Q&A with County Commissioner Candidates

Published 1:47 pm Monday, February 5, 2024

Editor’s Note: For coverage of the primary election, The Stanly News & Press sent questions to each group of candidates. We limited their responses to 200 words per answer. Answers appear as is, with the exception of editing for grammatical/spelling errors or length. This allows potential voters to see the candidates through their own words and gives equal opportunity for the candidates to respond. We gave candidates two weeks to email their answers back.

Board of Commissioners

At-Large

Scott Efird
Levi Greene

District 5

Peter Asciutto
Billy Mills

1. Please give a brief bio on yourself and tell our readers why you have decided to run for election (or re-election) to the Board of Commissioners.

Scott Efird

Scott Efird: I am running for reelection to the office of Stanly County commissioner because I have a genuine concern and care about the future and direction that Stanly County will be going forward in the next four years. I am a lifelong resident of Stanly, born and raised, and I am passionate about making this the best County in North Carolina. I know the history and the past struggles of our county. I think that we have a diamond in the rough within Stanly County and I think that we can move forward to make this an even better place to live and to work. I believe that I am the best candidate because of my true interest and also because of my previous experience as mayor of the City of Locust and current experience as the planner of the City of Locust and Stanly County commissioner.

Levi Greene

Levi Greene: My name is Levi Greene and I am a Christian, Constitutional Conservative, native of Stanly County running for County Commissioner. My wife Dee, and I, have three children ages 15, 12, and 9 and we live on a farm in Stanfield where we raise black angus beef cattle.
After graduating West Stanly High School, I attended UNCC earning degrees in Finance, Operations Management, and an Economics minor while working full time. After college, I moved to South Carolina and began my career as an Operations Analyst for a tier one automotive supplier, later managing a plant in Michigan, and finally returning to Stanly County after roughly 10 years. We have been back in Stanly County since 2013. Currently, I am a Senior Director of Operations in charge of plants in Chicago, Virginia, Georgia, and two in Alberta, Canada. In my career, I have designed and built a half billion dollars of manufacturing facilities and improved processes on 3 continents in 10 countries.
Stanly County is our home, and I am running to ensure Stanly County provides a solid future for my children, and yours.

Peter Asciutto

Peter Asciutto: I was born in New York, grew up in Florida, and have been in North Carolina for over three decades. In 2004 I opened Vac & Dash in downtown Albemarle. Loved every minute of operating the unique specialty store in Stanly County.
For 18 years, our mission at Vac & Dash was to promote positive health and to give back to our community. We donated over $100,000 to local nonprofits and partnered with local organizations to raise over $250,000 for various causes. In 2019 I was humbled and honored to be awarded Stanly County Citizen of the Year as well as being named as a North Carolina’s Main Street Champion.
From 2012-2016 and 2020 to now, I have served as a Stanly County Commissioner. During that time, I have set goals and priorities to focus on ways to improve the lives of Stanly County residents.
One goal is to consistently travel to all corners of Stanly County to listen to ideas and concerns from our ten municipalities. The Stanly County Parks and Recreation Grant Program is a wonderful partnership that was developed from my talks with elected officials throughout Stanly County.

Billy Mills

Billy Mills: A true leader should experience the day-to-day struggles of earning a living and raising a family, the same as the people whom he represents.
I was born, raised and currently reside in Stanly County. My father served active duty in WWII in the Philippines.
I began my career working second shift in a local textile mill, and spent most of the day working with my grandfather on his hog farm near New London. I worked as a surveyor’s apprentice for two years to earn enough money to finance my first year of college. I completed my BS degree from Appalachian State in 1982. I returned in 1983 and completed a second major in Industrial Technology Education. I taught and coached high school full-time for 32 years and continue teaching part-time today in Stanly County. While working on my Masters of Divinity at Liberty University in 2016, I served as interim pastor for Richfield Baptist Church. I am running for commissioner because if God-fearing leaders do not stand-up and fight against today’s radical left-wing agenda, then how can we expect our children, family members or church congregations to take action? WE MUST ACT AND FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT!

2. What is your position regarding housing development and growth in the county? Should growth be encouraged or limited?

Scott Efird: I believe that the growth for Stanly County should be concentrated in or around the municipalities. I think that people that move out within the county are doing this to get away from the cities and towns for a different quality/type of lifestyle. I voted for the current land use plan that ensures that type of quality of life in the rural areas of the county.
I believe that growth in Stanly should be encouraged but it needs to be good sustainable growth; growth that pays its own way in infrastructure needs for that development — not to burden the current tax payers. I voted for higher system development fees to help alleviate this problem.

Levi Greene: I am a farm-first candidate for county commissioner. Agriculture is the biggest industry in Stanly County and should be protected. Being a cattle farmer myself, I am keenly aware of the pressures facing our agricultural community.
Housing development is a sensitive, multi-faceted topic for Stanly County but the growth over the past 4 years is unsustainable and has generated many issues ranging from infrastructure inadequacies to increased crime. Hundreds of homes have been added in various cluster developments throughout the county that are accessed by two lane country roads originally designed for light traffic and the occasional tractor.
Our schools, Law Enforcement, Fire and EMS personnel are overburdened by this explosive growth. Inside city limits, the various towns should manage their growth within zoning guidelines and ordinances, but in the county itself I believe we should be very cautious of the impacts of development on agriculture and the inherent beauty of our county. Outside city limits, I supported a 5-acre minimum lot size requirement whereas my opponent voted for 3 acres. Our way of life is contagious, with many people relocating here for better value, slower pace, and a tighter community, but we must protect it.

Peter Asciutto: Our growth should be calculated and balanced. Our major areas of growth should be near municipalities where infrastructure is in place to manage commercial and residential development. Municipalities are responsible for the growth inside their limits. I will continue to visit each of our 10 municipalities and form partnerships when requested.
My concern is there is a strong anti-growth movement that is pressuring commissioners to create regulations to make it more costly for first-time homeowners to build or buy homes in the county.
I feel over the last year decisions regarding growth have been rushed without evaluating all the implications that could arise. A great example was at our Jan. 16 commissioner meeting. County attorney Jenny Furr recommended we table a decision on a new standard for significant expenditure for construction projects so she could research it more. In a 5-2 vote, commissioners decided to pass the new standards without more research. I was one of the two votes to listen to the advice of our attorney.
Growth in Stanly is a current reality. My view is that for the next decade, we should have slow and steady growth as our infrastructure catches up and prepares for the future.

Billy Mills: If we do develop Stanly County, we must require that all new home construction be sustainable housing. Quality built homes constructed by our very own local contractors who are conscientious and sensitive to the values and needs of Stanly County. We must support our local builders and businesses!
Out-of-town land developers and selfish real estate investors are not concerned with Stanly County’s overall future. Such firms are not interested in the overall quality of life for Stanly County families, schools, or the local economy. Out of town developers should be required to pay for flood control and related infrastructure projects to mitigate conditions created by their development…NOT Stanly County Taxpayers!

3. What is the county doing to battle the opioid epidemic? Are enough or too much funds going to this issue? If too much, what would you prefer these funds to go too?

Scott Efird: Not that long ago, Stanly County was #1 in the state of North Carolina for opioid/overdose deaths. By partnering with local nonprofits, and the Community Paramedic Programs, we are no longer #1 in that ranking for deaths. I believe that we have a long way to go to help educate and assist with these programs in whatever way that we can. I think that we are spending funds wisely to accomplish results.

Levi Greene: Fentanyl is the leading cause of death for individuals 18-45 in the United States. Likely, everyone reading this article has been impacted personally by opioid addiction on some level. Many opioid deaths are victims of imposter drugs containing fentanyl.
Stanly County EMS has been recognized by the state for their efforts in battling the opioid epidemic. Our Sheriff’s department has generated substantial progress with their zero-tolerance policy. Under the “Death by Distribution” law, the Sheriff’s department can pursue 2nd degree murder charges for traffickers who distribute fentanyl leading to death by overdose. Strong, continued, support for our Sheriff’s department will save lives.
Several rehab organizations receive money from the Opioid Settlement fund, allocated by the commissioners. Some of these organizations are Will’s Place, Gateway of Hope, and Bridge to Recovery. I firmly believe we should support faith-based rehabilitation organizations for treatment of addiction, including skills training as part of recovery. One area of need in Stanly County is a detox clinic where addicts can be prepared to enter the recovery programs mentioned above.
Addiction is often a result of a loss of hope, or a need to escape, but true hope comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Peter Asciutto: Our Board of Health, which was awarded the North Carolina Board of Health of the Year by the NC Association of Local Boards of Health, along with our Health Department Staff have worked hard to successfully bring down the overdose deaths in Stanly County by partnering with local outreach organizations to combat Opioid Addiction.
Currently we are getting adequate funding from the Opioid Settlement Fund.
I prefer groups that use Medication Assisted Treatment get preference with the funding as data proves that they are the most effective programs to impact Opioid Addiction.

Billy Mills: Combining the local narcotics criminal investigation teams with DEA and ATF have proven extremely successful. The Stanly County Sheriff’s Department led by Sheriff Jeff Crisco recently combined their efforts with all federal and state agencies. Both enforcement and treatment are required to combat the fentanyl and opioid epidemics. More laws will not solve the problem — neither will solely concentrating on the foreign drug dealers.
The opioid epidemic is much different from the synthetic drug epidemic. Many of the problems today come from synthetic drugs such as crystal methamphetamine which is manufactured within the local homes and kitchens and is not trafficked from foreign dealers. Drug manufacturers and dealers must understand if they operate within Stanly County they will be apprehended, arrested and prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law. The Stanly County Sheriff’s Department, Albemarle Police Department and all other police departments within the county are responsible for enforcement.
However, these agencies cannot be held accountable for detox. Mental health agencies such as Daymark and Monarch facilitate between offenders and mental disorders. This method of recovery should be implemented and funded accordingly.
The sheriff’s department and all police departments must have 100% full support from all county commissioners.

4. Which of the responsibilities of county commissioners would you be most focused on and why?

Scott Efird: I think the most important challenges the county faces are education and safety. We need to work closely with the Stanly County School Board and superintendent to make sure they have needed funds while holding that board accountable for the spending and allocating of these funds. We have a Facilities Committee between the school board and commissioners to better improve communications and have shared thoughts implemented for the betterment of the schools. I think we have some of the best teachers and staff in the state and we need to make sure they have the resources to do their job.
We need to work with the Sheriff’s Office to determine new solutions for overcrowding of the jail and to keep the needed amount of deputies on the road to protect our citizens. I have a very good working relationship with Sheriff Crisco and respect and appreciate the job he does each day along with the deputies and support staff in the Sheriff’s Office.
Running a county should be as with running a household. We need to get the most for our money. We should look at all expenses to fine tune for improvements while being as conservative as we can.

Levi Greene: First and foremost, it begins with the oath of office. All elected officials are sworn to protect and uphold the Constitutions of the United States and North Carolina. I think many officials treat this oath as a formality, but I believe it is the basis for everything. Our individual freedoms are outlined in these documents and the oath serves to highlight the supreme importance of individual freedom.
Second, I am very fiscally motivated and, as said before, I would focus on waste and stewardship in all areas of county government.
One of my pet peeves, is when I hear of “free” federal money in the forms of grants or other means. To begin with, the money is OURS. We paid the taxes to the Federal Government, so they aren’t “giving” us anything. Most of these grants/allocations/etc. come with strings attached.
Another area of need within the county is jail space and a local detox clinic to support the rehab programs outlined above. With an increase in population comes an increase in crimes and addiction.
Finally, I intend to focus on protecting the agriculture industry in Stanly County by deliberately managing growth through zoning approvals.

Peter Asciutto: Our Board of Commissioners constantly make decisions on a variety of issues. Projects will rise to where decisions are needed in the short-term, to accomplish a long-term objective. In North Carolina, counties have primary responsibility to finance and provide buildings for local public school operations.
I have been a member of a joint school facilities work group with some BOC and BOE members. The BOC work group is of the opinion that more information and collaboration is needed before any capital funding decisions can be made for the School System.
Difficult decisions are needed to be made in an ever changing educational environment. If we are to make a fiscally responsible decision to offer competitive and equal educational opportunities for our students, we should invest in a comprehensive plan to give us updated data, projections and recommendations for the future of our schools.
At our January 2 BOC meeting, we voted to send a resolution to the BOE in which we offered to fund 50% of the cost of comprehensive study of our schools for us to evaluate and finalize a plan to present to the public.
I eagerly await the reply of the BOE to continue our joint effort.

Billy Mills: There are several responsibilities that will require serious attention. The word-limit allocation for this particular article will not allow me to describe all responsibilities I would focus upon. When allocating Stanly County’s taxpayer dollars, we must insure there is NO frivolous or wasteful spending — making sure that all spending is 100% needed and conservatively utilized! I believe we should require a published report, itemized proof, so that every Stanly County taxpayer can understand how our tax dollars are being spent. One other responsibility for all elected commissioners is to unite and work diligently to wipe out the woke/leftist political terrain — specifically, the local and state liberal special-interest groups and organizations who continuously waste STANLY COUNTY’S hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Needless to say, we need less government involvement in all areas of Stanly County!

5. Why should the voters of Stanly County elect (re-elect) you to the Board of Commissioners?

Scott Efird: I would like to point out accomplishments I have been a part of while serving:
a. Approved hiring more School Resources Officers to increase security at every school.
b. Began construction on a livestock arena/exhibit hall to enhance agricultural learning opportunities for students and facilitate additional agri-tourism revenue.
c. Approved economic development incentives for three companies to induce private investment of $54.8M and creation of 341 jobs.
d. Constructed parking lot to enhance customer parking at the courthouse.
e. Increased Stanly County Schools funding by over $1 million for the second consecutive year.
f. Increased funding for fire department staffing by $170,000 to enhance response times.
g. Approved and began replacement of the county’s 911, Computer-Aided Dispatch System to enhance public safety response times and improve first responder safety.
h. Authorized grant funding to assist fire departments with radio replacement and required radio upgrades.
i. Partnered with Locust to construct a senior center.
j. Adopted the 2040 Land Use Plan to help control growth and the cost of services.
All of these successes were accomplished without tax increases.
I think this election is about common sense and experience and I feel I have both of those qualities.
God bless Stanly County.

Levi Greene: As I said earlier, I am a Christian, Constitutional Conservative, native of Stanly County. I bring my experiences of successfully running businesses, with similar revenue as our entire county, to the table.
This is balanced by my love for the land and farming. I have skin in the game. My kids, and yours, will inherit the results of our decisions.
My wife and I have both said, “Our kids will never be able to look back and say their parents didn’t do all they could.”
Stanly County needs solid leaders who are unafraid to stand and fight to protect the future for our children and grandchildren. We need leaders who won’t trade common sense, and planning, for instant gratification and development.
Whether we like it or not, Stanly County is the next growth frontier for Charlotte. How we deal with that growth will impact generations to come.
Thank you for your consideration and I humbly ask for your vote on March 5.

Peter Asciutto: Here’s some of my top goals as a Stanly County Commissioner for 2024. Your support and vote will be greatly appreciated.
Goal 1: Attend at least one council meeting of all ten municipalities in Stanly County.
Goal 2: Schedule workdays in at least eight various county departments.
Goal 3: Create a Quarterly Newsletter titled: “Spotlight on Stanly.”
The newsletter will be distributed to county employees, citizens and elected officials to shine a light on local government throughout Stanly County.
Goal 4: Assist in the coordination of efforts with the Stanly County Board of Education to gather data and suggestions from a qualified firm to develop a comprehensive plan to upgrade our facilities to offer the students and staff of Stanly County Schools a safe educational environment to learn and work in.
Goal 5: Work with various interested parties to restore the George Bireline Sculpture at the Stanly County Public Library to its original state.
Goal 6 – Continue to work with members of the Rocky River Rural Planning Organization to secure funding to complete the sidewalk from the Village of Misenheimer to Richfield.

Billy Mills: My current opponent is NOT VOTING AS A TRUE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN.
Many of his recent decisions are not based according to the true conservative values or moral fiber of Stanly County as a whole!
ALL ELECTED OFFICIALS should, without hesitation, oppose any adult commercial enterprise that would attempt to exploit our children! I am unable to comprehend how any elected official from Stanly County would consistently advocate for minor children (ages 17 and under) to be involved with sexually arousing “drag show” productions. NEVER should a county commissioner endorse exotic adult entertainment for Stanly County’s children!
My opponent is pushing his own personal agenda and not representing the wishes of 98% of Stanly County constituents. He supports drag shows and children attending and participating in these events. This is morally wrong, and I will not tolerate such behavior with our children.
He is also a big proponent of masking. This has clearly been demonstrated to be ineffective and to have huge negative effect on the development and mental health of our most precious resource — OUR CHILDREN!
It’s time for a change! I will be honored to receive your support. Early voting begins Feb. 15.
Mills for Commissioner,
Billy Dean Mills