Spencer incumbents face challengers
By Emily Ford
SPENCER — Three newcomers will challenge four incumbents for six seats on the Spencer Board of Aldermen in November.
One candidate for the Town Board will not win election.
Jody Everhart is unopposed in his bid for re-election as mayor but said he plans to campaign, as Spencer has a history of successful write-in candidates.
Incumbents on the Board of Aldermen running for election are Jeff Morris, David Smith, Reid Walters and Scott Benfield. Challengers are Kevin Jones, Robert Bennett and Jim Gobbel.
None of the challengers has sought or held political office before, but Bennett and Gobbel are familiar faces in Spencer. Bennett served as police chief, and Gobbel has been an active volunteer.
Both regularly attend town board meetings and often speak during the public comment period.
“I love living here, and I care about the town,” said Bennett, who served as police chief from 2003 to 2010.
Bennett worked in local government for 30 years and said he would use his experience in budgeting to maintain services for all residents of Spencer while keeping the tax burden to a minimum.
If elected, Gobbel said he would work with Spencer merchants and the Spencer Business Association to promote ideas to attract new businesses. The town should take advantage of a major state tourist attraction, the N.C. Transportation Museum, he said.
“We’ve got to get the museum visitors across the street, into our business district,” Gobbel said. “But first, we’ve got to give them a reason to come across the street.”
Jones moved to Spencer a year ago and said the town has the potential to be a great place to live, and he’d like to get involved.
“I want to bring a fresh perspective to the Spencer board,” he said. “I hope to be a part of the promotion and growth of our town.”
Jones advocates a “strong plan for future development” to make Spencer a better place to live and work, he said.
Smith, who was appointed last year to fill an unexpired term, said he’s running for election “to continue to serve Spencer residents and look out for their best interests.”
Smith supported the town’s application for the Small Town Main Street program. He said he also supports the EPA revitalization of the downtown business district, as well as historical preservation.
Morris said he’s running for re-election “because ‘bureaucracy abhors a vacuum.’”
Morris led the effort to cut the property tax rate to below revenue-neutral this year, which led to the layoffs of three fulltime employees.
“Without elected officials who are committed to limiting local government largesse, Spencer would have the highest tax rate in Rowan County,” Morris said. “Spencer is a great place to live, and I want to give back to my adopted ‘hometown.’ ”
Walters said if re-elected, he would “continue to provide level-headed and conscientious leadership as our town moves forward and is faced with difficult decisions.”
He supports code enforcement, small business creation and transportation issues related to the new Yadkin River bridge.
Walters said he wants to ensure consistent leadership to complete a partnership between the LandTrust for Central North Carolina and Spencer for the preservation of a 40-acre hardwood forest known as Spencer Woods.
Benfield said he also supports the preservation of Spencer Woods and wants the LandTrust to manage the passive park. He supports street paving and building more sidewalks to keep schoolchildren from walking in the road.
“I’ve enjoyed serving the people and I feel like I’m making a difference in my community,” Benfield said. “I try to look after the people’s best interests.”
Everhart said while the board had some accomplishments in the past two years, “there are plenty of things that need to be done.”
He did not support the layoffs of town employees, especially the code enforcement officer. Within six months, Everhart predicted, residents will demand the position be reinstated.
Calling himself “crazy” for running again, Everhart said he’s enjoyed serving the town and believes Spencer has an excellent manager and employees, but the aldermen “each had their own agendas and their own goals.”
“I want to see the board work together,” he said. “I didn’t see it this past year. This was the most challenging board anybody could have had.”
Meet the Spencer candidates
Name:?Jim Gobbel, challenger for alderman
Address: 609 8th St.
Occupation: Retired from distribution department of Miller Brewing Company
Education: High school graduate
Previous elected office: None
Community involvement: First Baptist Church in Spencer, Spencer Planning Board (vice chairman), Spencer Hometown Holidays Committee, Small Town Main Street Program Committee, volunteer for Spencer Community Appearance Commission, Spencer Library and Save Spencer Woods.
Family: Wife, Marla Harris Gobbel. Two sons and three grandsons
Name: Jeff Morris, incumbent alderman
Address: 403 Crestwood Lane
Education: Bachelor of arts degree in international business from Catawba College, Juris Doctorate from Wake Forest University School of Law
Previously elected office: Serving second term on Spencer Board of Aldermen
Community involvement: St. Matthews Episcopal Church (vestry), Rowan County Community Child Protection Team (chairman)
Name: Kevin Jones, challenger for alderman
Address:?8 Pickett Ave.
Occupation: Self-employed licensed general contractor, owns two Subway franchises
Education: Bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Elon University
Previous elected office: None
Community involvement: High Rock Community Church, Nazareth Children’s Home, Rowan Helping Ministries, Habitat for Humanity
Family: Wife, Cybil Jones. Three children
Name: Reid Walters, incumbent alderman
Address:?503 4th St.
Occupation: History teacher at East Rowan High School
Education: Bachelor of science degree in history and political science from Western Carolina University; bachelor of arts degree in social science education from Western Carolina University
Previous elected office: Completing first term as Spencer alderman
Community involvement: Rowan County Historic Landmark Commission (vice chair), Transportation Advisory Committee, attends Oakdale Baptist Church
Name: Scott Benfield, incumbent alderman
Address:?319 Sowers Ferry Road
Occupation: Self-employed plumber
Education: Attended Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
Previously elected office: Serving sixth term as alderman
Community involvement: Calvary Baptist Church in Salisbury (Sunday School teacher, deacon, teller, usher), JV baseball coach at
North Rowan High School, Spencer Optimist Club, North Rowan High School Booster Club
Family: Wife, Sheila Benfield. Two children and four grandchildren
Name: Robert D. Bennett, challenger for alderman
Address: 506 Oakwood Drive
Occupation: Retired Spencer police chief
Education: Statesville High School, associate arts degree in social science from Brevard College, bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Previously elected office: None
Family: Single, three children
Name: David H. Smith, incumbent alderman
Address: 208 N. Salisbury Ave.
Occupation: Retired U.S. Army
Education: Attended college
Previous elected office: Previously elected office: Serving second term on Spencer Board of Aldermen
Community involvement: American Legion Post 342 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3006
Name: Jody Everhart, incumbent mayor
Address:?525 Steeplechase Trail
Occupation: Norfolk Southern Railway
Education: Attended Lees McRae College, Central Piedmont Community College, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
Previous elected office: Serving fourth term as Spencer mayor, six terms as Spencer alderman
Community involvement: Spencer Jaycees, Spencer Moose Lodge, Spencer Masonic and Eastern Star, Central United Methodist Church, retired from Spencer Fire Department after 31 years
Family: Wife, Melinda Everhart. Three children and two grandchildren