Klusman eyes seat on Rowan County Board of Commissioners

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013

SALISBURY — Salisbury resident Judy Klusman, a former Wisconsin state legislator, said Tuesday she intends to file in the race for Rowan County commissioner.
Klusman, a Republican, has been a vocal opponent of the county’s recent purchase of the Salisbury Mall.
During an announcement on the steps of the county administration building Tuesday, Klusman told a gathering of five people she hopes to better the county’s image.
“Living in Rowan County, I have just been quite irritated and have talked to so many people who want change of leadership on the county commission,” Klusman said. “My friend Beth and I and others have talked and said, ‘Oh, they’re doing this,’ and ‘Oh, they’re doing that. What’s wrong with them?’ We finally looked at each other and said, ‘Ya know, if I’m going to sit here and carp about it, then I need to run and try to make those positive changes for our county.’ ”
Klusman, a lifelong dairy farmer, left the Wisconsin state legislature for the ministry in 2000 after serving for 12 years.
She pastored several churches in the midwest, the 57-year-old said, before moving to Salisbury to work with the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in 2007.
But controversial decisions made by the county commissioners, Klusman said, roused her to run.
Klusman told the group she plans to focus on three aspects: education, jobs and poverty.
“We cannot be effective in battling poverty or increasing the number of jobs available in this area until we first address the desperate needs of our education system.
When asked about the school central office debate, Klusman said the county needs to focus on fiscal responsibility as well as cooperating with the city.
“My feeling there, as a business woman, is that we should build it in the least expensive place that our school board would like to see us build,” Klusman said. “And, when I say the least expensive, I mean that we’re not going to have to raise taxes to build it.
“Now, there are several locations in the city where that can happen, but I think that’s what we need to focus on — to work together and to look at the lowest cost possible for the property tax payers.”
Klusman said she has opposed the purchase of the Salisbury Mall because of unanswered questions about the deal and the structure itself, but said the county has to move forward and focus on how best to use it.
“I think one of the biggest issues that I’m concerned about, and that will be a momentous cost, is bringing the building up to code,” she said. “Right now, we own a mall, and I think we need to work together, the county the city and whomever else wants to be a part of developing this property. We can’t sit back and say, ‘Oh, woe is us,’ ’cause we can’t reverse the purchase.”
Part of the solution, Klusman said, is in mending the county and city bond.
“I have experienced most of that not by being there,” Klusman said of the deteriorated relationship, “but through people that I know who are trying to work with the county, and I would say that there is some very bad feelings that go way back between the county and the city, and we need to get by that.
“Until we do, we’re not going to be able to work together, and we’re not going to be able to move the county forward. I mean, what company would want to come here with all the negative press and the fighting between the county and the school board and the city?”
In the Wisconsin state legislature, Klusman said she worked to craft bills that helped protect farmers from debilitating legal battles that ensued after citizens and companies tried to encroach on longtime farmland.
Those residents she represented, Klusman said, remind her of the folks she’s met in Rowan over the last six years.
“I love Rowan County. The people here are so warm and welcoming. I’m a country girl. I spent the first 45 years of my life living on a farm,”?she said. “I love that life, and I love the communities that are all throughout our county.”

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.