Cabarrus race pits newcomers against longtime leaders
Four vying for board
By Hugh Fisher
Two seats are up for election on the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners.
And four candidates ó two Democrats and two Republicans ó claim they will bring the most responsible brand of leadership to the county.
Republican Robert Carruth of Concord is up for re-election. He has served on the board eight years and was its most recent chairman before that post went to fellow Republican Jay White last year.
The other open seat is that of Commissioner Joni Juba, who is not seeking re-election.
Carruth said his experience on the board is his biggest strength.
“I believe that the challenges I’ve faced on the board for eight years help me best understand the dynamic of the community,” Carruth said.
Fellow Republican Elizabeth “Liz” Poole of Concord also has eight years of local government experience. As chairwoman of the Cabarrus County Board of Education, she attended county commission meetings.
“I understand the commitment necessary to serve effectively as a commissioner. There is a learning curve with anything new, and I feel that I have vital experience to shorten that learning curve to be an effective commissioner.” said Poole, a teacher at Concord High School.
Wendell Fant, a Democrat who came to Concord two years ago, said his years of service to his country and community are his best quality.
Fant said his 20 years of service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve show his dedication and leadership ability.
If elected, Fant said he would want to address the recent revaluation of property in Cabarrus County.
“I think most people believe it is a back-door tax,” Fant said of the increases in property values this year. “I haven’t heard any clarification from our leaders.
“This tax will put an even bigger strain on our seniors and families that are already finding their budgets maxed out,” Fant said.
Fant also wants to focus on job creation and improving the quality of education. He is employed as a consultant for TIAA-CREF in Charlotte.
The other Democratic candidate, retired plumber Archie Barnhardt of Concord, said his prior political and business experience will serve the county well.
Barnhardt served on the Cabarrus Board of Commissioners from 1982 to 1986. Before that, he was treasurer of the now-defunct Parkwood Sanitation District.
“I’m just a plain ol’ country boy. I get down to business,” said Barnhardt, who said he will promote conservative fiscal policy if elected.
Barnhardt said he wants to see cutbacks in government spending where needed as a response to tough economic times.
“If people and businesses are having to cut back, the government, which doesn’t produce anything but takes all the tax money, should cut back, too,” Barnhardt said.
Democratic candidate Fant said he would go through the county budget “line by line” to identify problem areas.
“We need to eliminate what is not working (and) restructure what is working so it can function properly. We then should make it public, so the citizens can see how their money is being spent,” Fant said.
Poole said she has a business background ó and, in addition, teaches business courses at Concord High ó but she would need to know more about specific issues involving taxes and the budget before making decisions.
“We need to look at how best to leverage the county’s resources to maximize our return on investment to attract good companies that will provide good jobs to our residents,” Poole said.
Carruth called the recent boom in housing construction and the resulting spike in school spending a main cause of spending growth.
But, in addition to education spending, Carruth said 80 percent of the county’s budget is driven by mandates from the state level.
“We need to elect the right people to serve in Raleigh that will make changes in the budget at a state level, that will relieve some of these unfunded mandates on our taxpayers,” Carruth said.