1. What uniquely qualifies you to serve as a county commissioner?
I am the owner of Speech N Progress Inc. I understand the importance of sound financing to make a monthly payroll and work along with my employees so they are proud of their place of employment. My volunteer service on several state and local boards has afforded me the opportunity to represent and serve our county. I am active in my community in organizing trash cleanups, donating my time and money to various school activities, groups and nonprofit organizations. Running a successful business, serving on various boards and my positive community involvement enables me to know the needs of Robeson County District 4.
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 would work diligently to find more funding for our schools. Rearranging priorities within the current budget will provide additional funds to address some of the needs of the school system. However, outside the county budget, there are other sources of funding that should be considered. I intend to work with county management to involve our corporate neighbors on a plan to invest in our schools infrastructure. A healthy, strong educational system benefits these companies with a future labor pool.
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?
Keeping our roadsides clean is an issue very important to me. I love to ride in my community and see clean roadsides, but often times I am sad and frustrated when I see the trash everywhere. I have organized several roadside clean up in my community and people have been responsive to the efforts, but this strategy isn’t working. Combating our litter problem must be done on several fronts, including education, enforcement and economics. Continued education for our citizens of what to do with litter must be implemented in the schools, churches, workplaces and homes until the problem is contained. The county administration in partnership with local police departments need efficient methods to enforce the local and state laws. Local, state and federal funds must be leveraged to launch an aggressive public campaign to inform the public of the fines associated with littering and then we have to show that we are serious about enforcement. If our children see their parents disposing of trash inappropriately, then we can expect them to do the same. If the county can effectively enforce the rules and we can educate the public, then hopefully this problem will become nonexistent.
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?
Is it too much to expect our leadership to set the example? The county commissioners are part-time servants to the people and should be paid accordingly. They should not be paid any more or receive more benefits than the part-time employees on the county payroll. Reducing the travel stipend and the discretionary monies could be a positive start to equalizing the pay and benefits of the commissioners. These monies could be directed elsewhere to better serve the people of Robeson County.
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?
Being involved in the communities of District 4 and throughout the county, I have been asked frequently about assistance in obtaining a job with the county. When did this become part of the job description for a county commissioner? It appears that past practices of nepotism in county hiring have gone unchecked far too long. I completely disagree with this method. Commissioners should not be involved in the hiring of staff. The county employs a personnel director and county manager for this task. The applicant’s qualifications should be the most pertinent factor in determining job hiring, not race or who they know. As commissioner, I will encourage the other commissioners to follow my lead with less involvement in personnel actions.
6. The Board of Commissioners recently considered the purchase of the Angel Exchange 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?
The most important job of our county commissioners is to use the taxpayer’s monies in the most efficient and effective way possible. Without all the facts and details available to me, I did not take a public position on the issue. As commissioner, I pledge to review all the facts and details before I vote or make a decision of this magnitude to ascertain the best course of action. I personally do not think it will be resurrected after the election. The commissioners have heard the majority voices of the public and subsequent attempts to take an action on this issue appear unlikely in my opinion.
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?
The taxpayers of Robeson County do not deserve a tax hike. A thorough review of county departments and their functions to target areas of efficiency is a good start. Cost savings of just 10 percent would generate millions of dollars for other programs and capital projects. Providing incentive programs for the employees to share their ideas/recommendations in identifying waste can also be implemented. Ask the citizens what is needed and what they feel is wasteful. For those services that need a fee, implement a usage fee. As commissioner, I pledge to vote against any tax or fee increase until it is known that the current revenues are being used wisely and efficiently.
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?
The location of the county administrative offices should be in an area that is centrally located and most feasible for all residents of the county to utilize. I do not have a preference for any particular location. I want all the residents of Robeson County to be able to access needed county offices easily and quickly. Historically, the county offices have been housed in Lumberton. Certain satellite offices may be needed to address the needs of our county — the largest by land mass in the state. With the readily available commercial properties in our communities, spreading our operations safely and efficiently throughout the county could serve the citizenry well.
9. Robeson County’s unemployment rate remains higher than the state and nations. 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 rate, 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?
Economic development is a dynamic issue with respect to how to entice industry and bring jobs to our county. It is my position that our county’s negative image prevents industrial recruitment. To counter that position, I propose a partnership with our Lumbee Tribal government and other corporate conglomerates to invest wisely with 8A certification. The infrastructure is here. Conduct a quick review and you find the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Robeson Community College, I-95, U.S. 74, natural gas, rich farm lands and the Lumber River. Workforce development is also a key for a strong economic environment. We need to be aware of what kind of jobs are going to be needed in the very near future and train our population for these jobs. As commissioner, I am eager to support the ongoing efforts of the economic development office for a greater Robeson County. It certainly is a challenge, but with initiative as the fuel for economic resurgence combined with true leadership, Robeson County can accelerate toward many positive opportunities.
Ask yourself a question and answer it: As the only female running for a seat on the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, what challenges have you faced in your campaign?
Being a female running for a seat historically held by men (with the exception of the late Mrs. Billie Britt), I have experienced many challenges, but also many rewards. The reality is that some people feel that it is not appropriate for a woman to hold a seat in this office. I have been told on more than one occasion that I will not get an individual’s vote because I am a woman. My answer to those individuals will be to prove them wrong once elected. I am a wife, mother to an 11-year-old daughter, businessowner and involved in my community. Having these responsibilities pose a unique challenge that a man may not have to face. I am fortunate to have a great support system in my family and friends to help me balance work, family and service. It is so exciting to be an example for young girls and women to show that we can be a part of decision making in our county and that our voice is valuable. To provide positive, effective leadership as a woman elected to the Robeson County Board of Commissioners is worth all the challenges I have faced.