The race for the East Ward City Council seat is shaping up to be a repeat of 2009.
Both City Council Member Derwin Montgomery and Joycelyn Johnson, whom Montgomery beat four years ago, announced their plans this week to run for the seat. Montgomery was an undergraduate student at Winston-Salem State University when he upset incumbent Johnson in the Democratic primary. The win in the heavily Democratic ward ensured him a seat on the City Council and a place in history, as he became the youngest elected official in the state.
During a reception at the Winston Mutual Building on Fifth Street Monday evening, he kicked off his reelection bid.
“We showed that things can be done that we think cannot happen,” he told supporters Monday, referencing his ’09 victory. “We have done great work over the past four years.”
Johnson, who served on the Council from 1993-2009, followed suit on Tuesday, with a noon hour gathering on the steps of City Hall.
“I feel like I’ve been an integral part of the changing of the fabric of not just the East Winston community, but the East Ward in particular,” the city native said of her motivation to run this time around. “I think I have a capacity to recognize strengths and weaknesses and opportunities in the community and come up with solutions.”
Mayor Allen Joines – who, like every member of the City Council, is up for reelection this year – attended both announcements.
“It’s been an honor to have served with (Montgomery). He’s a great, energetic, bright young man that has brought a lot of talent to the Council,” Joines said. “…It’s always been my pleasure to have worked with him. He’s always been a big supporter of economic development as we try to move this city forward.”
Joines also had kind words for Johnson, who he said impressed him with her work in establishing the city’s RUCA (Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas) program.
“Certainly, I always enjoyed working with Council Member Johnson over the last number of years,” he commented. “I certainly wish her the best in her election efforts as well.”
Johnson’s supporters believe she has what it takes to again represent the East Ward.
“She’s the reason I moved back to the East Ward,” said city native Ola Ashford, who worked closely with Johnson as a member of the East Winston Restoration Association. “…She was one of the ones that helped build East Winston and make it what it is today.”
Alder’s Point resident Geraldine Bentley said Johnson’s love for the East Ward community make her a strong candidate for the Council.
“She is a people person and she’s all about the community and helping the community and seeing it grow,” said Bentley, a retired preschool teacher. “She’s just an outstanding person, somebody that I would vote for and would want to be (a leader) for the community and for the city of Winston-Salem.”
Kay Sockwell, Johnson’s former colleague at Wake Forest Baptist Health, said she has witnessed Johnson’s work ethic firsthand.
“I know she will do a great job in East Winston,” Sockwell said. “I will be campaigning for her.”
Mongtomery’s supporters praised him for the positive change they say he has brought to the community.
“I really have watched him mature and go on to do what I consider to be some incredible things in East Winston,” said East Ward resident Algenon Cash. “I’ve seen more happen in the last four years than I saw in the 30 before.”
Pecan Ridge Neighborhood Association President Claudette Bailey said she isn’t one to endorse political candidates, but Montgomery’s dedication to the job has made her a believer.
“My friend Councilman Montgomery is a man of integrity. He has fulfilled his commitment and obligations to the community,” she said. “I believe that he will continue to be a visionary with a deep compassion for his fellow man.”
East/Northeast Neighborhood Association President Marva Reid has supported Montgomery since his first bid for office. Reid said Monday that he has lived up to her expectations.
“In my 62 years; I’ve finally see hope for East Winston in your leadership, and we need you to continue on,” she told Montgomery. “May God give you – and us – four more years in East Winston.”
Montgomery touted his campaign slogan, “Moving forward,” in his remarks.
“This is not a time for us to look back; we cannot sit back and rest on our successes,” he declared. “We must continue to move forward.”
City Council Member Denise “DD” Adams has also announced her intentions to run for re-election. Adams was sidelined by illness for over three months, but says she will be returning to work – and her full duties on the Council – on Monday.
“I’m rested, rejuvenated, excited. Am I running for reelection? Yes, without a doubt,” declared Adams, who represents the city’s North Ward. “I know we have done some good things with the city of Winston-Salem over the last four years. The Council has worked not as individuals, but as a team on almost everything that we’ve done, and I’m looking forward to continuing that teamwork.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, who told The Chronicle earlier this year that she was “thinking about” whether or not she would seek reelection, could not be reached for comment. James Taylor, who represents the city’s Southeast Ward, confirmed in January his plans to seek another term.