Seven vie for three seats on East Spencer board
By Karissa Minn
EAST SPENCER — Of the six candidates running for East Spencer Town Board of Aldermen, five have held the office before.
Theodore Gladden, John G. Noble II and Carlton Ellis are defending their three open seats against challengers John L. Rustin Sr., Titus H. King Sr. and newcomer Curtis B. Cowan.
The East Spencer aldermen race also has one write-in candidate — Marshall Gore Jr., 51, an assistant principal at Northwest School of the Arts, part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System.
Gladden, 62, is retired from the U.S. Postal Service in Charlotte. He’s running for his second term.
Noble, 64, retired from the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office and is now a part-time deputy. He has served several terms as alderman.
Carlton Ellis, 72, also is retired and has served two terms on the board. He declined to answer questions from the Post last week.
Rustin, 86, used to work as police chief of East Spencer and has also served as mayor and alderman. He is now retired.
Cowan, 41, is a corrugator operator with Packaging Corporation of America.
King, 46, is an assembler for Doosan Infracore Portable Power in Statesville. He previously served one term on the board.
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At 63 cents per $100 valuation, East Spencer has the highest property tax rate of all the municipalities in Rowan County. (Spencer and Salisbury got close in 2011, at 62.8 cents and 61.35 cents, respectively.)
Cowan said the tax rate should be lowered, and the town should figure out why it’s so high.
Gore agreed that the town should reduce taxes if at all possible, but it depends on the revenue generated by the town and its budget.
“We’re going to do everything we can to not see taxes go up,” Gladden said. “Of course, if we are able to attract more business within the town, there’s a very good possibility that taxes could go down.”
Noble said getting new business could be easier now that a town administrator is in place. The adminstrator can work with county officials to show that East Spencer is interested in locating companies there.
Gore said the town should improve its appearance, attitude and commitment to business.
“I think if the appearance and reputation of East Spencer are improved, there will be businesses that will take a second look at East Spencer,” Gore said.
Cowan said the town should more actively lure businesses to East Spencer. He said he’d like to develop Andrews Street, which is near Interstate 85 and could be developed quicker than Long Street.
Gladden said he hopes to continue to work with RowanWorks, which was instrumental in getting Boral Brick to expand in East Spencer.
“We could hire a developer and let him come in and see what could be generated for us, or what section we have to clear up to make the necessary room,” Rustin said.
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Many of the candidates said they’d like to fix up Royal Giants Park, which has deteriorated in condition and features a pool that is now empty.
“That park looks like a dried-up deserted town,” King said. “That looks like whoever’s at the wheel fell asleep. … If we needed revenue to help run the town, we could turn the park into an entity to serve the people and make a little money.”
Noble, Cowan and Rustin said the town should pursue grants to reopen the pool and revitalize the park. Cowan said he’d like to see picnic tables and a playground there.
“It would keep the youth off the streets and keep them in a controlled environ-ment where they can have fun,” Noble said. “Our problem is getting the money to spruce it up.”
Gore said the county’s Parks and Recreation department might be able to help with revitalizing the park, and the town could look at what other municipalities have done.
He said it would be good for the youth to have a place to play and feel safe, and it would improve the morale of the town.
Gladden said he’s open to fixing up the park, but the town may need to start over with the pool because it would cost too much money to repair.
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Housing rehabilitation is also an issue for several of the candidates.
Noble said he wants to revitalize the whole town, using grant money or whatever else is available.
Gladden said East Spencer needs more houses built and existing houses fixed up, which is a topic that will be discussed with the town administrator.
As a town with a low average income, Gore said, East Spencer could have more funding opportunities from state and federal governments.
Rustin said the town should work with organizations it can trust to get funding, because it has had a problem with some individuals who run the grants.
Cowan pointed out that many of East Spencer’s residents are renters.
“We have to make the landlords accountable for these houses, get in touch with the property owner and see what they’re going to do,” Cowan said. “If they don’t want to do anything with it, we need to go ahead and just take it down.”
But King said the worst thing to do in this economy is tear down homes. Instead, he said, the town should work with residents to figure out how to rehabilitate the houses.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.