By Brian Graves, News Editor
Wednesday, September 4, 2013 —
The city of Albemarle needs to focus on economic growth.
That was the concensus of the 13 candidates who appear on Albemarle’s municipal election ballot during the primary.
Candidates were given the opportunity to express their thoughts on the matter at a forum sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of South Albemarle Thursday night at the E.E. Waddell Community Center.
An audience of about 30 attended to hear the candidates comment on what they perceive as the major concerns of the city.
There were no heated exchanges and the candidates showed good humor with each other before, during and after the nearly three-hour session.
Each candidate was allowed to give a two-minute opening statement, which was used by all the participants to tell about their life experiences.
The following is a condensed version of the comments each candidate made and are placed in the order which the candidates addressed the forum.
These excerpts focus on the major point in each candidate’s remarks. Every candidate did not use the same amount of time or verbiage to make their major point and the effort not to take any of the comments out of context causes some candidates’ space here to be longer or shorter than the others.
Chris Bramlett (R)
“It’s not the will to win that matters, it’s the will to prepare to win that matters. Albemarle must prepare to win.
“We must take the steps necessary to make us competitive with our neighbors that are proven planners in the economic development game.
“Because we don’t have the advantage of location those neighbors have, we’re going to have to work harder than they do just to approach a level playing field.
“We have a reputation that must be reversed. In the economic development world Albemarle and Stanly County are not perceived to be business-friendly.
“In Albemarle and Stanly County, if you were asked about getting 1,000 feet of sewer line, you would argue and argue the point until that business owner would probably pack up and head someplace where they are appreciated.
“There is too much acrimony and animosity between Albemarle and Stanly County. I promise you if I’m elected that war is over and we will participate with the county and nine other municipalities in projects I expect to be mutually beneficial.”
Ronnie Michael (D)
“Jobs, jobs, jobs.
“We have lagged behind in jobs. I, myself, and the entire city council have made economic development a priority.
“We are not just talking the talk, we are taking action.
“This year, we appointed an economic development task force to look at the policies and make recommendations to improve.
“A few months ago, this task force presented their findings and we’re addressing their recommendations.
“I will work to address the goals and am committed to working on the long term.
“Short term, we need to address the branding and the image of our city and assigning a public information officer to market the city.
“Another goal recommended was to fund another person to work with the county on economic development.
“Discussion has taken place on this and we’re still hopeful this can happen.
“We have to work on our relationship with other elected officials. Cooperation is the key to success. If elected, it is my intention to reach out to all the municipalities and the county to improve our relations. We must be willing to work together if we are to improve the quality of life and attract more jobs to our area.
“The city does have a few vacant buildings but very little land. More industrial property is needed and we must look to develop more options for new and expanded employers.”
David Morgan (D)
“Without doubt, jobs and economic development are the issues we have to tackle in Albemarle.
“I was one of the 15 people appointed last September by the mayor and city council to serve on the city’s economic development task force. I’m not sure if I still serve or if it’s been abandoned.
“The last communication I got was May 10 and that was just a reminder the city task force’s recommendations would be presented to the county commissioners.
“See if you think economic development has been addressed.
“The mayor and city council started talking about the economic development task force over a year ago. They decided to take applications through July 2012.
“In September 2012, the interested applicants had to appear before the mayor and city council to explain why they wanted to serve.
“After the mayor and city council decided who they wanted to appoint, the task force met once a month in November, December and January.
“On Jan. 28, this task force presented its recommendations to the mayor and city council. At that meeting, the mayor and city manager agreed to meet with the chairman of the county commission, chairman of the Stanly County Economic Committee, county manager and EDC director.
“After about a month or so, I called up the task force facilitator to find out what happened and she advised me she was no longer under contract with the city or the task force.
“In April, the facilitator is brought back for a follow-up meeting with the task force, mayor and city council about the joint meeting.
“It was decided the Albemarle economic task force’s recommendations would be presented by the EDC task force chairman to the Stanly County commissioners at their regular meeting on May 20.
“It’s now Aug. 29 and three months since recommendations were presented to county commission and six months since they were presented to the mayor and city council.
“It’s been two years since I campaigned on the need for action on jobs and economic development and over a year since the mayor and city council started talking about the need for the task force.
“I don’t think it’s timely leadership for our city. I can promise you the lack of follow-up and follow-through will have no place in the city (with me) as mayor.
Joe Speight (R)
“One of the things that I think has been overlooked, I’m not talking about education in the school system. I’m talking about education of our citizens.
“We, as citizens, need to know what’s going on. A lot of things happen and have been done that we’re not aware of.
“There are 10,000 registered voters in Albemarle. They’re not here to see what my counterparts have to say or what I have to say. Why not?
“One point eight percent of the population voted in the last election to choose our leaders.
“One of the things we have to do in Albemarle is get rid of the apathy and get people involved.
“All these programs we’ve talked about and all these programs started by the present council need the support of the citizens to be successful.
“We’re not promoting Albemarle. Tell me one place in downtown Albemarle where you can buy a T-shirt that says ‘Albemarle’ or any other of the amenities we have in and around.
“Go to Myrtle Beach and find a place that doesn’t have a T-shirt that says ‘Myrtle Beach’ on it.
“The thing we have to do is show Albemarle is open for business. We’ve got to use common sense in what we do.
“For example, when Donut Dinette got their final inspection for a certificate of occupancy the sign out front was two inches higher than the roof.
“He didn’t get the certificate. That sign has only been there for 30 years and I don’t now how many airplanes have crashed because of its extraordinary height.
“He had to wait two weeks to get his sign lowered two inches.
“It could have been grandfathered in, or an exception made, or give him six months to get it situated.
“Common sense is what we need. There have been numerous instances where there have been great hurdles put in front of someone wanting to open a business and they wound up not opening their business.”
City Council Candidates
Jack Bell (D-District 2)
“I feel we must address the dilapidated houses in Albemarle. In addition to being dangerous and an eyesore, the houses hey put both our citizens and our law enforcement officers at an unnecessary risk.
“We need to make Albemarle a strong and vibrant community for a place to invite new businesses.
“We have so much to offer employers to bring them into our city.
“We need to revitalize our downtown. Empty store fronts do not attract customers or businesses. The vitality of the downtown is a direct reflection of the health and vitality of our city.
“We need to create a downtown that is a destination place where people shop, eat, visit with friends and live.
“We have buildings with beautiful architecture sitting empty. We need to find ways to attract businesses and customers.
“We need to support the Economic Development Commission and its efforts to improve Stanly County. But we also need to look at options for recruiting businesses for the city of Albemarle.
“We need to address parking and signage in downtown to let people know what is available.”
Ed Underwood (R-District 2)
“I think we need to do something about our sign ordinances. There are too many people wanting to come into Albemarle and back out because of the sign ordinance.
“We need jobs but we all know that. We need to work on the store fronts.
Martha Hughes (R-At Large)
“When people think of a city of Albemarle, they think of a small, peaceful, close-knit town — a town that is immune to the problems of larger cities.
“However, Albemarle has been changing with the times and many of these changes are not positive.
“Cities like Albemarle are prone to a higher rate of drug abuse. It’s hard to believe our police department has shut down three meth labs in the last month.
“We must pro-actively address the problem through education, prevention, treatment and follow up.
“As a city, this problem is something we cannot ignore.
“We have a need for consistency in planning and development.
“There are significant inconsistencies in the way property owners maintain their property. Not everyone follows the rules.
“It would be most beneficial for all businesses if our city would develop a unified development ordinance.
“Whether than having separate ordinances affecting important issues such as land use, property subdivision, flood protection and natural environment protection, all of these would be consolidated into one document.
“This would ensure those interested in developing within our city would have a plan carried out in a manner that is consistant with the character of our city.
“The recommendations of the economic task force are still relevant to our growth. They are: Undertaking a branding and marketing exercise to determine the city’s official image; fund a position with the Stanly County Economic Development Commission; fund an economic development position within the city; and support a position for the Stanly County EDC to support existing businesses.
“We have studies in 2004 and 2013 and yet we have not witnessed any progress on job creation. These are the items professionals have told us we need to do. Let’s work together and get these programs moving forward.
“I also feel strongly we need to continue our efforts toward creating a working relationship with the Stanly County Economic Development Commission. We can work smarter together to achieve greater job opportunities for our community.”
George “Eddy” McDaniel (D-At Large)
“Economic development is the top issue facing the city.
“It’s already been addressed in a number of ways and addressed part ways by the current mayor and council.
“It’s just the point that it needs to move and people are tired of talking about it. Let’s move on to some action.
“If we can’t do it in cooperation with the county economic development or someone else, let’s do it ourselves.
“We can initiate the action and move forward.
“We can put together an economic committee that would send routine reports to the mayor and from that point we can move forward.
“You can’t do anything if you don’t do something, You’ve got to move forward.
“Planning needs to be done and put the plan out there. It’s not set in stone. You can adjust it, but you have to have a place to start.
“We need to have involvement in education working with the school system,
“It used to be in schools you had the opportunities to go into a profession, whether it be an auto mechanic or carpenter, electrician or plummers. There is always going to be a need for that type of occupation.
“Let’s work to put that back in there and get the kids that aren’t going to college — give an avenue for them and let them go for that.
“We’ll work on providing the jobs for them when they get out of school.
“We need, as a community, mayor and council, to work through that process to see if we can’t get that in place.”
Judy Holcomb (D-At Large)
“It sounds like we haven’t done anything on city council. But I’m here to tell you we all work together and have worked diligently to make this city what it is.
“We don’t discriminate which section of town we are on. We pave every road in the city, where there are sidewalks, where there are walking trails.
“Right now, we have an agreement with Concord and Kannapolis to sell them some water. That’s going to bring in about $1.2 million a year at a minimum.
“If you just look around our city you can see the excellent job of the police. We have good working conditions for them.
“We have a new city hall. We have the Market Station. And I know there are a lot of empty places right now.
“It’s very difficult when you have a business and the economy the way it is.
“Unless you’ve had a business, you’re not going to realize what you’re going to have to go through every day just to keep their doors open.
“We just have to all work together. We had an opportunity in Badin to have 350 jobs but that went astray because of some problems people had.
“I am a supporter of any industry that wants to relocate in Albemarle. I will work and stand up for them. I will always be willing to give incentives to small businesses and keep our current businesses.
“We’re a beautiful city and we’ve got a lot going for us.”
Jack Neel (D-District 4)
“Obviously, the thing we need to do is try to develop some kind of economy for industry.
“We are working on that as the task force committee recommended.
“The fact of the matter is it’s in the county’s hands right now. The committee has been before them and gave them suggestions.
“We authorized them to offer money to the county for the economic development board and they have turned it down so far.
“They just don’t want us to be involved in economic development apparently,
“But we have to keep on working on that. In government, it takes a while to do things. We can’t do just anything you want to. Cities just do what the (state) legislature has permitted them to do.
“The main thing they need at Prime Power Park is sewer. The county doesn’t have any facilities to bring sewer from that park into the city. We’re going to have to do that.
“But if we build sewer lines out to that park then houses and industries build up around there because of that sewer line, because of the legislature we can’t annex them.
“We have offered to the county money for more people working for economic development. We wanted to ask to have a member on the board, but they blocked the whole thing.
“It’s just the thing you have to work with for a while.”
Chris Whitley (R-District 4)
“Most of our (economic) problems have to do with location. We’re one of those places you have to be coming here to get here.
“We need to continue to improve working with other interested parties.
“Large industries look for natural resources, recreational resources and infrastructure and workforce. Those go a long way to offset location.
“We need to work with the existing businesses that are here.
“We need to talk with small companies and existing industries and find out what they like about doing business here and what they don’t like about it.
“We need to see if are things the city has control over and do something about helping them operate more efficiently or allow them to allow expand and hopefully hire new people.
“Government should be in the business of creating an environment to make it possible for private sectors to create jobs.
“It’s also about the product we’re selling. The product is Albemarle. What’s the first impression they have?
“I’m strongly in favor of having recycling available for every citizen. I was very concerned when it was discontinued.
“I can’t help but think most of the costs would be offset by reducing the amount of waste disposal.
“The downtown area is the town’s seat and it should be a showcase. It should be a vibrant part of the city.”
Joe Canupp (D-District 2)
“I’m going to keep my comments brief because I just found out the questions yesterday.
“It’s about downtown revitalization. That’s were the city of Albemarle’s new businesses are.
“I’m a Democratic candidate for city council, Distict 2.
“Downtown Albemarle is beautiful and those empty spaces. Downtown revitalization is what I’m talking about.
“It creates jobs and things like that.”
Roosevelt “Chuck” Horne (D-At Large)
“Number one on my priority list is jobs. I will attempt to try and create jobs with sustainable results such as green jobs that are environmentally friendly.
“We need to bring about incentives to bring about and locate green industries and resources into our city and county.
“Now is the time for us to stop turning jobs away and bring jobs in. This is how we help our economy to grow.
“We need to bring our educated and brilliant youth back into the community.
“I will try to have incentives for our bright and skillful minds to migrate back to our town and community.
“We need to develop incentives to retain our young minds in our communities.
“We need to inform, educate and train a youth workforce and mindset for our community.
“Our youth should be at the top of our priority list.
“Crime and the safety of the citizens of Albemarle is another issue.
“Not only do we have abandoned houses, we have houses that have been burned up. We have houses that are falling in. Constantly, they say we have to contact the owners and years and years go by.
“We need to set a time limit on contacting owners and if we can’t contact within that time limit or they don’t respond within that time limit, then we as a council need to do something about it.
“We need to either tear them down and charge it (to the owners) or do whatever we need to do to enhance the safety of our communities.
“No citizen of Albemarle should be afraid to walk the streets of Albemarle or sit on their porch at any time.
“I would like to see increased funding for our law enforcement. More patrolman throughout our neighborhoods. Law enforcement should be seen not just when there’s an issue, but as a friend to all citizens.
“We need to let more businesses operate within the city of Albemarle then we could purchase more goods within the city bringing more revenue to the city of Albemarle.
“We need jobs with benefits and not just hourly wages.”
Early voting has started, but the official primary date is Sept. 10.
To submit story ideas, contact Brian Graves at (704) 982-2121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.