Ex-mayor takes write-in path to face McNeill

First Posted: 10/29/2013

RED SPRINGS — Mayor John McNeill is expected to face a write-in challenge from former Mayor George Paris on Tuesday.

The two men also ran against each other in 2009, with McNeill winning a two-year term as mayor.

McNeill said if elected he would continue to work to improve economic development, public safety and the quality of life in Red Springs. Paris said he would work on bringing unity to what he said appears to be a “divided” town board.

The 62-year-old McNeill is seeking his third term. Before being elected mayor, McNeill served 32 years as a commissioner. He was unopposed in 2011.

“I think we have done amazingly well during my four years as mayor,” McNeill said. “For that, I’ve got to give credit to citizens of the town and our legislators and also the town Board of Commissioners and town manager.”

McNeill said when he took office, the town finances were in “terrible shape.” He said the General Fund was in the red at the time.

Last year, the town doubled the state’s minimum for reserve funds, McNeill said.

McNeill also touted improvements in public safety.

He said under the leadership of Police Chief Ronnie Patterson, crime has decreased significantly.

“When I came in our Police Department was in shambles,” McNeill said. “Now our Police Department is working with the community and that is the way you prevent and solve crimes.”

McNeill has served as president of Advancement Inc., a nonprofit that works to develop businesses, and is a member of the Robeson County Committee of 100 and the Red Springs’ Small Towns Economic Prosperity Committee.

“We’ve been able to bring in a significant number of new businesses that created 175 jobs in Red Springs,” he said. “We’ve built new contacts and have been active in the International Conference of Shopping Centers. I have brought consultants into Red Springs who are position to steer business to us.”

McNeill owns McNeill Jewelers. He is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he studied Political Science. He is a recipient of the Waverly S. Barham award, presented by the Red Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Paris said he gave serious thought to filing for the office, but decided against it. Paris does not appear on the ballot and supporters will have to write his name in for mayor.

The 73-year-old said a “groundswell of support” over the past several weeks changed his mind about running.

“A number of supporters wanted to know that if they were able to get me elected as a write-in, would I serve?” Paris said. “My response was how could you not serve? As much as I care about Red Springs, I would feel obligated.”

According to Paris, those supporters have expressed concerns that McNeill is too involved in the day-to-day operations of the town and that some town commissioners are left out of policy decisions.

“The concerns I’m getting from people is about how the town is being run,” Paris said. “The entire time I served as mayor, I prided myself on the council working together as a cohesive body. We were able to respect each other and listen to each other and compromise when we needed to.”

Paris said that ability to compromise appears to be missing today.

“Politics is not about getting everything that you want,” he said. “We need a board that is working together for the benefit of Red Springs.”

Paris said that his main objective would be working to bring unity to the town board.

“I don’t really have any other major issues,” he said. “I consider some of my strengths that I listen to people. I’m here every day. I don’t work somewhere else. I just want Red Springs to be a good place to live.”

Paris was first elected as mayor in 1979 and served for 32 years. He also served as a town commissioner for eight years.

Paris works as a land surveyor. He is a graduate of Red Springs High School and St. Andrews University. He served for 34 years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a colonel.

Town board

Red Springs voters will also have a chance to elect three members to the Board of Commissioners from a field of six. Three incumbents, Commissioners Eula McNeill, Murray McKeithan and Edward “Chub” Henderson, will face challenges from E.H. “Alex” Alexander, Linda Mack and Scott Townsend.

The terms are for four years.