Mayor to end 16-year tenure
Graham’s long-time mayor Jerry Peterman made it official this week: he’s not going to run for re-election.
Last week’s announcement by mayor pro tem Chip Turner, a close Peterman ally, that he would be seeking the mayor’s post included statements that assumed Peterman would not be seeking re-election.
Peterman is the first popularly-elected mayor in Graham’s recent history, having been elected eight times since the post was first put on the ballot in 2005.
Peterman was initially elected to the city council in 2003; that council changed Graham’s procedures for electing its mayor. Previously, the five members of the city council voted who among them should serve as mayor.
But beginning in 2005, Graham’s voters have elected the mayor, who serves a two-year term, while two council members are on each biennial ballot for four-year terms. Peterman has thus been the first, and so far only, elected mayor.
He says his research indicates that the city used to have an elected mayor’s post back in the 1950’s, but somewhere along the line that was changed.
In a unique system subsequently established, three council seats were on the ballot each election cycle. The top two were elected to four-year terms, while the third-place finisher received a two-year term.
Peterman, now 72, was a career firefighter with Graham’s fire department before his retirement and subsequent election to the city council. He has continued to serve as a volunteer in the years since.
Peterman, a Vietnam veteran, has also been active in various veterans organizations and activities.
In a statement to The Alamance News, Peterman ruminated on how to define the “most important” aspects of his time as mayor. “Was it the industrial park that brought Lidl, Walmart, and others to our area? The Alamance County Children’s Museum? The Oneida Mill Lofts? Getting through one of the worst downturns in the economy since the Great Depression? Keeping our downtown vibrant and moving forward? The many new businesses and new citizens that now call Graham home? “
One of the things he is proud of is his accessibility to the public, both at and in between council meetings. “I believe everyone knew that we listened and gave them the opportunity to voice their opinion.”
Peterman also credited the city hall leadership with having contributed to his success. “Any success that I have had, comes from the citizens and the people that surrounded me all these years. Managers like Ray Fogleman, Chris Rollins, Frankie Maness, and now Interim Aaron Holland. To all the city staff that I was blessed to work with and the city council members that served with me, y’all made me look good.”
Peterman, who is a Graham native, also mentioned the possibility that he and his wife of 47 years, Jan, are contemplating whether to move to Arizona.
The couple’s only son, Dr. Jeremy Peterman, his wife Rachel, and their only son (and Peterman’s only grandchild), Henry, live in Mesa, Arizona, which has become a frequent destination for the Graham couple.
Being “Pop Pop” to that four-year-old grandson is an attraction Peterman acknowledges he and his wife are finding more and more difficult to resist.
“No matter where Jan and I end up, whether it be Graham or Mesa, Arizona, this will always be our hometown and each of you will remain in our hearts forever,” he said.