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Craig Pierce: ‘I don’t have confidence with the current board today …’

Commissioner

Craig Pierce

SALISBURY — Craig Pierce says he has no personal problem with fellow Rowan County Commissioners Judy Klusman, Jim Greene and Greg Edds.

But he said he’s “not going to take a chance” that the right people aren’t in place to push for completion of extending water and sewer service along the Interstate 85 corridor, a project he says is vital for the county’s growth.

With his three fellow commissioners nearing the end of their first terms and seeking re-election, Pierce is running for one of their seats. He has also formally endorsed another challenger, Michael Julian.

“This is about trying to take care of my citizens,” Pierce said Monday after filing his candidacy.

Klusman reacted to Pierce’s candidacy with few words.

“Mr. Pierce has the right to run for any open seat,” she said. “Our first and foremost job is to represent the public as best we can, and we will continue to do so in a professional manner.”

Pierce has served on the Board of Commissioners since 2012. His current term would not expire until 2020.

By running two years prematurely, Pierce has the potential to unseat an incumbent. If he wins, he would resign his 2016 seat and the board would appoint a Republican replacement.

His candidacy is low on risk: If he loses the 2018 election, he will continue to serve on the board until 2020.

Pierce has said his bid is meant to ensure him a seat on the board until water and sewer expansion along Interstate 85 is completed.

“I’ll work with whoever the citizens elect. If they say, ‘No, you’ve got two more years,’ then that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “I just know how long (this infrastructure) has taken.”

Pierce said he thinks the expansion should be complete by 2022, and he’d rather run and serve four more years than run again in 2020.

Comments on Pierce’s Facebook page echo that sentiment with more direct commentary.

“I don’t have confidence with the current board today or even the next board that’s coming on that there’s anybody that has the enthusiasm or the drive like I do to make sure this happens,” Pierce said in a video interview with Chris Sifford. ” … I’m not going to take a chance and leave it up to somebody else to do it.”

Pierce said he believes the Board of Commissioners has a history of short-sighted thinking that dates back to the 1970s. He said countywide water and sewer service was considered then but rejected by commissioners who saw no need for economic development because of the large number of textile mills that were open then.

The failure to expand infrastructure, he said, has resulted in a static county population in the past 20 years. Meanwhile, Cabarrus County’s population has tripled, he said.

“That’s why we’re in the position we’re in now is because of short-sighted thinking,” said Pierce. “We’ve got to grow this county’s infrastructure if we’re ever going to make it perform like everybody else around us.”

On Monday, Pierce said he had spent the past six years pushing for infrastructure “basically by myself.”

Board Chairman Greg Edds disagreed, saying the new board unanimously identified the need for water and sewer investment in 2015. Half of the March 1 Planning Board retreat is dedicated to planning for water and sewer service at the new southern Interstate 85 interchange, Edds said.

“We’re encouraged that Mr. Pierce shares the board’s vision for strategic infrastructure investment,” Edds said. “But the truth is, planning and investment is well underway, and this will happen with or without any individual commissioner.”

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