Candidates staking out spots on city council
By Mark Wineka
Though filing for Salisbury City Council is a week away, plenty of candidates already are surfacing for the November election.
One reason: incumbent City Councilman Bill Burgin says he will not seek a seventh term in the fall. (See accompanying story.)
Meanwhile, the other four incumbents ó Mayor Susan Kluttz, Mayor Pro Tem Paul Woodson and Councilmen William “Pete” Kennedy and Mark Lewis ó told the Post they will seek re-election.
Combined, those four represent 46 years of experience on the council.
All five seats are up for election.
The two-week filing period for municipal candidates throughout Rowan County will start July 6.
The Salisbury City Council campaign will not be without its share of topics, including issues such as the developing fiber-optic cable utility, annexation policies, taxes, parks development, youth initiatives and more.
Each of the four incumbents running again mentioned a commitment to the installation and establishment of fiber-to-the-home cable.
As one of its strongest proponents, Lewis says, “I owe it to citizens to see it through.”
Kennedy, who will be seeking his ninth consecutive two-year term, already is the second longest serving councilman in the city’s history, behind only the late L.F. Cox, who served for 11 terms.
Kennedy is finishing up his 16th year on council, while Kluttz and Woodson are in their 12th years. Lewis will be seeking his fourth term.
“I really enjoy it,” Woodson says. “I work with the citizens, and I enjoy my job a lot.”
Several newcomers confirm they are definite candidates for council.
They include Maggie Blackwell, Blake Jarman, Wes Thompson and Michael Young.
Blackwell, currently a free-lance writer, member of the Salisbury Planning Board and a leader in the Fulton Heights neighborhood, expects to formally announce her candidacy this week.
Jarman works at Starbucks on East Innes Street and has made his intentions to run for council known for several months. He confirmed Friday that his plans have not changed.
Thompson works for the county tax assessor’s office. He says running for council has been constantly on his mind for the past two years.
“I’m ready to be a part of what’s going on and give something back,” Thompson says, adding he wants to devote time to a community in which he plans to grow old in.
Young, owner of Downtown Graphics Network and a former downtown manager, confirms his candidacy and says he already has tabbed someone to head his campaign.
Others said to be giving a council candidacy serious consideration include Robert Boone, Brian Miller, William Peoples and Carl Repsher, though Miller couldn’t be reached for confirmation late last week.
And this list of potential candidates is not necessarily all-inclusive.
“I have been asked,” said Peoples, a North Fulton Street resident, “but I still haven’t made up my mind. … It’s something I’m pondering.”
Repsher is a longtime manufacturing executive and most recently head of Rowan Vocational Opportunities. He says he is interested in a council seat but also has a son-in-law in the Special Forces who will be deployed overseas late this year.
He wants to be sure he’s available for his grandchildren, Repsher says.
Boone, who has been an unsuccessful candidate in several recent elections, considers himself still on the fence, “but I’ve almost decided not to,” he says. Boone owns Southern Motors on South Main Street.
Miller, a banking executive with Citizens South, has served on the Salisbury Planning Board and is a past president of Downtown Salisbury Inc.
Kluttz, who has been mayor for a record 12 years, says she wants to see through the fiber-optic project, youth and diversity initiatives, efforts against gun violence and the Empire Hotel’s development.
Kluttz also wants to make sure Alcoa is held accountable for protecting Salisbury’s water intakes against sedimentation and flooding. She has been a big supporter of the Salisbury Community Development Corp.’s efforts for first-time home owners and its work in helping people avoid foreclosures.
The mayor says she also wants to continue making sure Salisbury receives a fair share of the federal stimulus money.
Kennedy ticks off many of these same issues as his reasons for seeking re-election. He says the fiber-optic infrastructure will be important in creating jobs, providing services and helping businesses.
He also wants to see the city more involved in helping public schools and recognizing that job creation springs from having a high-performance school system.
Kennedy wants to see the city continue with a parks master plan, cultural action plan and programs for seniors.
Woodson says the fiber-optic cable project will put Salisbury a step above other cities.
“And we need to do something and not just sit around,” he says.
Woodson describes the council job as “good brain stimulation” and a way to learn things, meet citizens and be responsive.
“I’m sorry the economy is down,” he says, “but I think we’re trying.”