KINSTON, N.C. (WITN) - A new mayor and new city council members took the oath of office Monday in one city in the east after a historic election last month.
The excitement wasn't the only thing that packed Kinston City Hall. Filling the council chambers past maximum capacity with extra benches and chairs, even people sitting on the floor, dozens watched as Don Hardy was sworn in as Kinston's mayor after narrowly defeating former mayor B.J. Murphy in November's election.
"It was amazing," says Mayor Hardy. "This was the first time I ever saw people have to sit on the floor. We had no room to sit. As a matter of fact, I was standing up against the wall. So that meant a lot to me, that means the community really, really cares about their community."
Hardy served in the U.S. Navy, was a police officer with Kinston and currently serves with the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office and UNC Lenoir Healthcare Public Safety Department.
He says his main focus will be focusing on infrastructure and the continued growth of the downtown area. "We must work together. Law enforcement officers must establish rapport in the community. Do the things we need to do to get the community moving in the forward direction. You know this city is great, but we want to make it greater."
Also, Kristal Suggs was sworn into city council, completing the first-ever entirely African American council in Kinston's history.
"Being part of history, all together at any time is amazing," the new councilwoman says. "It's truly amazing. The inner-city population of Kinston, within Lenoir County, the city of Kinston itself is predominantly African American, so it represents what this city consists of."
Felicia Solomon was appointed mayor pro tem. Robert Swinson held that position. He was re-elected to council, but not appointed mayor pro tem.
This council meeting was primarily ceremonial. There were two items on the agenda for public comment, but those items were postponed for the January meeting.
It will be a historic day when Kinston swears in its new mayor and council Monday.
Swearing in ceremonies are set to take place at 5:30 pm at Kinston city hall, where there will be an all African American city council, including mayor.
Political newcomer Don Hardy beat incumbent BJ Murphy to become mayor, while Kristal Suggs, also a political novice, beat out Nathan Perry for a council seat.
Incumbent Robert Swinson was also re-elected to the other open council seat.
Both Suggs and Hardy say they're excited to work on projects pertaining to youth, revitalization and flood prevention and recovery.