China Grove Mayor Withers challenged by incumbent councilman in 2019 race
CHINA GROVE — For the first time in years, the town will have a competitive mayor’s race in 2019.
China Grove Mayor Lee Withers has attracted a challenge in November’s election from Councilman Charles Seaford. The last election in which at least two candidates filed for China Grove mayor was 2007, when Don Bringle faced Allen Welter. Bringle, who first became mayor in 2003 and decided not to run again in 2015, won in the 2007 race by a wide margin.
Now, Withers and Seaford say they will focus on growth, community and developing China Grove. The two have both served similar lengths in China Grove public office. Still, the two have differences in their goals for the town and reasons for running.
Withers has served about 12 years in China Grove public office, including the previous three and a half as mayor. And during his eight years on the town council, Withers was mayor pro tem for six.
By comparison, Seaford has been a member of the China Grove town council for 10 years, Seaford said.
Asked why he is running, Seaford said that he has retired after working 42 years with Duke Energy and now feels that he now has the time he can devout to the city.
And asked about running against Withers, Seaford said the two are good friends and they both “have the same ambition at heart.” Still, Seaford said in some cases the two have different roads on how they want to see growth in the community.
Withers said he holds a similar sentiment for Seaford but said that he is a more “aggressive,” “direct” and “not as patient” candidate. By saying this, Withers said he meant that wants the town to grow more quickly compared to others.
This is in part because of his kids, Withers said. He has a limited amount of time to accomplish goals, including making sure his son, Carson, and his daughter Cailynn, have a place where they can come back to after graduation.
In terms of growth in and around China Grove, there’s a lot of activity going on, and Seaford said he is seeking to make sure the town gets its “fair share” if elected mayor.
Withers said one of his goals is including the town’s youth voices in Town Council decisions. To do so, Withers said he created the Mayor’s Youth Council at zero cost to the taxpayer earlier this year. The youth council includes five to six students from China Grove Elementary, Bostian Elementary, China Grove Middle, Carson High School and South Rowan High School.
The goal for 2019-2020 for the youth council is to have participants directly voice ideas about the town budget, Withers said. This will give youth council members an idea of how local municipal governments work and incorporate the youth needs of the community into the board’s decisions, he said.
Asked about achievements as a Town Council member, Seaford noted helping with events such as cruise-ins and the annual Farmers Day.
“We try to bring people together,” Seaford said.
Seaford said his aim was simple. He wants to give China Grove the foundation for growth while, at the same time, creating avenues for the town to keep its small-town atmosphere. While growth continues, Seaford said he would focus on ensuring that the town’s service remaining “high quality.”
Both candidates consider the development of new I-85 exits in the area as positive.
Seaford spoke positively about an ongoing housing development project, too. There is a developer looking at bringing affordable housing to China Grove, but he declined to provide more details.
Withers said that China Grove has affordable housing already. He said these sorts of housing projects will begin and have begun because the town has focused on bringing industry and jobs to China Grove.
By doing so, the town has naturally attracted developers.
Because municipal filing continues until Friday, July 19 at noon, it’s possible more candidates could file for mayor.
Contact reporter Samuel Motley at 704-797-4264.
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