fred smith visits

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
Fred Smith, a Republican candidate for governor, thanked by name a handful of politicians who attended a reception for him in Salisbury Tuesday evening.
They included several fellow state legislators ó Davie County’s Andrew Brock and Rowan County’s Fred Steen, included. Smith is a three-term legislator from Johnston County.
Smith said he considered mentioning by name all his relatives at the gathering, but realized the can of worms he’d be opening by doing so.
“I’ve got so many relatives here, I’m not going to try to name them all,” Smith said, laughing as he spoke. “I’m sure I’d miss somebody.”
The event, held in the Andrew Jackson Masonic Lodge, was planned by Smith’s cousin, John Smith, a Salisbury resident. Fred Smith, a Johnston County attorney and developer, is one of the front-runners for the Republican nomination for governor.
Though Smith was raised in Raleigh, his family comes from Davidson County, near High Rock Lake. He said family reunions have always been major undertakings.
John Smith, Fred’s cousin, said he can remember as a boy the family getting together for Thanksgiving feasts in Davidson County. Football was an important part of those Thanksgiving afternoons, he said.
John said that as much as Fred loved to eat, he loved to play football just as much, and had a hard time cramming enough of both events into a single afternoon.
John said he remembers during the midst of one of those football games Fred pausing long enough to run inside to carefully slice in half a whole pumpkin pie. Then Fred folded one half over the other, turning it into a pumpkin pie sandwich and running with it back to the football game.
The story prompted a round of chuckles among the 30 or so people gathered in the Masonic lodge. Once the laughter died, Fred Smith turned to the important matters at hand.
He said Johnston County has long been known for its tobacco crop and said that when priming season was winding to a close, farmers referred to the fact that only “short rows” ó those at a field’s edge ó remained.
“The governor’s race is about to come to the short rows,” Smith said.
He gave a brief background of his upbringing, mentioning that he considers himself a fiscal and social conservative.
“We need a change of management in Raleigh,” Smith said. “We have to have answers to the problems rather than just talk about the problems.”
Before he finished, Smith, 65, opened the event to questions and got several ó pertaining to schools, the state’s roads and bridges, illegal immigrants and business incentives.
One question centered around Rowan County’s Yadkin River bridge, a nasty drive for any of the thousands of motorists who cross it daily.
Smith said that if elected, he’d work to make drastic changes to the N.C. Department of Transportation, the organization that oversees the state’s roads and bridges.
“It needs to change from an agency that makes political contributions to an agency that builds roads,” he said.
Smith said he’d work for a Good Roads/Safe Bridges Bond that would total $4 billion but result in no tax increase. He said the money would be awarded to counties on a basis of $400 per resident.
Smith said the state’s population is expected to increase from 9 million to 12 million over the next 20 years.
“If we don’t find a way to build some roads, we’re all going to be sitting in a parking lot,” he said.
Smith was questioned about the use of tax incentives to lure businesses to the state.
“It should be a tool in our tool box, but we should use it very, very sparingly,” he said.
Smith said he’s involved in a 100-county tour of the state where he’s holding barbecue socials in each. He said he’s already held such socials in more than 60 counties.
Rowan County’s is scheduled for Feb. 4 at Southeast Middle School. Smith said everyone is welcome.
Those who attended Tuesday’s gathering seemed impressed by what they heard.
John Simmons said he traveled from Davidson County for the event.
“I’ve heard about him for a long time, but I’d never met the man,” Simmons said. “He talks a lot of common sense.”
Rowan County’s Jeff Smith is Fred’s second cousin. He said he’s spoken to Fred on a number of occasions over the years, but had never before heard him speak on the stump.
“I wanted to see what he could get up and do,” Jeff said. “I was impressed.”
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or