Election 2021: China Grove Town Council candidates detail approaches to handling economic, residential growth

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 19, 2021

CHINA GROVE — As the southern end of Rowan County continues to show significant growth, China Grove’s leadership will be faced with critical decisions related to housing and economic development in the coming years.

In the China Grove Town Council race, three incumbents would like to continue to have their say in the future of the town while six challengers are vying for their seats.

Don Bringle, Arthur Heggins and Brandon Linn are running for reelection. Bringle, director of facilities and parks and recreation for Rowan County, is seeking a second consecutive term after finishing the two years that remained on Mayor Charles Seaford’s term. Bringle is likely the most experienced political candidate in the race having served as the town’s mayor for 12 years previously.

Bringle said the town is seeing a period of “accelerated growth” and is proud of the fact that the town council has passed several proposed residential developments recently that will result in several hundred new homes, townhomes and apartments.

Arthur Heggins, interim pastor at Yadkin Grove Baptist Church, made history in 2017 by becoming the first African American to seek and win election in China Grove and is now hoping for a second term. If reelected, Heggins said he would work with the Rowan Economic Development Council to take advantage of business growth around exit 68 on I-85 and in other parts of town.

Heggins said he believes the town council has made it clear to developers what kind of residential projects are desired. He said he wants to continue to keep the police department, fire department and maintenance staff in mind while considering future housing proposals.

Brandon Linn, a deputy with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, is running for his fourth term on the council. Linn could not be reached for inclusion in this story.

Challengers Stacy Woodward, Cheryl Sheets and Krista Moon are attempting to become the first women to serve on the town council in over two decades. 

Woodward, a nurse at the Salisbury VA, wants China Grove to “embrace growth” and believes that progress starts with bolstering business on Main Street. Her goal is to make China Grove a destination for out of town visitors. Woodward’s husband, Jonathan Woodward, is currently working to open a brewery and restaurant downtown. 

If elected, Woodward said she would vet proposed residential developments carefully, but would be open to compromising with developers.

Cheryl Sheets, currently employed at Cabarrus Rowan Community Health Center, said she wants to “pay it forward” by ensuring that the town remains a place where families like hers move to stay. Sheets said she would like to bring a female voice to the council while advocating for a “safe and economically viable Main Street for years to come.”

When it comes to housing developments, Sheets prefers larger lots but understands why they might not be economically viable for developers. She said that proposed residential developments should include some commercial space.

Krista Moon, a native of southern Rowan County, moved back to China Grove in spring of 2020. With a husband in the U.S. marines and a son in the Army, Moon is a part of a military-based family. Moon said she would like to generate growth by increasing the amount of family activities around town. Although Moon is in favor of the town harnessing the growth coming its way, she wants to maintain China Grove’s “small town feel.”

When considering proposed residential projects, Moon said she would keep in mind the citizens already living near the future development. 

Gary Watkins, who has worked at Great Dane Trailers in Charlotte for more than three decades, said he would like to bring new businesses to downtown to complement the existing restaurants and retailers. Watkins said he wants “concrete” guidelines implemented for residential developments and would gauge community feedback when considering proposals.

Joey Jordan, owner of a water filtration company, believes his economic acumen will be an asset in recruiting and retaining businesses. Jordan would like to see China Grove build around a specific downtown identity and find restaurants and shops who fit into that mold.

Jordan said more housing is needed in China Grove and views residential developments as a way to increase the town’s tax base, allowing the town council to have a bigger budget to work with.

Josh Mullis, a teacher at South Rowan High School, said he would like to take a personal approach to convincing small business entrepreneurs to open up shop in China Grove. As the town brings in new businesses, Mullis said he would like to see an inventory conducted on the businesses that already exist.

Mullis said he would be selective when considering new housing developments and would seek input from community members while also advocating for controlled residential growth.