The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 21, 2013

Change was the theme for 2012

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Monday, January 21, 2013 — The year 2012 was one of transitions for the city of Locust, but officials say those changes occurred smoothly and the town continues to move forward into the new year with barely a bump in the road.

Within a matter of a few months, Locust had a new town administrator, a new planning director and a new mayor.

Tim Fesperman took on the city administrator duties full-time in August after his predecessor, James Inman, left to take a similar position in Bessemer City.

Former Mayor Scott Efird left his mayoral duties to become the city’s planning director in November.

Councilman Steve Huber was selected in December to fill the mayor’s seat.

Huber’s council seat is expected to be filled at their February meeting.

Those changes stand out in Fesperman’s mind as the biggest things the town has weathered in the past year.

“But, change is inevitable and is going to happen,” Fesperman said.

“The definition of a strong and vibrant organization is how you handle and respond to change. I think our staff and city have responded incredibly well.”

He noted services have gone uninterrupted and goals and objectives to the citizens have been kept.

“The changes have really been invisible to the citizens and that’s what we want,” Fesperman said.

“With all the change, we just didn’t miss a beat and that says a whole lot for the city, the citizen and the staff.”

He also said the attitude of the citizens of Locust has been “very positive.”

“We have continued to grow in the toughest of times,” he added noting things have slowed down.

“But it hasn’t just stopped. We continue to grow and work hard to make sure the growth we have is smart growth and sustainable growth. It’s not just growth at any cost we’re looking for.”

Part of those goals, Fesperman said, includes making the cost and diversity of housing a city needs available to new residents.

“We want to encourage people to stay,” he said.

“We want people to live here and grow here.”

“The biggest issue we now have is sewer,” Huber said.

Fesperman said the town has been in negotiations with Oakboro about the situation.

“The positive thing is we’ve got everybody together. We’ve got everybody talking. We’ve got everybody looking at our problem and when you do that, you have a much better success rate at solving a problem for the long term,” Fesperman said.

Huber said he looks at the residents that live there and input from those that do not but utilized the businesses in town.

“One of the things I have found is we are becoming a very popular destination. Not just for people in Stanly County, but even for people in Cabarrus and Union counties to visit our restaurants,” Huber said.

He singled out The Fresh House restaurant, noting it has acquired a reputation well outside the city limits.

“I do think if I was simply a resident of Locust looking at the structure of our city government, I’d be very excited right now,” Huber said.

“The thing that is exciting to me is that with every change that we make, we always seem to fall forward.”

He said as mayor he wants to make sure every action the city takes is a movement toward progress.

“The thing that impresses me most is the reputation of Locust,” he said.

“When we go to meetings, a lot of the mayors and administrators in Stanly County are very complimentary and very excited for Locust and some of the things we have been able to accomplish.”

Huber said he finds it exciting that Locust is drawing attention to the western part of the county.

“The parking lots are full and it seems like people all over Locust are succeeding,” Huber said.

“We can’t take credit for that, but we can at least say we had a hand in developing the atmosphere to make it happen.”

The mayor said the city wants to continue to provide the services the citizens need “in a fiscally responsible way.”

“We also, as part of that growth and providing those services, we want to make sure it’s managed in a way that doesn’t become too big, too fast,” Huber said.

“We want to be sure to bring in the types of businesses that we feel enhance the quality of life we have here and in no way detract from it. That’s my vision in a nutshell.”