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Article 61
Published: Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:20 a.m.
Commissioner candidate responses

The Dispatch

Eight candidates for Davidson County Board of Commissioner responded to a questionnaire about their opinions should they win a seat on the board. The following are the questions and responses in entirety.

Question 1. Please tell readers a little about yourself, particularly about any political experience. Some of you are incumbent commissioners, some have held seats on city councils, some served on various committees and others are brand new to this. Share any past experience that qualifies you for the job.

Eric Osborne: I’m Eric Osborne I’m 26 years old, I work for FedEx as a delivery driver. In 2006 I ran for county commissioner. My platform was a flat tax rate, contracts for companies who receive incentives, and education. Pay Increases for public safety officials. In 2003, I petitioned the government against the job killer NAFTA. My petition had over 1200 signatures.

Jeff Switzer: Donald Jeffrey “Jeff” Switzer I am 51, a resident of Reedy Creek N.C. I am a graduate of North Davidson High School and Davidson County Community College, my degree is in General Education. I am currently employed as a manager with Old Salem Inc. I have thirty years work experience including working for a Fortune 500 manufacturer, a teaching assistant, and a historic educator.

Larry Allen: I was appointed a vacate seat on the Board of Commissioners by the Davidson County Republican Party in July 2006. I was elected to that seat in November 2006. I served as Commissioner from July 31, 2006 to December 1, 2008.
As a commissioner, I served on board of directors for the Following: Davidson County Smart Start, 911 Advisory Board, Davidson County Day Reporting, Davidson County Juvenile Crime Prevention Board, and the Construction Advisory board for the Charles England School.
I am 49 years old and live in the Reedy Creek area. I am married to Robin Whitley Allen and have two step-daughters and six grandchildren.
I am employed by Goodwill Industries of NWNC as a loss prevention officer. I am a member of Christ Moravian Church.
I enjoy hunting, fishing, attending high school football games, and spending time with my family.

Don Truell: Married to Susie (Smith) Truell, 2 children, 2 grandchildren
Member: Memorial United Methodist Church
Davidson County Commissioner, 2002 -present
City of Thomasville Mayor, 1998-99
City of Thomasville Councilman, 1995-98
Thomasville Chief of Police, 1977-94
I have served 8 years as a Davidson County commissioner and I also serve on various boards and commissions as a representative for the citizens of Davidson County. A list of these appointments includes:
Davidson County Board of Health
Davidson County Environmental Health committee
Piedmont Triad Council of Governments (PTCOG)
PTCOG Regional Advisory Committee on Aging
Davidson County 9-1-1 Advisory Board
Davidson County Transportation Committee
Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (P.A.R.T.)
Thomasville area Communities in Schools

Owen Moore: My name is Owen Moore. I live in the Abbotts Creek Township area of Davidson County. Born here and life long resident of the County. U.S. Army Veteran. Married Norma Jean White from Wallburg, NC. We have one daughter, Rhonda. We raise AKC Collie Puppies for family pets. This is my first time to seek a public office. While employed as a Rural Mail Carrier, I served the State Rural Carrier organization on the Executive Committee for three years, one year as Vice President, and one year as State President. After retirement from the Post Office, I was employed by Davidson County School System as a bus driver and teacher assistant. I have served as treasure for my high school senior class, a local church, the Davidson County bus drivers Association and the Davidson County Republican Party. Member of Mt. Pleasant UMC near Ledford Middle School.
Kenneth Cavender: I’m 52, Married to Kari Cavender. An Air Force veteran, we have four children, ages 7, 9, 11 and 13. I have three engineering degrees. First United Methodist Church member. Republican Executive Committee member. Holly Grove Precinct Chairman. Former Register of Deeds candidate.
I spent thirty years in industry, starting out in engineering then working in the metallurgical field and finally in plant management. I am currently the owner of a small business called Stumpbusters

Sam Watford:
• Past President of the Thomasville Jaycees
• Past Master of the Thomasville Masonic Lodge
• Past President of the Chair City Shrine Club
• Past member of the Davidson County Planning and Zoning Board
• Serving 2nd term as a County Commissioner

Billy Joe Kepley: Born on a north Davidson tobacco farm, I grew up with a hoe in my hand. At the age of 14, I got my first job working in the snack bar at Welcome Drive-in Theater. My high school was North Davidson, and I was class salutatorian. My college was Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, IN and National School of Aeronautics in Kansas City, MS.
I made my employment career with Eastern Airlines, Western Electric, Bell Telephone Labs and Southern Bell Telephone, retiring with 30+ years at AT&T companies services as Winston-Salem district transmission engineer. My military service was with USAF and N.C. Air National Guard earning and honorable discharge in 1961.
I am married to the same woman for 48 years and am blessed with four children and four grandchildren. I am of the Methodist faith and have taught Sunday School since the age of 18.

Question 2. This is one question posed different ways for incumbents and their challengers.
To incumbents: A lot has happened in this county over the past year. What was the most important issue commissioners decided on during that year, what factors lead to your decision and how do you feel about the issue now the decision is made?

To newcomers: Since you’re running for a seat on the board of commissioners, you’ve undoubtedly attended more than a few commissioners meetings before adding your name to the ballot. What was the most important issue the board dealt with over the last year, your opinion on commissioners’ decision and what, if anything, you would have done differently were you on the board?

Osborne: Over the last year the board has wasted our tax money on useless projects like the Wil-Cox bridge, giving incentives to companies who don’t fulfill their obligations and bottom line done nothing to help this county in any way shape or form. If I was on the board I wouldn’t have used your tax money to buy a bridge, I would have forced companies to pay back incentives, give the people of the county their money back, and worked hard to make this county great again.

Switzer: I find the commissioners meetings interesting in the where and why’s they spend tax payers dollars. We need schools in the county and yet we spend money on a private school in the city limits of Lexington. I am not sure who made out on that deal but rest assured it wasn’t the taxpayers or our children’s education needs. I find that our commissioners lack of doing hurts more than anything. As a commissioner I will make sure real things get done not just the paving of a certain section of Hampton Rd.

Allen:I feel that the top issue the Board faced this past year was the present economy of Davidson County and the need for jobs. Other important issues were the need for a new high school in the northern end of the county and the decision to take ownership of the Wil-Cox Bridge. I would not have voted to take ownership of the bridge as I feel the bridge is in such bad condition that the cost of repair and upkeep will far exceed the money the state will give the county resulting in additional future tax burdens on the Davidson County taxpayer.

Truell: I have served the citizens of Davidson County as an advocate for education and economic development during my terms as commissioner and I would consider these as major issues that have faced us, not only this past year, but each year over the past 8 or 10 years. During my tenure on the board, Davidson County has built more new schools, has renovated more older schools and added more classrooms than any other 8 year span in the past. Also during this time frame, commissioners have funded major projects that extended sewer service into many areas of our county. Although the sewer projects were primarily to provide service to our schools, many county residents with failing septic systems have benefited from this sewer service, along with scattered business and industry locations.

Moore: I have attended some of the commissioners meetings over the past few years. During the past year probably the discussion of how best to meet the needs for the Courthouse and the Jail. This item will require a lot of thought. Providing schools is certainly a priority and is an ongoing project. I did not have the opportunity to review all the information as presented to the commissioners; therefore I will not second-guess the decisions of the board.

Cavender: One of my concerns with the decisions of the current commissioners is taking possession to the Wil-Cox Bridge. I believe that a great deal more investigation needed to be done with regard to the future maintenance costs along with realistic data as to the potential number of people that would visit the bridge. Another concern is the fact that a Republican controlled board elected a Democrat to be the Chairman.

Watford: The approval of the budget ordinance is the single most important decision that we make annually and directly affects the lives of the citizens of Davidson County. The next most significant decision made this past year, in my opinion, was the purchase of the Davidson Academy property which I opposed. I didn’t object to the value or need but at a time when it is hard for the average citizen to spend two thousand dollars, I could not justify spending $2 million.

Kepley: My most important decision in my current term was the acceptance of the Wil-Cox Bridge over the Yadkin River. I have always worked to attract visitors and tourists to Davidson County for the advantage of outside of the county dollars in business and sales tax dollars. The Wil-Cox Bridge site is complimented by the river, High Rock Lake, lake access, campgrounds, Civil War battlegrounds, the Trading Ford and the N.C. Transportation Museum. Visitors could spend a day or a week.
Question 3. The economy and high unemployment rates are this year’s biggest issues. The Davidson County Economic Development Commission actively recruits manufacturers to locate in Davidson County and works closely with the county, Lexington, Thomasville and Denton to negotiate incentive packages to reimburse a company a portion of its property tax bill if it chooses to move here. The Lexington Tourism Authority and the Davidson County Tourism Recreation Investment Partnership market the county’s attractions and activities to people living locally and out of state through publications and the Internet. Last year, commissioners pushed for and succeeded in creating economic incentive grants to small businesses in Davidson County expanding and adding jobs.

What can you, as a commissioner, do above and beyond these efforts to improve the economy in Davidson County?

Osborne: First we need to recruit companies who will stay in the county and not take our tax money and leave. We need to recruit companies with reasonable pay, stable companies is what Davidson County needs. We cant just give out incentives to every company who wants to set up shop in the county. Most of the time they take their incentive money and leave town. This is a short term fix, we need long term solutions for this county and we need companies who will stay in this county. And these code names for the companies who receive incentives are ridiculous, the people should know ahead of time where their tax money is going to.

Switzer: As a person that understands the tourism industry I would first and for most want to make sure the EDC and the tourism boards understand what their jobs are and how they are done well. I am sure both of these boards have very competent people on them its just time to make those adjustment that make the wheel not squeak. Pushing for the grants to help small business is very important and I applaud the commissioners attempt at it but obviously they aren’t doing the job well or our unemployment rate would be lower. What can I do to do the job better? Tourism and actually building it. Farms and helping them grow forming co-ops local farms not the corporate farms like in Florida that plow the crop under to raise prices.

Allen: The County government has done much to address the problem of the high unemployment rate in Davidson County with some positive results. However, I feel we need to do more to address this issue that is affecting everyone in Davidson County. We need to let the world know that Davidson County is open for business. We need to expand our current efforts by aggressively promoting and marketing Davidson County. We need to promote our business friendly geographical location, our low tax rate, our great schools, and our work force ready to go to work. We need to promote current small businesses located in Davidson County. One way to do this is to offer a Web site linked to the Davidson County Government Web site. This Web site would allow a small business to advertise at no cost to that business.

Truell: I strongly feel that we must continue to support and actively recruit manufacturers to locate here in Davidson County; however, I believe that we need to go further and look at “regionalism” as another recruitment tool. It is obvious that incentives have become a necessity in attracting industry and each county throughout our state actually has to bid against each other with incentive offers to prospective clients.

To stop the necessity of bidding against our neighbors for potential clients, now is the time to understand the Piedmont Triad Partnership theory of banding together of counties in the triad area with offers to attract clients with only one incentive package. This partnership would use all the available site locations in this area to attract an industry and our major concern then would be to make the amenities in Davidson County more attractive as a draw to a prospect, (i.e. good schools, low tax rate, recreational programs, churches, adequate housing and available land sites and/or buildings)

Moore: Certainly explore all avenues to bring good jobs to the county, think outside of the box, focus on small business, and encourage innovative thinking and creativity from within the county. I will encourage our citizens to support our local merchants. We all can thing of something we could purchase here instead of outside the county. Supporting our local merchants will show businesses that are interested in locating in Davidson County that we are loyal and have a stable economy. We have one of the best populations of employable, talented workers available and sending this message is important to perspective businesses.

Cavender: This election is about jobs for Davidson County. I have thirty years of experience in industrial management. Two times I was involved with industrial plant relocation, so I have experience with why a plant relocates, what they are looking for in a site, what their requirements are as far as utilities, personnel, environmental concerns and other issues. While I will do everything that I can to attract new industry into the county, I believe that the fastest way to promote job growth is for the commissioners to place equal emphasis on assisting existing industry to grow and expand along with helping commercial businesses move into the county. As an example, the commissioners should have worked with Diebold and tried to get them to consolidate manufacturing in Davidson County instead of moving a large portion of manufacturing to a foreign country. This could have created a large number of jobs. Small and medium size businesses have a tendency to grow and they will have a friend on the commission and my door will always be open to them.

Watford: More government involvement is not always the answer. We operate in a free enterprise, capitalistic, supply and demand economy and hopefully will remain just that. We will continue to make Davidson County as business friendly as possible through the zoning, permitting, and inspections processes, in addition to the tax rebate incentives.

Kepley: Small businesses have always been the backbone of our economy. They are more stable and hire only local workers. A study to learn what is in current demand and what will be in future demand could provide us the direction for small business expansion and recruitment. Agricultural products have been completely ignored and neglected. Strawberries, grapes, lettuce, cabbage and mushrooms, to mention only a few, are in high demand year round. An expanded and more highly advertised farmers market would attract more producers and consumers, not only from the county, but regionally.

Question 4. Besides the enduring issues of education, jobs and taxes, what are some of your goals during your time on the board of commissioners?

Osborne: I want to give tax breaks to active military and veterans, I will relinquish my pay. I want to recruit companies with reasonable pay into the county and that will stay in the county.

Switzer: I want most of all at the end of my four year term to be able to say “we did it Republicans and Democrats worked and worked hard and we are on the road to the best economy Davidson county has seen in a very long time”.

Allen: One of the goals I would like to see accomplished is to address the future need for water in Davidson County. We can do this be seeking legal protection to our County’s use and right to the Yadkin River.

I also would like to promote economic growth and opportunity while protecting our County’s agriculture and farms. Agriculture is an integral part of Davidson County’s character and needs to be preserved.
With a favorable economy I would seek better pay and benefits for the County’s law enforcement officers and first responders. Davidson County needs to be competitive in these areas with surrounding municipalities and counties.

Truell: Aside from the issues of education, jobs and taxes, some of my goals during the upcoming 4 years will include a new jail facility for our county, two new schools, a revamped transportation system that provides fixed route service throughout Davidson County, and increased participation by our health department, the two city hospitals, and medical ministry to find a workable solution in providing medical service to the non-insured and under-insured citizens of our county. A new jail facility that meets overcrowding issues, outdated infrastructure and provide for future growth will be a multi-million dollar project. The new schools will be located in the northern area of the county to help with overcrowding in the North Davidson area and will also be a multi-million dollar project; however, a revamped transportation system to provide low-cost bus service to all Davidson County citizens can be funded without local tax dollars and a program is already being discussed on ways to provide a higher degree of medical service to indigent patients through the combined efforts of medical providers.

Moore: I would like to see a nice cafeteria (K & W for example) locate in the county. Expand bus service (PART or similar) to save on fuel and decrease pollution. Help our farmers in some manner to grow food and other items at a profit thereby providing food, other items – plants, trees, clothing fibers, and making good use of our land. Certainly we must be able to feed and clothe the citizens of our nation.

Cavender: I would like to create a county recreational park similar to Guilford Counties Northeast Park. The park would have ball fields, swimming pool, riding trails and meeting facilities. I believe this could be accomplished with donated land and facilities and may possibly be tied in with other recreational projects already in the works.

Watford: I am thankful that the Lord placed me in this place at this time. All I can ever hope to do is to try to leave it better for those He places here after me.

Kepley: My main concern if for the future generation’s health. Our present water supplies come from streams and lakes where we do not control the watersheds. Lead, mercury, hard metals, herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and now, pharmaceuticals contaminate these waters and some pollution is impossible to remove.

The Reedy Creek Basin is the only watershed that has not been developed and lies completely in Davidson County. We have a study indicating when in the future our quantity of water will be exhausted and where a new impoundment should be located. (Reedy Creek) So far, I have been unsuccessful in getting a majority vote to restrict development in the Reedy Creek Basin. The reason - “We have the quantity in the river.” I not only want quantity but I also know that in the future we must have quality. Quality will not only promote health but will also be a marketing asset for economic development.

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