Eastern Wake News

Back to work for longtime Zebulon commissioners Beck, Bumgarner and Strickland

Zebulon Commissioners, from left, Curtis Strickland, Don Bumgarner and Dale Beck make a final pitch for Duane Borman’s vote before he entered the Zebulon Rotary Club polling place on municipal Election Day in Zebulon, N.C. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015.
Zebulon Commissioners, from left, Curtis Strickland, Don Bumgarner and Dale Beck make a final pitch for Duane Borman’s vote before he entered the Zebulon Rotary Club polling place on municipal Election Day in Zebulon, N.C. Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. amoody@newsobserver.com

Voters chose to keep a combined 62 years of experience on the Zebulon Town Board when they re-elected commissioners Dale Beck, Don Bumgarner and Curtis Strickland on Nov. 3.

The three were sworn in Monday night, marking the start of the seventh four-year term for Beck, the sixth for Bumgarner and the fifth for Strickland.

“I think we’ve done a good job overall,” Beck said Tuesday. “One of the things we want to do is have a stable government and do the best we can. I think that’s the reason that not only me, but Don and Curtis and the mayor (Bob Matheny) have been around this long. I don’t think we’ve done the best in the world, but we’ve done a pretty decent job.”

The board also decided Bumgarner should keep his title of mayor pro-tem for the next two years. Beck said it was fitting, since Bumgarner was the most popular candidate in the recent municipal elections.

From the start

Beck has served all but two years since he was first elected in 1989. He lost his seat in the 2001 election but was appointed back to the board in January, 2004, filling a seat vacated by a commissioner who moved outside the town limits.

He said differences of opinion between the town board and town manager of the late 1980s sparked his interest in running for commissioner for the first time.

“The TV stations used to come down to the old building a lot and it was a mess,” recalled Beck, who has also served on the town’s recreation and planning boards. “We were basically the laughing stock of politics here.

“People said we need someone to run for the town board that provides some peace or whatever and leadership and I said OK, I’ll run, and Roy Collins, a respected teacher in the community, was also asked to run.”

Bumgarner first joined the town board as an appointee in 1993. He said he felt he had enough common sense to be a contributor when he ran to keep his seat in 1995.

“It was nothing in particular – my sole reasoning was to help out the town,” said Bumgarner, who has also spent time on the planning board and board of adjustment.

Strickland, first elected in 1999, said he was looking for ways to continue serving in some capacity after retiring from the Raleigh Fire Department in 1995.

“It was something where I said maybe I can do good, maybe I can make a difference,” he said.

Steady leadership

All three commissioners see the fact that Zebulon residents keep choosing them for the job as a sign they are doing something right.

Beck called it integrity. Bumgarner called it good stewardship.

“You look back at all the things that have come before us, and most everything that has passed by us has been done by unanimous vote,” Bumgarner said. “That goes to show the things we’re doing appear to be good. There’s no conflict and upheaval on the board, and it is certainly not because we don’t care. We give due diligence in all the decisions that we make.”

Beck said in his 24 years, nobody on the town board has had an agenda.

“Everyone on this board is trying to do what they think is the best for the town of Zebulon,” Beck said. “I think that’s really been a plus for the town.”

Strickland said he would love to attribute his tenure to things going smoothly and residents approving of his involvement. But he also noted there have been considerably few challengers for the town board in recent years.

Just six challengers have run, four of them more than once, in the past five elections.

“I’d love to see more people run and get more interest in town where we could get more young people on the board, but no one seems to want to do it,” Strickland said.

Looking forward

Growth hasn’t spewed into Zebulon yet, but to Beck the prospect that it is inevitable means his role on the board now may be as important as ever.

“I think we’re in a position where things are going to be changing,” he said. “We’ve got some important projects going on, like the traffic up there on Arendell (Avenue), that need some real serious attention because if we don’t, we’re going to have a real big mess.”

Bumgarner said it is important to stay on top of prospective development over the next four years that would benefit the town.

He wants to get the ball rolling on expansion where it would be possible in the vicinity of the anticipated Little River reservoir.

“Economic development always ranks high in anything we do and so does residential development,” Bumgarner said. “Residential has picked up in the past year and economic development will follow right behind. I certainly don’t want us to miss any opportunity there.”

Strickland wants to work with local civic groups in his new term to sustain recent efforts to revamp downtown Zebulon.

“Developing is good, and we have a lot going on right now, but we can’t forget what’s going on down here, in our infield,” Strickland said. “We don’t want to lose control of that, either. We’ve got things we’d love to see, but it will take some work.”