Teresa Bruton will be the first woman to serve on the Archer Lodge Town Council.
At its first meeting of 2017, the council named Bruton to fill the seat vacated by Carlton Vinson, who resigned last year. Bruton is an engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation and has served as chairwoman of the Archer Lodge’s Planning Board since the town’s inception. She will serve out the rest of Vinson’s term, which expires at the end of the year.
“I’ve been on the planning board since incorporation, and I’ve liked that position because we draft the ordinances for the town and are constantly changing and making tweaks,” Bruton said. “Because I’ve been involved, moving to the council is kind of a win-win. It’s a new challenge.”
Bruton said a seat on the council wasn’t something she had actively sought, but once Vinson resigned, councilman Matt Mulhollem approached her about filling the vacancy. In December, council members nominated Bruton and Debbie Barnes, who ran unsuccessfully for town council in 2015. Both have made careers out of working for the state, Barnes in the budget office and Bruton in transportation. At the Jan. 3 meeting, the three council members present voted unanimously for Bruton.
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“The council felt it was their duty to appoint the person I feel they thought was best suited to help us as a town,” said Mayor Mike Gordon, who doesn’t typically vote. “I think they saw her as the best option given her interaction and longevity with the town. I agree; I think she is a good choice.”
Mulhollem, who nominated Bruton, pointed to her extensive knowledge of town policies and her engineering background as welcome additions to the town council.
“I believe that she will serve the citizens of Archer Lodge well, and I am excited to have her on the board,” Mulhollem said.
Councilman Mark Jackson said he’s excited about the fresh perspective and intelligence that he said Bruton will bring to the council.
“She’s a pretty smart gal, to start with,” Jackson said. “That’s a big thing. She’s been doing things for the community already, and that’s a pretty big deal for me, being on our planning board and all. Her and her family have helped with other events in the community periodically.”
In the early days of forming Archer Lodge, Bruton also served on some of the steering committees charged with setting the town’s priorities and conducting surveys aimed at finding where residents hoped to see their tax dollars spent. On the planning board, Bruton said, she’s dealt mainly with applications for residential developments, signaling growth is coming. But she said the town’s task is to welcome that growth but ensure Archer Lodge remains recognizable.
“It is a small town, and I think everyone likes the rural nature, but change is coming, which can be a good thing if managed the right way,” Bruton said.
While the vote was unanimous, council members differed on how they filled the vacancy. Councilman Mark Wilson nominated Barnes and felt she deserved a long look from the rest of the council after running in the last election, collecting 99 votes.
Knowing he wouldn’t attend the January meeting meeting, Wilson said he asked the council to postpone the appointment until February and was disappointed to learn the council moved ahead anyway.
Wilson, though, made it clear his issues were procedural, not personal. “I am disappointed in their procedure for selection in my absence,” he said. “I have no problem with the person selected. ... I think Teresa, with a degree in engineering and working for NCDOT, is well qualified. As chairperson for the planning board, she’s acted very well for the town. My thoughts were she best served the town’s needs remaining where she was at. Debbie Barnes has a finance background and experience in the state budgeting office. Since the seat was vacated by Carlton Vinson, who was the budget director, it made logical sense for Debbie Barnes to fill that slot.”
To that point, Mulhollem said Wilson’s presence at the meeting wouldn’t have changed the vote, making it either 4-0 or 3-1, each reaching the same outcome of Bruton filling the vacancy. He said Archer Lodge has some upcoming business that could benefit from having a full council.
“We have our annual audit report and long-range-planning session coming up,” Mulhollem said. “I felt that it would serve in the town’s best interest to proceed with filling the vacancy so that the new member would have the opportunity to participate in those meetings.”
Bruton will join a small sorority of women on governing bodies in Johnston County, but being the first female council member in Archer Lodge isn’t a milestone she seems to be interested in.
“I would hope the town council took into consideration my qualifications and not just appointed a woman,” Bruton said. “I’m excited to join the council. I think it’s a good opportunity and a new challenge wrapped up into one.”