Three Durham City Council members convened for their final meeting this week. Two of the three did not go by choice; they lost their re-election bids.
Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden has been on the council for 16 years. She lost her Ward 1 seat this month to DeDreana Freeman.
Cole-McFadden was first elected to the council the same year as retiring Mayor Bill Bell in 2001. She has been a longtime supporter of Bell, but while the mayor didn’t seek re-election, Cole-McFadden sought to stay. She started her concession speech with “what a loss for Durham.” At least she was leaving office at the same time as Bell, she said.
Cole-McFadden has said after being so involved in Durham all her life, a real highlight was honoring Rosa Parks. The late Parks was a civil rights leader whose refusal to give up her bus seat for a white man sparked the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott.
“There was a banquet in her honor, and I had the blessing of spending a weekend with her,” said Cole-McFadden, who was working for the city at the time of Parks’ visit.
At her final regular council meeting Monday, council member Steve Schewel, the mayor-elect, thanked Cole-McFadden for being “Durham’s greatest ambassador” and her committment to diversity and racial justice. He said she doesn’t just talk the talk about what the city should be doing for young people, she walks the walk.
Ward 2 City Council member Eddie Davis did not seek a second term, so he’s leaving, too. Davis will be replaced by the Rev. Mark-Anthony Middleton.
While Davis only served one term, he’s known to many as a retired teacher from Hillside High School. In Davis’ final months on the council, he has usually been the one requesting the Pledge of Allegiance be recited by someone he invited or a proclamation read honoring someone from Durham.
It was Davis who recognized former educator and World War II veteran John H. Lucas at the meeting the week of Veterans Day. And it was Davis who helped resolve a complaint this fall about a longtime horseshoes competition. He went to the event himself, and offered a solution that the city not try to stop the games, but instead sponsor them through Durham Parks and Recreation. During long council work sessions, after a city staffer’s report, it was often Davis who first said thank you for their work.
Schewel lauded Davis’ service as a community historian and said that with the city’s 150th anniversary coming up in 2019, there would be an opportunity for Davis to be involved.
And in Ward 3, City council member Don Moffitt ran for re-election but did not make it through the primary. Vernetta Alston won the Ward 3 seat.
Moffitt has spent five years on council, first appointed to N.C. Sen. Mike Woodard’s old seat, then winning an election. Moffitt has been the council member in meetings who asks the detailed questions about a proposal and also the practical ones, like how much something will cost.
“What stands out for me is the the questions,” Schewel said about Moffitt. “The [questions] that have made the work of the staff and council better.”
The City Council’s work session on Tuesday, Moffitt’s last, was no different, with Moffitt asking questions and explaining to a resident how public hearings work.
The three new council members will be sworn in at the Dec. 4 Durham City Council meeting.
While Cole-McFadden is leaving council, she’ll still be paying attention.
“I don’t plan to stop coming to City Hall. I’m going to be watching you – each of the new City Council people I will watch,” she said.