Larry O. Wright Sr., who represents District 7 on the Fayetteville City Council and was first elected in 2013, says the city is headed in the right direction and there are projects he wants to see finished.
Brenda McNair, a businesswoman who is challenging Wright in his bid for reelection, says there should be more transparency in city government and that city leaders need to do more to address crime.
Both Wright and McNair are ordained ministers.
“I take pride in everything that I do,” says McNair. “I care about the well-being of my family and the public. Collectively, Fayetteville can prevent and eliminate violence and improve the overall well-being of our city.”
Wright says city leaders have addressed crime with investments in police training and technology and hiring more police officers.
“I will be more interactive than ever before, because I believe the people are the government and we work for the people,” Wright says.
The election is set for July 26. Early voting is underway at the Cumberland County Board of Elections Office.
Wright, 64, has lived in Fayetteville since 1976. He was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. After his retirement from the Army, he decided to call Fayetteville home.
“I love the military because it taught me leadership skills and made me the man I am today,” Wright says.
He is the founder and CEO of Heal the Land Outreach Ministries, a Christian-based ministry that he says focuses on education, counseling, feeding the homeless and connecting people to resources.
“I am a strong leader,” Wright says. “I’m very passionate and love people. I respect everyone’s issue. You may have a problem that seems small to others, but if it’s a problem for you, it’s a problem for me.”
McNair, 60, has lived in Fayetteville for 22 years. She has never held elective office and is running on a position of change and as an advocate for the people. She is a minister at Simon Temple AME Zion Church.
An entrepreneur for 35 years, McNair’s businesses include Salon Nouveau 1, McNair Heat & Air Repair, Right Now Appliance Repair, Bail Me Out Bail Bonding, Bee Precise Lawn Care, Homebase Network Marketing, and McNair Real Estate. She also is an investor.
McNair is the mother of two sons, grandmother of 12, and great-grandmother of two children.
“I don’t play politics with people’s lives,” McNair says. “Transparency is a fundamental component of government and addresses the rights of citizens to know about the activities of their government.”
District 7 is in west Fayetteville and includes the Lake Rim, Lake Williams, Chestnut Hills and Southgate neighborhoods, some of the city’s oldest subdivisions. The area has a reputation as a transient one because of the high number of military families who live there.
CityView TODAY asked the candidates several questions about their visions for the city. Here’s what they said.
Why do you want to be elected to the City Council?
McNair: “I want to be an agent of change that will advocate for the people. I want to provide leadership and guidance to the public by encouraging them to have more meaningful input and participation in decisions made at City Hall. As such, the development of public policy.”
Wright: “I want to be on the council to continue the work we’ve been doing since 2013. The city is going in the right direction. We brought in Amazon and created jobs, and we became a smart city with Metronet coming in. We are about to do a $60 million-plus safety bond. We’re creating affordable-housing projects and created 180 affordable-housing units in District 7 alone. We’re working with partners to shelter the homeless and working with our Police Department with hiring and becoming more effective dealing with crime. We’ve created street paving and sidewalks in District 7, and I want to continue to be a part of that. There are some unfinished projects like the Bill Crisp Senior Center, and I want to be re-elected to finish the work.”
Crime in the city continues to rise, according to a recent report on the first quarter of 2022 by Police Chief Gina Hawkins to the City Council. Are city officials — and specifically, the police chief and the Police Department — doing enough to address crime? If not, what should they do differently?
McNair: “My business is located at 6085 Raeford Road in the Raeford Corner Plaza, which is shared with other businesses that attract people that have chosen a lifestyle that impacts my business in a negative way such as drug dealers and (the homeless). I have taken the initiative on this issue to connect with police and Crime Stoppers, schools, churches and other faith-based organizations.”
Wright: “We’ll continue our community policing initiatives initiated by our police chief that builds relationships between officers and the community. The initiative fosters relationships between the officers and the community they are policing. Community policing works through activities and fosters relationships with the youth in the community and allows the community to know the police officers. Also, we are hiring new police officers and making sure they have the right equipment. We’re providing funding for the latest technology. We’re providing de-escalation training for police officers and specialty training dealing with calls on mental health issues so they can quickly identify those people on the street. We also do gun buy-backs. Some may say you can’t get all the guns off the street, but every gun we get off the street is possibly a life saved. We are also doing town hall meetings and gathering the community for their input. It takes a whole community and (working) together. We can't arrest our way out of the problem.”
What comes to mind when you think of the citizens of District 7?
McNair: “The citizens in District 7 are divided and separated by crime, fear, poverty and a lack of true representation. I care greatly for District 7 because I live in District 7. Also, my businesses are in District 7. I have built relationships with the community, and the district has great potential for future change which will drive great people to our district. I want to help make District 7 a safe place to live by curbing violence through developing programs and policies.”
Wright: “It’s a transient community because of Fort Bragg. You have a lot of military people living in District 7. You have some of the oldest neighborhoods like Chestnut Hills and Southgate. You have a lot of senior citizens in that area. When I look at my senior citizens, they need to have a voice, and we should not forget about them. So we worked hard to get the Bill Crisp Senior Center built for our elders and those who are transitioning so the kids can have a pool out there. District 7 is one of the fastest-growing districts; a lot of great things are happening.”
Any ideas for improvements for the city of Fayetteville?
McNair: “I want to develop trending programs for the mentally disabled and substance abuse victims. We could develop businesses that will create jobs and entertainment programs and activity centers for the millennium. I want to build affordable housing and eliminate poverty through education and counseling. I want to build affordable state-of-the-art rehabilitation centers and retirement homes for the elderly. I want better-paying jobs and to encourage the citizens to attend their Community Watch meeting and City Hall meetings. Some subdivisions don’t have a community leader. I will encourage them to plan a meeting to bring their subdivision together and solicit volunteers to step up and lead their subdivision. By using their voices and getting involved, they can spark unity and help make our neighborhoods safer. We must deal with the root cause of the issues in our city. Then we can make Fayetteville a better place of tourism and a wonderful place to live, work and shop.''
Wright: “One is to combat gun violence. We need more training with our police officers and our community on how to prevent gun violence. That’s a systematic problem we seem to have that comes from homes and poverty, and how we were raised. We need to partner with our parents, community and city leaders to deal with gun violence. The other thing is to focus on our youth for them to have a safe place to get them off the street. I would like a facility that would house sports on a larger scale where we can be a destination for tournaments. It could also provide an economic impact for our city. The place would give our children sports inside year-round that would get them off the street, teach them leadership, responsibility and building self-esteem through sports. I believe this will impact crime in our community.''
Anything else you wish the voters to know?
McNair: “I will bring integrity, honesty and transparency to the council and work for all people. … The more a local government can provide transparency, the more it increases trust, honesty and integrity in government leaders. Transparency means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. I was born to serve, and I’m ready to serve the people. I will bring unity to the council and speak up when necessary on behalf of the people.''
Wright: “I vow to hear, listen and be approachable and put myself in a place where I can be contacted for those concerns and to react. … We the people form a more perfect union, so I want to get the community more involved in what goes on at the government level and keep them informed. I want to be transparent and honest, and I feel our character is one of the more important things we bring to the table.”