Warsaw Mayor Connors’ Has Vision for a Better Communityby Cash Michaels, GDN Contributing writer December 18, 2017
Rev. A. J. Connors, 58, was sworn-in Monday, Dec. 11th, along with Commissioner Valerie Nelson and other new town commission members, but Mayor Connors was moving and shaking to make Warsaw a better place to live of everyone long before that.
“My goal is to reach a company that will [come to Warsaw] with jobs for 200 people or more,” the mayor says, intent on building Warsaw into a community of opportunity, without harming its small town charm and uniqueness. Indeed, Mayor Connor is proud that Warsaw (population estimated at 3,154 in 2016) is centrally located between Raleigh, Fayetteville and Wilmington, without all of the traffic, high taxes or other high costs associated with quality living elsewhere.
Beyond being a senior pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church for over thirteen years (He said he’s leaving in a few months to pastor another church), working as a substitute teacher, serving in the military, and now being a moderator at the KEMBA Center, being elected mayor by one of the tightest local electoral margins on record is just the latest accomplishment for a man who sincerely believes GOD has yet another challenge to do good by others with.
“It seems like every Sunday school lesson we had [after I was asked, and started having doubts about running] for over a month [after] was about the odd people GOD called to serve,” Mayor Connors recalls.
The race, as indicated before, was a tight one, but Mayor Connors feels it shouldn’t have been because more citizens should have voted.
“Some folks want the work done, but they don’t want to help do it,” Connors opined, adding that people began making excuses for not casting their ballots.
With the job market soft in Warsaw, and the need for more business investments vital, Mayor Connors saw the need for establishing an economic development committee in the town. That panel would put together “a package plan” that would be sent out to companies across the state and nation, inviting them to move their operations to Warsaw.
“We want them to see what we have to offer,” Connors continued, adding that an important member of that team is a real estate agent who could point to where the available land is for prospective companies to consider.
“Because there’s a lot of land that’s for sale, that doesn’t have a “For Sale” sign on it.”
Naturally, the mayor and the town manager would visit some of the companies who express interest in setting up shop in Warsaw, inviting them to come and “look around.”
Targeting abandoned properties, particularly in downtown, is another mission of the economic development team. Because they deface the community, the team targets these properties for special attention because they ultimately hurt the positive profile that downtown Warsaw should have, the mayor said.
And then there’s the town’s “Second Chance” program, giving those who have been caught up with the criminal justice system a chance to redeem themselves through a counseling program, and ultimately earn an honest living and make a good-paying career.
Mayor Connor realizes that in order for local government to work will for the citizens it serves, it must have healthy working relationship with other governmental entities in the town and county. He points to how the town works closely with the Duplin Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners, and Connors see it as imperative that he attend their meetings, and be kept up-to-date on how their policies are affecting Warsaw.
- J. Connors grew up near Turkey, not far from Warsaw. He moved away several years ago, but eventually came back in 2002. He was in the midst of a separation heading towards divorce, having to raise his then three-year-old child, with the help of family. For work, Connors became a substitute teacher, a vocation that eventually became more full-time.
When he is not serving as mayor, or a senior pastor, Rev. Connors is the moderator, or Bishop” of the KEMBA [Kenansville Eastern Missionary Baptist Association] Center, Middle District headquartered in Burgaw. Rev. Connors’ job is to oversee 48 member churches, looking into whatever problems they may have, sometimes preaching when needed.
When Greater Diversity News interviewed Town Commissioner Valerie Nelson recently, she noted that there are parts of Warsaw that are treated much differently than those where the well-to-do reside. Mayor Connors agrees, and says those inequities need to be addressed.
“Some particular areas should have been taken care of some time ago, but weren’t,” the mayor says. “There’s been some imbalance. What is good on the East side of town should be done on the West side.”