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Spencer mayoral candidates looking for progress

SPENCER — Residents will have three candidates to choose from when voting for mayor this year.

Incumbent Mayor Jody Everhart chose not to run for re-election. Two board members filed, Jim Gobble, who has been mayor pro-term for his last two terms, and Scott Benfield, a long-serving alderman.

The other contender is Bob Oswald, who has attended and spoken at board meetings.

Scott Benfield

Benfield cites his experience and long involvement with Spencer as his strength. “I’ve devoted 30-some years of my life to Spencer, in all aspects, in government, the schools, outside the government.”

He’s past president of the Spencer Little League, was twice president of the Spencer Optimist Club, was Scoutmaster for Troop 349 for 21 years, led the North Rowan High School Booster Club, as well as the middle school boosters. He has also coached baseball at the high school.

“I feel like with my experience and years of service I’m the best person for the job.”

Benfield owns Scott’s Plumbing. He says he’s not working the hours he used to and can devote time to town business.

His goals include keeping the tax rate as is, working with the Carolina Thread Trail, Stanback Forest and the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

“Plus, we’ve got to clean Spencer up,” he says. Cleaning the town up would be a high priority. “We made a lot of strides, but we’ve still got a ways to go.”

The key, he said is to have good personnel and a town manager who will live in town. Current manager Larry Smith has announced he will resign at the end of November. He lived out of town.

Benfield wants to continue with the Small Town Main Street program, and praised architect and former board member Jon Palmer for his help with the program.

“I think we’ll have a good board,” Benfield said. “I don’t want to do any micromanaging. I want a united board that can work together.” He describes himself as approachable, with a level head and common sense.

His other goals include working with absentee landlords to maintain the properties they own, getting some community service hours devoted to town cleanup and working with state legislators to increase funding for the Transportation Museum.

Benfield said Spencer has great volunteers who are on the planning board, zoning board of adjustment and community appearance board. They should be recognized, he said.

He wants “real open communication with the residents and the board.” And he thinks the town should offer more support to projects such as Hometown Holidays, which decorates town for Christmas.

After an early no vote on what is now Stanback Forest due to budget concerns, Benfield is now a supporter and thinks the project is great and appreciates the outside donations that allowed it to move forward so quickly.

Jim Gobbel

Gobbel has been on the Spencer Board of Alderman for two terms, four years, and said numerous people asked him to run for mayor.

“I will be a full-time mayor. I’ll dedicate severals days a week to town hall. We need to get Spencer back on track,” he said.

He wants to clean up and improve the core area of Spencer, the historic district and the areas around it, and address properties not taken care of by out-of-town landlords.

Gobbel wants to “rethink how Spencer does business, look at the path from the past and the current one and make it a little easier.

“At the same time, we have to be balanced, maintain our historic small town charm.”

He thinks the town needs to play up more of its railroading history, using events at the Transportation Museum to benefit the town.

It is also “terribly important for Spencer to have an active business association. I want the association of merchants to meet face to face and talk about what they think is necessary for the town to be more business friendly.”

Getting businesses back on the main street will be a challenge, he said, but he is committed to working with the board. “I’ve got some people running with me that will be proactive on the board,” he said, specifically Sylvia Chillcott, David Lamanno, Mike Boone and Kevin Jones. “We work well together.”

He wants to “connect the dots” with things like OctoberTour, having some of it spill over into Spencer.

Gobbel wants to work with other municipalities, particularly Salisbury, to do some things like the city does.

The bike and pedestrian plan Spencer and East Spencer are woking on is a good thing, the Stanback Forest is a plus, and the town workers deserve praise.

Taxes are also a concern. “We need industry in the northern end of the county. I want to work with Robert Van Geons and RowanWorks to use U.S. 29 and I-85, as well as the Yadkin River.

“We have property available that should be marketed better, not just RowanWorks, but our own website. It’s not going to happen overnight,” Gobbel said.

“We need a like-minded board to be more progressive. Split boards are not good for residents or potential businesses. We’ve got to come together as a group and work, work, work for Spencer.”

Bob Oswald

On his website, Bob Oswald said he will focus on growth and look outside the borders of Spencer to make it happen.

In a phone interview, Oswald said he thinks Spencer needs to take full advantage of the Rowan Chamber of Commerce, RowanWorks, the Council of Governments and other groups.

“We need to bring in outside expertise and get more people involved,” Oswald said. “The board has been somewhat insular in the past. We work with Salisbury on the Holiday Caravan parade, but we need more than that.”

A big part of what the town needs is better communication, between board members, the community, the staff and outside parties, he said.

He’d like to reinstate committees of board members and hold aldermen accountable for what they do, as well as using outside resources.

More involvement in the local schools is important, with programs like Crosby Scholars, which helps students reach their goals to go to college.

Oswald cited his experiences in sales and management positions with Northwestern Mutual as a plus. “I will draw on my work experiences. I can work long hours. I have great stick-to-itiveness. I’ve been married 42 years, I had the same employer for 40 years.” His work, he said, has led to many contacts not just in the county, but elsewhere.

He said being a college basketball player taught him the value of teamwork.

Oswald has been on the Spencer Historic Preservation Commission, a trustee for the Maxwell Chambers Trust, chair of the Spencer Partnership and an elder and Sunday school teacher at First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury.

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