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By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
EAST SPENCER ó Alderman John L. Rustin Sr. said his top priority as mayor would be to finish the water-sewer project started for Exit 79 along Interstate 85.
“The town of East Spencer can profit greatly from traffic from the corridor at Exit 79,” Rustin said in a statement given to the Post.
Rustin, an alderman since 2001 and mayor from 1990-91, is challenging incumbent Erma Jefferies and two others for the mayor’s spot.
If Rustin does not win, he can continue to serve his remaining two years as alderman.
The other two mayoral candidates are Titus King Sr. and Jimmie L. Daniel.
Rustin served many years as chief of police in East Spencer and was in law enforcement for a total of 35 years. His resume says he was the first black police chief in the state.
Rustin said he seeks the mayor’s position because of “my vast 50 years of experience in public service.” He said a mayor should serve like a chairman of the board and carry out the board’s wishes.
“This position is not one of dictatorship to the board but one of advisement,” Rustin said, “(It’s) to gain the necessary information for the board, always keeping the board informed and making suggestions and having ideas as to how to upgrade and move forward.”
Rustin said “it is truly time we got the ball rolling” on upgrading the entire water-sewer system.
“Water rates here have deterred people from moving to East Spencer and have, in fact, driven them away,” Rustin said.
Rustin said he would have an open-door policy as mayor.
“Citizens complain, and we owe it to them to listen,” he said. “Those citizens seeking information will have it in a timely manner. All records are public records, and citizens have a right to ask questions and have access to those records.”
Rustin said he would like the board to review its new zoning ordinance, and he would ask that a separate Zoning Board of Adjustment be appointed. “It is an injustice to the citizens that those who sit on the Planning Board also serve as the Board of Adjustment,” he said.
“Our citizens are really upset with the zoning ordinance, and a careful re-evaluation of it is needed.”
Rustin said all department heads of the town should work five days, “so as to be accessible to our citizens.”
As mayor, Rustin said, he would seek a special audit of the town’s finances. He added that the town board needed to choose a financial officer as part of a total reorganization.
Rustin said he also hears many complaints about trash and garbage pickup.
“East Spencer is faced with serious issues,” Rustin said. “We need to get back to the type of government that is mandated by our town charter. We have not gained much success ó as was the intention of the board when this change was made ó with administrators.”
Rustin proposes a committee structure for each town department, with the chairman of each committee reporting to the board. “Presently, we as aldermen are left out of the operation of our town,” Rustin said.
“We are told only those things ‘they’ want us to know ó and only then when things are out of hand and in litigation.”
Overall, Rustin stressed better services for citizens and said they are warranted. “How can we attract business and industry if we can’t provide for those already living here?” Rustin asked. “Unsatisfied residents are leaving, no one is moving in and homeowners are selling out.”
Rustin, 82, belongs to Southern City AME Zion Church, the NAACP, the Retired Police Officers Association of North Carolina, the Salisbury-Rowan Community Service Council and the Chamber of Commerce.
He was Crimestoppers treasurer under Frieda Nikolai. Gov. Jim Hunt appointed him to the Prison Advisory Board and Criminal Standards Board in Rowan County.
Rustin has taken several supervisory training, criminal justice and local government classes. He had been employed in he past by Isenhour Brick and Tile Co., served in the Army and attended schools in both East Spencer and Washington, D.C.

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