You could say elections in Tar Heel this year are wide open. No one in this rural town of about 117 registered as candidates for any of its four elected positions, and now the deadline has expired, Bladen County Board of Elections Director Cynthia Shaw said Friday.
“The filing period for Tar Heel was the same as it was for everyone else, and no one stepped up to the plate,” she said.
The county elections board declined to extend the deadline for candidate filings, meaning ballots will be printed with blank spaces allowing voters to write in their preferences. “We’ve had single offices without candidates before, but this is the first time I can remember a whole town not filing for any of the offices,” Shaw said.
Tar Heel, about 25 miles south of Fayetteville, is home to a giant pork plant operated by the Smithfield Packing Co. and about 87 registered voters. Its government consists of a mayor and three commission members, all of them part time.
“Nobody in our community does the job as a politician,” said Mayor Ricky Martin, who’s moving and is ineligible to run again. “It’s your friends, your relatives and your neighbors.”
Martin said he’s not surprised no one wants an elected job in Tar Heel. Many residents spend much of their time working at jobs outside the town, while others are wary of the demands of elected office.
And, of course, there’s the economy.
“When you have to tell your friends and your family and your neighbors that you’re going to raise their taxes, that’s not a good thing,” he said, although the current leadership has managed to avoid tax hikes.
No one’s sure exactly what will happen next. If there are no clear winners after the write-in ballots are tallied, Martin said, he and the current commissioners may be unable to leave office, at least for the near future.