Some of Fuquay-Varina’s most veteran politicians began new terms Tuesday night as Mayor John Byrne and commissioners Charlie Adcock and Bill Harris were sworn in after winning re-election.
Political newcomer Marilyn Gardner also was sworn in after receiving the most votes in November’s election.
“When voters entrust you with a vote, that’s one of the most precious things, and I do not take it lightly” Gardner said, promising to be a responsive community leader.
Adcock and Harris are natives of Fuquay-Varina, and Gardner and Byrne have both lived in town for decades. Gardner grew up a few miles south of the town, on a farm in Harnett County, and Byrne grew up in Wake Forest.
Harris choked up just a few words into his speech, pausing for several moments to compose himself. He’s the board’s longest serving member, having first been elected in 1987.
Harris grew up in the racially segregated town of Varina – he was born before the 1963 merger of Varina and Fuquay Springs into Fuquay-Varina – and he spoke about the dirt road he lived on with his hard-working parents.
Harris said the town has come far since then, and he is glad that voters continue to place their trust in him, even as the community has evolved.
“I think my campaign promise to create a seamless quality city is timely, because Fuquay-Varina is at a time of great growth,” he said.
Adcock, who has been on the board since 2007, also has long roots in the area. His parents and grandparents are all either from Varina or nearby farms.
“But there are fewer people like Bill and me,” Adcock said, alluding to the town’s rapid growth that has brought in new residents.
But Adcock said that’s good because newcomers tend to care just as much about the town as natives do.
Adcock, who has been elected as the mayor pro tempre twice in a row by fellow board members, announced he would relinquish the title. He nominated commissioner Blake Massengill to take over the role, for which the main responsibility is is acting in the mayor’s stead whenever the mayor is out of town or incapacitated.
The fifth town commissioner, Jason Wunsch, said he liked the idea.
“I didn’t know commissioner Massengill until we were elected (in 2013), but he’s a tremendous leader,” Wunsch said.
Both Wunsch and Massengill will be up for re-election in 2017.
Byrne is entering his record-setting ninth term. He said the town has strong business and civic leaders who help keep up its reputation, as well as an outstanding downtown. Byrne said he has accomplished nearly everything he wanted to do when he first became mayor in 2001 and is glad for the support he has received over the years.
“I have run now eight times, and three of the eight times no one has run against me,” Byrne said. “It is a humbling feeling beyond imagination, and it makes you want to work twice as hard.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran