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Oxford mayor's election loss comes in wake of wife's death

Posted November 9, 2011
Updated November 14, 2011

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— Longtime Oxford Mayor Al Woodlief was ousted from office Tuesday night when voters elected current City Commissioner Jackie Sergent to the post.

As Election Day approached, Woodlief wasn't thinking much about politics and policy.

In October, Woodlief's wife, Anita, lost her lengthy battle with cancer.

"I did lose my best friend," Woodlief said Wednesday. "We were high school sweethearts. We would have been married 42 years this month."

As his wife's health worsened in recent months, he said, he shifted his attention more to family matters and less to campaigning.

"You just hope that your supporters will support you," Woodlief said. "You can't have your mind on that when you're trying to hold on to your wife."

Sergent received 930 votes, or 59.7 percent; Woodlief, mayor of 10 years, received 628 votes (40.3 percent).

Sergent, who has worked for more than 20 years for the Granville-Vance District Health Department, will become the town's first female mayor when she takes over in December.

She says she brings "something new to the table" and plans to do a lot of listening across the city.

"I think that my background in public health is a unique perspective in looking at the community as a whole, and looking at all the people in the community and assessing what the needs are and looking for targeted solutions," she said.

"I see Oxford thriving. I see a downtown that is growing and has active commerce. I see community engagement form all parts of the community. I see people working together for the betterment of all. I think this is a great opportunity," she added.

Prior to being elected to the mayor's office in 2001, Woodlief was a city commissioner for 14 years.

Woodlief said he hasn't ruled out a return to politics at some point. For now, he's focused on family and the several radio stations that he owns.

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  • anne53ozzy Nov 16, 2011

    This article was recently updated.

  • anne53ozzy Nov 10, 2011

    With all due respect, again, I want to clarify that this race was won at a ratio of 60% to 40%. As much as we all feel for the loss of his wife, the community voted as it did for reasons that supercede that. I wish WRAL would have covered this in a more matter of fact fashion instead of playing an emotional card on this. Not appropriate, not professional and does not reflect the issues of this growing and evermore diverse town.

  • anne53ozzy Nov 10, 2011

    As a resident of Oxford for over 15 years, I can say we are always saddened at the death of anyone in this small and closeknit community. At the same time, the political area is one of different needs and an ever changing one. Jackie Sergent has lived in this community for a long time and served it well as a commissioner. Change was needed, as voiced by the voters. This is in no way a reflection on the work the former mayor has done over the years. The death of his wife notwithstanding, we are hopeful to move forward and grow and build the area in a way in which both he and she would be proud.

  • puzzled Nov 10, 2011

    The Woodlief's were fine people. She was not afraid of death because she was a Christian woman and knew where her eternal home would be. I pray that Al and the family find comfort in each other and the assurance of seeing Anita again in Heaven.
    Best wishes for whatever your decision is regarding politics, Al.

  • Wendellcatlover Nov 10, 2011

    I'm sad for Mr. Woodlief, but now maybe he can grieve the loss of his wife while surrounded by family and friends. I know death happens to everyone, but I can't imagine what it's like to lose a spouse...a best friend...after being together so many years. You will be in my prayers!

  • westernwake1 Nov 9, 2011

    A very sad story..