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‘La resistance’ on cusp of giving out endorsements

SPENCER — La resistance, the beret-wearing group trying to become a factor in the upcoming Republican primary for seats on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, plans to endorse candidates.
Three invited GOP candidates who spoke to the group Sunday night said they would accept la resistance’s endorsement, if they received it.
Those addressing the crowd of about 40 people at Green Goat Gallery Sunday night were Jim Greene, Judy Klusman and Johnny Love.
Mark Lyerly, a spokesman for la resistance, told the Post the organization’s “Stop the Mall Tax” Facebook page would be asking for input on endorsements up to 9 tonight, with an announcement on the group’s choices to come later.
The group allowed a Post reporter to sit in on the portion of its meeting in which the candidates spoke one by one, then answered questions from the audience and a set list of questions from moderator Todd Paris.
But a private meeting was then called to talk about endorsements, among other business items.
La resistance has opposed Rowan County government’s purchase of the Salisbury Mall, now named the West End Plaza. It also has encouraged registered Democrats in Rowan County to switch their voter registration to unaffiliated, so they can vote in the Republican primary May 6.
Lyerly said he believes more than 300 Democrats changed their registration to unaffiliated so they can participate in the GOP primary.
“That’s good, that’s enough to win an election,” he said.
The deadline for changing voter registration before the primary was last Friday.
To his knowledge, Lyerly said, only four of eight Republican candidates were extended an invitation to address la resistance — the three people Sunday night and David Roueche the week before.
“No ‘Fish House’ people,” he said, referring to a group of Republicans who meet regularly at a seafood restaurant.
The other Republican candidates on the primary ballot for three open seats are Joe Coladarci, Brandon Cupp, Greg Edds and Jim Sides.
The questions Paris asked of each candidate Sunday night had a definite slant to them:
Candidates were asked whether they agreed with the county’s mall purchase; did they think the county paid too much for the property; were they in favor of the “mall tax”; if the county could sell the mall, would they support that effort; did they agree with the decision by four of five commissioners to borrow money to move two county offices into the building before the November general election; and would they accept an endorsement from la resistance.
In essence, the three candidates grilled Sunday night gave the same answers to each. They were against the mall’s purchase; they thought the county paid too much; they were against a “mall tax”; they were for selling the property, if a buyer could ever be found; they were against county offices going to West End Plaza without an overall plan; and they would accept an endorsement.
An audience member asked Klusman how she would deal with people on the present board who are “non-negotiable.”
“You change leaders,” she said.
Asked how she would cope with backlash from other board members for having different points of view, Klusman said, “Tell the truth.”
She complained there was and is no strategic plan for the former mall property and has been a woeful lack of any strategic planning on the Board of Commissioners for at least a decade.
Love said having to pay an increase in taxes for the mall purchase was “to basically pay for a screw up.”
Love said he doesn’t like the school system’s being bullied, nor seeing Salisbury city officials and county officials constantly at odds.
“This bickering and fighting is an embarrassment to the county,” said Love, who has worked for the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office for close to 24 years and also has a body shop in Faith.
Love said a decision over where to locate a new central office — downtown Salisbury or elsewhere — should be left up to the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
“If I were an educator and you took me to the East Spencer office … there’s no way I would go to work for this system,” Love said, because the condition of the building would tell him the schools have no support.
Asked why some county commissioners show a “hatred” for Salisbury, Love referred to Jim Sides, chairman of the commissioners, and said, “What we got up there right now is a tyrant.”
Greene said he applauds la resistance members for taking a stand and voicing their opinions in local government, especially given the disheartening turnout in elections.
Greene has worked 38 years in the insurance business, and he also is a Cleveland cattle farmer and member of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission.
Greene said he is a person who has spent his life building relationships with people. On the acrimony between city and county officials and county commissioners and the school board, Greene said, “I don’t see how it can be productive for anybody.”
Companies looking at Rowan County as a possible place to do business only see the conflict, Greene said.
On the mall purchase, Greene said if county officials researched the issue properly, they didn’t articulate it. He said it was not a good investment, and he has a hard time understanding why the county wanted to take it off the tax roll.
If Rowan County were the only bidder on the mall property, it seems county commissioners paid at least $1 million too much, Greene said.
Klusman said seeing la resistance come together in a short amount of time and witnessing the impact it has had “is amazing.” She complimented the group on its red beret newspaper advertisements.
“This county really needs a leadership change,” Klusman said.
Klusman previously served 12 years as a Wisconsin state legislator. A Lutheran minister, Klusman said she understands public policy, collaboration and how to get things done.
“Buying the mall was the last straw,” she said. “Sadly, we couldn’t stop it.”
Klusman said someday she would like to know why the commissioners were in such a hurry and why they couldn’t have waited for the mall property to go into foreclosure, when they could have bought it for pennies on the dollar.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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