LUMBERTON — The oath of office was administered Monday to three re-elected City Council members and one newcomer during an induction ceremony marked by prayer, song and pledges to work on behalf of the city and its residents.
Superior Court Judge Greg Bell led the swearing-in of incumbents John Cantey Jr., John Robinson and Burnis Wilkins, and of Owen Thomas, who took a seat on the council for the first time. Before administering the oath Bell thanked Thomas for asking him to lead the ceremony.
“The first time is always the best time,” Bell jokingly said to Thomas.
Thomas beat four-term incumbent Erich Hackney in the Nov. 7 municipal elections to earn the right to represent the residents in Precinct 8. Membership on City Council is the 30-year-old’s first elected office.
After the ceremony Thomas said, between taking photos with well-wishers, that he looks forward to working with his council colleagues and the city government’s staff to foster economic development, to make communities safer and to improve services for the city’s young people.
“Investing in the youth is a big thing,” he said.
During the ceremony Thomas thanked Hackney for his years of service to the city. He also thanked God, his family members, his friends and his campaign team and volunteers for helping him get elected.
“As I assume this charge to represent the citizens of Precinct 8, I realize that this offers us an opportunity to work together to create an atmosphere where children grow and play, where careers and lives are made, where people choose to make Lumberton home,” Thomas said.
Cantey returned to the council for a fourth term as the Precinct 5 representative after defeating challengers Sammie Love and James Worley in the municipal election. After thanking God, his family and friends, Cantey thanked the Precinct 5 residents for another chance to serve on the Council.
“To these citizens, I humbly accept your trust to be your public servant,” Cantey said.
Cantey challenged city residents and his fellow council members to build bridges and close gaps so all Lumberton communities can grow and prosper on an equal basis. He also challenged council members to help the city residents devastated by Hurricane Matthew to rebuild their lives and the residents displaced by the storm to return to their homes.
“Our residents are misplaced, displaced and all over the place,” Cantey said. “And it’s time for us to work even harder in bringing everyone back home. That was a campaign promise, and, trust me, one that I will continue to keep.”
Robinson and Wilkins each were sworn in for their second term on the council. Robinson was unchallenged in his bid for re-election to the Precinct 2 seat. And Wilkins, an announced candidate for sheriff, ran unopposed for the Precinct 3 seat.
“To the citizens of Precinct 2, I thank you for the confidence you have shown in me by re-electing me,” Robinson said.
He looks forward to working with his fellow council members and city government staff for the betterment of Lumberton and its residents, Robinson said.
”Together we can make Lumberton even more beautiful, safer and prosperous,” he said.
Wilkins said he would continue to work to rid Precinct 3 of “crime and grime.” He issued a warning to people who would commit crime.
“I will light you up with a 10,000-watt spotlight,” Wilkins said.
Before pledging to work to make Lumberton better and to be accessible to all Precinct 3 residents, Wilkins issued a cautionary statement.
“I’m a little under the weather. I wasn’t sure I was going to be here tonight. And to the people sitting around my wife, I pray for you because she’s sick, too,” Wilkins said and then paused until laughter from the crowd died down.
After the induction ceremony, the council members elected Cantey mayor pro tem. He replaces Robinson. Cantey is not new to the post. He served as mayor pro tem under Mayor Raymond Pennington.
The induction was attended by a crowd that filled the council chamber in City Hall.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or via email at [email protected]