ST. PAULS — The candidates for four seats on the St. Pauls Board of Commissioners are talking to voters about a growing community and its continuing needs, including building a more resilient town after flooding from Hurricane Matthew.
Two incumbents are unopposed in Tuesday’s municipal elections. District 3 representative Debbie Inman is a lifetime resident who works in her family’s business. Elberton Gibson, the District 1 representative, is a semi-retired businessman. Inman was appointed to the board 18 months ago, and Gibson was elected to a four-year term and has served on the board in the past.
Donna Powers Patterson is challenging Buck Terry in District 4. Bernard Stewart is challenging Annie Stephens in District 2.
Patterson has been combing neighbor hoods to get her message out. She was born and raised in St. Pauls and is retired from 30 years of employment with Robeson Community College.
“I’ve been knocking on doors, and I feel good about the election,” Patterson said. “I am running because I want to help my community. This is a town of good people, and I want to make a difference.”
Like others in St. Pauls, Patterson watched the devastation from flooding brought by Hurricane Matthew.
“My biggest issue is infrastructure,” she said. “Our water and sewer systems are decades old. They’ve made some progress, and more needs to be done.”
Patterson praised the work of the volunteer fire department, especially during the hurricane. And the rescue squad has made important improvements, she said. The town has outstanding maintenance workers who are dedicated and responsive to the public.
St. Pauls is growing, and Patterson would like to help the town continue to attract a wide range of businesses and important services.
“I’d like to see a department store that serves women, so we don’t have to drive to Lumberton or Hope Mills,” Patterson said. “The town needs attorneys and accountants.
“I’d love to be part of bringing these things to St. Pauls.”
Buck Terry, who is retired after working in retail, is seeking his sixth term on the town Board of Commissioners. The lifelong St. Pauls resident is proud of his service to his district and the town.
“I try to be involved in everything that’s going on in St. Pauls,” Terry said. “Anything I can do to make the town a better place to live is my goal.”
As a board member, Terry has seen growth in the town recently, including the recruitment of Sanderson Farms, Pepsi and Walmart.
“We’ve worked hard to help St. Pauls, and we’ve come a long way,” he said.
Hurricane Matthew was an eye-opener for the town, Terry said. He is working for street, water, and sewer and storm sewer improvements.
Terry is pleased to have good town employees and volunteers on the rescue squad and at the fire department. He was a member of St. Pauls’ first rescue squad and served as a volunteer with the fire and police departments.
“I see myself as a public servant,” Terry said.
In District 2, Annie Stephens, who is retired from a career in retail, is the incumbent. She was appointed to a seat on the commission in 2015.
“Being on the commission has been a learning experience,” Stephens said. “My heart is with the people, and I’d like another chance to serve them.”
Stephens said St. Pauls needs more housing, especially in her district, and the downtown needs a department store, she said.
“Youth need an after-school program with recreation and tutoring to keep them focused,” she said.
St. Pauls is a safe community, Stephens said, where “people watch out for each other.” There are a few issues, but these are being worked on with the cooperation of the town.
“I would like to see better attendance at board meetings by members of my district so they understand how things are done,” Patterson said. “I want every citizen to feel like they are part of St. Pauls, and they have a right to share their issues.
The Robesonian was unable to contact District 2 challenger Elbert Gibson.
Early voting in St. Pauls races has been extremely light, with only four votes cast at the Robeson County Board of Elections office in Lumberton.
The Robesonian was unable to get photographs from Patterson, Terry, Stephens and Gibson
Reach Scott Bigelow at 910-816-1989.