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In Kannapolis, seven candidates running for three council seats

View the candidate Q&A chart

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — Once votes are tallied, City Council will gain at least one new member from the 2018 city council election.

Seven people are running for three spots on the Kannapolis City Council. That group includes two incumbents and five challengers. Incumbent Darrell Jackson’s decision not to run for re-election means at least one challenger will join the council.

Candidates for the City Council include challenger Addul Ali, incumbent Dianne Berry, challenger Howard J. Boyd Jr.,  challenger Chris Gordon, challenger Tony McBride, challenger Van Rowell and incumbent Doug Wilson.

The Salisbury Post asked all candidates questions about the most important issue for the city to address or focus on and how the city should handle any new economic growth.

A third question focused on downtown revitalization. The city’s downtown revitalization plans include infrastructure improvements, building a baseball stadium downtown and a demonstration project that will include a parking deck, apartments, retail and possibly a hotel.

Addul Ali

Ali is a media consultant and army veteran who has volunteered for or served in a number of community agencies. Ali says his chief reason for running is to contribute new ideas and bring a different perspective to the city council.

He said managing potential economic growth in the city of Kannapolis will be the most important issue for the city council in future years.

To manage growth, the city needs to rely on a data-driven approach and follow the examples of other cities that have experienced significant growth in a short period of time.

“We’re not going to be reinventing the wheel here,” he said. “We’re steering a ship that’s already rolling. We just need to make sure it’s on the right course.”

Ali said downtown revitalization is important, especially proposed infrastructure improvements. Some of those improvements include placing electric lines underground, demolishing the former K-Town Furniture building and restriping streets and parking lots. Dowtown revitalization also includes

He’s in favor of the downtown revitalization with one caveat.

“Have we truly looked at all of the pros and cons of the baseball stadium?” Ali asked. “I don’t think we have looked at the pros and cons and the impact that it will have on the city and the taxpayers in the long-term.”

Dianne Berry

Berry works as the Human Resources co-manager for the Cabarrus Health Alliance. She’s running for her second term on the Kannapolis City Council and says downtown revitalization is a focus area for her candidacy.

Berry said she’s wanted to see a revitalized downtown Kannapolis since before she joined the council in 2013.

“I sincerely believe that transforming our downtown into a shopping, entertainment and dining venue will spur economic growth, generate opportunities for the small business owners with guaranteed success, and will help us become a destination place for visitors and future residents, once again,” Berry said in an email. “Yes, downtown revitalization was and still is the right move.”

Asked about the best way for the city to handle economic growth, Berry said the city should do its best to manage it. She used downtown revitalization as an example.

“Our plan was to generate growth by finding other proven-successful purchasers to buy downtown properties and come up with their own ideas for revitalization, under the watchful eye of City staff to make sure it all met our requirements for quality and fit,” she said.

Rising rates of opioid overdoses rank as the most important issue for the city council to address, Berry said. She said the city council needs to stay informed, ensure emergency personnel have the resources they need.

Howard Boyd Jr.

Boyd is a behavior management specialist for Cabarrus County Schools. He also coaches youth and high school football. In his bid for office, Boyd says he wants what’s best for the city without regard for party affiliation.

The most significant issue in Kannapolis, Boyd said, is economic growth and bringing new jobs to the city. He said that growth needs to benefit all communities in Kannapolis, not just the downtown area. He also mentioned the possibility of giving incentives to companies that hire Kannapolis residents.

“When businesses come, we need to make sure they’re providing opportunities for our current citizens,” he said.

He said crime and increasing rates of opioid overdoses are issues that also need to be address. The city should ensure first responders have the resources they need, he said.

Meanwhile, the best way for the city to handle new growth is to play a role in managing it rather than taking a hands-off approach or some third option, he said.

“When dealing with contractors and developers, we should hold them to certain stipulation and the vision we have for the city,” he said.

Boyd said he’s in favor of the city’s downtown revitalization plan. It’s going to bring economic growth and jobs into the city, stimulate the economy and make Kannapolis a place that families want to live, he said.

Chris Gordon

Gordon works as the creative director and senior executive at Hirshfeld Marketing Solutions. Previously, he’s worked as a professional race car driver, a stuntman and Vice President of his family’s construction business. Gordon says he wants to see economic development that keeps the city’s character intact.

Asked about the city’s most important issue, Gordon listed public safety.

“As this entire region and our city continues to grow, it will be imperative that we maintain the character and livability of this community,” he said in an email. “We will accomplish this by ensuring that our police, fire and utility departments have the resources they need to keep Kannapolis safe and operationally sound for many years to come.”

He said economic growth that comes to Kannapolis should be managed in conjunction with the city’s long-term plans. The city has a vision for 10, 15 and 30 years from now, he said.

“We also want to ensure that any commercial enterprise coming into Kannapolis is a good fit,” he said. “Just because a business generates revenue, doesn’t mean they will be a good neighbor, citizen, or fit within the values and culture of our community.”

Meanwhile, Gordon said downtown revitalization is “without a doubt” the right move. He said it will bring retail, dining, entertainment, jobs and new tax revenue to the city. He said that there’s no better place for growth to occur than downtown because the city doesn’t need to build new infrastructure such as roads.

Tony McBride

McBride owns multiple small businesses. He’s also an Eagle Scout. In his bid for city council, McBride says he wants to give the citizens of Kannapolis a voice. He also wants to “make Kannapolis great again.”

He said the availability of jobs is the most significant issue for city officials.

“Our focus should be making sure business are coming to the area,” he said.

He’s specifically concerned about how small businesses are woven into economic development plans in downtown and other areas of the city.

“Small business are the backbone of the economy,” he said.

McBride said people think he’s against downtown revitalization. In fact, he supports the plan but feels that local, small business need to be more included in the plans.

“I understand that we, as a town, have ghost town in our downtown, that we have very little traffic and that we need to do something,” he said. “I don’t know that we will ever have that old hometown feeling if we only allow big business.”

As growth occurs, McBride says he plans to be the voice of the taxpaying resident of Kannapolis. He said the current city administration has not taken taxpayers into consideration when making plans for growth.

Van Rowell

Rowell is a civil engineers who’s worked for public utilities. He worked for Fieldcrest Mills and later Fieldcrest Cannon for 22 years in the corporate engineering department.

Rowell said the most significant issue facing most municipalities, and especially those in Cabarrus County will be how to properly manage growth that’s going to occur. Growth needs to be sustainable, Rowell said.

Meanwhile, he said it’s also important to make sure the visions for downtown Kannapolis mix well with the N.C. Research Campus.

“I think it can be a great place to live, but we can also be a destination along with that,” he said.

He said the city should not take a hands-off approach in handling future economic growth.

“Growth is one of the areas you need to have a plan  for,” he said. “Growth is going to happen, and it’s been to have a plan to ensure it happens in a way that’s most beneficial.”

Rowell said he’s in favor of the city’s downtown revitalization plans and specifically focused on the need for infrastructure improvements.

“It has to be done regardless. If not, it’s going to fall apart,” he said.

Doug Wilson

Wilson, general manager for Publicom Inc, currently serves as mayor pro tem. He’s running for his second term on the council.

He said a focal point of his re-election campaign will be downtown revitalization, which Wilson says was initially his idea. As the council works through the revitalization, however, Wilson said the city should ensure it doesn’t lose its character.

“I think it’s important the we preserve our heritage and traditions and history as best we can within reason,” Wilson said. “For those of us who grew up in Kannapolis, that’s very important to us.”

However, Wilson also said the city shouldn’t focus all of its economic development efforts on downtown revitalization. Another important task will be ensuring city departments have needed resources, he said.

“We’ve got to be focused on economic development and at the same time we’ve got to take care of the town we’ve got and everything that involves, including our employees,” Wilson said.

Wilson said he believes economic growth during his next four years on the City Council will occur more rapidly than the previous four.

Asked about handling that growth, Wilson said the city needs to ensure developments fit within the city’s ordinances and planning documents. Other than that, not much can be done Wilson said.

He said no one on the council wouldn’t intentionally approve any developments that would be detrimental to the city.

“But anything that increases the tax base and anything that provides jobs is something we want to see happen,” he said.

Contact Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246

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