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Gillettia Morgan seeks reelection to continue District 1 work

District 1 Councilwoman Gillettia Morgan, pictured in her seat on the Wilson City Council dais, is seeking a second four-year term. Christopher Long | Times

As her first Wilson City Council term concludes, Gillettia Morgan says her work isn’t finished. 

Her plans to tackle problems in District 1 will require more time than the six weeks remaining before Election Day. That’s why she’s asking residents to reelect her. 

“I know where the city came from, and I know where the city is going,” Morgan said. “I want to be a part of that. In the community, some people say, ‘Gillettia doesn’t talk. Gillettia isn’t being seen.’ Every time I say, ‘Yea,’ every time I say, ‘Nay,’ that’s a voice. When we vote, we’re voting for the greater good of the entire city. I’m not here for the spotlight. I’m about getting things done.”

The councilwoman has worked for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services for almost five years following more than two decades as a social worker in Wilson County. 

Her district’s race is the most contentious of the three City Council contests on Wilson ballots this year. She faces three opponents, Ricardo Dew, Kahmahl Melo Simmons and Kaden Lebray.


Morgan said addressing Wilson’s lack of affordable housing is the most important issue on her platform. 

“I just want the citizens to bear with us, because things are coming,” she said. “We’re trying to move forward, but when we had the pandemic, everybody had the pandemic. Things that were in the works that were inked, prices went up, and it seemed like everybody needed the same thing at the same time, so a lot of things were on backorder. It’s moving. It’s just not moving as fast as folks want.”

While there’s more to be done, Morgan pointed to affordable housing projects already underway in Wilson, such as the recently announced Pender Crossing. City Manager Grant Goings announced funding for the 48-unit apartment complex during the City Council’s August meeting. The development will be built on the site of Pender Street Park, which city officials plan to relocate. 

Along with affordable housing, Morgan said she’s focused on bringing a bank and an immediate care clinic to her district along U.S. 301.

“It is so mystifying to me — on the 301 corridor from Kenly to Sharpsburg, there’s a bank in Kenly and there’s one in Sharpsburg and nothing in Wilson,” Morgan said. “When I grew up, there was a bank on 301. There are enough businesses and people over there on that part of town to put a bank. You have the ABC Store. You have Dollar General. You have Wilson Community College with their expansion. There is a need for a bank.”

While financial institutions report reduced demand for in-person transactions due to the prevalance of online and mobile banking, the councilwoman said it’s still important to have a bank along U.S. 301. She said the council previously discussed placing a bank in the Fikewood Plaza shopping center, but talks were tabled during the pandemic. Now, she wants to revisit the idea. 

“We can create the environment for businesses to come, but it’s ultimately up to the business where they decide to locate,” Morgan said. “The only thing we can do is keep advocating for it.”

Morgan wants to see the city tear down decaying buildings in District 1 and replace them with new projects. She said the council is working to resolve the dilapidated housing issue in her district.

“There’s a legal process that goes with dilapidated housing,” Morgan said. “You have to do the deed search. You have to find out if the person is living, contact the heirs. It becomes a long process, and they are tearing down the houses. As it becomes available, things get checked off. It’s not as fast as the people want, but they’re going as fast as they can.”


Morgan has supported efforts to install a fence around Vick Cemetery since the issue was brought to her attention.

“I suggested early on that we do a fence,” Morgan said. “A really, really nice fence to protect and preserve. I’m constantly calling because people still think it’s a dumping ground. You have trash in the ditches. You see people riding horses, dirt bikes. If you take where it’s staked off, have some nice signage, maybe do another sign, people will know this is prideful. This is historic.”

Reflecting on memories from her childhood, Morgan recalled Vick Cemetery as a wooded area used for dumping. When she came home from college and noticed that city leaders had cleared the grounds, she considered it a major accomplishment.

“My question is: what has changed since 1995?” Morgan said. “I feel like when these talks began about that cemetery at that particular time, the folks involved did what they knew to do. Technology, everything has changed. I don’t know much about archaeology, genealogy and all that kind of stuff, but I know technology has improved. The things that occurred, the things that were wrong, I can’t change that. I’m so sorry that happened, but I don’t think anyone who was involved with that did anything out of malice. I think they thought they did the right thing. From my understanding, they did some town hall things. When they did it, the people were satisfied.”

Morgan wants to right the wrong in the best way the council sees fit and close this chapter of the cemetery’s history.

“I don’t think we can move forward going backward,” Morgan said. “I don’t know what the end picture is, but the council is committed to doing something.”


Morgan said she isn’t a sports fan, but that won’t stop her from advocating for the proposed downtown Wilson ballpark. Talks began heating up on Sept. 7 when the city announced its intent to lease the Carolina Mudcats a 6-acre property adjacent to the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

The Mudcats, a Single-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, currently call Zebulon home. The Brewers organization hasn’t announced whether it will move the Mudcats to Wilson. 

“I’m in support of things that are going to grow our city,” Morgan said. “From my standpoint, people and developers are constantly trying to come to Wilson. That says to me that Wilson has a spotlight on it. Things want to come. Things want to grow. I think it would be great if it could happen. We just don’t know if it’s going to happen. I think it would be a great thing.”

Her concerns with the project lie in how it will be financed.

“This project has the potential to pay for itself,” Morgan said. “I don’t want to hit taxpayers and start spending taxpayer money, then figure out we’re doing this, but you’re not doing that.”


Morgan is currently the only female Wilson City Council member. She believes maintaining the dynamic of having a woman on the council is important.

“I just want to continue to be a voice for District 1,” she said. “We have diversity on council, but being a female adds another piece to diversity. By being the only woman, I think it’s important to have that representation not just on council, but in all governmental platforms. When you have a woman up there, it kind of changes the dynamics.”

Morgan hopes her City Council service will inspire women and girls to pursue their own career and leadership goals. Morgan said women have an extra sense — intuition. She said her role on the council is to use that intuition for Wilson’s benefit and help her counterparts stay focused on the city’s top priorities. 

“I’ve been in public service for almost 28 years, so there isn’t much that I haven’t seen,” Morgan said. “When you’re in the political arena, there’s a different way that things are done. You have to learn not to wear your feelings on your sleeve. I pride myself on my integrity, my professionalism. When constituents call me, I’m on it. Even though I work a full-time job, the little fires they call me about, I put them out. I like to move behind the scenes.”

Meet the Candidates

This is the first installment in a series of candidate profiles on Wilson’s four City Council District 1 candidates: incumbent Gillettia Morgan, Ricardo Dew, Kahmahl Melo Simmons and Kaden Lebray. 

A candidate forum for Wilson’s District 1 hopefuls is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Wilson County Public Library’s assembly room.

Early voting in Wilson County’s municipal elections begins at 8 a.m. Oct. 19 and ends at 3 p.m. Nov. 4. Election Day is Nov. 7.