HAMLET — Just two days after making the U.S. Olympic team as an alternate for women’s gymnastics, Hamlet’s Ashton Locklear was honored by Mayor Bill Bayless in a proclamation during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Locklear will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August as part of the Summer Olympics for Team USA. Close family friend, Bernice Owens, joined the young gymnast and her mother, Carrie Locklear, at the meeting. Owens has been busy organizing fundraisers to help the Locklear family travel to Rio.
“We had a fundraiser not long ago and we did about $1340, I believe,” Owens said. “Even a dollar would be appreciated.”
Owens and Carrie Locklear said a fund has been established at the Hamlet BB&T, and that anyone interested in donating can make a check out to Carrie Locklear at the branch.
“It’s pretty cool,” Carrie Locklear said of her daughter’s achievement. “It’s like an accomplishment of her lifetime.”
Bayless said it was also a highlight of his mayoral career.
“This is probably the best thing I will ever get to do as mayor,” he announced before reading the proclamation. In it, he lauded Locklear’s 16 years of dedication to her sport and for being a positive role model and representative of the city.
“…the City of Hamlet is pleased to honor the continued outstanding achievements of Ashton Locklear, who in distinguishing herself has brought great honor and credit to her family, friends and community,” Bayless read from the proclamation.
During the comments from attendees, Jerry Lamont — a former city employee — took the podium and addressed the council, expressing his concern for current employees he said were jilted at the previous meeting.
“We had a baseball tournament,” Lamont said. “I saw the city manager there…but not the city council. I think y’all missed out by not watching it. But also, last month your city council, our city council, did the city employees an injustice by freezing their salaries at last month’s meeting. Yet you sit up there and give yourselves a 60 percent raise and didn’t nobody know. Nobody said a thing about it. Yet y’all give y’allseleves a 60 percent raise.”
Councilman Wendy Massagee said, “You need to get your math right. Our employees got raises. We’re elected by the citizens, not the employees. And they got a 2.5 percent raise as a longevity bonus, and we didn’t raise the cost of their insurance.”
Mayor Pro-tem Johnathan Buie agreed, also addressing Lamont’s criticism of the council members for missing the baseball tournament. He also reminded those in attendance that the council had not received a raise in 20 years, where the city’s employees got raises “every year.”
“Before you tell me what I missed out on, you need to know my schedule,” Buie said. “I was out of town on business the past two weekends.”
Bayless said there was “nothing done in secret, and nothing done behind closed doors.” He reminded people at the meeting that Hamlet’s council meetings are televised and that everything can be reviewed.
“I do also believe 2.5 percent is one of the largest raises given,” Massagee said.
Lamont apologized for misunderstanding the raises given to city employees.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.