GDN Profiles: Winfall, NC Mayor Fred Yates Says Future Looks Brightby Cash Michaels, GDN Contributing writer January 10, 2018
He’s been Mayor of the small Perquimans County Town of Winfall since 1993, and yet if you ask him, there are still a few things in town that must be accomplished before he leaves.
Thus, it is no surprise that Mayor Frederick Lee Yates, after eleven terms, is already considering yet another run for the office he’s proudly held for the last 25 years.
“I’m anticipating on trying to make up my mind to run again one more time,” he told Greater Diversity News. “I’ve got some things I’d like to finish up.”
Mayor Yates, the first African-American to serve as Mayor of Winfall, is a retiree of the US Marine Corps. He hails from West Virginia, having attended West Virginia State College before coming to North Carolina.
During his long tenure as Mayor of a town listed as having a current population of just over 600 per the latest US Census figures, Winfall has seen the construction of a new Town Hall building in 2003, a new building for the town volunteer fire department (along with new fire trucks); Winfall Landing Park was established on the Perquimans River ; eighteen homes were renovated under a block grant from the Department of commerce; and a $6.4 million sewer system was installed throughout the entire town.
Sixty-one percent of Winfall’s population is white and 38 percent is African-American. The median age for the town is 42, and the median household income is $27,386.
Most small North Carolina towns are doing what they can to attract more industries, small businesses, retail chains and investors so that more jobs can be created. Winfall is no different in terms of wanting to improve its employment picture, but thus far, the level of success is not where Mayor Yates believes it should be.
“That’s the only piece that we have not been able to master,” he admitted. A local restaurant closed, thus costing some residents their jobs. But also, a carwash and another restaurant recently opened, so Yates sees a glimmer of hope to potentially build on.
There’s also hope on the home-buying front, the Mayor adds, says that there are folks who are “moving in because they feel that they are safer in Winfall.”
“Several homes have been built, with one house under construction right now, along with some mobile homes that have been brought in,” Mayor Yates said.
The town has part-time law enforcement on patrol, which includes the police chief.
“We keep the town clean, and people appreciate it,” Yates adds.
Mayor Yates is well-known, and respected in Northeast North Carolina for his years of leadership on various boards, and with numerous organizations, including serving as vice chair of the Elizabeth City State University Board of Trustees; former president of the Perquimans County Branch of the NAACP; and former chairman of the Black Mayors Conference of NC.
For two years he was also chairperson of the Alliance of North Carolina Black Elected Officials (ANCBEO), which consisted of all black elected officials across the state coming together to address public policy as it affects African-Americans across the state.
Yates also served as president of the Eastern North Carolina Civic Group, which encompasses 23 Northeastern counties, which “…advocated for minority and poor people” of the region, focusing specifically on economic development, quality of education, and health.
“Originally it started out with 13 counties, but it has grown,” Mayor Yates said. He is also quick to point out that while he may have led ANCBEO and the NC Eastern Civic Group during very successful years, the team of administrators he worked with were also responsible for those successes.
Yates, who is very active in his church and other community and civic organizations, is married to his wife, Arlene of many years. They are the proud parents of six adult children, and thirty-two grand and great grandchildren.
But back to Winfall, Mayor Fred Yates says the future looks good, as long as the people who live there participate, and pull together to make it a better community.