Voters to elect 4 new commissioners

Published 10:28 am Monday, October 15, 2018

Regardless of Election Day results, the Stanly County Board of Commissioners is guaranteed four new faces among its seven seats.

Three of the four are political newcomers, this election year marking their first pursuit of an elected office. Two of the challengers are Democrats hopeful of cracking the all-Republican board.

Candidate newbies running for commissioner include Lane Furr, Dr. Elaine Coats, Tommy Jordan, Mike Lambert and Zachary D. Almond. Of the newcomers, only Jordan is guaranteed a victory with no opponent, barring no write-in candidate.

Mike Barbee stands to be a new commissioner since he, too, has no opposition. Commissioner Bill Lawhon, who is seeking re-election for a second term, was the only incumbent on the board to survive the GOP primary.

One of the more unusual moves in the race occurred when Coats, a Democrat, decided to withdraw her District 2 challenge against incumbent Lawhon. Instead of her name appearing on the ballot opposite Lawhon, Coats is mounting a write-in campaign against Furr, a Republican, for the at-large seat.

Consequently, Lawhon has a clear path to re-election.

Because of the switch, Coats, 63, had to revamp her campaign strategy.

Elaine Coats

“We’re building a network of supporters to get the word out that I’m a write-in candidate and where to write in,” Coats said.

Furr seems fine with the new competition, although he originally had no opposition next month after defeating Republican incumbent Jann Lowder in the GOP primary.

“I’m not taking it personal. We’ll let the voters decide,” Furr said.

Coats, a pediatrician in the county for the past 25 years, said her relationships with local families defines how she plans to represent the county.

“I bring a new voice and perspective,” Coats said. “I’ve seen families and children from all backgrounds. I can represent a group of people that has not been represented in the past.”

Lane Furr

Furr, 62, said he decided to run after witnessing wasteful spending among county leaders, although he didn’t list specifics.

“I’ve seen a lot of waste I didn’t agree with, ‘throwing good money after bad,’ ” Furr said.

Owner of Pro Tire in Albemarle since 1987, Furr said he wants to use his business acumen as a county commissioner.

Both Coats, the race’s only female candidate, and Furr are new to politics.

District 4 is shaping into an interesting race, too. Both candidates are making their maiden campaigns for elected office. Republican Zachary D. Almond and Democrat Mike Lambert are vying for the seat.

Despite their political differences, they share similar ideas.

Once incumbent Gene McIntyre decided against re-election, Almond, 24, was enticed to run as his party’s replacement.

“I want to serve,” Almond said. “I felt I had the ability.”

Despite his youth, he has been politically active within the Republican Party.

In addition to serving as a district vice chairman for the state GOP, Almond previously served as chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans in 2015-16.

Almond’s campaign platform is focused on improving the county’s economic landscape.

Zachary D. Almond

“For far too long we’ve lost too many people because of a lack of economic opportunities,” he said. “A lot of people will go away and not comeback,” he added about county residents leaving for better jobs.

Almond’s economic priorities include bringing broadband to the county and lessening code restrictions for developers and builders.

“Some of the regulations are necessary, but others are too restrictive,” Almond said. Contractors don’t like to do business here because it’s too restrictive.”

Lambert, of Richfield, the other Democrat candidate for commissioner, also ranks broadband among his priorities along with expanded infrastructure.

Although new to politics, Lambert, 58, has spent his career working in local government. After retiring as the director of public works for the city of Albemarle, he is presently employed as director of transportation for Stanly County Schools.

He also served 10 years on the county’s zoning and planning board.

Mike Lambert

“I am running for county commissioner to give back to Stanly County the knowledge and experience I’ve obtained throughout my 30-plus year career in local government,” Lambert said.

As a commissioner, he wants to bridge relationships with all of the county’s municipalities.

“I want to work with business and municipal leaders to strengthen Stanly County’s economy and create jobs,” Lambert said.

He advocates improved funding for the school system.

Almond said he supports the proposed quarter-cent sales tax earmarked for school safety.

But he also hopes SCS will bolster its course offerings, though county commissioners do not have the authority to enact.

Joining Lambert as a school system insider running for commissioner is Barbee. He served 10 years on the Board of Education.

After defeating incumbent Scott Efird in the GOP primary, Barbee gets a free pass in the general election as the District 1 representative.

Mike Barbee

Although his first time on the board of commissioners, the 69-year-old Stanfield resident first ran for the seat in 2014, a losing bid to Efird.

“I felt like for a long time they needed a board member who knew what was going on in the school system,” Barbee said. “I just want to give the schools a voice.”

Contact Ritchie Starnes at 704-754-5076 or