Given the chance to vote in an election that was closely watched — and, according to state and local officials, free of fraud — Pembroke residents this week spoke with a loud and clear voice, saying out with the old and in with the new.
We’ve been over the allegations of fraud plenty, but will simply say that an election doesn’t flip in five months organically — at least not to the degree this one did. November’s winners became losers on Tuesday — and by wide margins, suggesting something was amiss four months ago.
There will be three new council members on the Pembroke board soon, challengers Channing Jones and Teresa Oxendine, who won four-year terms, and Larry McNeill, a former councilman who will reclaim his seat for two years.
Larry Brooks, a longtime council member, is leaving, having decided not to seek re-election, but the bigger story is the defeat of Allen Dial, a councilman for two decades who was denied a sixth term. Dial had become the council’s alpha male, putting together an election machinery that got Councilman Ryan Sampson elected in 2011 and almost pulled challenger Mitch Lowry aboard in November.
It was Sampson and Dial who worked together to make sure the seat of of Robert Williamson, who died in early 2012, remained unfilled for the last two years, giving them control on the three-member board.
Under their watch, longtime Town Manager McDuffie Cummings was pushed aside shortly after the 2011 election and a new town manager came aboard, albeit briefly, leaving after findings that he had used the town’s credit card for personal purchases. Even after the financial abuse was plain and public, the Dial-led board fought to retain the manager, only firing him when there was no choice.
A new town manager will be one of the new board’s first assignments.
Other headlines in Pembroke, particularly with the Police Department, have not been favorable, and there have been no headlines about new economic development in the town, which has gone from booming a few years ago to a flat line.
It is obvious that Pembroke residents were fed up with current leadership.
The sidebar to all of this is that an election was held that can be trusted. The elimination of same-day registration and voting, a soft belly in the November election, restored some trust as did increased scrutiny that needs to be a fixture in future contests.
It was a nice dress rehearsal for the local Elections Office, which is under new management and faces a much bigger test on May 6.