ROCKINGHAM — Six candidates threw their proverbial hats in the ring for reelection within the first hour of municipal filing, which opened at noon Friday.
Rockingham Councilman Bennett Deane and Mayor John Hutchison were among the first to walk through the doors at the Richmond County Board of Elections.
Deane was first elected in 1999 and is currently serving his sixth term.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Deane said when asked why he was running again. “If you compare Rockingham to a lot of other towns in the Southeast that have struggled with the loss of textiles … we’ve made a pretty strong recovery. We’re in better shape than most communities.
Deane continued, saying he thinks the city had done well investing in infrastructure, noting the capabilities of the water and sewer system.
Earlier this year, the county inked a 40-year deal with Rockingham to handle wastewater from the future Energy Way Industrial Park on Airport Road, south of Hamlet.
The 24-year councilman added that the city has tried to enhance the quality of life in the area with the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail, Hinson Lake and the Parks and Recreation Department.
“We’ve just worked really hard to make Rockingham the best we can and (I’m) just proud of what we’ve been able to do … and keep Rockingham moving forward.”
Hutchinson was first elected to the council in 2005 and is finishing up his first term as mayor.
“It’s been a good two years,” Hutchinson said, adding that he’s put a lot of effort and energy into the job, “and that’s been fun.”
The mayor said he’s worked hard through social media to try and create a sense of belonging for everyone in Rockingham.
“I’ve really enjoyed interacting with the town and the folks, being a part of making things happen in different communities across the town,” Hutchinson continued. “I think we’ve made a fair amount of progress in a number of places over the last couple of years.”
Councilman Gene Willard also filed before the end of the first hour.
While she didn’t file on Friday, Bold Moves Dance Studio owner Holly Howe announced her intent to run for a Rockingham City Council seat.
“Rockingham is a special place that I have been honored to call home most of my life,” Howe said in a statement. “It is the place we have chosen to start and grow a local business and where we have the joy of raising our two young boys. For both Mark and I, our roots and love for this community run deep.
“With that in mind, I am excited to announce that I will be running for city council and look forward to the opportunity to serve our community in a new way.”
Bold Moves opened in 2014 and the studio moved to its current location in downtown Rockingham in 2016.
Howe said she’s running to represent a younger, family oriented demographic on the council.
“Rockingham has so much potential and it’s time we not only look forward but move forward,” she told the RO. “I appreciate that it takes hard work to move a community forward and I’m eager to use the skills I’ve learned over the last ten years as a business owner to help make that happen. I’m excited to work alongside Mayor John Hutchinson and the rest of the council as we find new ways to get our community excited about living in Rockingham.”
Howe plans to file on Monday.
The top two vote-getters in the council election will have a four-year term and the third-highest will serve a two-year term. The mayors of both Rockingham and Hamlet serve two-year terms.
Hamlet Mayor Bill Bayless also paid his filing fee to run for reelection.
“Things are going well in Hamlet,” Bayless said. “We’ve got an excellent council, we have made it through the COVID period, we’ve got our finances in good shape, we’re making progress on the downtown.”
Bayless also praised Hamlet Depot and Museums Director Mechelle Preslar — “She is really taking care of things, getting things going at Depot” — and City Manager Matthew Christian.
The Hamlet mayor also mentioned the upcoming improvements at Hamlet City Lake, following the allocation of a state grant.
“I just feel good about keeping the council together,” Bayless added.
Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue and Councilwoman Ravonna Magee also filed.
Magee said she wanted to continue the work the town has accomplished in recent years, including paving the parking lot of the Community Center and the hiring of additional town workers.
Other candidates filing Friday were Hamlet Councilwoman Abbie Covington and councilmen Oscar Sellars and Maurice Stuart; and Ellerbe Mayor Brenda Capel.
Mayoral seats in Rockingham, Hamlet and Ellerbe are two-year terms.
All seats in Hoffman are up for reelection, as that town has two-year, non-staggered terms. All seats in Norman are also up in Norman.
Filing fees are $10 for races in Rockingham, Hamlet and Ellerbe; and $5 for Dobbins Heights, Hoffman and Norman.
Filing ends at noon July 21.