In re-election bid, Caskey says county better off than four years ago

Published 12:05 am Monday, October 10, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — If the 2016 Rowan County commissioners race involves questions about past performance, Mike Caskey has a list of items to mention.

Caskey is one of four Rowan residents running for two open spots on the county’s Board of Commissioners. He and Craig Pierce are were elected to the board in 2012 and are seeking re-election. The pair’s challengers include Kannapolis resident Veleria Levy and Mark Lyerly, who lives near China Grove.

Caskey is a Charlotte police officer and an Enochville resident. His work history also includes working for Wachovia and six year in the Army Reserves. His public service history includes time on the Rowan County Planning Board and Rowan-Salisbury School Board.

When asked about his time on the Board of County Commissioners,  Caskey said he believes the quality of life in Rowan County is better now than when he took office in 2012.

“I think that over the last four years we’ve made a lot of significant strides in a number of areas,” Caskey said in an interview with the Salisbury Post.

His list includes: a commitment of $40 million for capital needs in the Rowan-Salisbury School System, a pay study for county employees, increasing the school system’s operating budget, an expansion of the county’s Veterans Services department, an EMS station in Rockwell change to 12-hour shifts for the county’s emergency medical services employees and an updated contract with volunteer fire departments.

However, there are also some controversial items that occurred Caskey’s time on the board. Those include the county’s prayer lawsuit, the purchase of the former Salisbury Mall, a drawn-out mediation process with public schools over funding and the de-annexation of the Rowan County Airport from the City of Salisbury.

Despite its controversial aspects, however, the county’s prayer lawsuit is an item that Caskey ranks as the item that’s most important to him. The suit specifically questions whether commissioners, rather than a chaplain or other volunteer, is allowed to give a sectarian prayer before meetings.

“There are few times in life that you’re actually in a position where you can make a difference that will affect, really affect the whole country,” Caskey said. “You know, we looked at it from a first ammendment issue — that someone didn’t like words that were being used. In this particular circumstance, it was Jesus. If you’re going to let people say they’re offended by certain things and it goes away, what’s the next word?”

Although the lawsuit initially focused on prayers “in Jesus name,” it has since shifted to focus more on the identity of the person delivering a prayer.

Caskey said “getting us on the right track for economic development” ranked as the most best accomplishment for the general public during his four years on the board.

“The county is like a big ship,” he said. “You just can’t turn it on a dime. It takes a little time to get it back in the right direction.”

He mentioned the addition of Agulity Fuel Systems’ regional headquarters in the Summit Corporate Center and the second phase of Gildan Yarns as two significant parts of getting “on the right track.”

He said previous commissioners were coping with fallout from the economic recession.

When asked about the purchase of the former Salisbury Mall, Caksey noted that it’s expected to be a more cost effective option than new construction for county offices. It also prevents the building from deteriorating, becoming an eyesore and potentially attracting crime. There are also various possibilities about uses other than county offices, Caskey said.

In general, Caskey also said the working relationship between county government and other entities has improved significantly in recent years.

“I think we all finally figured out that we’re all in this together, and it doesn’t look good for economic growth if everyone is always fighting with each other,” he said.

Caskey will likely know whether or not he’s reelected on Nov. 8 — election day. In the Republican Party primaries earlier this year, Caskey finished in first among the three candidates.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.