East Spencer mayoral candidates say they'll hold line on taxes
By Karissa Minn
EAST SPENCER — The town of East Spencer will have a new mayor this fall.
Two candidates are hoping to replace current Mayor John Cowan, who declined to run for a second term this year in the Nov. 8 election.
Barbara A. Mallett, 64, is retired, and she once worked as a clerk and financial administrator for the town. She also served as alderman for one term.
Robert A. Smith, 48, is a property manager at Chateau Villa in Charlotte. He has run for alderman before but has not yet held an elected office.
Both Mallett and Smith agree that East Spencer’s tax rate — the highest of municipalities in Rowan County — should not be raised, but the town may not be able to lower it either.
“We need to get as much service as we can out of the revenue we’re generating,” Smith said.
Mallett said East Spencer has maintained the same tax rate for 10 years, without raising it as other municipalities have.
“I’d rather us stand where we are — use what we’ve got — than try to lower it and get ourselves in some predicament we can’t afford,” Mallett said.
She said bringing in business could help the town gather enough money to safely lower its tax rate.
Smith agreed. saying the town could encourage people who want to start small businesses and educate them on where they should begin.
“We can also find properties we have in our possession and see what we can do with those properties for businesses looking to come in,” Smith said. “In order to get something, you’ve got to give something.”
Mallett said a topic close to her heart is rehabilitating Royal Giants Park. She believes that this issue, like many others, can be addressed by reaching out into the community and bringing people together.
“A lot of things could be done with volunteer help,” she said. “There are a lot of capable men and women in the town. … And there are things people can do without having to go out and use money from the town.”
Smith said he thinks the town could do little things to improve the park without spending too much money.
“With whatever revenue that’s available, we can get the citizens involved by showing that we’re really interested in bringing the park back to life,” he said. “It takes little bit of money, but I don’t think it takes as much money as people say it does.”
Mallett and Smith also agree that housing rehabilitation is important for East Spencer, but they have different ideas of how to go about it.
Smith said he thinks the town should seek government grants or block grants.
He said the town is mostly rental property, so officials should work with property owners to involve them in revitalizing the town.
Mallett said people wanting to learn a trade could help rehabilitate homes at a low cost.
“People need to realize that grant funds are drying up,” Mallett said. “We have to go in with our own resources and use our own people to try to bring development to this town.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.