1. What uniquely qualifies you to serve as a county commissioner?
I believe what makes me uniquely qualified to be a commissioner is that I have an understanding of what the needs of my district are as well as what the duties of a commissioner should be. Our county’s residents deserve to have commissioners that are accessible, fiscally responsible, fair, and who are transparent in their decision making.
2 The Robeson County Board of Commissioners, at just more than $500 per student, provides funding to the local schools at the second lowest level of the 100 counties in North Carolina. As a commissioner, would you work to provide more funding for the local schools? Why or why not?
Yes, I think our schools need to be top priority. We as a county set currently at $525 per student ,which puts us at the second lowest level in the state and $1,071 below the state average. School funding needs to be addressed at the state level in order to bring about an equitable disbursement of funds on a per child basis. The children of all counties need to be afforded the same opportunities.
3. Robeson County has a problem with roadside trash. The county has established a Clean and Green Committee, but it appears that as soon as one roadside is clear, a week later it is trashy again. Do you have any unique ideas on how to approach this problem? If so, can you detail?
Yes, I think that roadside trash is in some ways a heart issue in that there needs to be stiffer penalties for littering. I have noticed that when the people of our county participated in the Adopt a Road Program it shows that they have a sense of pride in where they live and how they would like their community to look. I would like to see more volunteer programs as well as a return of our state using inmates for trash pickup.
4. The Robeson County commissioners are the best paid and benefited in North Carolina, and our county is among the poorest. This is true when pay, stipend, retirement, health insurance are totaled up. Do you think commissioners in a poor county are deserving of the best pay and benefits, or should they be scaled back?
All of our current commissioners have other sources of income, therefore I believe they should lead by example. The county commissioner’s salaries and benefits should be consistent with other counties in the state.
5. There is a perception among many people that nepotism and cronyism play a role in key hiring decisions for the county. Do you agree with that? If so, what would you do to end that?
I do agree that nepotism and cronyism have a bearing on who gets hired in our county. I do not believe in favoring or showing partiality to family and friends in regards to making decisions on hiring employees to work for the county. I believe the person who has the best credentials regardless of personal influence should be hired so that our county can benefit from his or her expertise. I would talk to department heads and ask that they have a certain protocol in place to ensure everyone applying has an equal evaluation.
6. The Board of Commissioners recently considered the purchase of the Angel Exchange building for use by the schools as a central office. That talk has died down. Do you think it will be resurrected after the election, and what is your position on its possible purchase?
I do think the Angel Exchange will be revisited after the election. My position on its possible purchase is that it isn’t a good move for our county. Based on the facts we know this deal does not show that there is fiscal accountability nor transparency. Be an informed voter and know how your commissioner votes. He should represent your set of values and then vote appropriately.
7. Robeson County’s tax rate, at 77 cents for every $100 of property, ranks in the top 25 highest in the state. Do you have any ideas on how to reduce the rate without a dramatic reduction in services?
I realize that our property tax rate is one of the highest in the state only to be one of the poorest counties in the state. I think that our county’s loss of industry over the years has been a driving factor, which has affected our tax base. The Board of Commissioners has a duty to diligently seek out new business for our county, which could in return generate new revenue. Then and only then will we be able to re-evaluate our tax rate.
8. Do you think it is important for the county administrative offices to be located in Lumberton, which has the highest population and is in the center of the county?
I do think that the county administrative offices should be located in Lumberton for the following reasons. It is centrally located in the county, the county’s budget doesn’t allow for these types of drastic changes, and there are more pressing issues in our county, specifically school improvements.
9. Robeson County’s unemployment rate remains higher than the state and nation. Also many of our jobs, especially in the service industry, don’t provide a livable wage and are without benefits, with the result being about 40,000 people in the county depending on food stamps. The lack of jobs also drives our crime, rated the highest in the state. What new ideas, if any, do you have that can be implemented to try to bring more jobs to the county?
The county economic development board should have a list of potential businesses that may be looking to locate in North Carolina and should be aggressively pursuing all leads with a plan in hand. Our county needs growth. Growth=jobs, jobs=revenue, revenue=improved schools. We all need to promote our county!
10. Question to myself: What do the people of District 2 expect of their county commissioner?
First, someone who is accessible and fair to all. Second, someone with their same core values. Third, honesty and integrity. Fourth, someone who’s willing to reach out to all mayors, town councils and community leaders and be involved in what is going on in the communities. Fifth, someone to visit our schools and be a voice for our teachers and administrators and understand their needs.