Up & Coming Weekly

October 26, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 8 of 24

8 UCW OCTOBER 27-NOVEMBER 2, 2021 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM NEWS Jessie Bellflowers cur- rently serves as the department chair at Fayetteville Technical Community College and is retired from the United States Army. Bellflowers was born August 22, 1956. His Family members in- clude his wife, Bambi, daughter, Jessica and he has three grand- daughters. Bellflowers has served as commis- sioner for the Town of Hope Mills since 2017. He can be reached at 910-964-8103. As Mayor of one of Cumberland County's fastest-growing communities, describe what a typical routine work week would look like. As Mayor, what will be your top three (measurable) priorities for improving the livability in the town of Hope Mills? Which one will present the biggest challenge. BELLFLOWERS: According to the U.S. Census, Hope Mills has grown 17.3% in the last 10 years. More and more people and busi- nesses are choosing our community mainly because of schools and recreational opportunities. But, despite this growth, the town hasn't been able to keep up [with] infrastructure and traffic congestion. Since I was first elected four years ago, folks ask me what a typical week looks like. I always respond with every week is different — there is no typical weekly routine. Serving as an elected official, regardless of position, is a full-time 24-hour, 7-days a week where you must be available to community citizens — returning phone calls, answer - ing emails and text messages, checking the town website, meeting with citizens and business owners, attending town sponsored busi- ness functions and serving on various committees, for example the Gateway Study Committee, Heroes Homecoming IX, etc. Over the past four years, I have attended every town board meeting with 100% attendance, something unheard [of ] these days in politics. e role of mayor is one who conducts the meetings, signs legal documents and acts as ambassador for the town. Each week, I review the upcoming town board meeting agenda, for example, I spend hours researching every agenda item before board meetings. is action includes driving to each zoning and annexation property location to learn if the request fits the integrity of the sur - rounding neighborhoods. As mayor, our sense of inclusiveness and identity as a community will always be a priority for me. Remember, elected officials are pub- lic servants. We should always support community engagement that builds deeper, stronger and more trusting relationships between our town board and citizens. Servant leaders are also ethical leaders with no hidden agendas. WARNER: A mayor's primary role is leadership in the best interest of the mu- nicipality. e mayor represents its township in ceremonial events and, when necessary, states of emergency, e.g, hazardous weather conditions, accidents, etc. that disrupt normal town functions. e mayor presides over board meet- ings and other committee meetings. e mayor also promotes partnerships with other stakeholders for the benefit and future planning for the community at large. As mayor, my typical work week is busy rotating around attending meetings, virtual workshops and answering emails or phone calls. I prioritize work based on how urgent and important the different activities are. I address the issues or concerns in the order of priority. But, being mayor is not limited to our home government. e role must be integrated with surrounding mayorships (Mayors Coalition), participation with local and state programs such as FAMPO, Senior Tarheel Legislature, Mid-Carolina Council for Aging, FCEDC and interacted with cooperative participation with state and national issues as well. Being part of a larger government makes our local board even stronger. Even though being mayor is highly rewarding in seeing progress for Hope Mills, the extra hours required, especially overseeing such a busy town, makes it challenging. I work overtime to be constantly available for town concerns as the spokesperson for our citizens. Building partnerships to bring more resources to our town is a priority, therefore my involvement with the Mayor's Youth Coun - cil, Tier I Committee, Heroes Homecoming Committee are examples of how my time is spent to get input from our youth, seniors and our veterans to identify what is needed to improve our quality of life through partnerships. Being retired from my chosen field of employment, I have the time to be available. I know that I possess what is required and will deliver to the best of my resources. I love serving people and believe the happiness of Hope Mills residents provides the motivation for our board to work harder and smarter. Being mayor is an honor for me, personally, to work for the citizens in one of the finest small towns in our great state. WARNER: e priorities that are listed below are my personal opinions only since the mayor has no vote in our actual prioritization of future town projects and appropriations for such. at responsibility is left to our elected town commissioners. Personally, I feel three projects of concern and need are as follows: 1. e completion of capital projects, namely, our Public Safety Building, grant-funded improvements for Main Street items (cross walks, bike path), municipal park improvements adding splash pad and all-inclusive play - ground is a family priority, a restoration of the location of our first and largest mill factory area known as Heritage Park is a historical priority. ese projects will provide recreational opportunities for our citizens along with improve- ments for public safety. 2. Transportation for our citizens to provide bus routes around Hope Mills and to surrounding points of interest or need. is can be accomplished by working with community partners to maximize our funding sources to include grants available for seniors, youth and the disabled mobility. 3. Preparation for present and additional traffic concerns related to the im - pact of the fast approaching I-295. is priority is the most challenging as we continue working with Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and Department of Transportation for completion and opening of I-295 along with the widening of Rockfish, Golfview Roads and Main Street to improve traffic patterns. is priority will present the biggest challenge because of the inconvenience of the construction work to include road closures, paving and detours. Also the time it will take to complete projects will be frustrating—our community will benefit in the end with sidewalks, pedestrians crosswalks to improve safer walk-ability along with safer movement of vehicular traffic. BELLFLOWERS: Without question, our community is at a crossroads regarding residential and economic development growth. With growth, comes traffic congestion. One of the enormous challenges will be to address our town's aging infrastructure where public safety and limited community parks and recreational opportunities are high priorities. ese challenges may be separate, but I consider them linked to our com - munity's sustainable quality of life, commercial/residential growth chal- lenges and economic development opportunities. We must have the courage to be smart about planning our future and managing growth with a sustainable, visionary long-term strategic eco- nomic development plan. For example, future residential and economic development growth regarding I-95, Exit 41 and Future I-295 bypass gateway areas. Public safety has always been my number one priority. Currently, the new police and fire department complex, named the John W. Hodges Public Safety Center is being built and [will be] completed in 2022. Even with completion of this project, we must still find a workable, affordable solution to build at least one or two new satellite facilities over the next five years. Another top priority is community recreational programs whereas the town must invest in improvements to existing facilities, programs and the development of new recreational opportunities in order to maintain and enhance community quality of life. Hope Mills Lake Park is the centerpiece of our downtown and another testament to the power of vision, planning and results-driven leadership that will be required to address future resi - dential and economic development growth in our community, for example, the Heritage Park and Golfview Greenway projects.e biggest challenge with managing these priorities going forward will be to locate sustainable funding resources without raising property taxes.

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