Local News

Police Pay a Hot Topic of Fayetteville Mayor's Race

Posted October 26, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The Fayetteville mayor's race is the ultimate David and Goliath -- a six-term incumbent versus a postal worker.

J.L. Dawkins is such a heavy favorite, the candidates have not debated issues much.

But one hot topic the winner of Tuesday's election will have to address is police pay.

The Fayetteville Police Department has lost dozens of officers to better paying jobs.

A pay increase for officers is on voters' minds.

"It's been given enough attention, but nothing seems to have been done about it," says voter Martie Christie.

The topic is definitely on the minds of officers. Starting pay in the department is less than $24,000 a year.

"Morale stays pretty low among officers," says Sergeant Phil Watson, an 18-year veteran of the Fayetteville Police Department and president of the Fraternal Order of Police.

"To be able to recruit and retain more people we need a financial plan to follow some guidelines where we are not every year at the mercy of the city council," says Watson.

The Fraternal Order of Police and the Fayetteville Police Supervisors Association are taking their message to the streets.

Beginning Thursday, billboards will show their support for candidates who support a pay raise.

Mayor J.L. Dawkins wants all city employees to get a raise, and make the competitive market rate.

He says they are trying to accomplish that, but it cannot be done in just one year.

Challenger Edna Pickett says the money for police increases should come from somewhere else in the budget.

Both candidates support a small tax increase if necessary to pay for a police pay raise. The idea is not popular among voters.

"I think the city has problems that need to be addressed as long as we keep it within the tax rate," says voter Tom Whitley.

Dawkins say he would also like to see an increase in sanitation Services.

Pickett would like to see road improvements and more industry in low income areas.

Fayetteville voters have a big ballot to consider next week. Besides the mayor's race, they will be voting for 12 council members.