SILER CITY — The Rev. Dr. Albert Reddick, a regular on Siler City municipal elections ballots since 2013, is planning another go at the mayor’s seat — seeking to replace the late John …
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SILER CITY — The Rev. Dr. Albert Reddick, a regular on Siler City municipal elections ballots since 2013, is planning another go at the mayor’s seat — seeking to replace the late John Grimes.
Reddick has been a perennial figure in the town’s political scene since moving to Siler City, his wife’s hometown, about 10 years ago. He has run for mayor in the last four elections, taking second place in the polls each year to Mayor John Grimes.
Grimes, who was re-elected to his fourth term of mayor in 2019, died in office in October. In December, the board of commissioners elected to keep his seat vacant until 2021’s November elections. Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Bray has presided over commissioner meetings in the interim.
Back in 2019, Reddick’s campaign focused on unifying a diverse community, economic growth that would bring jobs that paid a living wage, revitalizing downtown, and affordable safe housing. He finished second in the race — trailing Grimes 468 votes to 176 — earning 23 percent of the vote. Jackie Adams, a first-time candidate and Siler City business owner, finished third with 15 percent of the votes.
If elected, Reddick hopes to distance Siler City from a history of racial and cultural homogeneity, especially among its leadership. His first action as mayor would be to evaluate how well the town represents and serves all of its residents.
“I think the most important thing would be sitting down with the heads of all the (town) departments in his community,” he said. “I do not think that there’s any diversity among any of the department heads in this community. There’s no diversity.”
That’s troubling, he says, when so many who live in Siler City are non-white.
“We live in a community where the Hispanic population, the African American population are making up almost a majority of the population,” Reddick said. “And I believe that at this point the Hispanic population has outgrown the African American population in this community.”
About 60% of Siler City is white, according to the most recently available U.S. Census data. Most of the remaining population is Black and/or Hispanic.
Still, the town’s leadership, he says, represents a narrow subset of its population and cannot best serve the community until a broader spectrum of ideas and backgrounds are involved in decision-making processes.
“Instead, now decisions which ultimately affect the masses are relegated to personal opinion, beliefs and ideologies of just a few,” Reddick said.
After addressing the town’s unequal representation, Reddick will turn his attention to its financial woes, he said.
“We need to work on how to generate income in this community ... First would be to have a meeting with staff to deal with their budget issues and their concerns, and then to find out what is actually the city’s revenue,” he said.
Reddick laments that while average metrics across Chatham suggest a thriving county, Siler City is substantially poorer than its eastern neighbors such as Pittsboro.
“We know the county is booming,” he said, “but what is Siler City’s position in view of the situation?”
Underfunding is most palpable in Siler City’s police department, Reddick says, as evidenced by the town’s mounting crime rate. But even without an immediate inflow of new revenue, Reddick thinks the police department could better quell Siler City’s criminal activity if community members felt more comfortable with the town’s police force.
“Helping to address crime is establishing a police force that is friendly,” he said, “and here to provide a caring service to the community.”
In contrast, Reddick says, community members — especially those of color — feel intimidated by the town’s police officers.
“I know there have been some problems in the police department in terms of profiling certain persons in the community,” he said. “But we have not got all the details.”
Siler City Police Chief Mike Wagner said he hasn’t had a chance to talk with Reddick about his concerns.
Reddick, who will be 75 by election time, feels his background and expertise match what Siler City needs to grow and improve. Having grown up in Brunswick County, “when Jim Crow still terrorized the streets,” he is attuned to long-ingrained social issues that still foster racial tension, he said. “I was told then, as Siler City is now, that I had no prospects, no opportunity, no future.”
“On a wing and a prayer,” Reddick enrolled at North Carolina Central University where he eventually graduated with three degrees: Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in political science and history, and a Juris Doctor degree from NCCU’s law school. He later attended Eastern University in Pennsylvania where he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in theology, a subject he also studied during a stint at Duke University.
Since then, Reddick has made it his life’s mission to overcome social borders and has achieved a long list of “firsts.”
“I became the first minority minister of a majority-white United Methodist congregation in Pennsylvania history,” he said. “I was the first African American account agent at Allstate, and the first African American to receive a loan from Wachovia Bank for my small business, Ray’s Dairy Bar.”
Since retiring, Reddick has dedicated himself to philanthropic work. In 2015, he co-founded The Becoming One Community Enrichment and Diversity Center, a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization in Siler City. The group works to “provide tutoring, a safe refuge for latchkey kids, life-skills training and so much more to bring Siler City closer together,” Reddick said.
He hopes that a position in town government will help him to extend the breadth of his mission — to improve life in Siler City for the town’s many, diverse populations.
“As Chatham has grown, Siler City has shrunken,” he said. “Unemployment and violent crime are up. Wages are down. At a per capita income of $18,000, one in four of our neighbors live below the poverty line. Two in five don’t have access to the Internet. Meanwhile, every day, children live in fear of being deported from the only home they ever knew.”
The town’s mission statement, Reddick said, already calls for the change he wants.
“It says ‘to advance a framework for our success through governance, dynamic partnerships, and an engaged community,’” he said. “And the vision statement says, ‘Siler City is a safe, prosperous and vibrant community where diversity, innovation and education drive success in a globally competitive society.’”
But to Reddick, more must be done to make vision a reality.
“The mission and vision statement, although it’s very noble and virtuous, can only be attained when transformational leadership exists,” he said, “that propels all stakeholders towards attainable success.”
Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @dldolder.