Commissioner candidates talk plans, accomplishments

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2018

SALISBURY — As Rowan County’s Government Affairs Committee hosted its quarterly mayors’ roundtable last Friday, committee member and Democratic county commissioner candidate Veleria Levy made it clear: This year’s commissioners candidates each have a message.

What they are lacking, she said, is a platform by which to deliver it. The Rowan Chamber of Commerce decided this year to devote its fall forum to state legislative candidates rather than the commissioners’ race.

The chamber’s May forum featured primary Republican commissioner candidates.

Levy’s request for a platform was approved at the Friday meeting. Before legislative hopefuls took center stage a the Tuesday night legislative forum, the five commissioner candidates were each given two minutes to present their campaign platforms in their quests for one of three seats on the ballot Nov. 6.

Here are highlights from what each had to say, in order of how they appear on the ballot:

Jim Greene, Republican incumbent

“When I ran four years ago, I was concerned about several different items. One of the first was just the civility of what was happening in Rowan County politics. We had a county commission arguing with several different municipalities. We had municipalities arguing with each other. We promised that one of the things we were going to do was to bring civility back, and we think that we have been able to do those things.

“We also had a problem with the Board of Education. At that point in time, we had attorneys that were taking care of things. We have given schools more money than they’ve ever had before.

“The third thing was that we promised jobs. At our last meeting, we had $311 million brought before the county commission for support for new jobs for Rowan County.”

Judy Klusman, Republican incumbent

“When I ran, I said I would listen to you. I will sit down and meet with anyone and listen. That doesn’t mean I’m going to agree with you. That doesn’t mean I’m going to do what you want me to, but I will listen and respect your point of view.

“What’s happened in this last four years? Economic development, increased school funding, … getting people back to work through job training and bringing in new business — … all of these things without raising taxes.

“We accomplished these things … by working together, and there are many things that need to be done: health care and social services and the opioid problem. … Because of all these challenges that I am currently working on, I would hope that you would return me to office.”

Veleria Levy, Democrat

“What’s important here in this county is our young people. We need to have better opportunities for them so that when they come home from college or when they graduate from high school, they’ll be able to receive gainful employment in the county that we love.

“Fifty-five percent of children in Rowan County live in poverty. … People right here in our county … cannot drink their water or have food to eat. These are the real issues that I’m willing to tackle and roll up my sleeves and get done. …

“My plan is to put a vocational mall in the Salisbury West End Plaza. That way, our students will have the opportunity to receive a full vocational education and certification without having to worry about transportation. …

“We need a fully integrated prison re-entry program so that people, when they come back here, are able to get employment.”

Latasha Wilks, Democrat

“I see issues being public safety, education, poverty, affordable housing, clean, safe and affordable water, economic development, and building a coalition between the county and the citizens. I want to work with each mayor, president of local college, principal of each school to make sure that our county is balanced. …

“How can we rise above these issues? By raising minimum wage; by giving each employee a full, 40-hour workweek; small business incentives; making housing affordable; leaving no building vacant at the expense of Rowan County such as our West End Plaza.

“We need to re-evaluate county spending so our school board can rely on the county for funding and not the city, make sure each police department is fully staffed, and make … it so that when our children graduate from school, they don’t want to leave Rowan County. Together, we can make Rowan rise.”

Greg Edds, Republican incumbent

“Four years ago, you elected the three of us and asked us to create a new vision for improvement. You told us to stop bickering, and we did that.You told us to work with all 10 municipalities to move all of Rowan County ahead, and we are doing that. …

“You wanted more jobs and more retail choices, and we’ve seen 57 new and expanded retail service and manufacturing businesses and over 20 new restaurants open in the last four years.

“The results are our annual retail sales have increased by $82 million and our taxable property base has increased by over $410 million. …

“We’re working to create growth and opportunity for every single person in Rowan County, and that work is not easy. But we have a plan, and we’re following it. Our heartbeat is to truly see the county improve.”