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NC town's new mayor was arrested for a DWI. That's just part of his election story.

Robert Williams Jr. is the newly elected mayor of Sharpsburg, N.C. He was arrested May 8, 2018, by Sharpsburg police and was charged with driving while impaired, carrying a concealed weapon, concealed gun after/while consuming alcohol, concealed handgun-private premises prohibited sign/statement, and two counts of resist/delay/obstruct public officer discharge duties.
Robert Williams Jr. is the newly elected mayor of Sharpsburg, N.C. He was arrested May 8, 2018, by Sharpsburg police and was charged with driving while impaired, carrying a concealed weapon, concealed gun after/while consuming alcohol, concealed handgun-private premises prohibited sign/statement, and two counts of resist/delay/obstruct public officer discharge duties. Courtesy of the Nash County Sheriff's Office

For six months, Robert Williams Jr. sought a new election in the tiny town of Sharpsburg, where he lost the 2017 mayor's race by just three votes.

His beef: Dozens of voters had been turned away from the polls in a majority black precinct, where only 12 ballots got printed.

On Tuesday night, Williams got redemption. Voters picked him to lead the town of 2,000 residents, according to unofficial results.

This time, in a rematch ordered by a Wake County judge, Williams defeated incumbent Mayor Randy Weaver by seven votes.

But his victory quickly turned sour. Shortly after the polls closed, Williams was arrested for driving while impaired after nearly crashing his car near Town Hall. Other charges include carrying a concealed weapon and resisting an officer.

Williams, reached at home Wednesday after being released from the Nash County Detention Center, referred calls to his lawyer and hung up the phone. He would not name the lawyer on a follow-up call.

No further details about the circumstances of the arrest were provided by Sharpsburg police. But WNCN reported that police responded to a resident's complaint about Williams nearly causing a crash. After following him, he ran off the side of the road, police said.

His blood alcohol content was .13, police told WNCN. The legal limit in North Carolina is .08 BAC.

Voter advocate

Sharpsburg is about 55 miles east of Raleigh and is south of Rocky Mount. It's split between three counties: Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson.

Williams served in the Army during the Gulf War and worked as a Rocky Mount police officer. His Facebook page shows him as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

He is a former councilman and has been mayor of Sharpsburg before. He was appointed as mayor in 2011, according to the Rocky Mount Telegram, but lost to Weaver in 2013.

Since the 2017 election, Williams has won praise for his fight against voter disenfranchisement. He posted his personal telephone number on his Facebook page, offering to take anyone to the polls.

"A voteless people are a hopeless people!" he wrote.

The level of fallout over Williams' arrest and June court date remains unclear. The votes won't be official until next week.

But the mayor-elect's case is already drawing mixed reaction around town.

"I'm sorry that the town elected a drunk as the next mayor," said Weaver in an interview.

He received 162 votes to Williams' 169 votes.

"They got what they voted for," Weaver said. "I'm going back to retirement."

But supporters turned to Weaver's Facebook page with bitterness.

"I'm sorry about last night," wrote one woman. "It's a set-up. You know they never had a black man run Sharpsburg."

The town recently had turned over its elections to the county level by an act of the General Assembly, and residents accustomed to voting in Town Hall found themselves taking 20 minute drives to Wilson County polls. Weaver said the change put a burden on voters.

After the 2017 election, a resident name Linda Pitt wrote an affidavit saying she made just that sort of drive, only to be told at the polls that the ballots had all been used up, according to Scalawag magazine, who wrote about the election in the March story, "A rare victory against voter disenfranchisement in North Carolina."

County election officials later cited an inaccurate report and backed Williams' call for a new election.

The call got support from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in Durham. After Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ordered the new election, coalition staff attorney Jaclyn Maffetore told Scalawag magazine, "Sharpsburg is a really good example of what happens when the polling place isn’t accessible. Many of the folks have to get rides because they have no transportation."

Williams' case is set for June 5 in Nashville District Court.

Josh Shaffer: 919-829-4818, @joshshaffer08
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