Three seats on the Mount Olive Town Board of Commissioners are being challenged and will be decided at the May 17 delayed local election.
Challenged are incumbents Vicky Darden, Harlie Carmichael and Dennis Draper.
All three seek their third term on the board.
Darden holds the District 1 seat. Carmichael is the District 2 commissioner, and Draper sits in the District 4 seat.
The other two incumbents, At-Large Commissioner Steve Wiggins and District 3 Commissioner Barbara Kornegay, who also seek their third term, are not being opposed.
The delayed election is set for May 17 and polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
Darden is being challenged by Andrade Olliver, a native of Mount Olive. He also sought the seat at the last election in 2019.
Carmichael is being challenged by newcomer, Delreese Simmons, a local businessman.
Draper faces challenger Tommy Brown, the town’s former police chief, who retired two years ago.
VICKY DARDEN | DISTRICT 1
District 1 Commissioner Vicky Darden seeks her third term. She said her goal is to serve “my town and my community as a member of the board of commissioners.”
“I will listen to my community’s needs and do my best to resolve their concerns,” she said.
Darden has a special place in her heart for disabled children and the elderly.
“I am very involved in community events, such as the Black History Parade, Sunday in the Park, and the Widow and Widowers New Beginnings Support Group. We started in July of 2012 to help grieving spouses. We had a toy drive and in partnership with the U.S. Postal Services, Widows and Widowers New Beginning is provided enough canned goods and non-perishable items to distribute to individuals each year. Household items such as heaters and fans are also provided in the community each year. We serve about 400 people,” she said.
Darden said the group has help from others, such as feeding the community at the First United Methodist Church. Giveaway boxes of food are also provided. She said 16 families donated and helped with the Neighborhood Energy Saver Program for low income residential customers.
The group also helps people with hearing loss with Clear Captions Telephone Service.
Darden said the biggest issue widows and widowers face is financial situations because of the lost income of the spouse.
“It makes it very difficult to be self sufficient,” she said.
Darden is also a former Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade.
She said she just enjoys helping people.
ANDRADE OLLIVER | DISTRICT 1
Her opponent, Andrade Olliver, has not responded to efforts to reach him, and did not provide a contact number at the board of elections when he filed for the seat.
Darden defeated him by 28 votes in the 2019 election, 92-64.
Two years ago he campaigned on a platform of helping businesses in the south end of Mount Olive, helping younger people, and assisting inmates released into the community after prison sentences.
HARLIE CARMICHAEL | DISTRICT 2
Mount Olive’s District 2 Town Commissioner Harlie Carmichael is seeking a third term on the board. He said he is committed to making Mount Olive a better place to live, work and raise a family.
He is a native of Mount Olive and the son of the late Harlie and Geneva Carmichael.
He is a graduate from Carver High School and is a lifetime member of the Carver Alumni.
Carmichael pulled a tour of duty with the U.S. Army, and moved to Akron, Ohio in 1968 where he attended Akron University.
He was employed with the Akron Edison Company for 41 years before returning to Mount Olive in 2015.
He and his wife, Della, attend Mount Gilead Missionary Baptist Church where he also serves as a deacon.
He said he seeks another term of office because he wants to see Mount Olive move forward.
“I have worked on committees along with other board of commissioners and want to see projects completed: moratorium lifted, a new fire station, sidewalks on the south end of town, roads resurfaced and repaired, ditches piped and a walking trail at Nelson Street Park,” he said.
He currently serves on the town’s public works committee.
Carmichael said, “Together we stand and divided we fall.”
DELREESE SIMMONS | DISTRICT 2
Simmons is a native of Mount Olive, and is the son of Ann Carol Simmons and Pernell Simmons.
He is owner of Gator Bouncy Houses and Party Rentals, and Gator Power Washing and Disinfecting.
He is a member of Deeper Life Ministries, founded by his uncle, Apostle Norbert Simmons, who serves as pastor emeritus.
Simmons said he comes from a long line of community leaders and advocates.
“I create my businesses to provide employment opportunities for people in the community. I love this town and understand that changes can be made without having a political position. However, I want to be in the rooms where the important decisions are made. That is why I am running for the District 2 seat,” he said.
He said he feels he has the ability to translate vision into reality.
His vision for Mount Olive is crystal clear.
“I believe all residents of Mount Olive deserve the same opportunities no matter what district they reside in. I have been working diligently to rebuild and enhance the neighborhood of District 2 and will continue the efforts,” he said.
The most important parts of his plans are to communicate with citizens regarding their needs, advocate on their behalf, and work closely with other commissioners on the town board to build coalitions, he said.
DENNIS DRAPER | DISTRICT 4
“It is my opinion that this year’s election is one of major significance to our town,” Draper said.
“As many already know, we as a town have faced and are facing substantial problems. However, at the same time, it is my belief that we have made positive strides in dealing with several problems that have previously confronted the town,” Draper said. “Having hired a professional accountant to act as our finance director, we are finding that the handling of our finances is currently in a much better condition than previously.”
“The morale and strength of our police department is currently improved.
“Last year, we were able to get two new fire trucks for less than the price of one. We now gave land for a much needed fire house.”
“Currently, we are working to get off the moratorium placed on our wastewater treatment plant by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). This is being done to correct a poorly designed and engineered wastewater treatment system that was then poorly constructed. The companies who designed, engineered, and constructed this system subsequently went out of business and left the Town of Mount Olive holding the bag. Additionally, maintenance of this facility was poorly funded and under maintained.”
Draper went on to say the current construction project will hopefully get the town’s current treatment plant where it should have been a number of years ago.
“Currently, we are applying for a $15 million grant to do upgrades to the plant and to replace pipes throughout town that are 40 to 50 years old and are deteriorating to the point that whenever we have a major storm or hurricane we have overflow at the treatment plant and are subsequently fined by DEQ each time this happens,” said Draper.
South Center Street has also been host to several major flooding events.
He said the CSX Railroad tracks are quite effective as a dam, backing water into people’s homes during major storms and hurricanes.
Currently, the town is seeking funds to install pipes under the railroad to alleviate the problem, Draper explained.
He also said, “From my own experience and from the experiences it takes a year or two after coming on the board to begin to realize the scope of the problems and the solutions to deal with them along with finding the funding to make things happen. With this in mind and my awareness of what is needed, I am seeking reelection.”
TOMMY BROWN | DISTRICT 4
Draper’s opponent, former Police Chief Tommy Brown said he is offering “tried and trusted leadership you can depend on.”
He said he will also be honest, compassionate and caring in his service as a board member.
Brown has a long list of achievements and certifications earned during his 30-year law enforcement career.
“Throughout my tenure as a law enforcement officer for the Town of Mount Olive, and more especially as Chief of Police, the outpouring of support and trust I got from the community and businesses was nothing short of amazing. I truly feel indebted to everyone in Mount Olive for that. I feel that I am at a point in my life that I can give the same level of support and trust back to the citizens of this town by becoming your District 4 Commissioner,” Brown said.
Brown and his wife, Carie, are parents of six children.
Prior to Brown becoming a police officer with the town of Mount Olive, he had previously been employed as an officer with the Duplin County Sheriff’s Department and the Wallace Police Department.
He came to Mount Olive in 1998 and worked his way through the ranks and was named chief in 2015. He retired in 2020.
The Browns are members of the Mount Olive Presbyterian Church.
KENNY TALTON | MAYOR
Two Mount Olive natives, incumbent Kenny Talton and newcomer J. Jerome Newton, are vying for the town’s mayoral seat.
Talton currently serves as the planning director for the city of Goldsboro. He said he is proud of the accomplishments since he was elected and the opportunity to work alongside a fantastic group of people.
As part of the town’s board of commissioners, Talton said the group has worked tirelessly in numerous areas to get the town “back on track.”
“[We’ve worked] in many areas such as wastewater treatment plant rehabilitation, repairs to sanitary sewer infrastructure as they relate to inflow and infiltration, new leadership consisting of a town manager, new police chief, new finance director and new town clerk,” Talton said.
“[We’ve] improved financing and improved record keeping, downtown revitalization and beautification, new policies and procedures allowing citizens to have a voice in the decision-making process of local government through citizen advisory committees.”
However, Talton said work remains to be done.
Commissioners are seeking grant funding to improve issues associated with a century-old sewer system that runs underneath the town and upgrading an aging wastewater treatment plant that currently has just two employees.
“Much progress has been made and I hope the citizens of Mount Olive will put their trust in me to continue to see these projects through in the next two years,” Talton said.
J. JEROME NEWTON | MAYOR
A former adjutant professor of religion at the University of Mount Olive, Newton listed a few goals he’d like to accomplish if elected as mayor.
His aspirations include commitment, trusted leadership, upgrade of the environmental infrastructure of the public works system and initiate community engagement to learn about the residents’ needs and concerns.
Like the current board of commissioners, Newton has plans to achieve community revitalization and pursue opportunities to enrich the quality of life for all residents of Mount Olive.
Newton is an alum of Southern Wayne and Winston-Salem State. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and retired from service after achieving the rank of major.
He returned home to care for his ailing mother, Bernice Newton. He attributes his success to her and described her as “a little five-foot-two lady who carried a big stick.”
He currently serves as interim national president of the Carver Alumni & Friends Association.