Thirteen candidates are looking for 4 totally different council seats in Mount Airy, however they share some widespread floor together with seeing a necessity for inexpensive housing and extra financial improvement/jobs domestically.
“Housing is a priority,” stated Joanna Refvem, one in every of 4 individuals vying for a North Ward seat on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners now held by Jon Cawley, who’s working for mayor.
That sentiment was echoed by lots of the 13 workplace seekers gathered Monday evening on the stage of the Historic Earle Theatre and Old-Time Music Heritage Hall downtown for a meet-the-candidates occasion. It drew a crowd to the auditorium that’s principally a venue for films and musical performances.
Not solely does the town want inexpensive housing, at-large council candidate Tonda Phillips stated from the angle of an actual property skilled, however assist for many who aren’t capable of purchase a house in any respect.
“The metropolis additionally ought to assist homeless shelters,” Phillips stated in the course of the discussion board co-sponsored by the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc.
Further issues about housing had been expressed by current At-Large Commissioner Joe Zalescik, who’s working for the South Ward seat of longtime incumbent Steve Yokeley, who’s campaigning for Zalescik’s publish as a part of a switcheroo agreed to by each.
Zalescik referred to the truth that the town authorities owns almost 1,000 acres of property, each inside and out of doors the municipality. “Yes, the town has loads of land,” he stated, “and we have to use a few of that land for housing younger individuals.”
The format for Monday evening’s candidates — billed as an introduction of them to voters — differed from others through which workplace seekers have responded to ready questions on related points together with ones from viewers members.
Each was merely given 4 minutes to element his or her background and expertise along with marketing campaign platforms/visions for Mount Airy, the methods through which every believes the town is on the best path and the methods it’s on the mistaken path.
Candidates had been grouped by the respective places of work at stake within the metropolis’s non-partisan election this yr, venturing one after the other to a podium to make their case to voters.
• Along with Cawley, the mayoral candidates embrace Ron Niland, the person now holding that publish, and Teresa Lewis, a former at-large commissioner.
• Running towards Refvem within the North Ward are John Pritchard and two former metropolis faculty board members, Teresa Davis Leiva and Chad Hutchens.
• The South Ward candidates, together with Zalescik, are Gene Clark and Phil Thacker, who additionally has served on the varsity board.
• Joining Yokeley and Phillips within the at-large race is former twice-elected Mayor Deborah Cochran.
Monday evening’s gathering was a prelude to a May 17 main that can slim the sphere to 2 candidates for every workplace who will sq. off within the November basic election.
“Status quo should go”
Most of them had good issues to say concerning the current situation of Mount Airy because it pertains to metropolis authorities choices. These embrace its recreation applications and services such because the Granite City Greenway, arts and cultural choices and a thriving downtown focused for efforts to make it extra pedestrian pleasant by means of a grasp plan replace.
Yet throughout his time on the podium, Clark pointed to the elephant within the room: The indisputable fact that 13 persons are working for public workplace (believed to be a file for an election in Mount Airy) means residents need change.
“The established order has obtained to go,” Clark added.
He has lengthy been a critic of metropolis authorities efforts to redevelop former Spencer’s textile mill property it purchased in 2014, which have been shaky at occasions — what Clark referred to Monday evening as “boondoggles we’ve had in the previous couple of years.”
The South Ward candidate was amongst others mentioning a necessity for better-paying employment alternatives on the town.
They included Pritchard, who cited Mount Airy’s lack of “strong actual jobs (that) give our younger individuals the arrogance to marry, purchase a house and lift a household” and stated he would vote to “go all out for brand spanking new full-time jobs” domestically.
“That retains younger individuals right here and attracts new individuals.”
Pritchard framed his content material across the theme of “what about us?” when it comes to steps the town authorities must be taking to assist the individuals.
He says different smaller communities in North Carolina have managed to draw main economic-development initiatives, together with China Grove the place Macy’s is constructing a distribution middle and creating 2,800 jobs.
Pritchard attacked claims that this neighborhood lacks appropriate buildings for companies and a labor pressure.
“I say head to Winston about 7 a.m. and see our workforce leaving city.”
Pritchard stated the town ought to make a few of its land accessible for companies by giving it to them at low cost costs and even free, arguing that Mount Airy’s inhabitants should develop to keep away from straining current residents.
Leiva, one in every of Pritchard’s opponents, additionally referred to the roles difficulty in her feedback, particularly because it pertains to youthful individuals leaving city because of lack of alternatives.
Though she has deep roots in the neighborhood, Leiva moved away after graduating from faculty because of an absence of actions for younger individuals however later returned.
While that has modified, extra such actions are wanted, stated Leiva, who believes native officers ought to think about financial improvement.
Thacker agreed. “I believe we have to search alternatives to supply new jobs.”
Mayoral candidate Lewis additionally talked about a necessity for economic-development efforts together with extra inexpensive housing.
“If I’m elected mayor, I will probably be an agent of change,” stated the longtime native businesswoman who in 1987 based what’s now the WorkForce Unlimited staffing company using hundreds of individuals in three states.
Cawley additionally stated the mayor can play a key function in luring new enterprise by being the face of the neighborhood.
“Somebody has to inform the story — the story of what Mount Airy is — I believe that’s what the job of the mayor is,” he remarked.
“We have a narrative to inform,” Niland concurred, additionally referring to plans to handle financial improvement by means of a shell constructing idea. “I’ve the power and drive to inform our story.”
He additional stated that downtown housing and leisure are serving to to draw the “nationwide expertise” corporations search.
Property tax issues
Multiple candidates expressed issues about Mount Airy’s property tax charge, which is now 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation because of a 25% enhance authorised in 2018, up from 48 cents.
“The prime of the record, in fact, is we have to scale back taxes,” Thacker stated of his major targets if elected.
Cochran, as a former commissioner and mayor, says she has expertise in doing simply that,
“Everybody talks about reducing taxes — we truly did it,” Cochran stated of how metropolis officers slashed the speed from 63 to 48 cents throughout her tenure.
The former mayor additionally talked about her efforts to convey jobs to city, together with making a visit to Arkansas in a profitable enterprise to lure an organization that is likely one of the prime native employers.
Zalescik expressed a need to maintain taxes low whereas looking for grants and different exterior funding sources to assist progress and never standing in the best way of progress.
Some of the candidates used their time to focus on further issues, together with Yokeley, whose targets embody a necessity to enhance the town’s growing older water-sewer infrastructure, as do these of Phillips, and supply assist for the police and fireplace departments.
“I’m not working towards something or anyone,” Yokeley stated, however to assist Mount Airy.
In addition to issues about police and fireplace operations, that are each understaffed, Phillips referred to the necessity to assault a associated drawback, drug abuse.
The Rotary Club of Mount Airy, of which she is president, has launched initiatives concentrating on that drawback, she stated. “This is just the start — we can also do extra.”
Some candidates primarily expressed what they might convey to the desk as elected officers.
Refvem stated one of many major attributes she will supply is the power to hearken to residents, based mostly on her work as a licensed counselor for each youths and adults:
“What do you care about — what retains you up at evening?”
“I’m looking for this workplace as a result of I’ve a ardour for serving to others,” stated Hutchens, who together with beforehand serving on the Mount Airy Board of Education is a sergeant with the Surry County’s Sheriff’s Office concerned with its faculty useful resource officer program.
“Community service must be achieved for the best causes,” he commented in remarks directed towards residents. “The backside line is I care about Mount Airy and I care about working for you.”