Spalding returns to EDC board to represent towns

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SALISBURY — After officials from some Rowan County towns complained they weren’t well-represented on the Economic Development Commission board by Dr. Carol Spalding, the Rowan-Cabarrus Community College president has been reappointed to another term.
But this time, town leaders are happy.
“At the end of the day, we had a great dialogue,” said Lee Withers, mayor pro tem of China Grove. “Carol was the vote that carried out of there, and we fully support Carol.”
Spalding fills the only seat on the EDC board appointed by nine Rowan County municipalities. Other seats are appointed by Rowan County commissioners and Salisbury City Council.
For years, Withers said, the EDC provided a nominee for Rowan County towns to rubber stamp. Last year, when Spalding’s term was up, Withers and others said they wanted a greater say in who held the seat.
“Nothing against Carol Spalding. She does a great job,” Withers said. “But if we only get one vote, why not appoint someone that truly represents the interest of the towns?”
As the leader of the community college that plays a crucial role in training workers for new industry, Spalding should have a seat on the EDC board, Withers said. But he said he wasn’t convinced that Spalding should have the towns’ seat.
Robert Van Geons, EDC executive director, responded to his concerns, Withers said. Van Geons and town leaders decided that town boards should come up with nominees, then vote at the Rowan Municipal Association meeting.
Nominees were Spalding, who lives in south Rowan; Lonnie Goodman, of east Rowan; and Archie Jarrell, of north Rowan.
At the municipal association meeting last month, Spalding and Goodman tied. Spencer, which had supported Jarrell, cast the deciding ballot for Spalding.
“Any of them would have been good,” Spencer Mayor Jody Everhart said. “But if we are recruiting industry, our EDC needs to have someone from the technical college on the board.”
Pete Teague, EDC board member, praised the new method of choosing the municipal representative and said the towns conducted a thoughtful process.
“It was not a rubber stamp by any means,” said Teague, who attended the meeting.
Greg Philpott, EDC board member, also attended and said the level of towns’ involvement in the process was impressive.
“I was surprised by the enthusiasm of so many different municipalities,” Philpott said.
Rowan towns want input in the EDC, Van Geons said, which makes the advisory board that much stronger.
“Their participation and engagement in this organization is very important to them,” he said.
Paul Brown, EDC chairman, said the board will consider Jarrell and Goodman for future appointments.
The municipal seat on the EDC board has been held by several people in education. Spalding was first appointed to complete the term of Phil Kirk, who has held various state education offices.
Spalding said she wasn’t aware of the towns’ lack of involvement in how the seat was selected until last year. Once concerns came to light, Spalding said she supported finding a new process to make the appointment.
The more inclusive and transparent any election process, the better, she said.
“It’s important that everybody feels like they have some involvement in the selection of the seat,” she said. “It does represent the nine municipalities.”
Spalding, who has been an active board member, said she is pleased to return to the EDC and feels she makes a significant contribution.
“Rowan County is not growing and not thriving as much as other counties in North Carolina, and we need as much attention and experience as we can bring to the table to try to help Rowan County thrive,” she said.
The EDC should continue to make nominee recommendations to Rowan commissioners, Salisbury City Council and town aldermen, Spalding said. When appropriate, continuity on the board is helpful to move economic development forward, she said.
Spalding said 11,000 students at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College hail from Rowan’s nine municipalities, allowing her a unique, big-picture view of the county.
“I am exposed to every town,” she said.
The college invites all mayors to ongoing strategic dialogues and “scans the environment for potential employment, always looking to the future,” Spalding said.
“It used to be, we looked in the rearview mirror,” she said. “This is part of what I can bring to the EDC.”
While nine towns have shared one EDC seat for years, that may change. China Grove aldermen are considering requesting a dedicated seat on the EDC board next year, Withers said.
China Grove would have to pay the same rate as Salisbury and Rowan County, which would bump up the town’s dues by several thousand dollars, he said.
It’s too late in this budget cycle to come up with the funding, Withers said, but town leaders may make a proposal next year.
For now, Withers said he’s happy with the EDC board as it stands, as well as the new process for electing the towns’ representative.
“At the end of the day, we have a wonderful way of representing our constituents,” he said. “I was just thrilled that we got to have an open dialogue and vote on who represented us.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.