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Smith appointed mayor

Four-term council member first black woman to hold post

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Kandie Smith is appointed Mayor by District Court Judge Wendy Hazelton during a special city council meeting at the Pitt County City Hall Thursday, July 6, 2017.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A unanimous vote elected four-term Councilwoman Kandie Smith as Greenville’s  mayor on Thursday.

Smith, who was mayor pro-tem and representative of District 1, was selected to fill the unexpired term of Allen Thomas, who stepped down June 22 to become director of the N.C. Global TransPark in Kinston.

The council met in a special session called for the purpose of selecting someone for the post. Councilman McLean Godley nominated Smith, and Councilman P.J. Connelly seconded the motion. No other nominations were offered.

Godley said that he had been in support of Smith for weeks, and Connelly said she was the right person for the job. Smith said that she was prepared to accept the responsibility, and reasonably nervous about the job ahead of her.

“First of all it is an honor,” Smith said. “It is a responsibility, a big responsibility to carry the load of the city, but I am ready to take it. It’s a big job, to fill Allen Thomas’ shoes, but I am ready.”

Thomas attended the meeting in recognition of what he called a historic moment — Smith is the first black woman to be mayor. He said she is perfectly suited for the job. The large turnout of supporters was evidence of how important she is to the community, Thomas said.

“It makes sense,” Thomas said. “Her being the first female African-American to hold the position, that’s huge. The community recognizes that. I think the appointment makes sense, her being the pro-tem and all, she’ll do great.”

Smith said Thursday she would not seek the mayoral seat in the upcoming municipal election. She said she would seek re-election to her District 1 seat. Connelly and Councilman Calvin Mercer both have announced their intention to run for the mayoral position. Filing begins Friday. The election is Nov. 7.

The council was prepared in advance for Smith’s selection.

The meeting began with an invocation from Smith’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Laticia Hill Godette of York Memorial AME Zion Church. The election followed a brief public comment period. The council then chose District 2 Councilwoman Rose Glover to take Smith’s place as mayor pro-tem.

Smith was sworn in by Pitt County District Court Judge Wendy Hazelton, surrounded by friends and supporters. By the time the meeting began, the council chambers were full, with many people forced to stand.

When the call came for council members in favor of Smith’s appointment to say “aye,” the room erupted with the word, resulting in laughter from the council and audience. When asked about the support, Smith responded with tears in her eyes.

“I don't really know if I can put words to it; I don’t want to cry,” she said. “It was awesome. It was awesome. This room was completely full, standing room only. It’s a blessing to see that much support, it’s an honor, an absolute honor.”

Well before the meeting began, Smith was taking photos with supporters and accepting congratulations. The invocation, which took place before voting, offered prayers for Smith and celebrated the historic nature of her appointment.

Several supporters attending the event said they received emails informing them about the appointment, some as early as last week. Enfiniti Afriyie, a member of the sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, said she heard the news at an event last week and received an email on Monday.

City Attorney David Holec said after Thomas resigned that the council had to deliberate in open session about picking his replacement. After Monday’s meeting, he said that members were free to communicate privately among themselves as long as they did not do so in a quorum.

He said in this way they could ascertain who was likely to be appointed mayor but still had to have an open session for public input and vote during the public meeting.

Smith said during her time as  mayor, she plans on focusing on city safety, as well as fully staffing city departments. She said she hoped to help acclimate incoming City Manager Ann E. Wall as quickly as possible and help her manage the search for an assistant city manager to replace the retiring Merrill Flood.

The council also must hire a new city attorney. Holec will be stepping down at the end of October.

Smith was first elected to the council in 2009. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Charleston Southern University where she majored in sociology and minored in communications.

She worked as a mental health professional and is now a training consultant, providing staff development and instruction for businesses.

A new council member must be appointed by the council to fill Smith’s District 1 seat. The council’s next scheduled meeting until Aug. 10.

Contact Seth Gulledge at sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579.

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