Last week’s election for mayor of Havelock could be thought of as some sort of mandate. After all, Will Lewis nearly doubled the number of votes of incumbent mayor Jimmy Sanders.
That Lewis, seemingly a well-liked two-term city commissioner, defeated Sanders should not have come as such as huge surprise. The margin of victory — or of defeat in Sanders’ case — was a bit of a shocker.
After all, it’s not like Sanders was caught in some sort of corrupt political scandal. It’s not like he admitted to smoking crack, like Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Perhaps the main argument against Sanders was that he had been mayor of Havelock for the past eight years and had served previously as mayor and a city commissioner.
“I got beat. It’s pretty simple, but you know, you hang around as long as I did, you are going to make a lot of people mad,” Sanders said after the election results came in.
While Sanders may have made a lot of people mad, he obviously made a lot of people happy as well. After all, one does not get elected as a city commissioner or mayor without doing something right.
Even Lewis admitted as much.
“I have an immense amount of respect for Jimmy, and I’ve said that the whole time,” Lewis said, saying during his campaign that he would offer a different, more aggressive style to dealing with city problems as mayor. “Jimmy’s done great things for the city. I believe that it is time for my style of leadership to be in charge of the city. I’m glad that I’ve won, but I greatly appreciate all that Jimmy has done for the city.”
Sanders’ fingerprints are all over Havelock. Among some of the things he has supported and pushed for over the years are the Havelock Tourist and Event Center, the recreation complex on Fontana Boulevard, the West End Fire Station, the 9/11 Memorial, the Havelock Senior Center, construction of the Walmart, and the sewer expansion project.
Sanders has also had a hand in some upcoming projects, such as the new city hall building and the Slocum Creek recreation park, both of which are in the planning stages and soon will be taking shape in Havelock.
Though no doubt some will argue about these projects and whether the costs were justified, Sanders’ intent was to improve this city for its residents, and a very sound argument could be made that these projects do just that.
So why such an overwhelming defeat? Simply put, the voters have the answer.
“The reason I voted was because I think we need a change,” voter Mark Wood said. “I think the present board is getting stagnant. The people in there need to go. We need fresher people.”
While Lewis is not necessarily a fresh face to city politics as a two-term commissioner, he is 36 years old, compared to the 66-year-old Sanders. And though incumbent Jim Stuart won a third term on the Havelock Board of Commissioners, newcomer Brenda Wilson got the most votes of any board candidate, and newcomer Peter Van Vliet finished just 29 votes behind Stuart in his first bid for public office.
Sanders still serves as president of the Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow lobby group, and my guess is that he won’t be too quick to drop out of sight. He has a passion for this city and for its residents, and one election isn’t likely to squelch that. No doubt, he will continue to be a strong advocate for Havelock in everything that he does.
After all, he has given more than 40 years of service to Havelock in various roles, from serving as a firefighter to membership on regional and state boards and committees — and serving as this town’s mayor.
For that, Sanders deserves credit and appreciation.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.