Crutchfield discusses first five months as a lawmaker

Published 12:10 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

RALEIGH — State Rep. Kevin Crutchfield is five months into his first term as an elected official in the N.C. House of Representatives and recently detailed why he decided to run, how he is adjusting to his new role, things he didn’t expect and his legislative priorities going forward.

Crutchfield, who represents Rowan and Cabarrus counties, has run a successful business for the last 25 years: Casco Signs Inc., which manufacturers signs for the Charlotte metropolitan area, as well as the entire East Coast. His expertise as a small business owner was one of the reasons he decided to run, as a way to give back to the community.

“Take 42 years of work experience and life experience and experience being a dad and grandfather with nine grandkids. I thought this could be a way I could give back to them for their future that’s longer lasting than anything else I could do,” Crutchfield said.

He didn’t want to sit around and watch anymore, but wanted to try to be a part of the decision-making in the General Assembly and hopefully pass prominent and enduring legislation.

After serving for five months, Crutchfield said he feels as though he has settled into his new role, but was quick to add that he is still learning and relies on his more seasoned colleagues to help him out.

“There’s no book for this, you just have to get in there and figure it out. Fortunately there’s a lot of good people in Raleigh that are more than willing to bend over backwards to help you figure it out and help you be successful,” he said. “I think I have settled in, I think I’m making my way. Politics is a lot about good relationships and I focus a lot on making good relationships and try to help other people as well.”

He shared a story of a friend who works in obstetrics and gynecology, and who asked him what it’s like up in Raleigh.

“It’s like this. Imagine you want to be an OB/GYN and you show up to the hospital. You have no training. You have no education on what you’re going to do and they look at you and say ‘she’s having a baby, get in there and deliver it,” Crutchfield said. “You got to get in there and figure it out, so that’s kind of the way you feel at this job.”

Crutchfield said he really enjoys it, though, and is up for the challenge.

He recently passed his first bill in the House, which deals with aggregated crimes. Crutchfield explained that the bill allows prosecutors to group together sentencing when a person is convicted of two or more of the same financial crimes. Part of the reason he filed the bill is because he has been shopping at Lowe’s or other department stores and have seen people “just pick stuff up and walk out the door.”

“So what happens is that person runs over to Home Depot and they do the same thing. Then they go to the next county and do the same thing and it continues to be this vicious circle of people doing crimes of similar natures at multiple locations,” Crutchfield said. “With this bill, a DA will be able to look at all six or seven of those crimes and aggregate them together and bring one case against that person with a higher level felony charge.”

This will make it more cost efficient, Crutchfield explained.

The bill, House Bill 495, passed in his chamber and is being discussed in the Senate, which is something that Crutchfield has never dealt with in his short political career, saying he will have to learn what it takes to push a bill through both chambers.

One thing Crutchfield said he didn’t expect as an elected official was the amount of time spent on the General Assembly floor debating a bill, especially when it’s not going to change the outcome. Still, he said it’s good that people make their voices heard.

When asked what the toughest part of the job has been, Crutchfield said it’s when he pushes the button that will either vote yes for a bill or vote no. He knows that either way he is going to make some people happy and some people mad. He emphasized that relationships are important to him, but when he votes he focuses on “what’s best for North Carolina and what’s best for the people in my district.”

He is still trying to build relationships with other legislators he hasn’t met yet and one way is by going out and getting dinner or drinks with them and talking to them as a person. He is in a bi-partisan Freshman Caucus with other first-term officials and said he has been surprised by the things he has learned from people.

“I tell them, I say, ‘Look, you have an idea of who I am and I have an idea of who you are and I think we’re both wrong. Let’s get together, let’s have some conversations about who we are,’ and I’ve been surprised at the things I’ve learned from people. If I was to take an attitude that these people are just solid Democrats, I would miss. There’s policies that they have that I’ve been surprised to hear where they stand sometimes,” Crutchfield said. “I think that’s a benefit to all of us, to really understand the people that we’re dealing with.”

There are obviously things on which he is going to disagree with some of his colleagues, but thinks they should focus on the things they do agree on first to ensure good policy for North Carolina.

“Let’s get those out of the way, then we’ll take the hard part on later. Let’s not let the hard part keep us from getting something good done up front,” he said.

Going forward, the legislation Crutchfield is prioritizing is helping small businesses be successful. He was one of the legislators that started a Small Business Caucus this session. He specifically cited a bill he is working on that would allow state agencies to mail permits to applicants. Right now, if you are a worker in North Carolina who is trying to get a permit for something you are required to go to the agency and pick it up in person.

“The agency who issues the permit, once they’re approved, have to mail them to you or send them through UPS, however you choose. You have to pay the bill, but they are required to go through the process and mail them to you. So what does that do? It keeps people at work. It doesn’t waste time and my goal is to find ways that don’t waste time,” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield is also focused on legislation that will improve education, lower insurance costs for small businesses and fix voter integrity and redistricting issues. He also said he was excited to continue fighting for pro-life legislation and is confident that it will pass. He brought up the issue multiple times, making it apparent it’s a policy that is extremely important to him.

“I’m humbled by the fact that our legislature and our Senate this year is going to make this policy change for North Carolina and it’s going to change the direction for the future,” said Crutchfield. “I’m excited about that, but I’m also humbled by the fact that this is going to be controversial and it’s something we want to get right and moving in the right direction. I look forward to it.”