In 1891, a farmer in the southern part of what is now Pitt County, decided that a portion of his farm would make a great place to live if only it had a railroad depot. William Henry Harris was able to convince the Atlantic Coast Line of the same, and soon a 40 acre parcel of land was divided into residential lots surrounding a depot in "Harristown", with Mr. Harris owning every other lot. Within the next several years, lots were sold and homes built. Businesses began to spring up to support the new residents, and on February 3, 1891, the Town was incorporated as "Ayden", a name, as area story tellers claim, discovered by a local on a map of the world. Within a few years, the Carolina Christian College and the Free Will Baptist Seminary were established. By 1919, Ayden had full-time electricity supplied by the Ayden municipal power plant. In 1922, the Mutual Building and Loan Association of Ayden was organized to help families obtain mortgages to build homes in Ayden.
After experiencing tough times during the depression, and after the Second World War, the Town began the long period of prosperity that continues today. To accommodate this growth, commercial, cultural, religious, and other establishments have sprung up within and around Ayden. Medical clinics, recreation programs and parks, churches, restaurants, and other public and private facilities have developed and expanded.
Today, Ayden encompasses over 3 square miles and is home to over 5000 residents. Ayden is part of the Greenville Metropolitan Area and is the third largest municipality in Pitt County, whose population is over 177,000. The Town, located 6 miles south of Greenville and 16 miles north of Kinston, home to the NC Global Transpark, is continuing to prepare itself for new growth as Pitt County continues to develop as a major industrial and economic center for eastern North Carolina. While focusing on progressive planning and growth management for the future, Ayden, home of the annual Ayden Collard Festival, is continuing to strive to maintain the character and quality for which the Town has become known as a community of "small town atmosphere with big city convenience."
Ayden has used the council-manager form of government since 1957. Under this form of government, the Town Board of Commissioners is the final authority of most matters related to managing the government. The Town Board employs a Town Manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Town. The Mayor and Town Board of Commissioners are the governing board of the Town. The Mayor acts as the official head of the government and spokesperson of the Board. The Mayor presides at all meetings of the Board and signs all documents authorized by the Board.
The Mayor Pro-Tem is selected by each new Board, and assumes all duties and responsibilities of the Mayor in his absence. The Mayor and Town Board, together, are responsible for establishing the policies for the general operation of the Town. The Town Board adopts ordinances, resolutions, budgets, authorizes contracts, and approves the financing of all Town operations. The Board also appoints the Town Manager and Town Attorney, along with members of various boards and commissions.
Regular Governing Board meetings are held on the 2nd Monday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the District Courtroom located on the second floor of the Town Hall building. (There is no handicap access currently to this floor. If someone needs special accommodations to attend a function on the second floor, they need to contact the Town Manager's office at 252-481-5826).
The public is invited to attend all meetings. Special meetings are held periodically to discuss special issues. Dates and times of these meetings are published in the local newspaper and are posted at the Town Hall. Elections are held every other year in November in odd years. Elections are non-partisan with elected Town officials serving staggered terms. Candidates run for office under a system electing five ward representatives and the Mayor, at large. All Board members are elected by the entire town population rather than by ward.