Mayor Julia Meacham: Moving forward with a vision in Weldon

Weldon Mayor Julia Meacham has had a good year, and she’s looking forward to continuing to build what she feels will be a better future for her town’s 1,700 residents.
Meacham became the first woman ever elected to her post in November 2009, unseating long-time incumbent G.W. “Johnny” Draper. She’d previously served as a town commissioner for 10 years.
“I’d been approached about running for mayor in 2005,” Meacham said. “But I didn’t run then, it didn’t seem like the right time. In truth, I felt my vote on the board was more important since the mayor only votes in the case of a tie.”
However, in 2007, Meacham began to give serious consideration to challenging Draper in 2009, and momentum toward a run built through 2008.
“I felt there were some issues that needed to be addressed,” Meacham said. “One being, at the time, a proposed $11 million water plant, which I knew the city could not afford.”
Meacham felt stopping the water plant was vitally important to the town’s future.
“If the board had passed that plant, I think it would have broken the town,” Meacham said.
Meacham also felt some issues were not being addressed at all, such as a new library, approved by the board in 2005, which hadn’t been built, and ditch drainage issues in the Chockoyotte Country Club area that needed to be repaired.
She also felt issues she was bringing to the board were being dismissed by Draper.
“In 2008, some of the projects I’d brought up hadn’t been done; I was cut off completely,” Meacham said. “The mayor would cut me off verbally, and I felt he talked down to me in meetings. I felt anything I brought up and tried to get moving, he would stop it and I felt I was wasting my time.”
She felt she could provide a better future for Weldon.
“I felt I could partner with the board on issues that were important to help the town grow,” Meacham said.
“Since 1999, I felt I had served the town well and the town deserved better than they were getting.”
Weldon Town Commissioner Earl Smith, who is serving the rest of Meacham’s unexpired term on the board, thought 2009 was a good opportunity for Meacham.
“I figured she had a great chance to win,” Smith said.
“I figured Johnny had enough time in office, and I was pretty sure she’d win it.”
Meacham, who grew up in Roanoke Rapids, moved to Weldon in 1976 after marrying her husband Frank. The 64-year-old grandmother of two feels any town needs good leadership to move forward, and she’s trying to provide that leadership for Weldon.
As for Draper, Meacham said she respects his service to Weldon.
“He was here and served the people of Weldon for 40 years,” Meacham said.
“I think he did what he felt was best for the citizens. I just have a different vision.”
That vision includes being in the office daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to be available for Weldon residents, to talk with them by phone or in person. Meacham also has begun to improve the town’s image by demolishing dilapidated buildings and fixing the problems she’d felt had been ignored or overlooked, such as the Chockoyotte improvements and the town library.
Meacham is also in the process of moving the town’s water system forward, either by improving the existing plant or selling the town’s water system to the Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District.
A decision on the water issue will have to be made by Weldon voters, Meacham said, which could happen as early as March.
Meacham is also proud of having reduced Weldon’s property taxes this past budget year, and hopes to continue to do so.
“The reduction was done to let the residents know we would be watching our tax base and lowering it when we could,” Meacham said.
As for being a woman in the political realm, Meacham doesn’t feel it’s an issue.
“I guess people have always thought of politics and business as a man’s world,” Meacham said. “I think women have proved their worth in business and politics, and I’m not intimidated by the men. I think people judge you based on your competence, not on whether you’re male or female.”
With more than a year behind her as mayor, Meacham is looking forward to more and loves being mayor despite the hard work that comes with the job.
Smith said Meacham’s dedication to the job is impressive, and feels she’s doing a great job guiding Weldon to a better future.
“I think she’s good for the town,” he said.
“She wants to go in the right direction, and she certainly spends a lot more time in that office than I would spend. I think she’s doing a great job. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give her a 9. She’s making some mistakes but not that many, and that’s to be expected during a first term in office — I don’t care who you are. Most of the board backs Julia because her ideas are good, and they’re for the good of Weldon.”
As for the work itself, Meacham has no problem giving the job her all.
“I love it,” Meacham said.
“I’ve given them everything but my blood, and it’s paying off.”

Meacham looks forward to the good she hopes to do for the residents of the Town of Weldon.

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