Politics, IN SEE Culture, Special Segment

Leap of Hope –Honoring Hope Mills’ Mayor Pro Tem Kenjuana McCray

On this day of Black History Month, while leaping into Women History Month is a day of recognizing an excellent gem who made history in 2019. That gemstone is Dr. Kenjuana McCray, Hope Mills’ first African American female mayor pro tem. 

One word she used to describe her historical title is “empowering” to be the first African American representation of mayor pro-tem and the first female to hold the historical title.

Yet the title is history in the making; she understands her assignment in the political arena is about leading her community while making an impact on others.

“I understand that the role God has for me is not about me when I consider being mayor pro tem,” she shared. She stated that it’s about blazing the trail and leaving a legacy for those to follow, creating more chances for women and people from various backgrounds.

Dr Kenjuana McCray


Now, in her third term as Mayor Pro Tem, politics was never on her agenda, even in her early life stages. McCray says that politics grows on you as you evolve more into the community while staying informed on community affairs. 

“Politics wasn’t something she had on her mind as little girl saying: I want to be a politician when I grow up,” she shared with the Exclusive Press.

McCray initially planned to utilize her political science degree from Fayetteville State University to work for the government. Still, life has its way of redirecting you to the purpose God has for you. Her love for politics grew over ten years and transpired into the politician she is now.

“I never imagined I would be into politics, teaching sociology at Fayetteville Technical Community College System. I’ve become more involved in the community and tried to do things to get my students involved in the community,” she stated.

Mayor Pro Tem, Dr. Kenjuana McCray serving her community; Photo Credit: Facebook/Kenjuana McCray

As she became more involved in the community, she wanted to see change. Her eagerness to see change in her community and admiration for political figures like Dr. Francis Jackson, NC State Representative for District 45, inspired her to enter the field of politics.

McCray filed for candidacy in 2017, losing by 45 votes. The defeat didn’t stop her from getting involved in the community.

“I realize that it wasn’t my time. When the opportunity presented itself in 2019, I decided to file and won,” she stated.

Her 2019 win made her the highest vote-getter for Hope Mills commissioners. It’s been that way for McCray in 2021 and 2023. McCray is head-over-heels in love with politics and serving her community.

“I’m in love with politics! It’s a part of me,” McCray exclaimed.


Although she loves politics, her first term was challenging yet learning experience for the Spring Lake native. Three months after the board took office, the pandemic that hit the world, followed by George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, which sparked a new wave of the civil rights movement. The pandemic lockdown resulted in her having a lot of meetings virtually while learning her new job. Additionally, she experienced online bullying and intimidation tactics from those who weren’t happy with her being in the office.

“It was challenging, as a new leader, to learn things through COVID, live through civil unrest. As the mayor pro tem, I had to be the leader of the board, even though at that time I was the only one on the board that didn’t have elected experience,” she stated.

She had considered whether she would run for her second term, but her love for her community kept her in the race to persevere. Together the board grew in the middle of 2020’s challenging times.

Mayor Prom Tem, Dr. Kenjuana McCray speaking at the podium; Photo Credit: Facebook/Kenjuana McCray

Her first term, especially with the pandemic, made her a much stronger leader, teaching her to think outside the box while leading her community during a crisis of fear and uncertainty in 2020.


As a seasoned politician now, she stated that it’s been the best and most fulfilling years to see the accomplished work in the community.

“We [the board of commissioners] made it on the other side and made progress. We were also able to get some historical funds from state legislators that we’ve never received in Hope Mills before. We were able to start and complete a lot of projects,” she stated.

She also reflected on influential black civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Fannie Lou Hamer, who never gave up during the intense racism and injustice of the Jim Crow and Civil Rights Movement era. 

Dr. Kenjuana McCray sworn into her third term as Hope Mills ‘mayor pro tem with her loved ones by her side; Photo Credit: The Exclusive Press/Tracey Morrison

“Just thinking about them, I felt if they went through it challenging times, I too can do it. Just having that faith that you’re making the best decisions for your community,” she shared.


The town’s momentum is heading in the right direction with the current projects and thriving businesses. The city celebrated the recent opening of one of the largest Sheetz location on Chicken Foot Road, and Eggs Up Grill Restaurant. Those are a few of the many projects and initiatives for Hope Mills, with more projects in the works.

The city approved funding for the second phase of an all-inclusive playground and splash pads called Reid’s Journey. The town is also implementing more citizen involved committee groups, such as the new Cultural Arts Committee to expound on town’s art culture.

L-R: Hope Mills native, Vic Blends Court in Hope Mills (Courtesy of: VicBlends/Facebook); Grand Opening of Eggs Up Grill (Photo Credit: Leina & Co); Grand Opening of Sheetz (Courtesy of Hope Mills Chamber/Facebook)

There’s BIG HOPE in the future of Hope Mills that McCray is proud to be a part of, creating a place where citizens can thrive and welcoming businesses, big and small, to the growing town.

McCray truly loves serving her community with a badge of honor. She serves her community with great hope and is grateful that the citizens of Hope Mills instill trust and belief in her, which empowers her as a public servant while imprinting her legacy as a politician in hopes of creating opportunities for those behind her. 

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