The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

April 24, 2014

County Commission candidates express views on issues

By Luanne Williams, for the SNAP

Thursday, April 24, 2014 — Democrat and Republican voters will narrow the field of county commissioner candidates via May’s primaries, in which there are contests for two of the four district seats up for election this November as well as one at-large seat.

For Democrats, the list is short as Franklin Lee of Norwood will face Debra Morgan of Albemarle in the at-large race. Unopposed for the Democratic nomination are Phil Burris, District 3, and Richard Almond, District 4, both of Albemarle.

The GOP primary ballot will be a little longer as Scott Efird of Locust and Mike Barbee of Stanfield seek the District 1 ballot slot and Bill Lawhon of Albemarle faces Ronny Couick of Norwood in District 2.

Unopposed in their party are Joseph Burleson of Locust in District 3 and incumbent Gene McIntyre of New London in District 4.

Four Republicans will face off for a chance at the at-large seat. They are Matthew Swain and Jann Lowder, both of Albemarle, Art Burleson of New London and Heather Boles Couick of Norwood.

Luanne Williams is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.

Editor’s note:  Candidates for the Stanly County Board of Commissioners were asked to complete a questionnaire about county-related issues so voters could learn where they stand on specific issues as well as learn more about the respective candidates. Only those candidates contested in the May 6 primary participated in the Q & A. Responses were limited to 200 words or less and may have been edited for length and clarity. Below are the questions with each candidate’s response marked with the question’s corresponding number. A short biography and photos are provided with the candidates who submitted this information.

1. Why are you running for county commissioner and why are you the best candidate?

2. What do you perceive as the most pressing issue facing Stanly County?

3.How do you propose the county bolster its economic development and create jobs?

4. A sales tax referendum will be on the ballot in November. Do you favor this option for generating revenue for the county? If not, what do you propose as an alternative?

5. If you were faced with raising property taxes or cutting county expenses or services, what would you prefer and why?

6. Are you concerned about any specific county-related expense or service?

7. Are you a proponent of the new voting format for the county commission? Why?

8. What song best reflects Stanly County’s lifestyle?

Board of Commissioners At-Large

Franklin Lee (Democrat)

Biographical information:  N/A

1. I want to do what I can to make government work for the citizens of Stanly County. I believe that my business and life experience will enable me to make the right decisions as a county commissioner.

2. The biggest issue is economic development and job creation.

3. Maintain and develop infrastructure, improve education, and maintain a business-friendly environment.

4. I am in favor of a sales tax to raise county revenue.

5. I would prefer cutting expenses and making government as efficient as possible.

6. I feel that all county expenses need to be reviewed, so that available resources are used where most needed. I have no specific concerns at this time.

7. I like the new voting format because it assures that all parts of the county are represented.

8. This question is too hard for me.

Debra Morgan (Democrat)

Personal:  Divorced; No children;

Occupation: Security officer for Stanly Community College, retired Albemarle police officer, present reserve officer;

Background: Former small business owner, SNAP’s People’s Choice Public Servant winner in 2010 & 2012;

Civic activities: National Rifle Association, attends Albemarle First Assembly Church, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 51.

1. The county needs me because I believe there are new ideas I have that can benefit and strengthen ties between the county and city. I feel very strongly about working with not only strengthening ties with municipalities in the county, but also each one of us as individuals. I have always been a strong believer of communication.

2. While having 11 years with the Albemarle Police Department as a patrol officer, I have extensive experience working with people and understanding their needs. Jobs are a pressing issue, but not so much jobs as the education of our people to do the job.

As our community moves away from the textile industry and more toward technology and its respective jobs, times are upon us to not do so much physical labor as mental labor. We need to make sure that locals are literate and furthering their education if at all possible. As new businesses do look at our area, I would hope they would fill our existing properties.

3. I would continue to support the implementation of the new emergency radio communication system. I would be in favor of increased funding for economic development incentives and increasing local funding for our children. I would look for grant money and low-interest funding to help support these initiatives.

I feel all of this would help to further develop a strong infrastructure, which will enable us not only to be more attractive for new businesses and jobs, but be able to meet their needs when the opportunity presents itself. Preparation meets opportunity.

4. I favor a sales tax referendum. There is no special interest and everyone pays an equal share of tax.

5. This is a double-edged sword. I would prefer cutting county expenses or services, but you can trim the fat only so far. I have seen so many job cuts and individuals working so much harder by wearing several hats. All of us want to be paid for what we are worth and appreciated for our job performance. It can sometimes be overwhelming.

If there is no other alternative, then I would see no other way but to raise taxes. This would be a last resort. My taxes would be raised like everyone else.

6. I would be more for cutting expenses before cutting services. I believe in working smarter, not harder.

7. I don’t know that it really matters, six of one and a half dozen of another. I guess you could look at it, there is one person representing a portion of a community and if someone within that community has a question or concern, they would surely have the opportunity to speak to someone they probably know fairly well. As an at-large candidate, I would be representing the entire county as a voice and not just one district. To me, this would be very important.

8.“Where I’m From” by Jason Michael Carroll.

Art Burleson (Republican)

Biographical information: N/A

1. I was born and raised in Stanly County. I graduated from WSHS in 1982. My parents worked in the textile industry, my mother worked at Wiscassett Mills and my father worked for American and Efird Mills. I have also worked in the textile industry, transportation, EMS, home construction, utility construction, heavy equipment operator, landscaping and several areas of the auto industry. I know firsthand how each of those jobs are import to local economies. Fast food, convenient stores included as well. I know what those who work these jobs have to do every day, I know what those jobs consist of.

I’ve also been in management positions. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was born to parents who appreciated every day of their working life. Like many families, we had our good times and struggled at times. But it helped us appreciate what we had no matter what it was.

2. Employment opportunities are scarce. Sure, there are fast food and retail jobs that pay minimum wage to $10 per hour, but the county needs industry here with better paying jobs. Alcoa has been trying to market the area for industrial expansion, let them do it. When any new industry expresses an interest in locating here, the board should be welcoming them in. Those industries should be courted and not thrown a bunch of red tape.

3. As I said in a previous question, Alcoa is trying to attract business to the Badin Business Park. How many counties in North Carolina. have an opportunity such as this? We can’t afford not to let new industry come in.

4. I think the 1/4 of a penny sales tax referendum is the fairest way to bring in much needed revenue. It’s still a tax increase, however, at a 1/4 of a penny per dollar spent, you’ve got to spend $4 to spend a penny more in taxes. I’m not going to miss a penny for every $4 I spend.

5. Cutting county services versus a property tax increase is a tough scenario. I think the current property tax rate is sufficient, but if it came down to cutting county services or expenses, I’m sure there are ways that could be accomplished and not cause any compromise in county services performance or an increase in property taxes. I firmly believe the sales tax option is the fairest way to increase revenue.

6. EMS is under funded. Severely. 60,000-plus people live in Stanly County. You have one paramedic truck in Norwood that covers the southern half of the county, two trucks in Red Cross to cover the western end of the county, two trucks in Albemarle the cover Albemarle and the central part, and a QRV (one person) paramedic unit in New London. Each shift also has a supervisor. You have less than one paramedic unit for every 10,000 citizens. One school bus accident could completely exhaust the county’s EMS transport capability. There are days that off-duty personnel are called in to man trucks because none are available due to call volume.

The time lost because of lack of sufficient personnel to handle an increased call load could very well delay the time it takes for someone experiencing a medical emergency to receive advance pre-hospital care. However, we are fortunate to have the men and women who volunteer their time as first responders to provide care for those in need prior to EMS arrival.

7. Yes. This should’ve been implemented years ago, it gives each area of the county a representative on the Board. Five people making decisions for 60,000 was not fair representation. Now that the board is expanding to seven, including districts, it has accomplished fair representation.

8. John Denver, “Take Me Home Country Roads.” I was in Blowing Rock, N.C., on vacation last summer, and for some reason that song kept coming to my mind as I traveled back home to Stanly County.

Heather Boles Couick (Republican)

Personal: 43-year-old Stanly County native who grew up in Norwood and attended South Stanly High School, married to Ronny Couick, five children and three grandchildren.

Occupation:  Own Charley’s Dairy Bar & Restaurant in Albemarle and partner with  husband to run Yard Works Power Equipment in Norwood,  a realtor for CENTURY 21 in Albemarle;

Background: BS in Human Services, member of the National Association of Realtors, North Carolina Association of Realtors and the Central Carolina Association of Realtors, previously ran for county commissioner in 2012;

Civic activities: Member of North Albemarle Baptist Church.

1. Since I have taken an interest in politics I’ve repeatedly heard citizens’ voice concern about a lack of jobs. I agree. Industry has dried up in our county. I also believe that in order for things to change they have to be looked at from a different perspective, with new eyes. New people bring new ideas, new networks and new hope. This is why I chose to run again in this year’s election.

With my experience in small business, real estate, grants and human services I feel I can not only reach out to the people of our county but relate to their issues as well as value their ideas and opinions and offer creative solutions to the problems that face us.

2. The slow economy and lack of jobs, industry/manufacturing jobs primarily. We desperately need companies that can fill the multitude of empty buildings across our county and return to us the many jobs we’ve lost over the past so that we can slowly but surely resurrect this county.

3. By putting the infrastructure (water, sewers, broadband, etc) in place that industries need, offering the incentives they need to make their return on investment here worthwhile and bolstering our educational offerings to better prepare our labor force to compete in this advancing technological market so when the industries do come they’re not hiring outside the county.

4. No one wants an increase in taxes of any kind, once raised they rarely if ever come back down, but if we have exhausted absolutely all other avenues, in order to properly fund our schools and emergency services it may our only choice. When attracting more industry to the county, jump starting our economy and generating cash flow, increased taxes wouldn’t be needed in order to take up the slack.

Many companies have looked to settle here in the past and for whatever reason decided to go to neighboring counties. My question is if other counties are willing to work with them why couldn’t we? We must make it easier for small businesses to find and get what they need to become established and grow here in Stanly County.

We also have to look at how to monopolize on our income producing resources to see how we can expand our reach and increase our returns and find creative/alternative ways to use those same resources to create even more revenue. Another avenue that needs to be explored is making the best use of our many tourist attractions to increase revenue producing traffic.

5. Again, no one wants their taxes raised, especially when so many are on limited incomes or no incomes at all. In order to not raise taxes you must question every expenditure and cut all waste. Look closely to make sure two or more service programs don’t overlap by providing similar services and if so devise a plan to shift them if possible to fall under one program so resources can then be better directed to other areas.

When large expenditures come up, see if other departments have the needed resource and if it can be shared before purchasing. If we have a resource that’s not being used, can it be rented out in a way to provide additional income? I have raised a family of five on less than $25,000 a year, I’ve had to become creative running two small businesses when we needed something and cash flow was low in order to not put ourselves in a bad position and still get what we needed. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.

6. My main concern is jobs. My second is the education of our children and grandchildren. Everyday our teachers instruct and provide guidance to our future generations, all without proper resources and many of which eventually come out of their own pockets. Our children are who will sustain us, protect us and lead us in the future, we must do everything we can to make sure their foundation is as strong as possible while making sure that when they are ready for us to hand over the reins it will be to an environment in which they can flourish and grow, that they will have the resources to propel them further and allow them to collaborate and build an even more prosperous society for their children.

We must all do our part in an effort to make the future better and if my husband and I are both elected to office in 2014 we pledge to give half of our commissioner salaries for four years to the students of Stanly County, each school receiving an equal amount to go toward whatever academic resource they are in most need of. We believe in this county, we believe in its people.

7. Yes and No. I don’t like the fact that it’s another cost our citizens will have to absorb, a cost we were not asked if we wanted or needed. I saw nothing wrong with the old voting format to suggest there was a problem. The only thing I see as a benefit is it brings more perspectives and ideas to the table to help formulate a plan to make our county better.

8. I’m not truly sure … I guess it depends on which lifestyle we’re talking about, a song reflecting the lifestyle of those living on the lake with sufficient income will be entirely different from the song being sung by those living in government housing and receiving food stamps.


Jann Lowder (Republican)

Personal: Married to Gary Lowder, three adult children, five grandchildren;

Occupation: Retired as president and co-owner TKG Transport, Inc. (1995 winner of the Chamber of Commerce, Small Business of the Year Award); 

Background: Served as a county commissioner for the 2008-2012 term.

Civic activities: Served on the Stanly County Board of Elections, Hospice of Stanly County, Stanly Community College Board of Trustees, and presently serve on the State Board of Community Colleges.

1. I know and understand the responsibility required to serve as a county commissioner. I have the qualifications, knowledge, experience and commitment to serve. I have a business background and a record in volunteer efforts in service for our citizens of all ages. My commitment has been a lifetime of involvement in Stanly County, and I want to devote the time and energy for all our families, yours and mine. People who know me, understand how much Stanly County means to me.

2. Jobs, Education and Quality of Life.

I believe commissioners must work to assist municipalities in the best interest of our citizens. I understand how important it is to be ready and willing to support all our existing business. All businesses support our tax base, provide job opportunities, and also contribute to many efforts in our county. We need to improve and expand in our recruiting efforts. The reality is that educational opportunities for learning and skill training has to be offered for the development and advancement of our workforce. Our public school system and our local community college are the institutions that provide the tools for learning and readiness for our school students, for the unemployed, and for the employed to advance. Good jobs raise the standard of living. 

We need to understand the importance of the balance necessary between growth and preserving our natural resources and our farmlands. Agriculture is important for the future of Stanly County. Wes Morgan, Terry Blalock, John Pickler, Tony Lowder, Keith Hill, Charles Herlocker, Ronnie Burleson, Windell and Nelson Talley, members of the Dennis and Huneycutt families are some of our farming neighbors. They are a vital part of Stanly County.

3. Stanly County and the city of Albemarle, together investing in the effort to develop either one or two related brands is a joint marketing step in a positive direction.  Another step is the county's EDC Business Breakfast Series, which some of the commissioner candidates attended. Using this forum to provide information, having  department heads available to address any questions and concerns from businesses, should be helpful. 

We must continue to discuss other ways to develop job growth, to recruit new business, and to encourage entrepreneurs. With the assistance of the NC Dept. of Commerce, and the Charlotte Regional Partnership; hopefully businesses looking to relocate or expand will be encouraged by them to look at Stanly County.  Although we may have infrastructure drawbacks, we have many desirable strengths.

4. First, I need to share some questions I have.

I understand this additional revenue is needed for the 911 Communication System. It will be a recurring sales tax. I would want to know why using a portion of the county's fund balance is not an option. It is my understanding our total fund balance far exceeds the LGC’s requirement. Perhaps the present Board of Commissioners have committed some of the unrestricted fund balance for the purchase of the Oakboro Sewer Treatment Plant, broadband access, other plans or to pay debt service. The need for additional revenue and increasing the sales tax rate may be necessary.

The increase would apply to everyone who buys goods here; our local residents, visitors, and even those traveling through our county. I believe the county manager mentioned that without the sales tax increase, a property tax increase could be considered to raise revenue. Many people would escape paying a property tax rate increase because they don’t own any real property. In my opinion, that would be an unfair burden to property owners. 

I encourage all voters to decide in their best interest to either vote for or against the referendum.

5. First, I would review the budget to understand funding for each department. Secondly, I would try to determine if increases were “need” based, mandated, or customary budget requests for increases, and at what percentage rate are the proposed increases. Nearly $45 million of the $55 million budget is mandated.

Are there programs or services that matching funds have been exhausted or expired, but now funding is a recurring expense for the county’s funding alone? If there are any programs or services which are not productive or no longer beneficial; then these expenses should be removed from funding. I would look again and again for ways to reduce expenses without sacrificing the needed services. 

6. I have no specific concerns. I do not know the current debt service, what federal or state grants are available for any proposed projects which presently have the board’s commitment, or the terms of any available financing for any projects. In addition, I do not know if any previous federal or state funding has been reduced or totally removed. If elected, I will be asking a lot of questions.

7. At first, I did not support Stanly County having a seven member board. I agree with the proposed district representation and each candidate being required to be a resident of their district. I liked the five districts as drawn.  Allowing registered voters countywide to determine who would serve in all five districts and in the two at-large seats, is the way it should be. With the addition of two seats there should be more thoughts and ideas brought into the board's discussions for making good decisions.

8. “Down Home” by Alabama

This song describes so much that reminds me of our citizens and their way of life. The line, “When I was a boy, I couldn’t wait to leave this place. Now I want to see my children raised down home.” That tells how parenthood changed his mind and he grew to appreciate the values and lifestyles of his home. Many of us learned the same lesson. The part that reminds me most about Stanly County is, “Folks know if they’ve fallen on hard times, they can fall back on those of us down home.” This line reminds me of the goodness in the hearts of our friends and neighbors.

Matthew Swain (Republican)

Personal: 31 years old, married to Courtney Swain, expecting a child;

Occupation:  Cabarrus County Schools as a career development and special populations coordinator;

Background: Involved with the high school agriculture teachers;

Civic activities: Served on North Carolina State University's College of Agriculture Advisory Board for four years after college, serve as a volunteer firefighter with Endy VFD (previously held the office of chief), and president of the Stanly County Firefighters Association.

1. Stanly County is overdue for a new perspective in the direction in which our county is headed. We must address the issues that face us head on, by focusing on economic development and jobs, continuing investment in our county’s infrastructure and wholeheartedly supporting our school system. These primary drivers led me to my decision to pursue a seat as county commissioner.

Education has served as my passion for almost nine years now, while serving as an agriculture teacher and currently a career development coordinator with Cabarrus County Schools. I integrate students into the local workforce to relate what they learn in school to real world situations. Additionally, I coordinate the intern program which allows students to work in local businesses to gain invaluable experiences while earning high school credit.

Serving my community in the volunteer fire service has been a personal interest of mine. I had the honor to serve as Endy Volunteer fire chief for the last four years.  While chief, I was also honored to serve as the Stanly Fire Association president for the last two years and work in conjunction with all the fire chiefs and county departments on an extensive communications upgrade, to better serve the people of Stanly County. 

2. Hands down, increasing local jobs is the biggest struggle we face.

Stanly County is a beautiful area to live, and the ultimate goal would be to bring more jobs.  We should focus on becoming business friendly, and assisting new businesses moving into the county to meet the requirements to get established.

3. While it is no secret that I believe that a solid education at every level is the driver in a local economy, we need to prove we can provide a sustainable workforce right here, so businesses will call us home. Many projects are already underway, including programs at Stanly Community College to help local businesses provide advanced training for their workforce.  

We cannot stop at only bringing new jobs; we already have employers that provide jobs that deserve the same attention. As commissioners we need to actively focus on economic development and never lose sight of those whom we serve. Small business is the backbone of our economy. Small businesses provide our county with many goods and services, without which we would not readily function or continue to progress forward. While we strive to increase employment, we must also concentrate on making our existing hometown businesses as successful as they can be.     

Finally, I believe we should review our current operations and compare ourselves to counties around us that are attracting employers. If we need to re-evaluate the way we do business in the field of economic development to attract businesses, then we should do it.  

4. I do support the referendum for several reasons.  

By allowing a vote, it allows the people to make the decision on how they prefer to pay for services. It also allows Stanly County to benefit from those outside the county that travel through and stop, or those that come regularly to shop from neighboring counties.  

By generating the $800,000 that this increase has projected, the commission should use it to reduce debt.  I believe the biggest reason for an increase request this year is due to an upgrade of the 30-year-old communication system that Emergency Management and 911 currently use.  While I know personally, through my work with the Stanly Fire Association, that grants have been sought for this system they are not a guarantee, and any remaining balance would still be due.  I will say I had hoped the referendum had stipulations that mandated how it could be used. For example, it could be used to reduce the county’s debt; once that debt was eliminated it would be used for local capital improvements in schools and county buildings, or infrastructure improvement and expansion.

5. This is really a double-edged sword, in that I personally would not want to raise property taxes, however, most local budgets have been stripped over the last few years.  There is a basic level of service that citizens expect from the county, and with that are the major expenses in the county budget. Health and human services, as well as education both local public schools and the community college make up large portions of the budget and both of these line items directly affect the vast majority of the population. I feel that the county has taken a positive step in the referendum on sales tax that I do support, as long as the additional cash flow is used to eliminate debt and not expand the budget. Managed properly the property taxes wouldn’t need to be increased.

6. Commissioners have to make a conscious effort to evaluate expenditures that we approve. The pie of money isn't getting any bigger but there are more people trying to get bigger slices. We cannot continue to spend tax dollars on low-yielding projects.

Past boards have spent budget dollars on projects that in my opinion have hurt the county. When our biggest hurdle is economic development and job growth, we have to remember that prospective businesses look at how we treat former employers and current employers. These prospective organizations also look at infrastructure both for their business and for their employees. We have to continue to seek out methods to increase county water access for more of our citizens because that is just as much a draw to live and work here as many other factors.

7. Yes! It allows each area of the county to receive equal representation. There have been past boards where representations in certain areas of the county are lacking to say the least. I feel that with districts that every citizen has at least three commissioners they can call confidently with issues they may have. First, contact their district commissioner, someone from their area that understands the needs of that area. Secondly, they can contact their two at-large commissioners, those elected to serve every area of Stanly County.

While I understand the impact of adding two more commissioners that opponents of the idea raise, I feel that the long term benefit outweighs their concerns.

8. “Tattoos on This Town” by Jason Aldean

I think this song touches many people in Stanly County, if you pull up the lyrics and just read through them you begin to recall memories. These memories are what make us who we are today, and they will define who we are in years to come. The memories I had as a child are different than those of my parents and grandparents, and that is true for all of us. But I believe that we can grow and make our towns an economic force in this state and country, and then there will be a new generation to create memories about our beautiful county. I think as long as we remember where we’ve been and move forward progressively for future generations, we can reap the benefits of our rural community values.

Board of Commissioners – District 1

Mike Barbee (Republican)

Biographical information:  Personal: married to Shelia Eudy of Albemarle for almost 46 years; four children, six grandchildren.

A Stanly County native, he is a member of Philadelphia Baptist Church.

Occupation:Retired from AT&T after 36 years, communication specialist for SDT of Mississippi for five years, and now employed part-time by Bass Pro Shops.

Background: Received certificates  from AT&T in electronics, fiber optic splicing and trouble shooting and locating.

He coached Dixie youth baseball and fast-pitch softball for 17 years.

He has been a member of the NC Beekeepers Association and Stanly County Beekeepers Association since 1997 and is a certified beekeeper.

He has for almost eight years served on the Stanly County School Board and chaired the facilities and finance committees.

1. I haven’t been happy with some decisions that have been made and I don’t feel that the best interest for all citizens have been taken into account. I feel if elected I will be able to work with all communities and focus on the count’s needs.

2. The economy and jobs go hand in hand but we can't forget about education either.

3. We need to reduce the red tape and help our small business and agriculture expand, As we see from our county seal we only have our people and agriculture left and we need to take advantage of any opportunity to promote agriculture to young people to keep them interested in our county’s assets.

4. I can’t support a tax increase just for the sake of a tax increase. Nobody has explained the need or what it will be used for and I believe it will hurt our small business in Stanly County. With the surrounding counties at a lower tax rate I don’t believe it would be a smart move. I heard that sales tax is the most fair tax and I believe that but to promote it just to have an unjustified tax increase. I just can’t do that.

5. I don’t forsee having to raise property taxes or cut county expenses or services. I do feel that if the circumstance faces us that we should be good stewards of the taxpayers money and evaluate all expenses and services before any tax increase. I hate waste and will look into unnecessary expenses.

6. I am concerned about the proposed bypass around Locust and I think the public needs more input on this, Also money has been appropriated for sewer line extensions that have not been put in place

7. I think it will more fairly represent all parts of the county by having representatives from each sector. It remains to be seen how well it will work and be used and may have to be tweaked

8. Just thought of Johnny Cash’s “Green Green Grass of Home.” I know there is still hope for our county.

Scott Efird (Republican)

Personal: 52 years old, married to Tracy Furr Efird, daughter Kerri Dawn Efird (deceased);

Occupation: City of Locust - planning director;

Background: Locust Planning & Zoning & Board of Adjustments-1990-2009 – Chairman -2003-2009, Mayor of Locust – 2009-2012, NC Air National Guard 263rd CCS, Badin, 1983-1989-Rank of Staff Sergeant @ honorable discharge in 1989.

Civic activities: Member of Philadelphia Baptist Church, Stanfield – Head Deacon/Building & Grounds Committee/Cemetery Committee/Asst Sunday School Teacher 4 & 5 year olds, Board of Directors-West Stanly Fire Department-1989-2013, Youth Baseball Coach 1999-2009.

1. I am running for the office of Stanly County commissioner because I have a genuine concern and care about the future and direction that Stanly County will be going forward in the next four years. I am a lifelong resident of Stanly, born and raised, and I am passionate about making this the best county in North Carolina. I know the history and the past struggles of our county. I think that we have a diamond in the rough within Stanly County and I think that we can move forward to make this an even better place to live and also to work. I believe that I am the best candidate because of my true interest and also because of my experience as mayor of the city of Locust and currently as the planner of the city of Locust.

2. I think that the need for jobs within the county is one of the biggest issues that we face — not just jobs, but jobs that offer individuals the opportunity to provide for their families with good pay, benefits, and stability. We have many hard working individuals in Stanly County that are currently out of the work force, but truly want the opportunity to go back to work, and to be contributors to society and not be dependent for basic necessities for their livelihood. We, as commissioners need to focus on creating jobs within the county which in turn makes the county thrive and in turn makes families thrive.

3. I believe that we need to focus on our existing businesses to see where we can help them expand to be able to hire more of our local citizens as employees.  It is obvious that if a business is already established & profitable within the county, that the next step for them would be to enhance and grow and we as a county should be able to encourage that, one way we can achieve this is by reaching out to their suppliers, etc. and see if the suppliers would be willing to move into Stanly County as this would be a win-win for the business by making products easier to obtain and more accessible and to lower cost such as shipping and be on track for Stanly County by creating more jobs all within the natural flow of normal business that the companies already were working together. Stanly County needs to be business-friendly to companies that would like to move here and cut out the red-tape holding them back.  Stanly County needs to be “open” for business.

4. I think that the sales tax referendum on the upcoming ballot is a very good way to provide a beneficial source of additional revenue for the county. With the sales tax referendum, you will reach a broader span of which will include individuals from outside the county also that come into the county to shop and spend their money. This money has been designated to be used for the 800-radio system, which will provide the ability for all of our emergency services, i.e. police, fire, rescue to communicate seamlessly together.

5. This is a hard topic to address. It always has been and always will be…. No one wants new taxes but everyone wants the services, but at a certain point, the need to increase taxes may be needed to address such issues. I think that all available options should be considered and discussed prior to an increase in property taxes. I think that the citizens should be a part of the process whether it be by committees or forums for suggestions, etc. prior to considering an increase in property taxes. Informed citizens are the best kind, we all want to be a part of the process and have our questions and concerns made aware prior to any decision being made.

6. At the present time, I do not have any specific expense or service that I am concerned or that I am focusing on. I do think that we need to observe and monitor closely and to consider for improvements. Running a county should be as with running a household, we need to be sure that we are getting the most bang for our buck and need to get the most for our money. We should look at all services and expenses to fine tune for improvements.

7. I am highly in favor of the new voting format in Stanly County. I think that it gives more representation to all of the citizens in the districts and not just to one area. I believe that past commissioners have had the best interest in mind for Stanly County. This format gives the citizens someone that they know in their particular districts which in turn give a comfort level to know that you can go directly to him or her with any questions or concerns and it be acknowledged.

8. “My Town” by Montgomery-Gentry. This is where I was born and where I was raised and where I will spend all of my yesterdays…. this is my town….

Board of Commissioners - District 2

Ronny Couick (Republican)

Personal: 53 years old, married to Heather Boles Couick, five children and three grandchildren;

Occupation: Owner of Yard Works Power Equipment in Norwood;

Background: Native of Union County, moved to Stanly County six years ago.

Civic activities:  Members of North Albemarle Baptist Church.

1. People that enter my business have expressed concerns about how manufacturing has left this once prosperous county. I hear their cries for leadership that is not only focused on trying to regain what we have lost but should be aggressively working to create an atmosphere that is conducive to new business creation. These people have stopped communicating their concerns and believe their voices have little or no value to our leaders. I place a high value on each person’s input and want to develop a clear path that the citizens not only join in with, but might actually get excited about. We need to work together so our children might have a county that allows them to achieve their dreams.

I have always worked to continuously improve myself and my surroundings. I have participated in numerous programs designed to improve product, minimize costs and reduce waste. I am known as a problem solver and believe the knowledge gained from operating several successful businesses will help me understand both perspectives of what businesses need and what the citizens need. I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to work with you. I’m willing to work for you.

2. I think everyone has a deep concern over the loss of prosperity, lost jobs, lost wages, and lost money. But so many problems arise when the cash flow stops.

Communication is a key factor. We need to join together, discuss our issues as a group, and reach the consensus on where we are, where we want to go, what we need to get there and the time frame in which to accomplish this. I would like to see an increase in membership in our Economic Development Commission as more input and networking might bring forth new ideas and opportunities we are currently missing. We need reports from our boards to be presented during the commissioner meetings so the people can see what progress is being accomplished. We need to increase accountability. We need to work together to create the Stanly County that we can proudly pass on to our children and their children. Tell me what you think Stanly County needs. Let’s start communicating … and keep communicating until we reach our goals. Then we can set new goals.

3. Regaining prosperity will require a clear set of goals that we, as a group, need to set. First we need to define our current status, basically creating the county report card. This constantly updating report needs to address many priorities, some of which are our government financial fitness, the responsibilities of our county government, taxes, education, infrastructure, social programs and many more.

Secondly, we need to bring together the Economic Development Boards of each town together with the county, pooling their resources together, and find out why over 80 percent of the business inquiries for Stanly County did not elect to come here. Next, select and correct the easiest items, followed by the more difficult as well as communicating our intentions to the people.

But the key to major improvement is large scale manufacturing business as this will create a larger county income that will be spread to the other businesses and to the county citizens. More jobs paying better wages will allow people to buy better homes and nicer vehicles, all of which will increase the tax base. A larger tax base will provide for higher wages for county employees, afford better infrastructure, and encourage even more businesses.    

4. I do not favor increasing taxes unless we have no other alternative. Once raised government very rarely ever reduces taxes, even in good times. Many already have enough of a burden to bear thanks to the national economy and would not welcome an extra tax.

Do we really need to increase  revenue or can we reduce our need for more revenue without sacrificing services?

I would like to see purchasing between all county and city departments combined together whenever possible with the goal of larger purchases receiving better pricing. Let’s bring together, all departments with similar operations, and develop best practices to reduce waste. Employee input would be critical here so they need to be involved. A process called Lean Manufacturing reduces waste and improves profit for businesses and I believe it can help reduce the tax burden on our citizens.

5. I believe this question has to be weighed on the merit of the service and its efficiency at providing that service with the least costs possible. Let’s first look at how we can become more efficient and then if we still can’t meet our obligations then we can adjust the tax rate to continue the required services.

If we need to increase the rate, then we need to freeze the current rate for our seniors who live on a fixed income, at least for the first $200,000 of taxable property. We should not put the extra burden on those who have no other means of increasing their income.

6. All county services need to be evaluated. If one department has employees available to work, but are not needed that day or week, then maybe we can redistribute those workers to other departments that are in need of extra help on a temporary basis. Reallocation of assets between departments needs to be considered, as well as sharing of equipment that has only occasional use, between the county and other municipalities in Stanly County. Why buy expensive equipment when someone else has it sitting idle in a warehouse. Combine all like processes, such as vehicle maintenance in one location to provide better service and reduce costs.

7. The previous format and the new one both have merits and issues. I wish the voters would have had the chance to voice their opinion through referendum so their opinion was given the highest consideration. After all, it is supposed to be the government of the people.

8. In my opinion, “This is My Town” by Montgomery Gentry.

Bill Lawhon (Republican)

Personal:  62 years old, married to Gail for 42 years, two sons,.

Occupation: Worked in banking industry for the past 34 years,  holds the position as Stanly County market president with Uwharrie Bank;

Background:  N.C. National Guard, N.C. School of Banking, University of North Carolina (1987), graduate school of banking at Louisiana State University (1998);

Civic activities: Chairman of the board of directors for the Stanly County Chamber of Commerce for the year of 2013, chairman of the board of directors for For Stanly, Inc., chairman of the Deacon Board of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, board member for Centralina Development Corporation, Stanly County Economic Development Commission, and the Stanly County YMCA.

1. I am running for county commissioner District 2 because I care about the citizens of our county. My working career as a banker has been to help grow our economy. As a banker, my knowledge and experience should fit well as a county commissioner. It has been my job as a banker to provide capital in the form of loans to business owners and individual citizens. This form of capital has allowed businesses to fund inventory, equipment and provide operating capital. With capital, businesses can employ citizens to help run their business. It has provided local citizens the funds to make purchases for homes, cars, boats and other major items. When purchases are made, this helps generate revenue for our county. In turn, it makes our economy better and as a taxpayer it spreads the tax burden. My budget and financial experience will also be a benefit if elected. It will allow me as one of your commissioners to make sure tax dollars are being spent wisely. I am asking you to favor me with your vote. I am sure we can together make positive changes in Stanly County.

2. Our local weak economy and lack of new jobs being created. Stanly County is blessed with a good workforce, good location in the center of the Piedmont and good natural resources. If we use these assets properly, we can create jobs. We are blessed to have Pfeiffer University and Stanly Community College in our county which can prepare our workforce for current job opportunities and jobs of the future. We still have many good companies in our county but we need more to come. We also need to take care of our agri-business community to ensure this business sector remains a viable employer and revenue stream for our county. Remember everyone needs to eat, buy clothing, work and have a place called home. I believe Stanly County has a great future if we make the right decisions.

3. We have an excellent agri-business community and still have some very strong companies and small businesses in our county. We need to build stronger relationships with those businesses that are already here which are providing jobs. Working together with those businesses we can focus on companies that we want in our community and then start building relationships with those companies in an effort to move some of them to Stanly County. In the banking world, if you want to do business with someone you first ask for their business and start building a relationship built on trust. We cannot totally depend on referrals from allies. We must all stand together, work together and focus on the business we want for Stanly County. We need to continue improving our infrastructure which will also help in recruiting more companies to our county. Our school system needs the best technology we can put in our children’s hands, so they will be prepared for the world as it continues to change. We can make a positive impact for our county, if we all work together.

4. No one likes taxes, especially real estate taxes. This proposal of a sales tax increase was put on the ballot by our current Board of Commissioners for the citizens to decide on this increase of ¼ of 1 cent sales tax. My research on this matter shows, if it passes, it will first provide funds to pay for the new 911 Communication System used for the safety of our citizens. Our current sales tax  in Stanly County would increase from 6.75 percent to 7 percent and would be paid by anyone who makes purchases in Stanly County whether they are a citizen of our county or not. This tax is already being charged in surrounding counties, so if you make a purchase in one of those counties you are putting money in that counties revenue tax bucket.  I am like you, a voter who will have to make my decision whether to vote for or against this tax referendum in November in the privacy of the voting booth.

5. No one likes tax increases, especially property tax. Our county and Board of Commissioners have maintained for the past seven years a stable tax rate without increase. No one needs to remind you that our country, state and county have gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression. During this our county has increased our General Fund balance to more than 26 percent of our annual expenditures. At year end, our county moved another $830,034 into the General Fund balance which is good for our taxpayers. As a county, we are well reserved in our General Funds far greater than what is required. Now it is our job as citizens to get our county economy growing at a faster pace than inflation. We can do that by adding jobs and making a commitment to buy local.

As a commissioner, I will be reviewing expenses and services offered to make sure they are relevant and needed. I prefer we work together to make sure we get our economy working for us so we don’t have to raise taxes or cut needed services. If our economy is growing, we should have additional tax dollars to continue and improve services offered.

6. As a taxpayer, I am concerned about how all of our tax dollars are spent. If elected as one of your commissioners, I promise I will work hard to make sure our tax dollars are being spent wisely and the services offered benefit the majority of our taxpayers. As a citizen, I want to see our community grow and thrive and return to a growing community that we can all be proud of. As I have stated, I love living, working and playing in Stanly County and want it to be recognized as a leading county in our state.

7. Our new format will be to elect commissioners from districts in which they live. We will also elect one at-large representative in the upcoming 2014 election. In the past, commissioners were all elected at large which means they all could have been elected from one city or town in our county. The new district representation will ensure all parts of our county have a representative. Lots of voters are thinking that they can only vote for the candidate that is running in their district. That is not true. All districts will be voted on by the voters throughout our county. I do think district representation will be good for the county.

If elected, I will be the commissioner from District 2 which consist of parts of Stanly County that runs down 24/27 East to Lake Tillery, all of  Norwood, Cottonville, Aquadale, and then runs up between Highway 138 and Efird Road. Even though I represent this large area, I will also be one of your county commissioners committed to all of Stanly County. Again, I ask for your vote on May 6th primary.

8. The song that I want our lifestyle to reflect is the song “Let’s Work Together” by Canned Heat.