Durham sworn in as mayor, begins making changes

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Williamston’s new mayor, Dr. R. Mack Durham and councilmembers David Harvell and Otis Scott were sworn into their respective positions in a private ceremony Wednesday morning at the Williamston Municipal Center.

The ceremony was not publically announced and a public swearing in ceremony will be held at the first meeting of Council on January 7 according to the new mayor. Durham said he and the council members officially take office on January 1 and they wanted to go ahead and take their official oath of office.

On his first day in office, Durham wasted no time in implementing changes that he ran on during the election and as a member of council.

Tony Taylor, 49, who worked with the Criminal Justice Academy since 2007, was named by Durham as the town’s new Police Chief.

The position has remained open since the resignation of former Chief Jay Grubbs.

Grubbs will also be returning to the department as Captain over the uniformed patrol officers.

Durham said he had accepted several applications to consider for the position before deciding on Taylor.

Durham said Taylor and Administrative Captain Kevin Marsee will play a big role in re-doing the police department budget and in implementing a 15 percent across the board reduction the new mayor wants.

“They will be a big part of making budgetary changes to get the town back in line financially,” he said.

The reduction is part of Durham’s plan to bring the town’s finances back into the black by the end of the fiscal year in June.

As part of his plan, which calls for the elimination of two high paying salaries, Administrator Phyllis Lollis has been “suspended” and Public Works Director Tim Hood had been let go, the mayor said.

Durham said that Lollis has been suspended with pay and that the question of what to do with the administrator position will be discussed by Council at the next meeting.

He said the position will be redefined and he hopes council will consider making the position part-time.

“I know the changes are aggressive,” Durham said. “We are going to have to have aggressive changes to make up in six months what the town needs, to find the money to finish the fiscal year in the black.”

Durham said he did not do away with the position held by Hood and that council can reconsider rehiring him or someone else. He said the changes are necessary to preserve services to the citizens of Williamston.

He said the town will not go up on fees or taxes.

“We will tighten our belts and be more fiscally responsible. These are the kind of changes that have to be put into effect.”