a member of the Hertford County ABC Board. For a number of those years he was chairman of that board. He also served for 20 years as a member of the Roanoke-Chowan Mental Health Board.

Hardy is a Deacon at Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church where he has been a member since the age of 12.

He and his wife Elenia Vinson Hardy are the parents of five children and the grandparents of nine.

Ward B candidate

Donald K. Kirkland

Kirkland is also seeking to earn the Ward B seat on Town Council. He is a 46-year-old single father of four young adults and is the owner/operator of Safety 1st Headlight Restoration in Ahoskie for a number of years.

“I have been a part of this community on and off since 1978,” Kirkland said. “I am a Life of Duty NRA Member and strongly support and defend the U.S Constitution from anyone or entity who wishes to trample upon it.

“I want to break the tradition of going with the flow on town council votes,” he continued. “I want to encourage more debate on decisions that affect the Town of Ahoskie’s citizens. I want to encourage more public input before each and every vote.”

Kirkland promises to work to move Ahoskie forward.

“I will do what is necessary to bring new business, which will in turn bring jobs to those who desperately need them,” he stated. “It is time for new thinking, from a younger generation.

“I will work with the Council to help the Police Department reduce the crime that has hit our communities,” he said. “I want to revitalize Main Street as it has been neglected, and has become blight upon this town’s heritage. Main Street gave this town its beginning. I want to find ways to attract large businesses, other than fast food places, that will bring good paying jobs, while at the same time will be bringing in tax revenue for the town.”

Kirkland said he has many more ideas which he feels could benefit Ahoskie.

“I encourage you to stop me on the street or call me at 252-370-6448 and ask me any questions you may have. Too many say they hear the citizens speak, but they fail to actually listen. I believe in listening. That is what gets results. I served my country with honor in the U.S. Army, and wish to serve you, the citizens of Ahoskie,” Kirkland concluded.

Ward B candidate

C. David Stackhouse

Saying that he “cherishes the opportunity to build upon the legacy that has been set forth in Ward B,” Stackhouse is a political newcomer, seeking election to a first term in office.

“I am not running against anyone – I am running for everyone,” Stackhouse said.

Stackhouse and his wife, Renée, are the “under shepherd leaders” of New Ahoskie Baptist Church.

“To date, 352 new members have joined our church community,” he said.

Stackhouse describes his political platform in two words – “community servant.”

Community involvement has led Stackhouse to receive the Alpha Kappa Alpha Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award; and the Service Award for Eastern N.C. by the National Order of Elks.

He was at the forefront of developing a motivational program (“Right Moves for Youth”) at Ahoskie Elementary School; championed the operation of a community Summer Day Camp and Community After School Tutorial Program at New Ahoskie Baptist; led an early voting march from Hayes Street through the community to the voting precinct at RL Vann School; and orchestrated a “peaceful community march and rally” in honor of Travone Martin, an event that attracted hundreds from in and around the local community.

Stackhouse is the Hertford County Board of Education’s appointee to the Roanoke-Chowan College Board of Trustees.

“My efforts and concern is on the community to connect with the people to ensure a better quality of life. I make no promises, other than I will endeavor to continue to be a contactable community activist, one who will sincerely speak up and stand up,” Stackhouse concluded.

Council At-Large candidate

Linda Blackburn

As Ahoskie’s former mayor, Blackburn is seeking the vote of the citizens for the first time for Town Council. She currently serves in that position, appointed last year to the “At-Large” seat on the town’s governing board to fill the remainder of O.S. “Buck” Suiter’s term after he announced his resignation.

“In 2003 I was fortunate to be elected as your Mayor in Ahoskie – a position I held until 2011,” Blackburn said. “I am now running to hold the At Large Town Council seat so that I may continue to work as a team member of the Council, as well as with the Town Manager and town employees, and with all the citizens that make Ahoskie a town that is the best as well as the only one.”

She continued, “My goal in serving on the Council remains what it was when first elected your Mayor in 2003. I believe with all my heart that Ahoskie has the potential to grow and become a leader in Hertford County as well as this region of Eastern North Carolina. Together we can make that happen.

“I have a proven track record of hard work and dedication,” Blackburn added. “As a community organizer and program developer I have the knowledge and training to know how to get the job done.

“In April 1993 when my late husband, Dr. Robert Blackburn, and I moved to Ahoskie he commented that he felt he had been away for a long, long time and had just returned home.  We both fell in love with Ahoskie, and my love endures still today.  Thank each of you for your support and encouragement of me and I ask for your vote on November 5,” Blackburn closed.

Blackburn serves as Director of the Hertford County Office of Aging.

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