Two Stanly commissioner candidates discuss growth, experience at GOP Forum

An incumbent commissioner and his opponent for an at-large seat on the Stanly County Board of Commissioners spoke at Monday’s GOP Forum.

Scott Efird

Former board chair and current commissioner Scott Efird faces local farmer Levi Greene in the March 5 primary.

Efird, who served as mayor of Locust from 2009 to 2012, talked about giving back to the community, including the Kerri D. Efird Bike run, a fundraiser in memory of his daughter that has raised $117,000 in scholarships for West Stanly High School students over 25 years.

Greene described himself as the “farm first candidate” and said farmers are the “backbone of our society.” He advocates protecting farmland.

Levi Greene

When asked about growth in the county, Greene said he was not anti-growth, but pro common sense. He likened current commissioners expressing concerns about growth to a “morbidly obese eater saying, ‘I sure wish I could lose weight,’ while at the same time, they’re reaching for another box of Little Debbies.”

Greene said growth has overburdened law enforcement, first responders, schools and infrastructure. He said he would fight to protect agriculture.

Efird said growth in Stanly needs to be managed, adding the county needs “good sustainable growth.” He said growth “should be in the municipalities, not in the county.”

The incumbent said the 2014 county land use plan will help control growth and noted systems fees have been created by the board for new residential and commercial customers. Efird said for every dollar of residential property revenue, the county spends $1.32 on services. For commercial property, the number spent for every dollar is 47 cents, and 31 cents for agriculture.

“We need a balance of residential and commercial growth,” Efird said.

Regarding schools, Efird said the main priority is public schools and safety. He noted that out of the average $122 per month people pay in taxes, $29.49 goes to Stanly County Schools, while $20.24 goes to public safety (sheriff’s office, jail, etc.). He said the board has increased the school system’s budget the past two years by $1 million each year.

Greene said he felt like he was having déja vu hearing the same concerns from commissioners two years ago. He said inadequacies of the jail and disrepair in school facilities have not been dealt with.

“You think with all the residential development in the county that we’d have those two basic issues taken care of already,” Greene said. “We simply can not continue to keep kicking these cans down the road.”

Greene said he would want a review of all spending by each department and would favor community schools which he said “have a better scholastic and behavioral outcome than super schools.”

“If the people of Stanly County want change, then the citizens need to change some people on the board,” Greene said.

When asked about improving healthcare access, quality and trust in local providers, Greene said the government is “way too involved in our health care decisions.”

He added appointments to boards like the Consolidated Services Board “are extremely critical.” He said those appointments should be “board members who possess common sense and reflect the true values of the people of Stanly County.”

Greene said mask mandates for children were “an assault on individual freedom.” He said kids were “oppressed daily, required to wear masks, report their friends for being sick or forced to miss valuable school days so the health department can chase an arbitrary infection rate triage for a disease that posed zero risk to children.”

He also said, “when the health department mandates healthy kids get sent home, I’m not going to trust them. When a commissioner sends an email to county staff telling them to mask up and get a faulty vaccine, no one’s going to trust them.”

Efird said he voted against the mask and vaccine mandates, and people should “have the freedom of choice for their own provider.” He said commissioners “can do a little to improve access. We can be transparent to our local providers to form trust.”

Regarding appointments to the CSB, Efird said “I put a lot of thought and prayer into every vote as a county commissioner. I do not take this job lightly.”

Efird said he felt this election is “about proven, experienced leadership and where you want to see Stanly County in the future.” He noted 341 new jobs and $54.9 million in private sector investment in the county took place while on the Board of Commissioners.

Greene said experience is a relative term, adding, “a bad mechanic with 20 years of experience is still a bad mechanic.” He said while not having government experience, he had experience in “running successful businesses with revenues approaching the revenue of this entire county…our county needs strong leaders who will have uncomfortable conversations and won’t shrink from difficult decisions. I’ll offer a fresh perspective.”