Council candidates address NAACP
By Kathy Chaffin
The candidates outnumbered the audience when the Salisbury-Rowan Branch of the NAACP began its forum for Salisbury City Council candidates Tuesday night. But just as President Dr. Bryant Norman predicted, more came in as the evening progressed.
Ten of 12 candidates were at the forum along with a write-in candidate. The daughter of one absent candidate, incumbent William “Pete” Kennedy, spoke on his behalf, saying he had a previous commitment. William Peoples was also unable to attend the forum.
Incumbents Susan Kluttz, Mark Lewis and Paul Woodson were there along with the remaining candidates, Charles Black, Maggie Blackwell, Carl Dangerfield, Blake Jarman, Ben Johnson, Brian Miller and Michael Young.
The Rev. Sidney L. Roberts attended as a write-in candidate.
Norman served as moderator for the 6:30 p.m. forum, held in the Stanback Room of Rowan Public Library.
Candidates had an opportunity to introduce themselves and talk about why they are running for City Council.
Jacqueline Kennedy White spoke on behalf of her father, reading a long list of accomplishments in his eight, two-year terms on the City Council.
The second longest serving councilman in Salisbury history, Kennedy is a chief proponent of the city’s $30 million effort to establish a fiber-optic cable utility and serves as council liaison with Mark Lewis to that project.
Lewis, a three-term incumbent, said it’s important that he and Kennedy be re-elected to see the project through.
“Knowledge and experience for me is really what I can bring,” Lewis said.
A banker with the Bank of North Carolina, Lewis said his experience analyzing budgets helps ensure that the City Council is fiscally responsible.
Paul Woodson, who has been mayor pro tem during his 12 years of service, said the City Council has accomplished a lot since he’s been on it.
One of the biggest issues he said he wants to work on now is bringing more jobs to the area.
In addition to his experience, Woodson said he brings a different perspective, having lived in seven North Carolina towns, New York City and California and having traveled over half the world.
If elected, Carl Dangerfield, a detective with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, said he would help give direction to the City Council by looking at the whole picture when dealing with issues and not just pick and choose certain areas to address.
Roberts said one of the reasons he is running is to ensure that neighborhoods like his receive proper representation on the City Council, something he said currently does not exist.
“I should know who to call and talk to,” Roberts said.
Susan Kluttz, who has served as mayor for all of her 12 years on the City Council, named the areas of focus during her service, including diversity for the staff and community, public safety, gangs, Economic Development Commission, historic preservation and equality and fairness.
“I can not stand partiality or any perception of it,” she said, “and I will not tolerate it.”
Blake Jarman, the youngest candidate at age 24, quoted the lyrics of a song, saying, “Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in the city.” His motto is “We can make Salisbury better together.”
What he would bring to the City Council, he said, is a youthful perspective and his excitement, passion and love for Salisbury.
He said he would also bring new ideas to the City Council and can communicate decisions to youth in a way they can understand.
Brian Miller, a commercial banker for Citizens South Bank, said his extensive community involvement and problem-solving skills make him a good candidate for City Council.
“I like to think I’ve been a part of what’s made Salisbury wonderful and good,” he said. “I love it here. I think it’s a wonderful place to raise a family.”
Charles Black, who has 30 years’ experience in law enforcement and now works at the Piedmont Correctional Center, said he is running to represent the “working people” on the City Council. “That’s my main goal,” he said.
Black said he enjoys talking to people and getting their views. “And I’m not afraid to take the lead,” he said.
Attract young people
Maggie Blackwell, a member of the Salisbury Planning Board and a leader in the Fulton Heights neighborhood, said her experience working in informational systems for multi-million dollar projects would help her on the City Council.
In addition, she described herself as a diligent studier, having researched various issues facing other cities the size of Salisbury.
Blackwell said she has a sense of vision and pointed to the park she developed in her neighborhood to attract young families as an example.
“How do you attract young people?” she asked. “You build a park.”
Michael Young, owner of Downtown Graphics Network and a former downtown manager, said he was pro downtown, pro business and pro industry and believes that neither one is mutually exclusive of the other.
Young said he takes a business approach to problems, saying he can discern “between objective and subjective, fact and opinion …”
Benjamin Johnson said he believes his degree and experience in computer technology would be an asset in working with the fiber optic project.
He described himself as a devout conservative who believes in free-market values and low taxes.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249.