LUMBERTON — Three Lumberton city councilmen are facing spirited competition to keep their seats during Tuesday’s municipal election, while a fourth has a pass to his fourth term.
Erich Hackney, who represents Precinct 8, appreciates the support, even though he has erected signs throughout his precinct.
“The folks in my precinct have always been good to me and I don’t take the fact that I’m running unopposed for granted,” said Hackney, who serves as a criminal investigator with the District Attorney’s Office.
Incumbents in Precincts 2, 3 and 5 are facing opponents who are touting experience or the need for change.
In Precinct 2, John “Big Wayne” Robinson is facing former Robeson County Manager Ken Windley. Robinson said he has a great working relationship with other council members and that the council needs some “young blood” like his.
Robinson is the council’s liaison to the Lumberton Housing Authority and is a member of Golden Leaf Lodge 124.
Robinson said he “really [feels] good” about his chance of getting re-elected to a second term, which he said he would use to focus on expanding community watch programs to cut down on crime.
Windley said his 37 years of government experience, including eight as the Robeson County manager, make him a “much better asset to the city” than his opponent.
“I know how cities and counties should be run,” he said.
Windley’s priority would be revitalizing Lumberton’s downtown area and parks. Windley says he’d like to see the city expand its river-walk and Northeast Park’s capacity for sports tournaments. He has lived in Lumberton for more than a decade.
Councilman Jackie Taylor faces Burnis Wilkins in his bid for a third term as the Precinct 3 representative. While both candidates have more than three decades of law enforcement experience, Taylor says his two terms on the council give him an edge.
Taylor retired from the Lumberton Police Department three years ago after 31 years on the force, including time as the deputy police chief. He still serves as an auxiliary officer.
During his eight years on the council, Taylor says he has helped fix many paving and drainage issues. If he is elected again, fighting crime would be his priority.
“We need more police officers,” he said about the city in general.
Taylor says a community watch program has helped cut down on crime in his precinct.
“I’ve worked hard and I want to continue to work hard,” said Taylor, who claims his precinct has the lowest crime rate in the city.
Taylor is confidence of victory, but Wilkins calls it “a very close race.”
A former chief of detectives for the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office, Wilkins spent 32 years in law enforcement and still volunteers. He retired to run for City Council, which he says he’s been talking about doing for 10 years.
Wilkins grew up in Precinct 3 and wants to focus on “ridding the neighborhood of crime and grime.” If elected, he plans to set up a citizen emergency response team.
In Precinct 5, John Cantey is seeking his third term. Cantey says his constituents “are aware of [his] work ethic and dedication,” while his opponent Paul Matthews has claimed himself as the candidate for change.
According the Cantey, Precinct 5 has “undergone millions of dollars of improvements” on recreational facilities and drainage in the last eight years without a raise in the property tax rate. If re-elected, he said he would focus on economic and social programs for Lumberton youths and elderly while staying tough on crime.
Cantey, the council’s mayor pro-tem, is vice chairman of the Robeson County Democratic Party.
Cantey says his campaign has been “overwhelmed with the heartfelt show of support during early voting,” but that his work is not yet done.
“When it comes to representing the people,” Cantey said, “I promise to them I will always be accessible and attentive.”
Cantey’s opponent, Paul Matthews, argues that there “hasn’t been enough growth and enough change” in Precinct 5 during Cantey’s time on the council.
Matthews has worked with the Lumberton Housing Authority for more than two years and the city Planning Board for nearly three years. He has been the assistant pastor at First Baptist Church for about six years and also mentors students at Gilbert Carroll Middle School. As a councilman, he’d like to extend that to Precinct 5.
Matthews would also focus on expanding neighborhood watch groups if elected, which he is “very optimistic” about.
“I feel the majority of people want change,” he said.
As of Thursday, Precinct 5 has seen the largest number of early voters, with 423 votes cast. There had been 193 votes cast in Precinct 2 and 206 votes in Precinct 3.
Early voting, which can only be done at the Robeson County Board of Election at 800 N. Walnut St., ends today at 1 p.m. The polls on Tuesday are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.