FAIRMONT — After helping to guide Fairmont’s future for decades, including eight years as mayor, Charles Kemp is now working to preserve the town’s past.
On Tuesday, Kemp began work as a greeter and guide at the Border Belt Farmers Museum and Welcome Center on Thompson Street.
“I believe that this museum can be a vanguard to bring people to the town, and my goal is for somebody in Osuke to know about the Border Belt Museum,” said Kemp, who hopes to utilize the connections and skills he honed as mayor to drive traffic to the facility.
Located inside a converted railroad depot, the museum features an array of exhibits that spotlight the town’s rich agricultural background.
A lifelong resident of Fairmont, Kemp, 67, said his personal history is entwined with that of the Border Belt.
He recalls sweeping out boxcars as a teenager for extra money in the 1960s, and stacking containers of tobacco on those same boxcars as an employee of R.J. Reynolds in the 1970s.
“The only thing that’s missing is the train,” he said.
Kemp also feels that his 40 years of experience teaching history makes him a natural fit for the museum.
“It’s the perfect situation for me,” he said.
Kemp will work alongside museum curator Lib Haywood to rejuvenate interest in the museum, which has suffered a gradual drop in attendance over the years.
“If we can raise the level of knowledge in this museum, word will spread and then we’ll be rocking,” said Kemp, who added that he has already reached out to several bus tour companies and hopes to publish brochures advertising the museum in the coming months.
“I feel good about him being here. I think a lot of him and he’s going to be a great asset to us. He has connections that I do not,” said Haywood, who has served as the museum’s curator since 1998.
Kemp’s involvement will also allow the facility, which was previously open to the public just three days a week, to remain open Mondays through Fridays.
Shortly after he lost his bid for re-election against veteran Fairmont Commissioner Bobby Townsend in November, Kemp vowed to remain invested in the town.
“I knew I could not step away and do nothing. I knew I that I had to continue to serve the community in some way, and this seemed like the logical place to do that,” said Kemp, who served as a town commissioner for many years before becoming mayor.
“He just can’t stay at home,” Haywood said.