In county commissioners race, Lyerly sees self as better alternative

Published 12:05 am Monday, September 19, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — County commissioners candidate Mark Lyerly could make history in November.

There’s never been a Libertarian candidate elected to the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Lyerly is aware of that fact, and he has a lengthy list of ideas to help make his case for why voters should choose him over the other four candidates running.

“I have two kids and I’m running because I want it to be a better place for them,” Lyerly said in an interview with the Post. “I want a better overall community and better schools. I want my kids to grow up and end up staying here.”

Lyerly, 52, lives outside of China Grove and works as a quality control inspector at Mueller Systems, a company near Cleveland that manufacturers water meters.

He was active in politics during the 2014 county commissioners race as part of the La Resistance group, which protested the purchase of the former Salisbury Mall and helped kick former Commissioners Chairman Jim Sides off of the board. Now, Lyerly is jumping into politics as a candidate.

Lyerly still doesn’t like the purchase of the former Salisbury Mall. He’s opposed to the county’s prayer lawsuit. Like incumbents, however, Lyerly sees economic development as the top issue in Rowan. He also said that the county should fund public schools at the highest level possible.

Lyerly said he sees himself as a better alternative to the current crop of commissioners.

His list of ideas includes taking advantage of the foreign trade zone in the Charlotte region to help boost the county’s economic development efforts. Foreign trade zones are located near a port of entry — the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in Rowan’s case. The Charlotte Regional Partnership says its foreign trade zone allows companies to export goods duty free.

By actively marketing itself within Charlotte’s foreign trade zone, Rowan County could attract types of businesses that it hasn’t seen interest from before, Lyerly said.

Another item on his list of ideas: Rowan and Davidson counties should partner with one another to create a recreational area at the old Color-tex site, which is located between U.S. 29 and the Yadkin River at the Rowan-Davidson line.

Lyerly suggested that Rowan may be able to get some help in the form of grants to clean up the site.

One unique idea from Lyerly is to expand the number of people on the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. He believes the board should be expanded to seven members, instead of the current five. With the current five-member board, each commissioner represents about 28,000 of the county’s roughly 140,000 people. An additional two members would mean that individual commissioners would represent 20,000 each.

“I think I’ve got ideas that no one is really thinking about,” he said.

When asked about issues that county commissioners are currently dealing with, Lyerly said he believes West End Plaza, the former Salisbury Mall, will only end up being “a money pit.”

“I just think there were better ways to do things,” he said.

The current group of Rowan County Commissioners has increased the animal shelter’s operating budget to more than $1 million in recent years. Lyerly said he was unsure how he feels about such a significant financial focus on the animal shelter.

When asked about commissioners’ prayer lawsuit, Lyerly said the county should have just chosen a moment of silence and avoided the legal battle entirely. The suit is currently awaiting a ruling from judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Win or lose, Lyerly said commissioners should accept the ruling rather than appeal it further.

In November, Lyerly will face the two Republican incumbents — Mike Caskey and Craig Pierce — and one Democratic challenger — Veleria Levy.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.