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Withers will run for mayor; Bringle won’t

CHINA GROVE — When voters head to the polls this fall, they’ll be picking a new mayor.

Current Mayor Don Bringle will not seek a fourth term. Instead, Bringle said he would toss his support behind Mayor Pro Tempore Lee Withers, who said Wednesday he would run for China Grove’s top administrative spot.

Bringle, who also served multiple terms on the town board, first ran for Mayor in 2003, and beat incumbent Joseph Sloop by a hefty margin. After serving 12 years as mayor, Bringle said he’s ready to retire from China Grove’s governing body. Bringle said he won’t run for mayor and likely won’t run for a spot on the town council.

“I’ve served my time, and would hope that other interested citizens would step up and try to make a difference in our community,” Bringle said. “I think it’s good to have new ideas come into leadership.”

Bringle’s choice to not seek a fourth term was specifically prompted by Withers’ choice to run for mayor. Bringle said he wouldn’t want to run against Withers.

“If Lee (Withers) decides to run, I think he’ll do a good job and he has my support,” Bringle said.

Withers is a Republican and native of southern Rowan County. He graduated from South Rowan High School in 1995 and went on to Catawba Valley Community College. He has worked for Rowan County government as the county’s horticulturalist and owned a landscaping business.

Withers is currently the South East Region manager for Husqvarna. He’s married to Kelly Withers, who is the principal of South Rowan High School. Lee and Kelly Withers have three children.

Withers first ran for a spot on the China Grove town council in 2007, and received more votes than any other candidate. He won a bid for re-election in 2011.

Most recently, Withers and China Grove council members have dealt with turmoil in the town’s fire department. The town has also shifted control of its water and sewer system to Salisbury-Rowan Utilities.

Withers said the town will continue to see a steady decline in water rates because of the transition to Salisbury-Rowan Utilities. China Grove’s fire department is on an upward trajectory with Bostian Heights Fire Chief Mike Zimmerman as China Grove’s interim chief.

As a mayoral candidate, Withers said he hopes to focus on economic development, downtown beautification and improving town parks if elected.

“We’ve got to look at what we are doing for our kids,” he said. “China Grove been an amazing town to grow up in, great enough that I wanted to raise my kids here, but, I want my kids to raise their kids here too.”

He said the town needs to develop a vision for the future.

“At the end of the day, I just want it to be a better place,” Withers said.

It’s unclear if Withers will face any competition for mayor. Filing for municipal elections doesn’t start until July 6. On Wednesday, Councilman Steve Stroud said he also plans to run for re-election as a councilman.

Three total terms — Bringle’s, Stroud’s and Withers’ — expire this year.

Elections will be in November. China Grove town council members are customarily sworn into office in December.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.




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