Top 10 stories of 2013: No. 10 A “Bear” is elected mayor
Published 6:17 pm Wednesday, December 25, 2013
A new mayor for Washington is the No. 10 story in the Washington Daily News’ list of top-10 stories for 2013.
Mac “Bear” Hodges was the overwhelming choice of Washington voters to replace Archie Jennings as mayor of the first city named in honor of Gen. George Washington, who later became first president of the United States of America. Hodges, who had never run for public office before, withstood a write-in mayoral campaign by Joseph Carter Leary.
Hodges collected 955 votes to Leary’s 97 votes, according to unofficial vote totals announced after the polls closed Election Day. On Dec. 8, outgoing Mayor Archie Jennings declared the election results official, clearing the way for Hodges to be sworn in as the city’s new mayor. Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons Jr. administered the oaths of office to Hodges.
In announcing his candidacy, Hodges, a Washington native, said, he was ready to step in to help guide the city toward a better future.
“I have lived in Washington all my life and now I have the time to give something back,” Hodges said. “I’d like to be able to help it remain the city we all love, and maybe become an even better place to live and work and retire.”
While he’s well-versed in downtown Washington — he was instrumental in the creation of Festival Park, a popular events venue and park on the Washington waterfront — Hodges said he’s studying the issues that affect all residents of Washington in preparation for his mayoral run.
“Overall, I’m trying to get up to speed quickly on the electric rate problem,” he said. “I think that’s one of the major issues that gets to people.”
Hodges, moments after being sworn in, thanked Jennings for his assistance in preparing him to assume the mayor’s chair.
“Archie, I want to thank you so much for trying to guide me through the process of staring from nowhere to jumping in the middle. This is like getting in the middle of a big soap opera.,” Hodges said.
“I thank the citizens for letting me have the opportunity to be the mayor for the next two years,” Hodges said.
In an interview, Hodges said improving the economic-development landscape in the city is one of his priorities as the new mayor. Hodges, a real-estate appraiser, said tourism is an increasingly important segment of that landscape and the city do what it can to expand and enhance its tourism-development efforts. The city has help in that effort, Hodges said, noting that organizations such as the Washington Harbor District Alliance, Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and similar agencies and nonprofit groups continue to work toward bringing tourists and their dollars to the city and surrounding areas.
Hodges has a long resume of service to the community, starting back in 1981 with the Washington Jaycees. Hodges was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine — one of the highest awards given in the state for service — by Gov. Jim Hunt and served as president of the Washington-Beaufort County Board of Realtors and president of the Beaufort County Pirate Club from 1994 to 2000. Over the years, he has been one of the movers and shakers behind the scenes for Washington’s Fourth of July celebration, the Beach Music festivals and the Motown Festival.
A real-estate appraiser by trade, Hodges said he has been dedicated to preserving, and revitalizing, the historic downtown business district, serving on first the Citizens for Revitalization steering committee and most recently as a director of the Washington Harbor District Alliance.
“Downtown has still got a lot of empty buildings. Carolina Avenue has some vacancies,” Hodges said. “We’ve got to find ways to recruit new business and figure out how to support existing businesses, which always seems to be a challenge.”