Mayor William “Bill” Sutton wasted no time getting down to business after taking the oath of office Tuesday night.
Sutton shook hands, took his chair and was ready to move on without giving a speech. Some gentle prodding from Town Manager Bruce Radford finally prompted a few words.
“I’m looking forward to working with a council that is willing to help me,” Sutton said. “Thank you.”
Sutton has said his main goal as mayor is to spur economic development in Apex. In one of his first requests as mayor, he asked the council’s law and finance committee to look at the classification and requirements for an economic development director.
The Town Council appointed Sutton, 77, to replace Keith Weatherly, who resigned last month to take a job with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Weatherly’s term expires in December 2015. Sutton said he will not seek election.
Here are five things to know about the new mayor:
No stranger to Apex, or management
Sutton can’t seem to stay away from town government.
Over a 20-year career, he has served as the city or town manager for Apex, Green Cove Springs, Fla., and Waynesville, N.C. Between 2002-2003, he served as interim town manager for Morrisville, Pittsboro and Shallotte in Brunswick County.
He won a seat on what was then the Apex Board of Commissioners in 2005, running on a “neighborhood first” campaign. Sutton won 27.74 percent of the vote, one of the highest percentages in the past decade in a contested race in Apex. He served one term in office, opting not to run for re-election.
A front-seat view of Apex’s growth
Apex’s population was about 5,500 when Sutton took the helm as town manager in 1993. By the time he left in 2001, the town’s population had ballooned to about 25,000.
Apex was one of the fastest-growing towns in the state. To keep up with growth, town leaders voted in 1999 to issue a seven-month moratorium on new residential units to create stricter development codes.
Sutton is known for his simple way of speaking. But the meaning behind his words caused some trouble in 1996, during his time as town manager, when he was accused of making racially offensive statements against three police officers and trying to help a resident avoid a jaywalking ticket.
Sutton apologized individually to the officers, and he never admitted wrongdoing. The Apex Town Council backed his continued employment.
A political shift
Sutton’s appointment to the mayoral seat brings an end to the Republican-majority stronghold on the council that existed for at least a decade.
Sutton is registered as unaffiliated with the Wake County Board of Elections. He joins Councilwoman Denise Wilkie, who is also unaffiliated, and democrats Nicole Dozier and Bill Jensen. Council members Gene Schulze and Scott Lassiter are Republicans.
Sutton is the only sitting member of the Apex Town Council to have served in the military. He retired as a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. He was once a professor of military science at Florida State University.