Candidates for County Board of Commissioners see differing challenges

Apr. 22, 2014 @ 08:36 AM

The News-Topic sent each of the candidates for Caldwell County Board of Commissioners the same set of questions. Over the coming days we will run their answers.

What do you see as the county’s main challenge right now and how would address it?

Chris Barlowe, incumbent since 2010.Barlowe, 44, lives in Lenoir, is an operations manager for Maymead Inc. and has been a volunteer firefighter for the past 30 years.

"The main challenge facing Caldwell County continues to be improving the employment outlook. While we have made progress in this area during my first term, more needs to be done in order to provide economic security for both the current generation and the next. Since I took office, the jobless rate has declined from nearly 14 percent to around 7.5 percent. For the first time in over a decade, Caldwell County has posted lower monthly unemployment rates than Burke and Catawba counties...I support using sales tax re-investment dollars to assist companies that create, document and sustain jobs in our county. This has been a key driver in attracting new businesses to Caldwell County as well as for companies already located here to announce expansion plans.

"We also have to encourage and develop the next generation, and my support for Caldwell County Schools and the new William Lenoir Middle School separates me from other candidates. As a commissioner, I fully supported building the first new middle school the county has ever built (a project that is being paid for by school system funds), and I will continue to endorse efforts to upgrade and improve our schools."

Ben Griffin, president of Ben Griffin Realtors Builders,served 2008-12 on the Caldwell County Board of Commissioners. Griffin, 63, is a Lenoir resident.

"The main challenge for the county right now is leadership. Commissioners LaBrose and Barlowe had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save the county taxpayers millions of dollars by allowing the school system to purchase the former Broyhill office building plus 40 acres to locate the new William Lenoir Middle School there. They instead chose to spend many millions more on a smaller building at the other location. They were not prepared to make the best decision for the taxpayers.

"During my time in office, the budget was reduced by 12 million dollars and we were able to fund all services at acceptable levels. I would bring experienced leadership to the Commission."

Mike LaBrose, incumbent since 2010.LaBrose, 50, is an insurance agent and lives in Granite Falls.

"The county's main challenge continues to be job creation and increasing our tax base through attracting new business and industry. Over the past four years we have done a good job, but that's not enough. I will continue to work with the Economic Development Commission, business and industry, and the State of North Carolina to go after those industries and businesses that will bring stable jobs to our county."

Donnie Potter, a sales executive for Ally Bank.Potter, 50, previously served on the Sawmills Town Council.

"The greatest challenge facing our county today is the lack of short- and long-term planning. Currently our county does not have a plan for our future, which means that we are living year-to-year, and this is not good for our county’s future or its citizens. We have to do a better job of looking ahead (five to 10 years) and understanding what our needs will be as we progress into the future.

"Caldwell County needs a Capital Improvement and Outlay Plan. This is a priority listing of all capital projects, including project financing, infrastructure, equipment, facility needs, technology upgrades, etc. This would allow for a systematic evaluation of all potential needs. It would give us the ability to stabilize debt and consolidate projects to reduce borrowing costs. It would serve as a public relations and economic development tool and allow us to focus on preserving our future while ensuring the efficient use of public funds.

"I would also insist on monthly budget meetings, which would allow the department heads to come in and discuss their department’s needs. They are the experts in their profession. so why not get their feedback on our needs? These meetings would be open to the public, which would give our citizens a voice in the budget process."

Randall Winkler, 58, another candidate for Caldwell County Board of Commissioners, had not returned his answers by Monday afternoon.