Eight seeking 3 council seats in Pembroke

Bob Shiles Staff writer

October 31, 2013

PEMBROKE — Pembroke voters will have eight candidates to elect to three seats on the Town Council when they go to the polls Tuesday. Two of the seats in the non-partisan race are for four-year terms, while the third seat is for the two years remaining on the four-year term of the late Robert Williamson.

The six candidates vying for the two four-year terms are incumbent Allen Dial; Theresa Locklear; Joseph M. Locklear; John D. Campbell; Chris Lowry; and Channing Jones. Incumbent Larry Brooks is not seeking re-election.

Dial, 59, a Pembroke native, has served on the council 16 years. He is self-employed as an auctioneer and real estate broker, and holds a degree in Health and Physical Education from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Dial wants to work toward the “continuation of progress” that has been made over the past years. The addition of street lighting, sidewalks along N.C. 711 toward Walmart, and the construction of student housing behind the town’s Food Lion would especially benefit those attending and working at the university, he said.

According to Dial, the council is still trying to build the town’s reserves fund, which he said have tripled in the last few years. He said that the town needs to continue pursuing grants such as the $1.2 million it received to tie a sweet potato processing plant near COMtech into the town’s sewer system.

“We’re fortunate to have this industry in Pembroke,” he said. “It’s bringing a lot of work for people in the area.”

Theresa Locklear lost her first run for a seat on the council in 2011 by seven votes.

“I think the community is ready for change,” she said. “We need to be willing to listen to what the people say and help the people.”

A native of Pembroke, Locklear said she would be the first female elected to the council. She works as an investigator for the Robeson County Public Defender’s Office, as well as a social worker. She holds a pre-law degree from UNCP, as well as a master’s degree from the university.

Locklear is the chairperson of the board of directors for the Southeastern Family Violence Center. She also has served on the board of directors of the Pembroke Housing Authority.

“We need a female perspective on the council,” she said. “I will be for the people and not for myself … . With my experiences I have learned to listen to what people say and come up with solutions.”

John D. Campbell, 48, a Pembroke native, said that the town’s residents are ready for change on the council.

“It seems to me it’s the right time for me to run for the council,” he said.

Campbell, who served 24 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve, owns J.D.’s Towing and Recovery. He is a volunteer for the Prospect School.

“We need to keep the town growing in a positive direction,” Campbell said. “We need to keep walking in the right direction to keep life flourishing for people of all walks of life.”

Joseph Milton Locklear, an educator for more than 30 years, is the associate superintendent for Human Resources with the Cumberland County Public Schools. A lifelong resident of Pembroke, he taught in the Public Schools of Robeson County before taking a position with the Cumberland County schools.

He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in Music Education from UNCP and Western Carolina University, and a doctorate in Educational Administration from South Carolina State.

Locklear, 57, said that there needs to be a “review” of what benchmarks have been set for achieving progress.

“We don’t need to change direction, but need to make it clear to both the public and council what benchmarks we are attempting to obtain,” he said.

Locklear said that the council needs to look closely at the amount of money in “local coffers” to ensure that it is being used appropriately.

“We need to look at what we are doing to get block grants and other grants, and I think we need to go after larger grants,” he said. “Fiscal management is very important in a down economy.”

Locklear said that the town and UNCP need to work together to bring additional businesses and entrepreneurs to the community. He also said that the town should reach out to the students of UNCP and “support” some of their ideas for improving the community.

“We have to solicit the opinions of those who will be the leaders of tomorrow,” he said.

Chris Lowry, 38, is a lifelong Pembroke resident.

“They need to listen to the people,” said Lowry, who contends that as a candidate he has not made “empty promises” that he can’t keep. “The people have great ideas if the leaders would take the time to listen to them.”

This is Lowry’s first run for a council seat, but in 2002 he unsuccessfully ran for the state House of Representatives. He is currently the sales manager for Prevatte’s Home Sales in Lumberton, a volunteer firefighter and coaches youth baseball.

Lowry graduated from UNCP in 2005 with a degree in Business Administration.

According to Lowry, Pembroke needs to “promote” small businesses, revitalization of the downtown, and form partnerships with the local university. UNCP’s Business Center can help, he said.

“I’ve seen the university help businesses grow,” said Lowry.

Lowry believes no council member should serve more than three four-year terms.

“It’s dangerous when a politician has served too long,” he said. “They become too comfortable in the position.”

Channing Jones, 36, a Robeson County native, is currently the vice president for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Robeson Community College. He served as Pembroke’s assistant town manager for two and a half years before taking his position at RCC in 2011.

Jones holds a Biology/Chemistry degree from UNCP, and a graduate degree in Ecology from the University of North Carolina. Before taking the job of assistant town manager in Pembroke, he was the chief operating officer of Southtech Plastics in New Bern.

Currently Jones is chairman of Robeson County’s Committee of 100, a Lions Club member, and a member of the state’s Indigent Defense Services board.

Jones said that it is important that the community move in a direction that strategically places it to take advantage of economic opportunities that develop as the state and nation move out of recession.

“We need to be aggressive in our zoning so we are ready when opportunities exist,” he said. “In Robeson County we want to utilize every resource … We need to protect our infrastructure, water and sewer and gas lines … We want an atmosphere that will not only continue to support our townspeople, but can also host commercial and business development and accommodate the town’s student population.”

Jones said job creation and business recruitment are vital.

“Jobs is a key issue to everyone,” he said. “People need to work.”

Former Councilman Larry McNeill and Mitchell Lowry, the president of the Pembroke Kiwanis Club, are seeking Williamson’s seat, which has two years remaining on its term. The council never named a replacement for Williamson, who died in 2012, soon after taking office.

McNeill served on the council for 20 years before losing re-election in 2011.

McNeill, 68, has more than 35 years in law enforcement, having worked with the Pembroke Police Auxiliary before taking the job of overseeing security at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He is currently president of the Robeson County Executive Law Enforcement Officers Association and serves on U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre’s Law Enforcement Advisory Committee.

McNeill says his priorities as a member of the council will be to keep taxes and user fees as low as possible.

“I can’t say they (taxes and fees) will never be raised,” he said. “We have to maintain services. We (town) have expenditures and mandates that these services be provided.”

Building a “strong relationship” with the university is important, he said.

“I think Pembroke will be in good shape when the economy starts getting better,” McNeill said. “We need to hang tight.”

Lowry, 62, is running for his first elected office. A Pembroke native, he served in the U.S. Air Force and then went to work for the North Carolina Department of Corrections, retiring after 32 years in state government.

Lowry earned a degree a in Sociology from Pembroke State University in 1984. He is currently chairman of an Army Reserves group in Lumberton, and a past recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Lowry said that the Police Department needs to be upgraded to meet the security demands of the town’s growth.

“I want the police department … enforcing all state laws so that people in the community feel more safe and secure,” he said.

Lowry said that Pembroke needs to build and maintain a strong relationship with UNCP.

“To me, we need to show more appreciation for having UNCP in the area,” he said. “… The chancellor and the university are community-minded and reaching out to us.”

According to the Robeson County board of Elections, as of late Wednesday afternoon 184 Pembroke voters had taken advantage of the early, one-stop voting period that ends Saturday. There are 2,429 Pembroke voters eligible to cast ballots in Tuesday’s election.