07/16/04 — Candidates give views on ways to improve city

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Candidates give views on ways to improve city

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 16, 2004 1:59 PM

Two of the candidates for the vacant Goldsboro council seat spent Thursday afternoon answering questions about their qualifications for the job.

The City Council interviewed Don Chatman and Naomi Williams about their experience, strategies for economic development, keeping the Air Force base here and their priorities for the city.

The third candidate, Cheryl Alston, was out of town Thursday and will be interviewed Monday afternoon. All three are vying for the District 3 seat left vacant when former Councilman William Goodman resigned.

Don Chatman


Naomi Williams


The council also asked the candidates what qualities they would look for in a city manager, as the city is searching for a new manager. City Manager Richard Slozak will retire in December.

Chatman, the former city planning director, pointed out his familiarity with the city and city issues after working in the Planning Department for 30 years. He retired in December.

"And I've worked with the City Council for the past 15 years," he added.

He said that he believed that in addition to experience, a city manager should be someone who could work with people and have the ability to manage.

"I also think that, like our current manager, the person should have a financial background," Chatman said.

One of his priorities as a new councilman would be to see the city enforce its regulations, he said. "I guess I go back to my roots in planning. The regulations need to be streamlined so it won't take as long to take care of things."

Chatman said he would also like to see if there was some way to expand the job market to keep young people from leaving the area.

Mayor Al King asked what Chatman thought would happen to the community if the base closed.

"It would be quite a big blow to the economy and another blow to the population," Chatman said.

He said that a population decline could affect the federal money the city received.

"Housing would also be affected," Chatman said. "There are several fronts where we'd lose quite a bit. It would be disastrous."

Chatman said that he supported efforts by the city and county to buy land that would serve as a protective barrier to the base.

"What else would you do to keep the base from closing?" King asked.

Chatman replied that the only other thing he could think of was to "not be resistant to any regulations that would help prevent encroachment." Encroachment is development that can hinder the base's mission.

He also had a suggestion for economic development.

"I would find out why businesses didn't locate here," he said. "And then see how we could turn those negatives around."

Chatman said he would like to see Goldsboro continue to grow and stay economically viable.

"If I'm selected, I'll do all I can to be a good councilman," he said.

Ms. Williams said she had spent her life serving Goldsboro in some capacity and believed a position as a council member would be the next step.

"I have represented citizens for zoning issues before the council and have worked in the community," she said. "I have implemented educational, economic and spiritual programs, as well as coordinating, implementing and pioneering youth remediation programs."

She said that she had also encouraged people to vote.

Ms. Williams believed that a city manager should have the right educational background and should get familiar with Goldsboro.

"They must have the right motive, be a team player and work well with people of all persuasions," she said. "They should also have successes in other areas of life and must want to serve Goldsboro."

Her priorities as a council member would be to strive to make Goldsboro a top city.

She commended the council for its work on cleaning the city and said those efforts needed to continue.

"The council should work collaboratively with other governing bodies to do all that can be done," she said.

She said it was important to represent the people by taking assessments of the needs of the community and by working together.

Ms. Williams said the city would lose a lot economically if the base closed, and that it would be harder to attract new businesses to the area.

"It was a wise move to secure land around the base," she said. "As a community we must continue to embrace Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and let them know it is needed and wanted."

Ms. Williams believed that improving schools and cleaning the city would help attract industry.

She said that she appreciated the chance to be interviewed for the vacancy and thought she had a lot to offer the city.

"I would try to bring new ideas to the council," she said. "But I'm not waiting to serve. I think we could work together to reap the benefits of the harvest."

The council plans to interview Ms. Alston at 5 p.m. Monday before its regularly scheduled meeting. The board will vote Monday on who will fill the vacant seat, but the new member won't be sworn in until the first meeting in August.