From an Interview with the News Journal:
Why should you be a Hoke County Commissioner?
I want to bring new leadership and new ideas to the Board. Hoke County has experienced considerable population growth in the last ten years but at the same time has not seen any significant growth in business, particularly high paying jobs. We have continued to rely on government grants to bring money into the county but not have been sccuessful in bringing new industry that would actually sustain growth and broaden a reliable tax base. We need additional tax revenue, but not on the backs of the many poor people of the county. New businesses will mean better wages and more tax revenue for the needs of the people in the county, specifically better schools. I want to use my skills and experiences to help our county citizens realize their expectations for the future.
- Would you support a plan to build a new high school, or add on to the exisiting high school? What if it means raising property taxes?
The trend in America the last tens of years has been for consolidated and hence bigger schools following a flawed belief that bigger is better. Bigger schools and larger classes detract from the mentoring relationship teachers have historically enjoyed with students and our entire education system has suffered from that loss. We need more and better teachers. We need to pay teachers well and ensure they enjoy community support. There are a number of ways to improve facilities without large tax increases. Long term bond issues and shifting spending priorities are among those ways.
Regarding a new or expanded high school, a cost benefit analysis is required versus a "wing the decision" approach. The bottom line is we need to improve the high school experience in Hoke county so that our kids get a better deal in life. I'm in favor of going down the road that improves their chances for better life opportunity right here in our home county.
Raising property taxes? I'm not a tax and spend candidate. Let's cut the waste and fat out of the budget, find out how much it takes to get the education done right, and then talk about how to finance it. I'm certainly not opposed to a new or expanded school.
- Where do you stand on gun control, including issues such as banning or restricting the sale of certain types of weapons, allowing gun violence restraining orders, and instituting universal background checks?
Gun control is a hot button topic these days as it should be. Generally, it is not the responsibility of counties to set gun control policies so there is a little a commissioner can do about overall gun control policy, but there is a lot we can do to protect our schools and our community from those who would do us and our loved one's harm. The schools, school board, and sheriff's department have worked very hard to set up programs to protect the schools. We need to keep up the dialog about "seeing something and saying something". Above all, the commissioners need to help the sheriff protect us by providing the resources and community support needed to do the job.
I think the U.S congress should tighten up background check regulations to keep unstable people from buying guns. In my view, certain type of guns should not be available to the general population and people should be held accountable for giving access to minors who go on to do damage with the weapon. Make no mistake however, I support the second amendment and the right of citizens to bear arms.
- What would you do to support transparent government?
Within the last year commissioner meetings were streamed over the internet for public viewing. It was a good grass roots initiative on the part of one commissioner and then picked up by the chairman and subsequently dropped. Typically, few citizens attend the commissioner meetings, understandable because so little information is offered up for discussion among even the commissioners. For example, the April 2nd meeting saw four measures passed as consent agenda. There was no explanation as to the nature of the measures which altered contracts and agreements. How does the average citizen understand what transpired? It almost seemed they had met behind closed doors and decided the measures to take. The commissioners could at least summarize what changes were made.
I think it is imperative as a commissioner to talk with the press and broadcast media about what is going on in the county government, be aggressive in keeping the public informed.
- What's your plan for directing growth in eastern, western, and southern areas of Hoke County?
As I mentioned earlier, growth and education are key to a better Hoke County. Eastern Hoke is doing better than most areas of the county because of residential housing and businesses along the 401 corridor. Still, we need to expand business growth in that area by taking advantage of the proximity to Fayetteville. Let's always keep in mind 401 is a two-way road. Shoppers and consumers from Fayetteville should be lured into coming to Hoke. We need businesses such as movie theaters and light manufacturing opening there.
Western Hoke is prime for upscale housing and related small businesses. Large acreage land is available for about $6500 per acre. Nearby in Moore county similar land sells for as much as $50,000 an acre primarily because of the horse industry. That industry thrives there primarily due to the ground conditions of the sand hills. Hoke has its own sand hills and we need to promote that. Large scale horse related activity will bring in a lot more property tax as will establishment of related businesses. We have one of the finest horse show grounds in the state at Five Points. We don't promote that enough.
The nature of the southern part of the county is different. Primarily agricultural, we should do all things possible to help that industry. The industrial park there can bring a good bit of industry if we promote it correctly.
One short comment about all the areas. We need to improve the appearance of Hoke County. We need to get tough on owners of burned out buildings which are eyesores as well as safety and health nuisances. Let's start an anti-litter campaign to keep our roadways clean. Hoke County should show its pride, it will help us be successful.
- What needs are most pressing in Hoke County, and how would you address those needs?
Again, education and meaningful, better paying jobs are the keys to our county's success. My comments above support my views on how to get there.
- What is your stance on the ongoing SBI investigation?
The ongoing SBI investigation is what motivated me to enter the race for a seat on the county commission this year. We have all been taught in our lives that where there's smoke there is fire. The SBI is a very busy organization and they don't investigate for no good reason. I'm relatively certain the SBI will not release any conclusions until after the November elections, so that leaves it up to the voters to determine if they want fresh faces and ideas leading their county government.
- What would you do to make Hoke County a safer place to live?
Educate our citizens, provide a better business environment so people have hope for good jobs to support their families, and work the sheriff's office to make public safety better.
- What's your stance on the grassroots efforts to incorporate Rockfish and make it a city or town?
One of the great strengths of our country is the ability of its citizens to exercise self-determination through a peaceful democratic process. The citizens of that area should decide for themselves if they want to take that step after weighing the pros and cons of incorporation such as increased taxes for the benefit of more localized government. Rockfish area or the Town of Rockfish, it is still in Hoke County, an area we can, and should be proud of.
- What are some common complaints you hear from citizens or that you yourself have about the county, and how would you address them?
The most common complaints I hear baout include; the impropriety, or at least the appearance of impropriety, in county government that brought about the SBI investigation; the school system weaknesses that are apparent despite the determination of our school administators and teachers to make it beter; and the lack of good paying jobs. Many complain of the tendency to hire individuals for county government amnagement positions without thorough advertising and screening for capability and reliability. Don't get me wrong, most of our county workers are exceptional people, but an SBI investigation brought on by seeming dishonesty on the part of a few makes voters I talk to wonder how good our screening process is.