After serving the city of Reidsville for 50 years, Mayor James Festerman will not run for re-election after his term expires this year.
“I’ve been very blessed to have a family that supports me and if I chose to run again, they assured me they’d support me also,” Festerman said. “I have grandkids I really enjoy being with and spending time with and I’ve got some other business opportunities I’m involved with from time to time.
Festerman’s announcement saddened those he worked with, including City Manager Michael Pearce, who worked with Festerman for over 21 years.
“It really makes me stop and reflect about what Mayor Festerman meant to the city of Reidsville and it’s just hard to imagine not working with him,” Pearce said.
Both Pearce and Councilman Clark Turner described Festerman as a cheerleader for the city.
“He has been a constant cheerleader for Reidsville and I’ve just always admired that of him and how hard he’s working and really thought about every issue, larger or small, and how it’s going to impact businesses, and how it’s going to impact people, neighborhoods and how much he thinks about things,” Pearce said.
“He enjoyed attending events and welcoming people and he just did a great job with that,” Turner said.
Festerman said he knows he leaves the city in good hands.
“It just seems like a good time,” Festerman said. “The city’s in great financial shape with strong leadership and professional levels. We are blessed to have an excellent city manager who’s surrounded himself with a competent and efficient staff who really cares for the citizens of Reidsville. That’s really important to me that we have that kind of caring staff that we do have.”
Festerman lived in the city his entire life and went on to work through the ranks before becoming mayor.
“I grew up in the west end of town,” Festerman said. “I had the good fortune to have extremely good parents. They were very religious so they tried to point me in the right directions.”
After graduating from high school in Reidsville, Festerman worked in the textile industry before beginning his career in law enforcement in 1963. He continued working in law enforcement 34 years retiring as chief of police.
“That was real rewarding,” Festerman said. “I’ve been active in the state and national level of law enforcement issues and still continue.”
Festerman serves on the Governor’s Crime Commission and the North Carolina Criminal Justice Training Standards Committee. He said he plans to stay on those.
“Law enforcement is my passion,” Festerman said. “Law enforcement was always more than a job to me, it was my passion.”
Law enforcement helped Festerman when he began his career on city council. He served on Reidsville City council for 16 years. For four years he served as a councilmember, four years as mayor pro-tem and the last four years as mayor.
“Having been a law enforcement officer you know you can’t please everyone all the time,” Festerman said.
He learned that quickly in May 2011 after the Reidsville Confederate Monument accident. Festerman said it’s fair to ask if he’s not running for reelection due to the backlash the issue caused over the past two years. However, he said the monument didn’t factor into the decision at all.
“I’m very pleased with the opportunity we went through,” Festerman said. “We gave everyone the opportunity to make their wishes known. At the end of the day, it really comes down to, you know, what you think is right. As long as you do what you think is right and you lay down at night and you can sleep then you don’t have a problem.”
Festerman said the issues impacting him the most happened when his friends were involved or zoning concerns in the community.
“That always tore into me,” Festerman said. “They’d make a valid point and yet, you have to look at the thing as a whole and make a decision.”
Festerman said neither reason played into his decision to leave either. He said the real reason involves the other areas of his life.
“Right now a lot of things are important to me,” Festerman said. “Grandkids and family and church and all those other things I have the opportunity to support.”
Festerman said though he’ll remain a resident of the city, he knows he’ll miss being involved.
“For 50 years, my life outside my family has been Reidsville,” Festerman said. “I’ll miss that.”
Festerman talked through his accomplishments over the years working with the city.
“I think we really make Reidsville stand out,” Festerman said of his staff. “We received a lot of honors over the years and I think that will continue. I think the foundation is there for continued growth.”
Festerman said he knows the city faces challenges too, especially in areas like economic development.
“We can’t lose sight of what we’re all about, which is to find jobs for our people and enhance the reasons for industry to want to come here,” Festerman said. “I hope the new folks continue to do that.”
There seems to be a mutual respect among Festerman and his staff. Turner said he felt Festerman did a great job serving Reidsville. Pearce said Festerman’s attention for detail left little room for error and made his staff check things rigorously to get them right.
“If there’s anything in there that’s wrong, Mayor Festerman will find it,” Pearce said. “It’s just hard to imagine not working with the mayor. I know we’ll be seeing a lot of each other. We’ll always be friends and it’s hard to imagine not having him here in city hall all the time.”
Festerman doesn’t plan on going far though. He said he plans to remain active in the community and with his church. He’ll still meet his friends at Sanitary Café.