ATKINSON, N.C. (WECT) - Wendell Newkirk Sr. became the mayor of Atkinson as a write-in candidate. Nobody filed to run, so Newkirk faced off with five write-in opponents.
He says he didn’t enter the race on a whim; It’s been a dream of his for quite some time.
“It was 2003,” said Newkirk. "I told some of the other guys around here the same things, and they said, oh man, you’re joking. You don’t want to be the mayor of that town. What’re you going to do.”
Now, that dream is a reality, and he’s become the first African-American mayor of Atkinson. Newkirk said he knows this is his chance to step up, and he has more than a few plans to help the declining town return to it’s former glory.
“Atkinson’s in a slump but we’re going to come back," said Newkirk. “I want a service station here.”
A town beautification project is on his to-do list, and he’s started working on the roads without any help from the town. High-speed internet is also something Atkinson is lacking, but could be there sooner than later.
He knows all of these improvements will help lift the town’s spirit and attract businesses to the western part of Pender County.
“Those are my comrades, my friends, my neighbors," said Newkirk. "I want them to be in a comfortable environment, in a good environment.”
He’s still finalizing his plans, but says he is excited to improve the town he grew up in.
“Seeing it might take more than two year, because I’m only here for two years, but I’m going to do all I can in those two years, and that’s going to be my best.”