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Elect 2019: With three incumbents calling it quits, Landis will see change

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Change is coming for Landis. Who will lead that change is uncertain.

Lately, controversy has been the norm. That began in February when Landis Mayor Mike Mahaley announced the retirement of Town Manager Reed Linn. Days later, the State Bureau of Investigation announced they were looking into Linn and Financial Officer Ginger Gibson for allegations of embezzlement of town funds. They resigned from their jobs immediately.

Police Chief Kenny Isenhour stepped into the interim manager position along with Deputy Police Chief Roger Hosey as the finance officer.

The state treasurer’s Local Government Commission had concerns over years about the town’s financial state. And citizens frequently complained about high electric and water rates.

The town added a “transparency” webpage as they filled open records requests from the Salisbury Post and citizens. The Board of Aldermen in June passed a budget creating some unity with electric rates with all residents having a flat rate of 10.5 cents per kWh. The property rate remained the same.

The next month — ahead of the filing period of municipal elections — aldermen passed an ordinance that allowed town employees to run for Landis Board of Aldermen.

When the filing period ended, Mahaley, Mayor Pro Tem Tommy Garver and Alderman Seth Moore were absent from those who filed, despite having their terms end this year. Five mayoral candidates had filed — Meredith Bare Smith, Alby Stamey; Mark Connell; Alderman Bobby B. Brown, whose seat expires in 2021; and former alderman Dorland Abernathy.

With two outgoing aldermen, Darrell Overcash, Katie Sells, Ashley Stewart and Buddy Porter Jr. filed.

Porter, a Landis police officer, has discontinued his run after realizing state law doesn’t allow police officers to serve on their municipality’s board simultaneously. Though, his name will still appear on the ballot. If elected, he would have to choose between police officer or alderman. Porter has declined to endorse any other candidates. He said he may consider running again once he’s retired.

Then, in August, the board, with Moore absent, went into executive session and announced an appointment: Hosey would become the town’s new manager.

Diane Seaford was hired as the town’s finance officer in September. And at the September Board of Aldermen meeting, Moore called out the lack of process in picking Hosey and pointed out concerns about Hosey becoming police chief after Isenhour retires. Hosey also will provide IT services for the town as needed.

The LGC in a letter offered similar concerns with the multiple positions Hosey holds.

During board comments, an exchange between Mahaley and Moore became heated. At one point, Moore said “You’re the most incompetent mayor Landis has ever had.” Mahaley responded with “You are definitely the most unethical, smart mouth, smartass.”

At the October meeting, Hosey reminded the board and citizens to remember that people are watching Landis.

“If we look more like a circus than a city on the livestream, we got all these businesses spending a lot of money relocating growing up the Charlotte corridor. I don’t want to deprive anyone their right to speak,” he said.

Meanwhile, the SBI has continued its investigation. And there have been no updates on when it will wrap up.

Landis candidates are campaigning on change and a better future. That want was apparent at the candidates forum on Oct. 3.

Albernathy said he hopes to bring his prior experience as an alderman. He served from 2013 to 2017. He decided to run this time for the same reasons he choose to run six year ago: he was tired of the bickering back and forth.

Brown is running for the mayor seat, though his term is not over yet, because the seat came open and it was his opportunity to run, something he has wanted to do.

Brown said he wants to ensure the correct leadership in in place to keep the town on the right path by bringing his knowledge of serving on the board.

Connell is running for “togetherness in the community,” showcasing this in his campaign by changing the I for a U, in Landis to LandUs. He wants to the town to appreciate its heritage, restore its infrastructure and return Landis as a flouring community.

Stamey, a retired business owner, said he has been ashamed lately to say he lives in the town.

“We got to get citizens in this town that they’re proud to live in Landis,” Stamey said.

Smith, Sells and Stewart have grouped themselves together, promising to be an answer for change. Scattered in the town are the trio’s campaign signs placed side-by-side.

The combination of Smith and Sells came after holding a meeting for concerned citizens. They joined forces with Stewart, who said he brings a business mindset. Together with different views, they bring a lot to the table, Smith said.

“We work together well, and we’ll work together with the current board members,” Smith said.

Sells said they are on the same page.

“We have the same beliefs and values that we need to bring trust back to the town,” Sell said. We feel that we’ll bring some fresh faces to the board with new ideas.”

Stewart said the three can have respectful conversation even if they differ in opinion. Their motives work well together, he said.

Overcash, who has been attending meetings for years and years, was always asked to run numerous times but never did. He decided this time was best due to the state the town is in. He said he sees a lot of growth and potential and wanted to be a part of it.

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