APEX — A familiar face will become the town’s next mayor.
The Apex Town Council voted unanimously Monday to name former town manager and councilman William “Bill” Sutton as its new mayor, finishing the term of Keith Weatherly, who resigned last month to take a job with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Sutton, 77, beat out three other applicants for the job including Mayor Pro Tem Eugene “Gene” Schulze. Sutton was appointed because of his desire to serve only through the end of Weatherly’s term in 2015 and his stance supporting economic incentives, council members said.
Apex has one of the lowest commercial-to-residential property ratios in Wake County and had a “no incentives” policy until November 2012, a stance that led to missed opportunities, said Councilman Bill Jensen.
“Bill (Sutton) is in favor of economic development, and that requires incentive packages of sorts,” Jensen said. “I think his vision for Apex is as a live-work community – just like Gene but Bill has the avenues to get us there.”
Sutton has a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Florida. He retired from local government in 2001 after serving for 20 years as a town manager, the last nine in Apex.
He served as an Apex councilman from 2005 to 2009.
Sutton said he’s coming full circle in Apex from planning board member, town manager, councilman and now mayor.
For the next few months his focus will be on economic development.
“I want to see commercial development come to Apex so people can live and work here,” Sutton said.
Schulze, who is considering a run for mayor in 2015, voted for Sutton once the council appeared to reach a consensus. It was important to show a unified front, he said.
“I think if I voted against him it would have been a sign I didn’t want him there,” Schulze said. “That’s not the case. If it wasn’t going to be me, I wanted him to know he had my support.”
Several residents backed Schulze’s appointment to the mayoral seat. Some wore red shirts during Monday’s meeting to show their support.
“Obviously I am disappointed,” he said. “I was hoping to be the next mayor. But I understand the process. ... The council selected who they thought was best.”
Schulze said he supports economic development “100 percent. ”
“I think where the difference is, is I do not support incentives,” he said. “I think then the government starts playing favorites. I don’t think that’s the game we want to be in. ”
When looking to choose a mayor, Councilwoman Denise Wilkie said she talked to a cross section of residents who all said they wanted “consistency” and “experience.” Choosing Sutton keeps the voting council members the same and allows the council to fill a vacancy in a one-step process which is more efficient, Wilkie said.
Had the council chosen Schulze, it would have meant filling another vacancy.
“What it means is now we can get busy,” Wilkie said. “We’ve been in a state of upheaval for the past few weeks. Now we can get to work.”
Sutton will be sworn in at the next regular council meeting on Feb. 18.