Sawmills candidates on the issues

Oct. 22, 2013 @ 04:29 PM

The News-Topic sent questions on a variety of local issues to candidates for local office in each of Caldwell County's municipalities. Below are answers from mayoral and town-council candidates in Sawmills.

What makes you a qualified candidate? What can you offer that no other candidate can?

Bobby Austin, 81, retired, former mayor running for mayor: Having the experience of being mayor before and now that I am retired I now have the time.

Bob Gibbs, 58, retired, incumbent mayor: First of all, I am available most all of the time to know what is happening in the town on a daily basis.  The staff and council and I work well together to oversee the daily activities and daily business of the Town of Sawmills.  I strive to stay in touch with county leaders as well as state leadership to keep abreast of legislation that affects our town and her citizens.  I am active in committee work on the state level that enables me to keep the Town of Sawmills on the minds of our state elected officials.  I am also active in county affairs such as Caldwell County EDC, Caldwell County Railroad Commission and the Sales Tax Reinvestment Committee.

Gerelene Blevins, 62, housewife, not an incumbent: Served on council twelve years. I have the ability to listen to the citizens of Sawmills and make the best decision that will work for people and town, treat each person with respect and explain the policies of the town.

Edward Lineback, 62, truck driver, not an incumbent: As for qualifications, I have the same as all newcomers, a fresh perspective and a desire to show all the people of Sawmills courtesy and respect. Not to turn my back on them, but listen. I have no intention of running for a second term on the council, so my decisions would be completely impartial. I do have several years experience in transportation business administration.

Joseph Norman, 66, sales, not an incumbent: I think I am the only candidate who was born and raised in Sawmills. I have watched the town grow and expand over the years. I served on the board when we were a sanitary district and also on the town council after incorporation. I have a very strong desire to see Sawmills continue to be a great place to live and raise a family. I will try to make the town even better by keeping the taxes and fees to the citizens at a minimum. And to the citizens, thank you in advance for your vote.

Donnie Potter, 49, Ally Bank account executive, incumbent: First and foremost I truly care about my community and its citizens. Over the past four years I have strived to make our town a better place to live and raise a family. During this time we have seen significant improvements and I have played a significant role in making sure that these improvements were done with a balanced budget without having to use the town’s savings. I feel that I bring an open mind and active voice to our town in ways that are professional and proactive. I will also work closely with other council members to find solutions to issues and problems that come up.   

Keith Warren, 53, truck driver, not an incumbent: I qualify to serve on town council because I know my community and have a commitment to addressing human needs around me. I pledge to this decision to run for office. I wish for no personal gain or power if elected.

Joe Wesson, retired, incumbent: I feel that I am a qualified candidate because I have served two terms on the town council, two years on the planning commission and I have served on various town committees. My experience on the town council will serve as an asset to the citizens of Sawmills. I offer my own input and individual understanding of each issue in a way that will be fair to all.

What is the number-one issue facing the town – the issue that would be your number-one focus while in office?

Austin: Seeking grants for sewage and keeping a close eye on the budget.

Gibbs: I think at this time, our greatest issue would be improving our infrastructure such as expansion of our sewer system and the maintenance of our aging water lines.  This is a large order for a small community with the current economic atmosphere; but is something that must be addressed for all of our citizens and for future growth.  We have been awarded a grant which will be able to add to our current sewer system; but we cannot stop here.  There are many others “down the line” that are awaiting service.  These citizens have failing and/or failed septic systems and we as a town need to address this need.

Blevins: Sewer – sewer to the people that need it. I am against mandatory hookup.

Lineback: As mentioned in a recent article in the Lenoir News-Topic, Sawmills struggles to take over private streets. This is disgraceful. These people deserve decent access to their homes just like the rest of us. It is unreasonable to treat these taxpayers as second-class citizens.

Norman did not send a response to this question.

Potter: I think the most important issue today for the Town of Sawmills, along with every other town and city across this great nation, is the economy. Even though things seem to be improving we have to be careful that we don’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to manage our growth conservatively and look for creative and efficient ways to improve our infrastructure. I also think that we have to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep the younger generation committed to our community as well as Caldwell County through parks and recreation. As we all know, the younger generation’s needs and wants are significantly different than they once were. I feel that we have already begun to move in this direction with the creation of the only disc golf course in Caldwell County as well as the only kickball league in the county both of which have been very successful.

Warren: The number-one issue facing our town is a combination of high unemployment, lack of education, and low-income housing. We need economic growth but not at the expense of losing our inherent, cherished small-town values.

Wesson: I feel the number-one issue facing the town is maintaining a balanced budget and not having to raise taxes, while moving forward with needed projects and concerns of the citizens of Sawmills.

What do you see as the town’s greatest underutilized asset and how would you make use of it?

Austin: We have empty land and space, therefore I would try to get more business to come to town to help with the tax base, allowing the people to have less taxes to pay.

Gibbs: The good people of the Town of Sawmills are our most underutilized asset.  Many of these citizens have good ideas and thoughts and we as a local government need to be accessible to them to know their thoughts.  In my current term as Mayor, we began a Citizens Focus Group and this needs to be expanded upon.  We need to have better attendance at monthly council meetings and hear what our citizens have to say.  In saying this, there is of course no way to please all; but we need to know what is best for the town as a whole.  I am available at any time to listen to our citizens and their concerns.   We can work together as citizens of the Town of Sawmills to “Honor the Past-Capture the Present and Shape our Future!”

Blevins: Try to get more citizens involved in moving the town forward.

Lineback: The public works department. Some of the unnecessary expenditures could be cut and the monies transferred over to help with road improvement and sanitation problems. A septic vacuum truck operated by the town would e a real asset and plumbing problem tanks for external hook-ups would make it a breeze to operate. Let’s give these people some real relief instead of empty promises.

Norman did not send an answer to this question.

Potter: I think our town’s greatest asset is our citizens and the fact that we are a small rural town with a strong sense of loyalty to our community. If re-elected I will continue to be proactive in looking for ways to strengthen our community participation and presence. During my previous four years I have been involved with the creation of the beautification committee, concerned citizens group, Sawmills Optimist club, and new town events such as the Christmas Tree Lighting, Fall Festival, and Easter Egg Hunt.

Warren: Our town’s greatest underutilized asset is the people themselves. We have many folks who possess wisdom and have insights that could contribute to guiding our future. I would enlist the services of the knowledgeable residents in areas in which they could contribute.

Wesson: I feel that the citizens of Sawmills are the greatest underutilized assets. They should be encouraged to attend council meetings, concerned citizens’ meetings and other meetings of interest to offer their input and concerns for consideration.

How should the town cope with potential revenue reductions, whether from the state legislature, from sales tax revenue, or from other sources?

Austin: The town should have to deal very carefully with the budget, and the use of common sense with all decisions.

Gibbs: The council and staff take our budgeting process very seriously.  As we plan for upcoming fiscal year budgets; we always have in mind the potential reductions from state and local funding.  Knowing that these reductions are possible; we have budgeted for this slow economy.  The town is currently debt free and has a healthy fund balance for a municipality of our size.  This is another reason that I strive to stay in touch with local and state leadership so we are aware of reductions that are on the horizon and that these same leaders know how any reductions in local revenue affects our citizens.  However, I have faith that our future looks brighter and aim to live by Philippians 4:13—we can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!!  

Blevins: Town is in good financial shape. Should revenue reduction become an issue, the council would take necessary steps to cope with it.

Lineback: I would propose the town start looking now for corporate sponsors of Parks and Recreation and should hold binding referendums on big-ticket expenditures. Sawmills’ budget has plenty of fat that could be trimmed and we should return to our original mission of being the “Biggest Little Town in Caldwell County.” Let’s keep Sawmills a sleepy little town where we can grow families in a friendly environment and not be imposing our will on our neighbors. I pledge to NEVER vote for a tax increase! It is just that simple. Thank you.

Norman did not send an answer to this question.

Potter: We have to place a strong emphasis on conservative growth. We have to keep our eyes on expenses and other things that may create a burden on our budget. We have to continue to forge relationships with our local, state and federal leaders so that we can stay ahead of the curve on issue that may affect our finances. We have to encourage the town’s staff to continue looking into alternative funding sources and encourage tax base growth by making Sawmills a business friendly environment.

Warren: Our town faces some of the same problems as any small town or hard-working persons, for that matter, in this current economy – the shrinking dollar. We must explore all possibilities for finding and applying for grants or help from all levels of government. We must make an all-out effort to find ways to reduce spending.

Wesson: Any reductions in revenue should be met with reduction in expenditures, therefore; resulting in a balanced budget and NO NEW TAXES!!!!