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Candidate surveys for this year's election: Whiteville

The county board of elections had decided to close early voting sites in Fair Bluff, Chadbourn and Bolton for the November general election and will open a new early voting site in Cerro Gordo.

The county board of elections had decided to close early voting sites in Fair Bluff, Chadbourn and Bolton for the November general election and will open a new early voting site in Cerro Gordo.

Incumbent Mayor Terry Mann and District 2 Councilman Jimmy Clarida are running unopposed for re-election in Whiteville, while three people are seeking the two available District 1 council seats.  They are incumbent Robert Leder and challengers Marc McGee and Kevin G. Williamson. Incumbent Sara Thompson did not file for re-election.

Terry Mann – Mayor

Terry Mann

Terry Mann

Why are you running for office?

I am running for the office of mayor of Whiteville because as a lifelong resident I am concerned and interested in what goes on in our city. I want to work on the problems we may have and be a part of the solutions.

Why are you qualified for the office you are seeking?

Being a lifelong resident of Whiteville and a business owner I feel that I have contact in my various activities to know what are our residents’ concerns. My having served four years as a councilman and several two-year terms as mayor, I am aware of completed projects, ongoing projects, and potential future projects. I try to be very visible in the community so I can feel the pulse of our citizens.

What is the biggest problem facing your town/city and how would you help fix it?

Naturally with two floods in the past three years and some localized flooding on slow-moving thunderstorms I would say flooding is our biggest problem. I will also say that aging infrastructure, as with most municipalities, is also a large problem. These two are somewhat connected because a majority of the assets are underground and aren’t visible to the public. I think the current council has taken an aggressive approach on both of these problems. The establishment of the Flood Committee and a storm water maintenance program are the beginning steps. The city has also completed a storm water study in the downtown area, completed one project and has funded two more to be done. There are several issues that are contributing to the flooding; consequently, there isn’t one solution. The city staff is working on several additional solutions and trying to identify funding sources.

I personally think the most helpful solution would be a buyout of properties near the swamps and re-establishment of wetlands. This would hold additional water during storms.

With the hiring of a full-time economic developer, the city has acknowledged the importance of economic development. Should the city utilize other strategies for economic development and why or would this better be left to the private sector and why?

The process has to be a public private partnership. The city took a major step by establishing this department and committing money. The city over two years ago established an incentive program that gives tax breaks and water/sewer discounts on any remodeling or new construction. The county has been approached about participating in tax credits, which would make it much more enticing. I would also in the future like to see possible tax incentives tied to job creation. The new position of economic development for the City gives us a possible voice at the table. The recent inclusion into the N.C. Associate Main Street program and our staff working with them directly is a major step. The economic development program was started a month before Hurricane Florence and that caused a 6/7 month delay. The recently established Business Improvement Grant Program is a great tool for physical improvements on the exterior of downtown buildings. The city has made the commitment and pursuing the partnerships is a necessity. It’s a slow process but having this department is beneficial.

Are you satisfied with the new storm water/drainage ordinance and its fee structure? Why or why not and what, if anything, would you propose doing differently?

The most comments I hear from citizens concern flooding. The city recently established the Storm Water Ordinance. Associated with this was a storm water fee. Council felt the need to start as soon as possible working on projects related to flooding. To do this, funds are needed, thus, the establishment of a fee schedule. Because of the time factor and getting the program into the fee schedule, it needed to be done by the July 1 budget. The fees established were two standard fees, one residential, one commercial. This is the one thing I would like to change. Council is looking for next year’s budget going more to fees based on the amount of impervious property. I would like to see a flat rate for residential and a commercial rate based on the impervious surface. I think this would be a more equitable formula. As for the rules and regulations of the ordinance itself I feel the ordinance is fair and addresses future growth and control of stormwater.

 

Jimmy Clarida – City Council

District 2

Jimmy Clarida

Jimmy Clarida

Why are you running for office?

To continue to make the city a better place to live and work.

Why are you qualified for the office you are seeking?

I live here, work here, and I understand some of the needs of the city.

What is the biggest problem facing your town/city and how would you help fix it?

The biggest problem facing the city is flooding. There is no easy fix for it. We would keep working on it as we are doing with what resources we have and funds when they are available.

With the hiring of a full-time economic developer, the city has acknowledged the importance of economic development. Should the city utilize other strategies for economic development and why or would this better be left to the private sector and why?

The city should use whatever is available for the betterment of the city. The economic developer and the private sector can work together and use other strategies if available.

Are you satisfied with the new storm water/drainage ordinance and its fee structure? Why or why not and what, if anything, would you propose doing differently?

I am satisfied with the storm water drainage ordinance and its fee structure as it is. In the near future we may need to revisit it and make some adjustments if necessary

 

Robert Leder – City Council

District 1

Robert Leder

Robert Leder

Why are you running for office?

I am running for the office of Whiteville City Council to continue to improve the goals that are already in place and to make sure this is a safe city to work, play and worship. With our city manager and staff, I fee like the city is moving forward in the right direction. We also need to make sure that the city is providing the services that our fine citizens expect for their tax dollars.

Why are you qualified for the office you are seeking?

I am a lifelong resident of the city and care about the well-being of our citizens mainly the safety and management of the city obligation’s to our citizens. I have served on council for many terms, which I think gives me the knowledge and knowhow to move our city in the right direction while keeping our taxes as low as possible.

What is the biggest problem facing your town/city and how would you help fix it?

As every city has its problems, the flooding and drainage issues are at the top of the list, and we as a city are moving to take steps to resolve this issue. Also, we have taken giant steps to keep certified and qualified staff to run our departments: police, fire, public works, etc. to make sure we are always safe.

With the hiring of our new economic developer who is hard at working bringing many new ideas to our city council, our board is very excited about his ideas and directions. I feel like this is a very positive move for our downtown.

Are you satisfied with the new storm water/drainage ordinance and its fee structure? Why or why not and what, if anything, would you propose doing differently?

I am very proud of the city concern and actions being taken to try to correct or eliminate the terrible flooding that has occurred in the last three years. We all hope these new storm water/drainage works being done will be the beginning to solve these awful flooding problems. I am satisfied with the new ordinance. Also, I would like to thank the citizens of this fine city for allowing me to serve them and I pledge if re-elected I will continue to do so in a honorable way. Please don’t forget to vote early or on Election Day.

 

Marc McGee – City Council

District 1

Marc McGee

Marc McGee

Why are you running for office?

I was a police officer for the city for 18 years so I feel that I am familiar with the challenges, problems and needs of the citizens of Whiteville and that I can help in solving those problems and challenges with new, fresh ideas. Whiteville is my home and I want to see it prosper and be a great place to call home for all who live here.

Why are you qualified for the office you are seeking?

I served eight years in the United States Army, most of which as a non commissioned officer. I served as a police officer for 20 years, 18 of those with the City of Whiteville until my retirement at which time I held the rank of Interim Chief of Police so I feel that I have a good working knowledge of the city.

What is the biggest problem facing your town/city and how would you help fix it?

I feel that our stormwater drainage problems are the biggest problems facing Whiteville. Until we solve these problems I cannot see economic development increasing in the downtown area. New business owners are not going to be interested in down town if there is the possibility that their business will be flooded every few years. We must update our storm water drainage  infrastructure and address the flooding problem of Soules Swamp from massive rainfall from hurricanes. This problem will require the cooperation of several partners (City of Whiteville, State of North Carolina, and The federal government) because of its complexity.

With the hiring of a full-time economic developer, the city has acknowledged the importance of economic development. Should the city utilize other strategies for economic development and why or would this better be left to the private sector and why?

I feel that the city should pursue all strategies of economic development both through the economic developer and the private sector as well, the more parties at the table the more ideas can be discussed and developed.

Are you satisfied with the new storm water/drainage ordinance and its fee structure? Why or why not and what, if anything, would you propose doing differently?

I feel that the ordinance is a good starting point, but I don’t feel that it will solve the problems by itself. The city’s storm water drainage infrastructure can be maintained and updated through the ordinance but the Soules Swamp flooding problem is a much larger problem and will require the cooperation of several parties (City, State, and Federal Government). The Soules Swamp flooding problem will require a great deal of study to develop a plan of action and an extremely large amounts of funding.

 

Kevin Williamson – City Council

District 1

Kevin Williamson

Kevin Williamson

Why are you running for office?

When I was a young attorney, fresh out of law school, an older attorney explained to me that as lawyers, we earned our livings from the people of this community and that we had an obligation to give back. That attorney has now passed away but I think about his advice frequently. I now realize that when my friend explained that I had a duty to give back to this community, he was explaining that civic service is a duty but it is also a privilege. I have been practicing law for over 10 years now and I have three young children. I want to make Whiteville an even better place to live, work and play so that their childhoods are as remarkable as mine was. I would also like to see the economy grow so that my children will raise my grandchildren here in Whiteville. If the citizens of Whiteville feel that I would be of assistance to them by serving on city council, I would be honored to receive their votes but I also want to show my children that if you are lucky enough to be in a position to help your neighbors, you do it.

Why are you qualified for the office you are seeking?

In the 10 years since graduating from college and law school, I have been lucky enough to have a leadership role in many organizations in Columbus County. I was chairman of the board of directors of both the Chamber of Commerce and Families First and the president of the Whiteville Rotary Club; on the board of directors of the Columbus County Community Foundation, the Cape Fear Council of the Boy Scouts of America and The Whiteville Touchdown Club. While I learned a great deal leading those organizations, what I feel makes me especially qualified to serve on city council is how I apply what I do as an attorney to the other roles I take on. As an attorney I fight for my clients each day advocating for them in their moments of need. If elected, I will fight for the citizens of this town in the same way I passionately fight for my clients in the courtroom.

What is the biggest problem facing your town/city and how would you help fix it?

Flooding, jobs, public transportation, affordable housing and substance abuse are among the most significant issues facing this town. However, when I recently took an online survey of a group of friends, they overwhelmingly pointed to lack of play opportunities for their children as the task they wanted me to address first, if elected. This surprised me. Luckily, what this tells us is that our citizens are largely satisfied with other issues. Could the crime rate be lower, yes; would we like to see more businesses, yes; should flooding be an issue, obviously not; but when folks tell me recreational opportunities is the first thing they want addressed, I am very pleased. The city has several parks, but some flood, many have broken equipment, none are inclusive to those with different physical abilities, and many of the parks we have are simply not up to snuff with those being constructed in other towns. As the parent of three young children who visits our parks regularly, I see the issues and I know we can and must provide more recreational opportunities for our citizens.

With the hiring of a full-time economic developer, the city has acknowledged the importance of economic development. Should the city utilize other strategies for economic development and why or would this better be left to the private sector and why?

When I was about 12 years old, I had a paper route delivering The News Reporter downtown. As I entered each business, I would see families shopping, store owners assisting customers, drivers making deliveries and stores full of people. Tobacco is mostly gone, Amazon gets too much of our business and we have been hit with multiple devastating floods in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that we throw in the towel and move to away. Whiteville has what everyone in large cities wants, not vice versa. Whiteville is friendly, quaint, diverse and welcoming. Did you rent your prom tux from the mayor of Wilmington? Would you sit behind your daughter’s teacher at church if you lived in Charlotte? Would you be able to text your son’s pediatrician after a late night scare if you lived in Raleigh? I do, right here in Whiteville. For too long we have sat back and watched as jobs left town. So yes, we do need a full time economic developer but that has to be the start of full economic rebranding that includes the Chamber of Commerce, Columbus Jobs Foundation and the private sector, among others.

Are you satisfied with the new storm water/drainage ordinance and its fee structure? Why or why not and what, if anything, would you propose doing differently?

On the whole, I am pleased that action has been taken to address flooding. This is a major problem that needs addressing and the funds must be generated somehow. We have had several floods in recent years but we can recover if the town remains a fertile business hub. The funds from this fee allow the infrastructure to be updated and upgraded so that hopefully we never see this type of flooding here again. However, the images that the public has seen of Whiteville underwater will naturally deter some business and we must do something to address the public perception that Whiteville was flooded out as well. The city has done a good job with signage and publicity to remind residents and consumers that the city is working to address the issues. Ideally we could pass this fee along to the consumers who use the businesses but we must not get the perception of being unfriendly to business either. Additionally, the fee structure likely needs adjusting so that those who produce larger amounts of storm water runoff foot a larger portion of the bill so as to not penalize small businesses.

Stuart Rogers