Former New Bern Mayor Lee Bettis talks jail time, new campaign for mayor


NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – For the first time since filing to run for mayor of New Bern once again, Lee Bettis sat down with WNCT’s Josh Birch to do a camera interview.

Bettis, who served as New Bern’s mayor from 2009 until 2013, chose not to re-run for the office back in 2013 due to stresses in his life. One of the biggest at the time was a pending trial for a DWI charge he received in May 2013 while driving in Havelock.

“God does not make mistakes. I thank him for the entire experience,” Bettis said. “It’s given me some wisdom and background that I never would have gotten.”

Bettis was pulled over after Havelock Police say he was driving erratically. He had taken a prescribed Xanax pill to help him sleep the night before.

“I was driving like a Brooklyn cabbie,” he said. “You know, I’ve put that in the past and my wife and family are stronger because of the entire event.”

After being convicted of the charges against him, Bettis was ordered to serve 90 days in jail. When he was released, he decided that he needed to give back more to his community. One of the ways he plans to do that is by becoming mayor of the city once again.

“We need a strategic plan. We need someone with foresight. When these guys can’t even pass a simple bill like the brunch bill,” Bettis said.

Bettis said he urged anyone in the city to oppose current Mayor Dana Outlaw in the election. But, when only one other person did, he decided to throw his hat in the race.

Bettis is an outspoken opponent of the way Outlaw has ran the city during his term. He said Outlaw has been fiscally irresponsible, and has bad plans for the future, including building a parking garage in the historic district.

If elected, Bettis said he wants to hire a new city manager and tackle the drug problem.

“Heroin is killing our youth, killing our kids, killing jobs. It’s killing our future.”

Outlaw said when it comes time to vote, voters will be able to look at each of their track record and determine which mayor was better.

He said there is still unfinished work he’d like to complete in a another term.

“There are a lot of diamond in the rough projects in New Bern like Lawson Creek, and we have a lot of commercial development and residential developments,” he said.

Outlaw said he remains committed to running a clean campaign focusing on the issues.

Ernie Williams will also challenge Outlaw for mayor in the Fall.

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