4 compete for 2 seats on Norwood board, 2 vie for mayor

Published 5:46 pm Saturday, October 20, 2018

The office of mayor of Norwood, as well as two seats on the town’s Board of Commissioners, will be contested in the election on Nov. 6.

Mayor Pro-tem Linda Campbell and former commissioner Harold Thompson are on the ballot for the town’s vacant mayoral seat.

Campbell has served as acting mayor since the resignation of Beverly Johnson in 2016. Thompson has 14 years experience as a commission member.

Four candidates will compete for seats on the town’s board of commissioners. These include incumbent Betty O’Neal and challengers Betty Harrison, Larry McMahon and Keith Morgan.

Linda Campbell (Norwood Mayor Candidate)

Campbell identified aging infrastructure and streets as major issues facing Norwood.

“I do believe that the most pressing issues to be addressed by the Norwood Town Council and mayor are those of the aging infrastructure,” she said. “We have water and sewer lines that have been treated for many years with nothing more than a band-aid. The current council and myself are working hard to change out these aging lines and meters so that our citizens will receive the best and most efficient services possible.”

Planned and current upgrades to the town’s wastewater treatment plant, roads and streets are also of concern, said the candidate.

“Our wastewater treatment plant is also a top priority for this current board,” she said. “We are currently seeking grants and other means to repair and update the plant. This is a project that I believe is inevitable to continue to treat the waste of our town. Citizens pay for these services and expect us to keep up with the changes in standards for treating wastewater.

“The current board has spent a considerable amount of money on the water treatment plant to assure that the water being provided to Norwood is of the best quality it can be. We are now focusing on the wastewater treatment plant in hopes to bring this facility up to current standard by updating all of its components to better serve Norwood,” she added.

“The town’s roads are another issue that I want to focus on and treat. With lots of aging roads with broken pavement and potholes, I want to focus on repaving the most needed roads and patching others. The Mill Village and Rock Haven areas are two that are on the radar for most needed work,” she continued. “We are awarded money each year for road repair and paving purposes, and I want to get busy getting these roads repaired and re-paved for the citizens of Norwood. I will continue to focus on bringing new businesses to Norwood and support the ones that are in town to date.

“The current board has made much progress in the past two years and we are not about to slow down now,” said Campbell, who cited several actions the board has taken.

“We have purchased much-needed equipment for all town departments to give them the means to provide for our town more efficiently,” she said. “We have cut taxes by 1 cent and saved more than $60,000 a year in our fire department budget by contracting with the Center Rural Fire Department.

“We have saved more than $40,000 in the water and sewer department annually by eliminating the past employee who was being paid more than $40,000 a year and driving a town truck over 40 miles each way, to and from home,” she added. “The town was maintaining this truck and supplying the gas as a benefit to this employee. We now have a town administrator who serves dual roles and lives in town, and this administrator is on call 24 hours a day and responds to any calls, day or night.”

Campbell concluded by summarizing the entire board’s efforts.

“The current board and myself are passionate about every citizen in this town and we want to continue to bring life to the area. I want to continue to bring activities downtown, such as the farmers market, concerts and movies in the park,” she said.

“We live in a small quaint town where the citizens are thirsting for activity and events.

“The board will continue to work to bring life and events to our town in order to see growth. It is my desire to serve another two years as mayor of Norwood and continue to work for the town,” she added. “I believe those that have a true interest in the town should come to our meetings and ask how they can get involved and serve this community. I hope the citizens of Norwood will speak up on Nov. 6 and continue to allow me to work for progress in the town of Norwood.”

Harold Thompson (Norwood Mayor Candidate)

Harold Thompson, who works as a senior project manager and estimator for Stanly Fixtures, has served on the Norwood Board of Commissioners for 14 years, having most recently served through 2016. He identified fiscal stability and spending as primary concerns facing Norwood.

“Finances are our biggest single concern….what are we going to look like 5-10 years down the road?” asked Thompson.

“Recently, a lot of spending has taken place. Some of the town’s equipment needed to be updated…no question about that,” he said, “but I’m concerned that we are not utilizing some of our resources as wisely as we can.”

The new Center Rural Volunteer Fire Department station in downtown Norwood has created some hidden costs for the town which are not immediately apparent to the public, said Thompson.

“A statement was made recently by a town commissioner that the town of Norwood ‘does not have any money tied up’ in the new fire station. That’s not exactly true,” he said. “By my estimates, the town has around $1 million indirectly invested in the new fire station when you look at the costs incurred in demolishing the old town hall to make way for the fire station, the purchase and renovation of the old Sun Trust building for the new town hall, and the construction of a new street and parking lots to create access behind the new fire station.”

“We have lots of needs that are more pressing, like water line replacement,” he added.

Openness in government is a key factor as well, said Thompson.

“If elected, I would also like to see better transparency by the town government,” he said. “We need to get more citizens in Norwood involved. The town doesn’t belong to the mayor and council … it belongs to the citizens, and we need to get them involved in master planning for the future.”

Thompson closed by summarizing his experience and commitment during past terms as a commissioner.

“While on the town board, I represented Norwood on the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization, and served two years as chair of that organization,” said Thompson. “During my time on the board, I developed good relationships with representatives in Raleigh, and my attendance record shows that I’m committed to service to the town. Unless I was out of town on work or sick, I never missed a meeting during that time.”

“I’ll be there to serve,” he said.

Betty O’Neal (Norwood Council Incumbent)

Betty O’Neal is a continuing education instructor at Stanly Community College, and has served as a Norwood town commissioner since her appointment in 2016.

In seeking election, O’Neal notes a number of challenges facing the town’s leadership in coming years.

“The challenge to repair/replace aging infrastructure and be more effective and efficient with our services all while trying to create a business-friendly utilization of our Main Street is key,” says O’Neal. “We want to provide quality water, sewer, roads and sidewalks and we value a business-friendly environment for our residents and visitors.”

Providing for the town’s needs within a limited budget is a constant challenge, said the candidate, and requires utilization of new technology as well as traditional methods.

“All of the above are costly and time sensitive so the budget challenge is always a pressing need. The challenge of blending the past with the future and being aware of the impact on the next generation has led us to incorporate technology into the delivery of services,” she said. “We must continue to recognize the opioid crisis, resources available to municipalities and how to work together for Norwood to guide our continued progress. To summarize it is about focusing on the three P’s —People, Process and Product — to continue to guide our focus in maximizing our efforts. Norwood has much to be proud of, our Police Department, citizens academy, dedicated town employees, Wake-up Wednesday opportunities for citizen input and much more.”

O’Neal encourages citizens to attend commission meetings and become involved.

“We must continue to improve communication and transparency with the public and encourage them to attend our council meetings to see firsthand what is discussed,” she said. “With many projects we must be aware of accountability and ‘not expect anything we do not inspect.’ Budget is always a priority and we need to add time expectations and monitoring of progress to our plans. We are aware of the impact of utility bills and taxes on our citizens and consider that in our decisions.”

In closing, O’Neal reflected on the two years she has served.

“Many positive things have occurred in the last few years for our town, yet it seems projects take too long to move through the bidding, approval and completion cycles so we must continue to look for ways to streamline,” she said. “We must remember we have an aging population and a desire to attract new people and businesses to our town and both groups must be considered.

“In the two years I have served on the council, I appreciate the different skill sets of our members and the value they add in team decisions,” she added. “While we don’t always agree, we do our homework, listen and talk to each … to come to a decision we believe is best for the town. We have good people, an improving process and our product goal is improving Norwood.”

Betty Harrison (Norwood Council Candidate)

Norwood resident Betty Harrison enters the race for Norwood Town Commission with 20 years of service as a member of the town’s zoning board.

Harrison believes that attracting business to Norwood is a key issue facing the town, as well as assuring that the town is attractive to residents and visitors.

“We need more business in Norwood,” said Harrison, “as well as larger facilities where citizens can come in and hold an event or gathering.”

Another concern Harrison cited was the appearance of the town’s residences, businesses and neighborhoods.

“Many areas need to be worked on,” she said. “Housing and street conditions in some areas are not good. Streets in some areas are cracking up, and repaving needs to be done on those streets. And in another community, there is a strong foul smell that needs to be addressed.”

Harrison believes the town, with help from its citizens, should do a better job of identifying substandard housing, nuisances and buildings in poor repair, and work together to make improvements.

“This problem has gone on for several years,” she said. “Nothing has been done.”

Harrison noted the town should actively seek to recruit new businesses and retailers.

“We need to go out and check with businesses and work toward recruiting businesses to Norwood,” she said. “It provide jobs and would keep our tax rate down.”

Larry McMahon (Norwood Council Candidate)

Larry McMahon, a lifelong resident of Norwood, seeks election to the Norwood Board of Commissioners, and has 20 years of service in elected office (16 as a commissioner, four as mayor) in addition to six years as a contracted town employee. He emphasizes a positive approach to problem solving.

“Norwood needs industry,” said McMahon. “The town won’t grow until we locate some jobs here and keep young people here after they graduate from high school and college.”

Condition of the town’s roads and streets are a major concern, said McMahon.

“The streets in some parts of town are really bad,” he said. “They are full of potholes and need resurfacing.”

Another major issue, according to McMahon, is the town’s finances.

“When I left the town government in 2015, we had around $4 million in our accounts between fund balance, enterprise fund, and the town’s savings,” he said. “With all the recent spending, I’m curious to see where we stand now.”

Solutions for these issues need to be approached open-mindedly, he said.

“These problems need to be addressed with a positive attitude,” he said. “We need to look for solutions together.”

Financing town projects through loans should be limited, says McMahon, who also believes that spending needs to be spread out over time.

“We don’t need to be doing so much borrowing,” he said. “The town needs to grow, and there are needs everywhere, but we can’t fund everything at once.”

“I’ve lived in Norwood all my life,” McMahon said. “I know the people and their concerns — and there are lots of them — and some of the people are really upset.”

Keith Morgan (Norwood Council Candidate)

Keith Morgan has lived in Norwood his entire life, having attended Norwood Elementary and South Stanly High School, and working at Michelin.

He has served in numerous volunteer roles in youth sports and received a lifetime service award from Dixie Softball in 2017. He attends Vortex Church in Albemarle, and his candidacy for the Board of Commissioners is his first effort at elected office.
Morgan noted he is already at work in preparing himself for service if elected, and encourages all town citizens to make themselves aware of issues facing the town.

“To better prepare myself for a position on the Norwood Town Council, I have attended every town board meeting since filing back in July,” he said. “My purpose for attending these meetings is to learn as much as I possibly can about what issues the current board is working on, other issues they are facing and how they are being budgeted. Rather than relying on hearsay and/or rumors, I would like to personally invite all citizens of Norwood to attend these meetings as well so they too can learn about what our town issues are and how they are being addressed.”

Morgan identified aging infrastructure, roads and streets, recreation and downtown events as issues of concern to the town, as well as how to best meet these concerns with available funding.

“Aging infrastructure is a concern that will need to be continually addressed by replacing old piping and meters that are outdated and deteriorating as well as maintaining an effective and efficient waste water treatment plant,” he said. “These along with other services such as providing quality drinking water, maintaining safe streets, repairing aging roads, providing a clean environment and police protection can be very costly.

“I will also support events that provide our citizens with opportunities to participate in such as Arbor Day, the Farmers Market, Movies and Music in the park as well as youth sports along with other venues that may be of interest to our citizens,” he added. “The challenge to whoever is elected will be how to provide all of these services to our citizens in the most cost efficient way possible.”

In closing, the candidate noted that teamwork among elected officials is necessary to the town’s future success.

“Going forward my hope is that when this election is over that we all can come together as one voice and strive to make Norwood the best town it can possibly be,” he said. “Cohesiveness among our elected officials and our town citizens is the direction we should take to make this a reality.”