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Butner Efforts Opening Door To Democracy

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BUTNER, N.C. — North Carolina bought the Granville County town of Butner over a century ago for $1.The state still runs things there -- at least for now.

A bill before Gov. Mike Easley would allow locals to choose their own leaders.

Butner is the only town run in the United States run by the state.The state pays for and operates the

Butner Public Safety Division

, which serves the needs of the state and federal institutions that surround Butner.

The town owns no land, recruits no industry and has no tax base of its own. The mayor is the State Secretary of Health and Human Services.

"There is no other place like Butner in the entire country," said Elbert Oakley, one of seven appointed members on Butner's Advisory Council.

Voters will soon be able to elect council members, but those elected will still only offer recommendations. Final decisions lie with the state.

"I like the concept," Oakley said."It gives us the right to vote. It gives the people the illusion of having power."

"It will give the town a little bit more pride," council vice chairman said John Wimbush said.

Wimbush said it is a step. One day, years down the road, he said he sees the town incorporating.

Some believe elected leaders with real local power could shape this town more to the liking of those who live here.

"They know what's going on in this town. They know what we need. They know what we want, what the children need," a Butner resident said.

If Easley signs the bill, the Justice Department would have to approve the election change. The first election could be held as early as November 2003.


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