Mary Frances White has made history as the first African-American to be elected to public office in Lincoln County. She and Dr. Jim Watson will be sworn in as City Council members at a ceremony held Thursday at the Cultural Center.
White says she was driven to run because she thought the city needed an African-American to serve in an elected position. She remained determined after two failed campaigns, most recently in 2013.
“I was determined to run to make a difference,” White said, “to be a voice of the citizens of Lincolnton and to let our youth know that they can make a difference.”
Deanna Williams-McGinnis, former chair of the Lincoln County Democratic Party and a long-time friend and admirer of White, was thrilled at the election results. Williams-McGinnis calls White a strong community and business leader. She sees White as a role model for community youth, citing the importance of African-American children having someone that looks like them in a leadership position.
“She’s a symbol of change and has finally broken that glass ceiling for Lincoln County,” Williams-McGinnis said. “We’ve needed it for a long time.”
White is excited about the progress the city has made in developing its downtown and hopes to play a part in keeping it moving forward. She hopes that she can work with other council members to find an economical way to improve the recycling program and bring back curbside collection and maintain competitive wages for city employees. She’s also concerned with keeping younger generations in the area and said that now, once they leave, they often don’t return to the area.
Representing Ward 2 on the council, Watson sees the need to update the city’s aging infrastructure. However, he doesn’t plan to approach his new position with a predetermined plan as to what needs to be done. He said the council has to listen to staff recommendations and approach problems systematically.
“When I used to be superintendent (of Lincoln County Schools) I said that we can do anything we want to do,” Watson said. “But we can’t do everything we want to do.”
Watson echoes White’s excitement at the growth of downtown and the need to retain city workers. He wants to keep the momentum going and make it easier for entrepreneurs to bring business to downtown by making the process more user friendly.
The City Council swearing-in ceremony is Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Cultural Center, located at 403 East Main Street.