KFP: Kinston mayoral candidates take center stage


Mayoral candidate Ralph Clark, left, makes his opening statements, while John Marks, center, and B.J. Murphy listen at the mayoral forum Tuesday at community television station TACC-9 on Queen Street.

Sara Pezzoni / The Free Press

Kinston’s three candidates for mayor each had their lone opportunity to address viewers on the issues of the city on Tuesday evening.

Ralph Clark, John Marks and B.J. Murphy spoke at the TACC-9 community television station for a mayoral forum, as the three are looking to be appointed into office by the people after the Nov. 5 election.

Clark, who has spent 32 years in public office, including eight as the former city manager of Kinston, believes his extensive experience and knowledge would be vital in helping the community he has called home since 1999.

“Kinston has been great to me as a city manager and a citizen,” Clark said. “I have a lot to give, and hope (the city) allow(s) me to be the mayor.”

Clark also talked about education in his opening statement, acknowledging that the city council would not be able to intervene in the decision-making process.

“I would be remiss not to mention something about education,” Clark said. “Even though the city has nothing to do with the education in the community, it has to be supported.”

Marks, the pastor and founder of Increasing the Faith Ministries, believes Kinston needs to move in an alternate direction in fixing some of the issues in the community.

“We do need change,” Marks said. “Everybody that I ask or come in contact with, they are always saying that the city needs to be changed. I’m just grateful that our city and the leadership that is present are still doing things, but we still need solutions to a lot of problems. I just want to be an improvement on assets to the city of Kinston.”

Murphy, the incumbent seeking his second term in office, used his opening statement to speak on some of the positives he has seen in Kinston since he became the mayor in 2009.

“I have never been more excited about the opportunities before our community than I am right now,” Murphy said. “Our community is growing, and there are a lot of positive things happening. Just over the past four years, we have had a major focus on redeveloping our community, on making sure we have better streets, and we’ve had a more accountable government than ever before.”

Early voting starts on Thursday, and will run until Nov. 2, with Election Day on Nov. 5.


Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

For more information on reruns of the city council and mayor forums, visit tacc9.com.


KFP: Council delays hearing on development ordinance

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

One highlight of the Kinston City Council meeting Tuesday was the further delay of a much anticipated overview.

The Unified Development Ordinance public hearing has been moved to Oct. 21, after previously being slated for Sept. 16. Planning Director Adam Short went through some of the points in the UDO overview in front of the council, saying there were only minor changes in the ordinance, other than a few grammatical and spelling errors.

“It was a time management thing,” Short said. “Given the amount of notice we had to do and the overall volume of information coordinating, we felt like there was no rush. We’ve got a little more time for planning things out and it gives the public more notice.”

Kinston City Manager Tony Sears has been among those ready to have the ordinance brought to the board.

“We’ve wrapped up the community meetings with the UDO,” Sears said. “It’s been almost a year since we started it and the staff is really excited to review it in front of the council.”

Sears was also interested in the grant opportunity brought before the council about body cameras for members of the Kinston Department of Public Safety.

“The cameras are the most economic and efficient way to provide officer safety,” Sears said. “Car cameras are more expensive and don’t give the best coverage for officers.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy saw the development of a new Riverwalk as one of the more important parts of the meeting. The council approved the process to seek a grant for the trail.

“The City of Kinston and Lenoir County Transportation Committee worked diligently last spring on updating our pedestrian plan,” Murphy said. “The project should score high. It involves being environmentally friendly, encourages exercise and we have multifaceted partnerships with the city of Kinston, Lenoir County, DOT, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and other state organizations.

Bill Ellis, director of the Kinston/Lenoir County Parks and Recreation Department, believes the grant will be available for the trail, which will span from the African-American Music Trail to Pearson Park.

“The trail will be 10 feet wide and will be for walking, cycling, horse carriage and anything else,” Ellis said. “I feel confident we’ll get the grant.”

The next city council meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 16.


Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Kinston at @JuniousSmithIII.

Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 21:07 PM.

KFP: City Council shows appreciation of the arts

By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer 

This week’s Kinston City Council meeting directed some focus towards the creative district in the community.

Perhaps the biggest highlight of the meeting included the approval of an art piece location and the update on community development activities in the Mitchelltown area. Stephen Hill — co-founder of Mother Earth Brewery — has been among those leading the effort.

“I was really standing behind the arts council endeavor and how it enriches the town,” Kinston City Councilman Bobby Merritt said. “When Stephen Hill started updated houses, it seemed to catch on amongst the community. We like to see people getting excited and having a positive outlook on Kinston, especially in a historical neighborhood.

“It took a while for our Mitchelltown district to be revived and it’s a crucial part to our community. You have to take the time to drive by and see the architectural wood work. They don’t build houses like this anymore.”

Mayor B.J. Murphy agreed, saying the city had been proactively pursuing the community development, specifically in redeveloping the arts and culture district.

“Having private citizens coordinate their efforts with our public policy is a win-win for the Kinston community,” Murphy said. “We’ve developed partnerships with the Kinston Promise neighborhood, Rochelle Middle School, the J.H. Sampson CDC and others to work on implementing strategy related to property redevelopment and infrastructure improvements throughout the city.”

The council voted unanimously on all proposals brought to them in the meeting with little disagreement.

“It was pretty much standard procedure,” Merritt said. “Everyone was on board and no difficult decisions had to be made.”

There were two approved street closings for upcoming events during the meeting. On Saturday, Aug. 17, the Kinston Community Health Center will have its annual community health fair on Queen Street. As a result, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., portions of Blount, Queen and Herritage Street will be blocked off on that day.

On Oct. 12, the “Get Your Rear in Gear 5K” race will be set up at Fairfield Park from 8 a.m.-10:30 a.m. Portions of Carolina Avenue between Waverly Avenue and Perry Park Drive will be closed to set up the start and finish line.

Overall, Murphy was pleased with the meeting and what was accomplished during the session.

“Every meeting that we’ve had since I’ve been here has been a productive meeting,” Murphy said. “Receiving constructive feedback from the citizens is important for the council to make informed policy decisions. Having engaged in the private sector allows the city to be able to help spur economic development and growth.”

The next city council meeting will be held on Aug. 19 at 5 p.m.

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 and Junious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 20:55 PM.

KFP: City, county look toward 2013

Local leaders outline their priorities for New Year

With new faces in county government and the possibility of new faces in city government, local leaders are looking toward a busy 2013.

“I would say, in 2013 some of our priorities will be customer service, street resurfacing and continuing our redevelopment efforts,” Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said Monday, in the waning hours of 2012.

The 2012 elections left the Lenoir County Board of Commissioners with a new chairman and vice chairwoman in Commissioners Reuben Davis and Jackie Brown, respectively.

They also have a new face in freshman Commissioner Craig Hill and the still-to-be-determined replacement for long-serving Commissioners’ Chairman George Graham — the local Democratic Party has nominated Roland Best for the seat, but the commissioners will have the final say.

“I know both of those folks are committed to serving the citizens, and I think they’ll fit in very nicely and I think we’ll work together very well,” Commissioner Linda Rouse Sutton said of Best and Hill.

She said the commissioners would “miss George (Graham)’s leadership,” but bringing in new people can bring in new ideas and new perspectives.

Sutton expected the commissioners’ main priorities in 2013 would be balancing the budget and not raising taxes.

“We’re determined to come out with a good balanced budget and not raise taxes, and hang on to as many services as possible, as closely as we can,” she said.


City goals

On the city of Kinston’s side, the mayor’s and two City Council seats will be up for election this year.

In 2013, city elections will be nonpartisan, meaning candidates will run without a political party label.

“I am looking forward to the wishes of the people being carried out in the form of nonpartisan elections,” said Murphy, who was a strong supporter of nonpartisan voting.

The mayor said he hoped the council would continue to work toward building up $500,000 in the budget for street repairs and resurfacing.

Murphy acknowledged it was a challenging goal to meet in times of lean budgets, “but continuing to make that progress toward that goal is important.”

The mayor also expected the city’s policy of “proactive policing” would continue due to the success of removing major criminals from the streets in 2012.

He also saw as a priority continuing to follow the relationship between Duke Energy, which completed its merger with Progress Energy in 2012, and public power communities in North Carolina.

Kinston is among the 32 member communities of the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which owns power plants along with Duke Energy. The “generation assets” owned by the cities provide power to the member communities, which took on billions in debt 30 years ago to buy into those assets.

“Selling the generation assets, I think, should be part of our discussion in coordination with how to handle our debt load,” Murphy said.


David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.




County priorities in 2013:

– Balance the budget

– No tax increase

– Maintain services

Source: Commissioner Linda Rouse Sutton


City priorities in 2013:

– Improved customer service

– Street resurfacing

– Continued redevelopment

– ‘Proactive policing’

– Monitor relationship between Duke Energy and NCEMPA/ElectriCities

Source: Mayor B.J. Murphy

KFP: Thomas Stith selected as McCrory’s chief of staff

Former Durham city councilman has worked with Kinston officials on projects

Thomas Stith

In his capacity with UNC Chapel Hill, Thomas A. Stith III has worked closely with local entities in Eastern North Carolina communities — including Kinston — on economic development and community redevelopment projects.

Local leaders now hope Stith will bring the capacity of the Governor’s Office to bear and continue to work with them as he settles into his role as chief of staff for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory.

“Mr. Stith has been highly engaged with our urban planning and redevelopment efforts, which you’ve seen along the Hwy. 11 corridor,” said Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, referring to studies carried out by UNC students and faculty — who worked with Stith’s guidance — on the best ways to reinvigorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor.

Murphy continued: “I think by selecting Mr. Stith, (McCrory) has shown that he cares about Eastern North Carolina, and Mr. Stith has experience with municipalities and so that certainly plays well for local governments — besides the fact that Gov.-elect McCrory was a mayor himself.”

Stith is currently the director of McCrory’s transition team, which is laying the groundwork for the governor-elect to take office next month.

“The first step is to really get a good assessment of where we are at the departmental level and to assess which policies are currently operating efficiently, and which policies may need to be refined or changed,” Stith said Friday.

McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 5, and give his inaugural address on Jan. 12.

Stith will become chief of staff once McCrory formally becomes governor.

“I feel it’s a significant responsibility, and one that I plan to dedicate all my experience to ensuring that we have a successful administration,” Stith said.

He served as program director for economic development in UNC’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, as well as a three-term Durham city councilman.

Stith has also worked with IBM and Progress Energy, co-founded the Michael Thomas Group marketing firm and served as vice president of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute.

“He just has a wide depth of knowledge on issues important to the governor and important to the state, and the governor is glad to have him leading his team,” said Chris Walker, communications director for the transition team.


David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.

Mayor Interns Getting Exposed to Local Government

2012 Mayor’s Summer Interns:
Carly Sanderson, rising Junior at Bethel Christian Academy
Austin Croom, rising Senior at Bethel Christian Academy
Adam Caldwell, Freshman at East Carolina University

Here’s a list of some of the things the interns have done:

  • City Manager’s meeting with Department Heads
  • Breakfast meeting with Mayor and City Manager
  • Lenoir County Transportation Meeting
  • Presentation(s) to Kinston City Council
  • Luncheon with NC Sen. David Rouzer, Candidate for US Congress
  • Arts grant presentation by US Rep. GK Butterfield
  • Tour of the NRWASA Water Plant
  • Small group discussion with UNC grad students on our new Arts & Cultural District near Mitchelltown
  • Communication via email and phone with NCGA bill drafting and other mayors
  • Tour of the Woodmen Community Center