FAIRMONT — Felecia McLean-Kesler stepped right into her late mother’s footsteps Tuesday when she was sworn onto the Fairmont Board of Commissioners.
McLean-Kesler was appointed in August to finish out the term of her mother, Amelia Ann McLean, who died on July 23 after a battle with cancer. The term expires in December 2017.
“I’m honored, I’m so grateful first that they voted on me to be the one to fill my mother’s seat,” she said after the meeting. “I think she would really, really be excited about that, to have one of her own that supported her, worked with her throughout her campaign. I knew what she wanted for Fairmont. She loved her community, she wanted nothing but the best for the town of Fairmont. She wanted every community to be clean and pretty and for the children to have a safe place to be.”
It’s McLean-Kesler ’s first time holding public office. She works as the kitchen manager at Lumberton Correctional Institution, a position she is the first woman to hold. She was joined at her first meeting by two sons, a daughter, an aunt and several friends.
McLean-Kesler said she hopes to continue what her mother started — helping town residents get jobs, cleaning up the town and expanding pedestrian access throughout Fairmont.
“That’s my objective, to finish out what my mother had in motion already,” she said. “… Without money, without a place to stay, people don’t feel a part of anything. Once you get that down they feel like they’re part of a community.”
She would also like to get more young people involved in the town and wants to see Fairmont become a destination.
“That’s what I want, for people to be like ‘lets go see what’s going on in Fairmont,’” she said.
She was sworn by Superior Court Judge Frank Floyd, who was moved by the occasion to make a rare remark. At a recent Campbell University alumni board meeting, Floyd said nearly everyone he met had a connection to Fairmont.
“We’re a small town. We’ve always been a small town. We’re a good town — I hope one day we get back to where we were — but we’re still made up of good people,” he said. “Let’s not forget we got good people.”
The board also received an update on efforts to demolish and clear dilapidated buildings. Town Manager Katrina Tatum said one building has been torn down and cleared on McKoy Street, and another building has been knocked down. Another five to eight are being eyed for demolition, depending on the town being able to contact the owners and having the money to do it.
In other business, the board:
— Agreed to pay $200 to put up four-way stop signs at the intersection of Stephens and Market streets. There is currently a two-way stop there, but speeding has been an issue.
— Heard from Kelly Johnson, chairman of the Fairmont Chamber of Commerce, about the Fairmont Farmers Festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 15. Johnson said festival T-shirts and hats are for sale at the town Water Department and at First Bank.
— Tentatively scheduled a job fair for Nov. 16 at the South Robeson Heritage Center.
— Appointed Melvin Ellison to the ABC Board.
Sarah Willets can be reached at 910-816-1974 or on Twitter @Sarah_Willets.