The outgoing Board of Aldermen shortly before four aldermen surrendered their seats on Dec. 12. Post photo

Dec. 12 was the last Board of Aldermen meeting for four aldermen.
They included:

  • One-term Ward 1 alderman Dallas Blackiston, who sought reelection but came in third in a three-person race won by his predecessor, Sabrina Bengel
  • Two-term Ward 2 alderman Victor Taylor, who did not seek reelection and who was replaced by Jamee Harris.
  • Half-term alderman E.T. Mitchell, who was appointed to the board and who did not run for reelection; she was replaced by Bobby Aster.
  • Two-term Ward 5 alderman Bernard White, who lost his reelection bid to Barbara Best.

The Dec. 12 Board of Aldermen meeting was really three meetings. The first was a meeting of the outgoing board and actually included some real business before concluding with departing aldermen’s comments; an interim meeting during which all the aldermen, both newcomers and returning incumbents, took their respective oaths of office; and then a final meeting that also included some real business.
But unless you were at the Dec. 12 meeting, or watched a video of it, you probably didn’t get to hear about what the outgoing aldermen had to say in their final moments as elected representatives.
Dallas Blackiston made comments echoing something that is commonly stated by people who serve on the Board of Alderman: It’s more than a part-time job.
“These are not part-time positions,” Blackiston said. “You should try it for a week.”
He pointed out that the mayor could get a part-time minimum wage job and make more than he makes as mayor (here’s how much board members make and their perks).
He called for a $1,000 per year increase in aldermen and mayor compensation, which he said would have a minuscule effect on the city budget but would make a difference for people who serve on the board.
Blackiston followed up with a second recommendation: that the city do away with its ward system of representation, which he said only 12 percent of the 550 municipalities in North Carolina use. He thinks every alderman should be elected at-large, just like the mayor.
He said it would increase accountability to all citizens and “strengthen the leadership team.”
Victor Taylor said he served to make a different for Ward 2 and the city. Taylor, who was civically involved before he became an alderman, said he was not stepping down as an advocate for the people of his ward and the city, but that he would “take a break … . I need to sit down and think.”
He pointed out that he was in communication with the city public works director every other day for eight years bringing up maintenance issues in his ward.
“I’m going to be in the community like I was before I was on the board,” Taylor said.
E.T. Mitchell gave a reminder that she served on the New Bern Housing Authority Board and played an instrumental role in the rehabilitation of Craven Terrace before she was appointed to the Board of Aldermen.
She said her fellow aldermen and the mayor set goals for her that she hopes she accomplished “finding ways to make progress possible.”
“I’m smarter and more capable for having worked with them,” she said, describing the relationship on the board as “respectful.”
“Not all boards operate in that professional manner,” she said.
Bernard White said serving his two terms as alderman was “more than a job. “I’m really not a politician,” he said. “I was here to serve and work for the people. I tried to do the best fo the people in my ward.
“I can’t tell you how I feel because I don’t really feel anything. … The night I lost, I slept like a baby.”
“You can’t come into New Berna and not come into contact with something that I haven’t had something to do with,” he said.
He was paid a $376 stipend every two weeks, he said. For that, there were times he would stay until midnight working as an alderman and come back the next day having solved all kinds of issues.

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