The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Local News

April 24, 2014

County Commission candidates express views on issues


Thursday, April 24, 2014 — 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.

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