Landis mayor, alderman candidates talk change

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 4, 2019

LANDIS — The town of Landis hasn’t had an election forum in years, but Thursday night at Corriher-Lipe Middle School candidates in a crowded mayoral race and two of four alderman candidates spoke about change to come in the southern Rowan County town.

Mayoral candidates Meredith Smith, Alby Stamey, Mark Connell and Dorland Abernathy along with Alderman candidates Ashley Stewart and Katie Sells took questions ranging from how they would have handled the hiring of new Town Manager Roger Hosey to lowering electric bills. And they asked for Landis residents’ votes.

“If your mind is already made up, that shows that you’ve been thinking,” said Abernathy, who was previously an alderman.

Transparency and honesty were key words at the forum, with candidates promising to bring that to the board if elected. Several times, candidates said the current board has failed to show transparency, particularly with the appointment of Hosey, which was announced unexpectedly at the August Board of Aldermen meeting.

Connell said the decision to appoint Hosey in that manner shows the current board has an agenda and that the board should relay every decision it makes.

“Unfortunately, our current board and current legislation has had agendas,” Connell said. “The only agenda that we should have is for you folks sitting right here having an open door and discussing every single decision made in Town Hall. Landis would not be without us.”

Smith agreed with Connell about the board’s agenda. She said residents need to speak up. They did, but the board didn’t listen to what they wanted, she said.

Smith referenced previous Town Manager Reed Linn, a target of a State Bureau of Investigation probe into embezzlement of town money, and that he had two leadership positions, likening that to the current scenario. Linn was also the town’s fire chief. Hosey is also deputy police chief and will become police chief when Kenny Isenhour retires.

“I believe that the board that is in office now made a decision based on their feelings, not based on what you or myself or anyone would have wanted as a community,” Smith said. 

Stamey said he disagreed with how the hiring of the town manager was handled “1,000%” and not because of the person chosen. If on the board, Stamey said he would have encouraged open applications and had interviews.

“I read how the board decided to do it real quick before the new board could get in,” Stamey said. “It seemed awfully shady to me. Why? Why would they do that? And then let him write his own contract? Strongly disagree.”

He said the process should have been open for the public to see the negotiations, especially since the town manager’s salary is paid with public money.

Abernathy said the current board got the appointment they wanted as a matter of convenience instead of advertising the position.

“Had I been in the center chair that day or even back into an alderman’s position, I would have been far more vocal in how the procedure should have taken place,” Abernathy said.

Alderman candidates were asked the same question about the hiring of the town manager.

Stewart called the move premature, and Sells said the process was completely wrong.

Stewart said he would have taken the advice on hiring a finance officer from the Local Government Commission and carried it to the town manager position. The finance officer application was posted online and applicants were interviewed.

“Not making any disparaging comments, I think the procedure was not one that I would have supported had I been on the board,” Stewart said.

Sells said the town manager position should have been advertised and applications should have been received as well as screened by the board and possibly the LGC to select the right candidate.

During her opening remarks, Sells reminded the audience of the change to come in Landis.

“Make a new day on Nov. 5,” she said.

Alderman Bobby Brown, who is running for mayor, and alderman candidates Darrell Overcash and Buddy Porter Jr. were absent from the forum.

The forum was moderated by Salisbury Post Editor Josh Bergeron and hosted by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.