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Josh Bergeron: Municipal elections start Wednesday with early voting

As if they were sitting around in their living room and in an entirely inappropriate political display, incumbents on the Landis Board of Aldermen last week used time during their regular board meeting to endorse candidates for office.

Mayor Mike Mahaley and board members Tommy Garver and Tony Corriher announced their support for Alderman Bobby Brown, who is running for mayor, and Darrell Overcash for alderman. They’re also now encouraging people to write in Shirley Martin, whom voters haven’t had an opportunity to quiz on any of the matters facing the town.

Meanwhile, Alderman Seth Moore announced his support for Meredith Smith for mayor and Katie Sells and Ashley Stewart for aldermen.

Perhaps the strangest recommendation, Garver told voters to elect Buddy Porter, a police offer for the town. Porter filed for office not knowing he’d have to give up his day job if elected. And he’s made it known that he’d prefer to stay a police officer and forgo his seat on the town board, if elected.

The endorsements are just the latest chapter in what’s been a textbook example of how not to govern while your town is subject to a state embezzlement investigation. The Landis board shouldn’t be offering political endorsements while it’s supposed to be focused on running town government.

The board in recent months also has argued over who’s can take credit for reporting embezzlement allegations; hired a town manager from within without publicly advertising the position; passed a policy to allow town employees to serve on the board without knowing state law prohibited that employee from serving without giving up his job; and done nothing to promote public confidence in their leadership. In what should be an infuriating statement, Mahaley claimed last month that he “had a really good idea for about four or five months of what was going on” in a conversation about embezzlement allegations.

With early voting starting Wednesday, Landis is in dire need of good leadership. And it’s one of many competitive municipal races on this year’s ballot.

Early voting starts at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the Rowan County Board of Elections — the only early voting site. It’s located at 1935 Jake Alexander Boulevard W., Suite D. 10, in Salisbury near Badcock Furniture. After Wednesday, it will be open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. until Nov. 1. and on Saturday, Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The voter registration deadline was Oct. 11, but same-day registration is allowed only during early voting.

In China Grove, Mayor Lee Withers is being challenged by Town Councilman Charles Seaford in what appears to be a contest created by the fact that some on the board have been unhappy with Withers’ leadership. With no challengers, town council members Rodney Phillips and Steve Stroud will coast to another term.

East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallet has attracted a challenger — also from a town board member, Tony Hillian. East Spencer will also have competitive aldermen races.

In Granite Quarry, Mayor Bill Feather had been “on the fence” about whether to run for another term, but chose to do so near the end of the filing period after youngster Andrew Poston was the only one who filed for the position. Poston, like candidates in China Grove, would have otherwise coasted to his first elected office. Granite Quarry will also have a competitive race for its Board of Aldermen, where there are two spots open and four candidates.

In Kannapolis, there is not a mayor’s race, but one member of the city council, Roger Haas, chose not to run again. That’s helped create a seven-person race for three spots.

In what appears to be a trend this year in Rowan’s towns, Rockwell Mayor Beau Taylor also faces a challenge this year from an alderman, Chris Stiller. Meanwhile there are five people running for four spots on the town board.

Spencer looks to be the most competitive of any of this year’s elections. There are 12 people running for six spots on the Board of Aldermen and two people running for mayor. And this year’s results promise to feature at least a few new officeholders. Mayor Jim Gobbel isn’t seeking re-election. Neither are aldermen David Lamanno and Sylvia Chillcott.

In Salisbury, results of the election pose the potential to be the least eventful of all, particularly when compared with recent results.

In 2017, the city’s voters bumped off one-term Councilman Kenny Hardin, made Al Heggins the city’s first black mayor by virtue of the fact that she received the most votes and brought Tamara Sheffield onto the council, too. Two years earlier, incumbents Maggie Blackwell, Pete Kennedy and Paul Woodson all announced that they wouldn’t seek another term. Blackwell, like incumbent Brian Miller this year, eventually changed her mind, but a glut of candidates had already filed.

This year, all incumbents are seeking another term. There are, effectively, five incumbents and four challengers running for five spots on City Council.

Salisbury’s outdated system of choosing a mayor means that we could have a new one after election day. Thankfully, Salisbury’s voters can do something about the uncertainty surrounding who could be mayor in this year’s election and vote “yes” on a referendum to create a separate election. The public deserves to know who is interested in and running for mayor.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post. Email him at josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com.

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