Spencer aldermen, mayor candidates talk town’s future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2021

SPENCER — The town’s aldermen and mayor for the next two years shared some of their thoughts on the town and their priorities during virtual candidate forum on Monday.

The race in Spencer features six candidates running for six seats on the board and Mayor Jonathan Williams running for reelection with no opposition. The forum, organized by the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, was attended by incumbents and candidate Rashid Muhammad, who was appointed to the board in 2019 after Howard White resigned his own appointed position.

Muhammad ran for a seat the same year but was not successful.

Andrew Howe is the only true newcomer running for election to the board. He was a teacher with Rowan-Salisbury Schools for seven years before becoming an attorney. He currently works as an assistant attorney with Davidson County government and is a co-owner of the Spencer music and repair shop The Band Attic. Howe was unable to attend the forum due to a work conflict.

Incumbents Steve Miller, Sam Morgan, Pat Sledge and Patti Secreast are incumbents all seeking reelection and attended the forum. Sharon Hovis and Bob Bish are current board members who are not seeking new terms.

During his opening statement, Morgan noted his disappointment the election is uncontested and his concern there is apathy for the process.

The order for answering questions was randomized, and Muhammad had the floor for the first question about how the town administration will work toward a common vision.

Muhammad said it is important for the town to be on the same page and build diversity within the board to make the community thrive. Muhammad returned to the importance of unity throughout the forum.

Williams recognized there will sometimes be disagreements, but said unity starts with town staff and the elected officials working toward the collective good of the town.

“At the end of the day we are a team,” Williams said. “We are team Spencer.”

A common vision was a popular talking point. Morgan said he agrees town officials are meshing well, but there is more to do.

“We need to develop more short-range and also long-range goals for the town,” Morgan said.

Miller said the town is blessed to have the N.C. Transportation museum, but the town has to do as much as possible to develop more variety for residents and visitors. He pointed to the Stanback Educational Forest, the Doll and Toy Museum and development around Wil-Cox bridge as bringing more to the town.

He highlighted upcoming events such as the town’s WinterFest as well.

Sledge credited Morgan for his work to get more events started in the town and noted the town devoted additional funding to host events.

“I’m excited about the progress that is being made down at the Yadkin River,” Sledge said, adding she believes eco-tourism will be important and the town needs to capitalize on getting visitors to the Transportation Museum to cross the street.

Secreast said WinterFest will be “outstanding” and she is blown away by what is planned so far.

Muhammad credited the recent events, but he said the town needs to continue to host events that will be attended by residents and the board members in addition to the tourists.

“We had some food truck events that took place in 2019 and they were very successful,” Muhammad said.

He said those events will attract more business and residents.

When asked about priorities for the downtown area, a popular talking point was developing a park on the corner of Park Plaza at Salisbury Avenue. The project has been named a priority for the current board, and the members emphasized redeveloping green spaces downtown that like those that existed in the past.

Muhammad said the town needs to cater to citizens more with its services, push outreach about local events through local media and community safety.

Secreast said she is excited about the new town hall project and for the prospect there will be more community activity around the new facility, but she noted her main priority for that area is building a park there.

Sledge said she wants to maximize state and federal relief funding to address community issues like minimum housing problems.