His replacement pleaded with the legislators to give Hampton another chance and last month handed up a petition with 119 signatures. She softened their outrage by asking for their help.

The Rev. Dan Williams was appointed to the City Council when Charles Norris Hall resigned in the midst of the scandal. Williams' family has lived in Hampton since the 1920s, and his talents include inspiring oratory and organizing armies of multiskilled volunteers.

Amy Davis stepped in as city clerk; she knows Hampton, having worked as the clerk once before. Davis understands how to use accounting software and knows how to apply for grants and follow money trails. Already, she has discovered that Hampton is only $6,425 in the red this year -- a shortfall that can easily be corrected.

Cooper took over as the city attorney. Not only does he know municipal law and how to connect the dots, he's working for the city free of charge.

The lawmakers were swayed by the progress Hampton has made under the new leadership. In just four weeks, Hampton:

  • Accepted the resignation of every elected official who was in office when the scandal broke and called for a special election in September to seat new ones
  • Agreed to dissolve its police department and will rely on the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office
  • Accounted for the $132,000 spent at the BP station across from City Hall
  • Accounted for the $27,000 credit card balance
  • Started tracking the city's water meters
  • Drafted an ordinance de-annexing the section of U.S. 301 where the speed trap operated
  • Began holding City Council meetings at regular hours and opening them to the public

"What you've seen here in the past month is the rebirth of your town," Van Zant told the residents as Friday's meeting came to a close. "I want to encourage everybody who has never served on the City Council to run for office. ... We want some new blood. We want to see a new genesis in Hampton. Make this thing work for you."

The lawmakers say they will return to Hampton once more to follow up on the city's progress. The next visit is planned for a Friday night in September, after the new council is elected. This time, there are plans for a good, old-fashioned Southern barbecue.