Alums applaud Parker's election, note black council majority


Elizabeth City State University alumnus Renel Sample prepares barbecue and seafood gumbo during his tailgating prior to ECSU's Homecoming game against Lincoln University at Roebuck Stadium, Saturday. Sample was among the ECSU alumni back in Elizabeth City over the weekend for the game and other homecoming events.


By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Monday, October 16, 2017

Alumni back in town for Elizabeth City State University’s Homecoming events over the weekend celebrated the city’s recent election of its first woman mayor and a black majority on city council for the first time in 26 years.

Ernest Lee, David Strickland and Greg Henderson — college buddies waiting for a delicious tailgating meal in the parking area at Roebuck Stadium before Saturday’s Homecoming game — all said they think the recent election results are exciting for Elizabeth City.

Bettie Parker, who defeated Sam Davis III in Tuesday’s mayoral election, is the first woman and third African African to be elected mayor of Elizabeth City. The late Charles Foster was the city’s first black mayor in 2005. The late Roger McLean became the second black mayor in 2009.

Lee, Strickland and Henderson also said they are excited that the mayor-elect is a retired teacher. They said many of their classmates who are from Elizabeth City told them that Parker had been one of their teachers.

Lee attended ECSU from 1980-84. He is from Greenville and works at Pitt Community College as director of outreach.

Strickland is a Newport News, Va., native who now lives in Columbia, S.C. He attended ECSU from 1978-82. Strickland is a retired Virginia state employee who now owns an ABC store in South Carolina.

Henderson also hails from Newport News but now lives in Baltimore, where he works as an information technology consultant. Henderson attended ECSU from 1979-83.

Ben Rhodes, who is from Waterbury, Conn., and attended ECSU from 1972-79, said he, too, is excited that Elizabeth City has its first woman mayor, adding that he looks forward to meeting her.

Rhodes, who was tailgating with fraternity brothers from Iota Phi Theta, owns a financial services company in Connecticut.

The new eight-member city council that will take office in December also will have a black majority, thanks to the election of Gabriel Adkins in the city’s 2nd Ward. Other black councilors on the council that will be seated at the first meeting in December are Johnnie Walton and Darius Horton in the 4th Ward and Rickey King and Kem Spence in the 3rd Ward.

The last time Elizabeth City’s city council had a black majority was in 1990, when a white councilor who died in office was replaced with an African American. The council reverted to having four white and four black members at the next election in 1991.

Roscoe Hager of Durham, who graduated from ECSU in 1988, said he thinks it’s good if the representation on Elizabeth City City Council reflects the city’s demographics; Elizabeth City’s population is majority African-American. However, Hager added that he thinks an elected official can represent people of all races and backgrounds if they’re willing to listen and be respectful.

“As long as you’re willing to sit down and work with people on where they’re coming from I think you can get a lot of things accomplished.” Hager said.

Hager, who is coordinator of Positive Behavior Intervention and Support for the Durham Public Schools, said elected officials do well to heed the things he teaches students: “Listen, slow down and be respectful.”

He said the questions to ask are always, “Is if ethical?” and “Is it fair?”

Commenting on a recent controversy in Elizabeth City over the Confederate Monument, Hager indicated disagreement with the Pasquotank Board of Commissioners’ 4-3 decision not to back removal of the monument from the courthouse green. Hager said he would like to see the statue removed from the courthouse because “all monuments that show oppression should be removed.”

“You don’t go to Germany and see monuments to Hitler,” he said.

But Hager also said he doesn’t support vandalism of monuments or violent protests in favor of removing them. He said he believes the Confederate monuments should be relocated to memorials and museums.

“But it shouldn’t be a thing where you’re out trying to tear up statues,” Hager said.