LUMBERTON — After 24 years of wielding the gavel, Raymond Pennington says he will not seek another term as Lumberton’s mayor.
“I think 28 years is long enough,” said Pennington, who served on the City Council a single term before becoming mayor. “… It’s been a good 28 years and there have been a lot of tremendous and positive things take place in the city of Lumberton.”
Pennington’s term — his sixth as mayor — expires in December.
Pennington worked at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke for 35 years as head baseball coach, chairman of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and as athletic director. After retiring from the university in 1998, he served six years on the university’s board of trustees.
Pennington was inspired to run for City Council after serving as gubernatorial candidate Skipper Bowles’ co-campaign manager for Robeson County, and won a seat representing Precinct 6 in 1983. He lost a second bid for City Council before successfully running for mayor in 1991.
As Lumberton’s longest-serving mayor, Pennington said he has reached nearly all the goals he set for his time in office.
“I’ve been working my mind and about everything I had in mind has been accomplished. Some of it took 20 years and some of it was a little easier than 20 years,” he said.
Pennington pointed to the city’s new Police Department, development at Northeast Park, construction at several Interstate 95 interchanges and two community resource centers as examples. By the time he exits office, Pennington hopes to see the final touches put on Northeast Park and the Exit 22 interchange.
“The best thing about this job is meeting new people, identifying their needs and fulfilling those needs,” Pennington said.
Pennington commended the city officials and staffed with whom he has worked.
“We have and have had an outstanding City Council that have been very progressive in their thinking. While there’s always room for discussion and final analysis, what is best for Lumberton always comes through for every one of them,” he said.
Leaving his spot at the head of the City Council will “take some adjusting,” Pennington said. He hopes to spend his newly freed-up time working on his golf game. Pennington, who moved to Robeson County in 1963, said he has no plans to leave what has become his hometown.
Councilman Erich Hackney said Pennington “has not only been an excellent mayor, he is a great man.”
“… His demeanor and approach toward issues that affect the city set him apart from any other mayor I have ever known. He has truly been an ambassador for the city of Lumberton and while his exodus will be a heavy loss to the city, I look forward to continuing to work with him even after he steps down,” Hackney said.
Councilman John Cantey said Pennington’s successor “will have some mighty big shoes to fill.”
“The mayor’s legacy is strong … ,” Cantey said. “The council and citizens of Lumberton owe a tremendous debt to the mayor for his service, dedication and loyalty to this city. His retirement is well-deserved.”
At least one person is ready to take on the challenge.
Bruce Davis, who served on Lumberton’s City Council for 24 years and runs a construction business, plans to make a bid for mayor.
“As I think about running for mayor, I remember all the mayors I have served with and their unique styles of leadership … each made the city proud. Dr. Pennington has a record to envy but I am as ready as I will ever be,” Davis said.
The period for candidates to file for election begins at 8:15 a.m. on July 6 and ends at noon on July 17.