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For nearly half his life, A.P. Coleman has served as a Wilson city councilman. But that chapter is coming to an end as he announced his resignation this week.
“It was hard, but it was a decision I needed to make. I was laying in bed one night and I was thinking. I just thought, ‘This is it,’” the 82-year-old councilman said. “My health has gone down in the last two months. I’m seeing some medical doctors that are going to deal with my joints. I thought it was arthritis, but it is something else, so we’ll find out what it is and we’ll deal with it.”
Coleman was a young transplant from Edgecombe County, working at the Wilson County Cooperative Extension when he was approached by some businessmen about running for the city council. The group wanted to infuse some new blood on the council and Coleman was members’ choice to represent the black community.
He was elected in 1975 and one of the first issues he set out to address was using the city’s Powell Bill allocation to pave streets — 23 miles, to be exact — in Wilson’s black neighborhoods. Coleman also was a part of building the Buckhorn Reservoir, the city operation center, the renovation of the train station and the development of affordable housing in the Freeman Place neighborhood.
“I’ve been a part of downtown development since the very beginning and I’m very proud of the progress we’re making there,” he said.
Since the ‘70s, there have only been six years that didn’t include Coleman on the council. He took a two-year term off to finish graduate school and in the ‘90s, he stepped down for four years before being re-elected to the governing body in 1999.
And when he wasn’t serving his constituents, he worked with the extension promoting 4-H and community resource development.
“I wanted to work on extending area telephone service because we had seven exchanges in Wilson County like Stantonsburg, Sims and Lucama. They could all call Wilson, but to call each other, it was long distance, so we got that changed,” he recalled. “Believe me, it got political, but I had some connections to get it changed. We took a van with a mayor along with a person from each township and we appealed to the utilities commission. It took a bit of nerve and know how, but we got it done.”
Coleman said his family has been very supportive of his nearly four decades of work on the council, his more than 31 years with the Cooperative Extension as well as countless hours volunteering in his church and the community at large. Coleman plans to spend time with his three children, his grandson and his girlfriend, Brenda Avery.
“I’ll really miss interacting with the council and making policy for our city,” he said. “In fact, I think about it and I get kind of sad. I hope that I made an impact that people can recognize for a long time.”
He plans to serve until May 31 and said he would be willing to help find a replacement to finish the roughly six months left on his term.
“I hope the next person is someone that has my same philosophy and that is to represent everyone,” he said. “If you’re a citizen of Wilson and I’m on the council, I’m here to represent you. That has always been my philosophy and it has served me well.”