Longtime Goldston mayor Tim Cunnup will not seek reelection

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GOLDSTON — Tim Cunnup, Goldston’s mayor for more than two decades, will not seek reelection in November, he confirmed to the News + Record.

His decision to step back from the town’s highest elected office marks the conclusion of a storied career in public service, which saw Goldston invert its fate: from the precipice of obscurity to a propitious future.

“When I came on, I saw Goldston as a town that was going to be left behind,” said Cunnup, who will turn 65 in April. “I saw at that point that if Goldston was to survive for the future, we had to have some growth. And as stringent as environmental regulations were becoming, we had to have a sewer system in place.”

Installation of sewer infrastructure became Cunnup’s primary goal when he was first elected as mayor in the 1990s. Previously he had served 23 years total, he said, with a two-year gap, and was a town commissioner beforehand. Every residence and business in town employed septic tanks, and many were nearing failure. To attract new industry and protect residents’ properties, Goldston needed a centralized sewer system. It took 16 years and about $8 million, but Cunnup and the board of commissioners finally realized their goal within the last few years.

“It was the number one thing that we had worked on for so long,” Cunnup said, “being able to implement the sewer system within town because we were a non-sewered community ... When you’re looking at a town the size of Goldston, being able to implement that type of infrastructure was without question our greatest achievement while I was in.”

Other significant projects under Cunnup’s leadership included a new town hall, a new library and renovations to the town’s playgrounds. Still, Goldston’s above-ground aesthetic wouldn’t seem to indicate much change over the last 20 years, Cunnup said. But new, robust infrastructure is a fillip to fresh development.

“Goldston has not changed much at all in many, many years, due to those limitations,” he said of the town’s sewer. “But now that we’re there, we have a great opportunity to move forward and have a revitalization of our town with not only business growth but some residential growth, too, which we need.”

Cunnup is confident such growth is coming, but content to support the efforts from the sidelines with a new leader at the helm.

“It was certainly a hard decision because when you’ve done something that long and you’ve worked on so many projects, it’s sort of hard to give it all up,” Cunnup said of stepping down. “But at the same time, I’m approaching retirement age, and really have been hoping for some younger people to get involved in town government. And that time has come, so I feel like it’s time for the old guy to move on and get some young blood in and let them take it over and run with it.”

His likely successor will be Jonathan Hensley, who is completing his first term as Goldston’s at-large commissioner and is seeking the mayor’s seat in this year’s election cycle. Hensley is the only filed candidate, according to Chatham County’s board of elections, and will win the seat precluding any substantial write-in campaigns.

“Tim has done an incredible job with the town getting our city sewer up and running, which was a huge hurdle for the town,” Hensley told the News + Record. “That was limiting our growth and kind of locking the community into staying stagnant ... His are definitely big shoes to fill, but if I can be half the mayor Tim has been I should be able to do something halfway decent.”

Cunnup is confident Hensley’s the right man for the job.

“I see good things in Jonathan,” he said. “He was with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years and now he manages his family’s restaurant, Rufus’, here in town. I think he’s got a lot of great ideas and energy to put toward future leadership.”

As for Cunnup, stepping away from his official capacity doesn’t mean he’ll be absent from public discourse.

“I still want to be available to them as an advisor and to help as I can in this transition period,” he said. “But I would really like to be able to spend more time with my family and my grandchild and do some of the more fun things in life that I look forward to, maybe travel more.”

Nearly 30 years in public service, though, will always have been one of Cunnup’s greatest privileges, he said.

“I have really enjoyed the over two decades of my life in serving this town and the people,” he said. “It’s been a great honor for me and I’m just happy that I was able to do it and be a part of what I believe to be some very significant things that have happened in that period of time.”

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.


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