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Mayoral candidates weigh potential for growth in Spencer

SPENCER — Beside a list of 12 candidates for the Spencer Board of Aldermen, the names of two mayoral hopefuls will be on the crowded ballot for the Nov. 5 election.

Campaigning in a town rife with ongoing projects and incoming business, the two newcomers are looking ahead to the next two years with opposing visions and priorities.

At one end, 37-year-old water resources manager Jonathan Williams said he sees the town well positioned to expand and lure larger business that will continue economic growth in the area. His 57-year-old self-employed opponent, David Brown Doby Sr., is satisfied with the way things are.

“I think we just need to leave (the town of Spencer) a small community like Mayberry and forget about the growth,” said Doby. “It’s just not going to happen.”

But with online retailer Chewy planning a 1,200-employee, 700,000-square-foot facility just off Interstate 85 along Long Ferry Road, the two candidates identified some immediate next steps in preparation for the June 2020 opening.

Capitalizing on e-commerce

Williams, a West Rowan High School graduate who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering at Clemson University, summed up Chewy’s arrival for Spencer: “It’s a wonderful start to economic growth, but it’s not the answer.”

With so many jobs coming to the area, Williams said, the town should work to find a way to market its residential properties to the company’s employees “not only in the (extraterritorial jurisdiction) but in downtown properties as well.”

If handled appropriately, the new shipping and receiving facility for pet products would continue a rich history of transportation — river, rail and interstate — within the town, Williams said.

But lifelong Spencer resident Doby said the town would do well to turn its eyes away from development in neighboring towns and cities like Charlotte as it braces for Chewy’s local impact. Rather, he said, the town should focus on another, far more pivotal and long-forgotten strength of the town.

“We need to get back to the small town that cared about everybody,” he said.

Two-year plans

Looking ahead to a potential two years as Spencer’s highest elected official, Williams emphasized the importance of community and working together for local improvement.

“Two years is not a lot of time,” he said. “To make a difference, it’s critical that the board work together toward a common vision that will ultimately shape the future of our town.”

And though he said two years isn’t enough time to make all the changes in the world, he said it is plenty of time to put the town on the “right trajectory,” moving forward on modernizing the code to make the town more friendly to potential businesses and residents.

Those steps, along with efforts to improve local amenities and infrastructure like Stanback Forest and the stormwater system, would help improve a reputation previously compromised.

“Spencer is a great town, but folks don’t always perceive it that way,” said Williams. “That’s occurred over a long period of time. It’s going to take much longer than two years to change that.”

Doby also said that needed changes would take longer than a single term in office.

“We can’t even get a road paved up here in two years,” he said with a laugh, referencing ongoing efforts to repave Fourth Street and other local roads.

Doby said that if elected, he’d work to establish a committee to study the inner workings of town employees, administration and elected officials.

“Whatever they’re doing up there right now, it ain’t working,” he said. “I don’t really think they give a crap.”

Addressing problems in the delivery of services for Spencer residents would be the way to get the town back to what Doby called a “small community network.”

“It’s never going to be Charlotte,” he said. “It’s not that kind of town.”

Soliciting votes

Asked why residents should vote for him, Doby pointed to his outspoken nature and common-sense approach to municipal leadership.

“I don’t put up with a bunch of bull,” he said. “I’m trying to be a straight shooter with common sense. … I believe in the common-sense way, not the book-sense way. We’ve got too many people that’s running stuff that’s got book sense and ain’t got no common sense to even get out of the shower alone.”

Williams cited his professional experience and training.

“My experience, what I’ve trained to do in my career, would be a huge benefit for the town,” he said, pointing to his work managing a staff focused on wastewater and stormwater projects.

He also noted his experience as a structural engineer, working with utilities in ways that honed his skills in project and people management.

“I love my community,” Williams said. “In fact, that’s really my goal: to build consensus and to get people to work together for the betterment of the town.”

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