HIGH POINT, N.C. — Mayor Bernita Sims began her speech at the annual State of the Community address in High Point Tuesday by addressing “the elephant in the room,” she said: herself.
“The big pachyderm,” she laughed, adding, “It’s not my intention to step down or resign from my position. I think that’s a little over the top. And I commit to this community that I will continue to serve and continue to do what you’ve elected me to do.”
Mayor Sims went on to joke that she was glad to add to the local newspaper’s recent business by continuing to be the front page, but she wanted to focus on the positive things in the city of High Point, including new jobs.
In an exclusive interview with FOX8 after her speech, Sims addressed the recent pressure she’s been under. “I don’t think it’s distracted our council from working and doing what we need to do,” she insisted.
Other City Council members disagree, and four wrote formal letters calling for her resignation in recent weeks. They also called a special meeting for this Thursday to ask, on the record, for her to resign.
“I don’t think, first of all, that council has that authority and is sort of moving beyond the scope of what they were elected to do,” she responded. “The sentiment of the voters is the voice I need to be listening to.”
Mayor Sims admitted she has gotten about twenty calls and emails from people asking her to resign. “But when you win by 34 percent of the vote and you get 20 emails,” she questioned. “To me that’s not indicative of the number of people who elected me.”
She also addressed the council members who are asking her to step down. “I don’t want to question the leadership abilities of other council members, but I think sometimes we play to the squeaky wheel.”
The Mayor can not be forced out of office since there is no official recall process in place for High Point Council elections.
“I’m still the Mayor. So come the 7, come Thursday? I’ll still be banging the gavel,” Sims promised, referring to the next City Council meeting October 7 and Thursday’s special called meeting.
She plans to continue working with Council beyond any tension. “I don’t foresee it being an issue where it’s so contentious we can’t work.”
Mayor Sims has been in the spotlight recently after the SBI investigated her for allegedly writing a bad check.
Documents also showed she had neglected to pay city utility bills and owed thousands of dollars in taxes. The City was asked to garnish her wages in order to pay back those debts to the state.
“The issue surrounding the $7,000 check? It has been paid. The issue around the utilities? Have been paid. The issue around the taxes have subsequently been paid. So I look at all that? Is it news? Maybe so,” she paused. “There are politicians out there with much larger issues than I have.”
She continued, “I’ll do whatever I have to do to handle my own personal affairs. But it is personal, at the end of the day.” She did not elaborate on the personal issues which led to financial difficulties.
“I am at a point where I think we need to move on,” she said.