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Elect: Nine seek office in East Spencer

View the candidate Q&A chart

By Shavonne Walker
shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — Economic development seems to be the key to growth in the town of East Spencer, according to candidates running for both mayor and the board of aldermen.

During a recent candidate forum and in their various platforms, the nine candidates have all cited housing, job creation, beautification, and livability as a means to bolster growth in East Spencer.

Three seats on the Board of Aldermen are up for election. Winners will serve alongside Deloris High and John Noble III, whose seats are not up for election this year.

Running for mayor

As she seeks re-election as mayor, Barbara Mallett faces two challengers: James Cowan and Teon Robinson.

Cowan, 66, is running for public office for the first time. His priorities include address housing, reduce water rates and open government for the citizens. He has previously chosen not to elaborate on those priorities and was not available for comment for this story.

Mallett, 70, is seeking her fourth term as mayor.

“One thing we have accomplished in these past eight years as a board, town and citizens is influenced our neighbors and community to help us reach the next steps. We want to influence people and let them know we are here,” Mallett said.

Robinson, 27, is the owner of the Robinson Group, a consulting firm specializing in program management for construction. He is a longtime firefighter with the East Spencer Fire Department.

This is Robinson’s first time seeking an elected position.

“With however the people allow me to serve, I want to ensure they get relief in their water bill. How do we do that is an ongoing process. I will devote as much time as possible so that we get a viable solution,” Robinson said.

For Board of Alderman

Tammy Corpening, 52, a property manager, is a current alderwoman seeking her third term.

“My focus has always been improving the quality of life in East Spencer. Most of my no votes is because it doesn’t befit the town of East Spencer,” she said.

Corpening said she believes public safety should continue to be the town’s No. 1 priority, as well as creating more affordable housing. She doesn’t agree with tearing down all the old houses because she feels they reflect the historic nature of the town.

“Remodel, renovate and offer the houses to families or possibly a business, especially along Long Street,” she said.

Corpening also believes that the town board should work together with the current businesses that are already in town.

She said she wished more residents had spoken out when the water rate increased; then the board would have realized citizens did not want it. Corpening said she did not vote for the water rate increase.

Current alderman Otis Gibson, if elected, will be entering his fourth term on the board. Gibson said he’d like to see more community involvement in the planning of activities and decisions on matters that affect the town and its people.

“Instead of talking about what we are doing and not doing, people should get involved and come out to the meetings and see and have an input in what we are doing instead of talking about it,” Gibson said.

Gibson, who has been an advocate for children, hopes to continue the projects that the current board has begun, including renovations at Royal Giants Park. He said the town has to raise another $100,000 to complete what they want to do with the park project. Gibson added that if the money is not raised then the plans will need to be cut back, which the board doesn’t want to do.

“It all comes to money,” he said.

Tony Hillian, 42, has been involved with youth activities in the town for a number of years and considers himself a “doer.”

“I would like to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of East Spencer,” he said.

Hillian wants to be inclusive and get residents involved in everything.

If elected, his goal is to work closely with the fire and police departments to incorporate programs as well as make sure the fire department has the necessary equipment that they need.

“The time for talking is past, let’s do,” Hillian said.

Dwayne Holmes is a native of East Spencer and has been a fixture at his family’s multigenerational business, Holmes Iron & Metal. The 42-year-old said he has issues with the town’s lack of growth. He believes the town should be flourishing more. He also said high water rates have driven people out of the town.

The longtime businessman wants to see more industry come to East Spencer and to work on getting the water rates lowered. Then more people would come, he said, therefore generating more tax dollars for the town.

“Without industry, you don’t have any people,” he said.

He likened the days of mills that brought people to a town to work and later “mill houses” were built to accommodate the workers.

Holmes has been a proponent of the opportunity for East Spencer youth to have something to do at Royal Giants Park and has donated money toward those endeavors, but he said he believes the current plans the town has for the park, which include a splash pad, should be tweaked to appeal to a broader age range of children.

Holmes said a splash pad will only appeal to smaller children and older children will do as they’ve always done, swim at the pools in Salisbury.

Holmes vows, if elected to “Make East Spencer great again.”

If re-elected, Phronice Johnson would have served the town of East Spencer for a total of 20 years and would be serving her fifth term.

The main thing she wants to accomplish is putting into place an East Spencer Housing Authority so the town can hire someone to work with future homeowners. She hopes to see it done in the next four years.

Johnson also hopes to see the planned senior housing in place at the former school administration building.

Jamilla Kennedy, 45, is running for public office for the first time. She said she would like to see some relief in the water rates and that she’d like to see businesses come to East Spencer and stay there.

Kennedy said housing is another priority that she feels needs to be addressed.

She’d love to see East Spencer build subdivision and clean up Long Street, which she feels would make it more viable to potential new residents.

“It would make it more presentable and inviting. It would bring more people to the town and make people want to bring their businesses to the town,” Kennedy said.

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