Wellford Mayor Sallie Peake Meets Tough Questions by Challenger

Wellford Mayor Sallie Peake

Tommy Watson Candidate for Mayor

Wellford Mayor Sallie Peake Meets

Tough Questions by Challenger

Anne Ring

Longtime and often outspoken mayor of

Wellford, Sallie Peake has opposition in her

bid for re-election this June. Mayor Peake

says she is not worried. She has been Mayor

of Wellford for sixteen years and says she

believes that Mr. Thomas Watson is only after

the $20,000 salary.


We caught up with Mayor Peake and candidate

for mayor Thomas “Tommy” Watson

at the May meeting of the Wellford City

Council. After the first reading of the

ordinance on their tax exempt status being

approved and the first reading of the repeal

regarding the Fire Marshall’s ordinance

passing , Candidate Watson, was granted

the floor. Watson began by asking Town Council questions

and some were met with no immediate ford Mayor

clear answers.Watson’s first question

Involved a building at 797 Main St. in Wellford

That was supposedly given to the town to

be used as a museum. Work has

begun on the building, but as of May 4 it is still in

the name of Mr. Gist the supposed former

owner of the building. In addition, according

to Channel 7 and Watson, no permits for

remodeling have been secured, no licensed

contractors are involved, and no asbestos

testing has been done. Mr. Gist bought the

building for $28,000.00 in 1989. It was

most recently assessed at $16,500.00. According

to Mayor Peake $26,000.00 of taxpayer

money has been spent on a building

and had no comment about the lack of documentation

to confirm the city’s ownership of of the building.

Mayor Peake did emphasize that the money

for the renovation doesn’t come from regular tax funds,

but from hospitality tax funds.

Watson then asked about non-city employees using city vehicles

to haul materials for the building. Mayor Peake assured

Watson that only city employees were allowed the use

of city vehicles. Watson also questioned the use of the city

vehicle for Mayor Peake to campaign in. Peake explained

that she had gone door-to-door with a sewer handout that

had nothing to do with her re-election campaign. “When

you see me in a city car, I am for city business,” the Mayor

stated. She said that she would not begin her re-election

campaign until two weeks before the election.

In his final questioning, Watson queried why a $60.00 assessment

fee was being levied on residents for a $63,000.00

tractor-mower being financed through First Citizens Bank.

After the council had recessed, Mayor Peake explained that

the town needed to establish an account to borrow money.

She stated that attorney Tim Harbison advised them to open

the account to borrow money for infrastructure. After the

meeting was recessed the Bulletin asked Mayor Peake as

to why Wellford needed to borrow money. Peake explained

that Mayor Turner of Lyman was raising the sewer fee to

generate revenue for his town. Peake said that Wellford had

had a broken meter on their sewer line and had finally gotten

it replaced, but Lyman had continually arbitrarily raised the

fees on it. Because all of the forty-one houses on the line

were low income residents, Peake said they could not afford

to pay the rising fees. Challenger Watson questions the low

number of houses said to be on the sewer line by Peake.

We spoke with Mayor Rodney Turner of Lyman over the

phone and asked him to respond to Peake’s assessment of

the sewer fee increase, Turner explained that Wellford’s

meter had broken five years before he was elected Mayor.

Somehow a flat fee of $5,000.00 per year was assigned in

the interim to Wellford for sewer service for the town which

is provided by Lyman. One of the first changes Mayor

Turner made when he was elected was to insist that Wellford

replace the broken meter. According to the user agreement,

Wellford must install and maintain a meter. Charges

are based on flow indicated by Wellford’s meter. When the

new meter with accurate rates was up and running, charges

to Wellford were adjusted accordingly. According to Mayor

Turner, Mayor Peake continued to pay the flat fee and ignored

the current charges. Turner says that Lyman is currently

receiving less than half the proper payment for sewer

services. Mayor Peake says that her low income constituents

cannot afford the adjustment over the $27.50 sewer fee

they now pay, and says that Lyman is suing Wellford. Lyman’s

Mayor says they have not yet sued, but both have

lawyers working to straighten out the situation.

Mayor Peake had mentioned several times that her challenger

Thomas Watson had been fired from his GSP Airport

employment recently. Watson’s rebuttal to Peake’s

assertion to his employment disposition came in a phone

interview after the meeting. Watson said he was Chief of

Police in Lyman from 1980 -1990 when he went to work at

GSP. He retired from GSP but then later decided to return

to work there. Recently, when new Board Members were

appointed, severance packages became available and Watson

said he decided to once again retire. He stated that he

had considered running before, but never had the time to

serve. Now that his situation has changed, he is ready to

work for the people of Wellford.

The election for Wellford mayor will be held on June 7,

2011. All four city precincts will vote at Wellford Baptist