Ahoskie swears in first female Mayor

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 10, 2003

AHOSKIE – On Tuesday, Linda Blackburn was sworn in as Ahoskie’s 16th Mayor since the turn of the 20th century. When she lowered her right hand after receiving the oath of office from Town Clerk Evelyn Howard, Blackburn officially became number one all-time in a brand new category.

Ahoskie’s first-ever female Mayor presided over her initial Town Council meeting Tuesday morning where, instead of taking a boastful tone, the town’s highest elected leader took her seat with a sense of humility.

&uot;There has been a lot of talk about me becoming the first female Mayor in Ahoskie’s history,&uot; said Blackburn, who defeated five-term incumbent Arthur Lee Wiggins in last month’s election. &uot;What we have before us is not an issue of gender, but rather an issue of moving Ahoskie forward. I see us as a team and we will move Ahoskie forward as a team.&uot;

Blackburn said that three words came to mind – gratitude, respect and privilege – as she took the center seat in Council chambers.

&uot;I’m grateful to those who believed in me,&uot; she stressed. &uot;I’m equally as grateful to those leaders who came before me, people such as Mayor Wiggins, who worked so hard for the betterment of Ahoskie. I respect this office and it’s a privilege to be in this position.&uot;

In her first Council meeting, Mayor Blackburn presided over a light docket of agenda items, including a unanimous vote to re-elected veteran Councilman O.S. &uot;Buck&uot; Suiter Jr. as Mayor Pro-Tem.

On the heels of a Public Hearing concerning a curb and gutter project planned for the south side of Malibu Drive, Council members adopted a resolution that will levy an assessment on five property owners whom will help to pay for the street improvement. Their combined assessments total $2,574.

A request for an out-of-town water and sewer request, made by Rosa Mims on behalf of her sister, Mary Benton, died for a lack of a motion. Prior to that period, Council members briefly discussed the matter, taking into consideration that previous requests for out-of-town sewer connections had been denied due to Ahoskie’s current wastewater moratorium.

Council members listened as Ahoskie Fire Chief Ken Dilday presented information on the town’s annual process of certifying firemen.

The town’s elected leaders approved Sam Jarvis of Jarvis & Associates as the engineering firm to handle the Sessoms Packing sewer line project. His services – which total $28,500 – will be paid by monies awarded the town through an Economic Development grant. That grant money will fund the entire project, which is anticipated to be completed by July 1, 2004.

West Overman made a presentation on the status of his Eagle Scout project, one that involves his work to give a much-needed facelift to the entrance of the Ahoskie Cemetery. In addition to his beautification project, Overman also logged vital information on the majority of the 2,800 gravesites in the cemetery. He presented Mayor Blackburn with that information, both in hard copy and in CD form.

Council passed a resolution that will signal the start of the town’s participation in a multi-jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation plan. The town’s involvement in the process, part of a plan instituted by Hertford County government officials, will fulfill the requirements of FEMA and the NC Division of Emergency Management for future disaster relief funding.

In regards to the ongoing Lloyd Street CDBG project, Council members awarded bids submitted by Boyd Copeland Contracting ($5,900) and W.A. Powell ($4,670) for the demolition of two homes. They also approved bids made by contractors John Huber ($29,270) and Stephen Davis ($39,310) for renovations to two homes listed in the project.

Town Manager Russell Overman was given the green light to proceed with soliciting the assistance of Bob Wendling of East Carolina University in regards to the cost involved with mapping out a master plan for proposed town parks on the Irene Mitchell Moore property and the Hurricane Floyd &uot;buyout&uot; property. That master plan will hopefully be completed by the spring of next year, just in time for the town to submit grant applications for financial assistance in constructing the parks.

Overman also promised Council members that he would obtain the estimated costs of repairs to the town’s tennis courts at the Recreation Center. Those repairs are expected to be in the $30,000 range.

In a matter concerning Ahoskie’s projected growth, Overman said he would provide data during the January, 2004 meeting concerning the town’s planned annexation. The town is currently studying the feasibility to annex several areas, including NC 561 east and west, US 13 north and south and the Ahoskie-Cofield Road.

Following a closed session, Council members authorized the submission of an offer of $50,000 to purchase 10.58 acres of land near the town’s existing wastewater treatment plant on the Johnny Mitchell Road.