Cleveland candidates focus on future, budget 2012 election
By Sarah Campbell
CLEVELAND — Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Cleveland Town Board of Commissioners, while current Mayor John Steele is running unopposed.
Newcomers Richard Taylor and Leonard West are up against incumbents John Bradford and Mary Frank Fleming-Adkins.
The candidates agree maintaining the town’s financial footing is a priority.
Taylor said the town should follow a basic Boy Scout rule.
“Be prepared,” he said. “Right now, the town seems to be doing OK with the finances, but you don’t know what will happen in the next few years.
“There could be some large expenses so I think it’s all about trying to plan ahead.”
West, who couldn’t be reached for comment, has said he would like to see the town take a closer look at expenditures.
“I just don’t see anybody making an effort to cut back or reduce spending,” he said in a previous interview. “Just because you have money doesn’t mean you have to spend it.”
But Fleming-Adkins says the town is already looking at ways to save by scaling back on the town’s Heritage and Spring festivals.
“We may have to cut back more, so we’ll cut back where we have to cut back,” she said.
Bradford said Cleveland’s finances are in “good shape.”
Cleveland has maintained a fund balance of more than $2.7 million throughout the past five years. Last fiscal year, the fund balance was $3 million, or 316 percent of general fund expenditures.
“We just need to sort of weather the storm with the economy and hope we have a little bit more growth in industry,” Bradford said.
Although downtown revitalization has been the talk of some Cleveland residents, candidates don’t view it as a major priority for the town right now.
Taylor said he thinks it’s important to keep the buildings occupied, but knows the shift of the town’s thoroughfare from Main Street makes it more difficult to attract and retain businesses that depend on walk-in traffic.
That’s one reason he said the area should be kept up without deploying additional resources.
“I think we need to sort of keep things at the status-quo downtown,” he said. “Just maintain until the economy gets better.”
Fleming-Adkins said she’d like to see the area revamped, but it’s in the hands of the merchants to apply for grant funding.
“I think when we see businesses starting to relocate in our downtown we can justify spending money,” she said. “But it’s really not up to the taxpayers to pay for the improvements for downtown.”
The candidates agree that growth is important to Cleveland, but none of them want to see it become a boomtown.
“I hope everything stays pretty much the same with no stepping back,” Bradford said. “I’m hoping to hold our own real nicely for the next five years.”
Fleming-Adkins said although the town has some long-range plans, it needs to maintain right now because of the uncertain economy.
Taylor describes growth as a Catch-22.
“You want to see growth because if you don’t see growth and you don’t see progress than things seem to get stagnant,” he said.
“But at the same time, Cleveland is a good small town and there is nothing wrong with it staying a good small town.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.