Six months ago, Ellerbe Mayor Olivia Webb resigned after a change in her personal life meant she would be moving out of the small southern town she called home for many years, and was in charge of as the top elected official since December 2009.
“It is with great sadness and regret that I submit to you my resignation,” Webb said in her resignation letter to fellow members of the town council. “My living situation has changed, and it is no longer feasible for me to maintain a permanent residence inside the town limits.”
Webb began her second term in November 2011, a term that would run through December 2013. Her decision to resign was a difficult one.
“I cannot express how much I have valued the opportunity to serve as your mayor … I wish you all the very best and I thank you for your service,” said Webb.
Her departure was abrupt and left the town floating aimless without a rudder.
The dilemma that presented itself fairly quickly was that no one on the town council seemed prepared — nor did they desire — to take over for Webb by assuming the mayor’s position. No one appeared interested in stepping up, once she stepped down.
County election officials advised the town council that it had several options, one of which was not having a mayor until the November 2013 election.
Mayor Pro-Tem James “Buddy” Cooper said he might step in to fill the position, but only if he had to. In those early days after Webb’s departure, Cooper said he wasn’t interested in being mayor but would fill the seat if the council wanted him to.
Council member Brenda Chambers, on the council for more than 15 years, said she thought the town needed an acting mayor and shouldn’t leave the important job vacant.
In the end, Cooper stepped up and assumed the responsibility and we applaud his decision to do so, and his commitment to public service.
Cooper, who is retired and in his 60s, said he doesn’t think he’ll run to keep the position of mayor when the term is up, but he does plan to continue serving on the town council.
We checked in with the reluctant mayor this week and found he is as focused as ever on progress for his small town.
Cooper said he thinks the Ellerbe-Rockingham-Richmond County Wastewater Regionalization Project is more than half-way completed.
The regional wastewater project is an endeavor to retire Ellerbe’s outdated lagoon treatment system and expand a sewer line from Ellerbe to Rockingham along Highway 220. Rockingham is prepared to take on the extra influx of sewage, and the sewer line expansion will allow Highway 220 to receive more development.
“Things are running smoothly,” said Cooper on Tuesday. “The sewer is about 80 percent completed. If all goes well, it should be finished by June, and it will be great for us.”
Cooper said this is the biggest project Ellerbe has ever undertaken, both physically and financially.
We appreciate Cooper’s willingness to roll up his sleeves and do the work that’s necessary of a small town mayor.