10/26/04 — Candidates discuss issues in Grantham Grange forum

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Candidates discuss issues in Grantham Grange forum

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 26, 2004 2:00 PM

About 45 people showed up to hear candidates during a political forum held by the Grantham Grange.

Grange President Bobby Crawford dispensed with the business during the Grange's regular meeting Monday night in the Grantham fire station. The Grange has a special program every month, and Monday was Meet the Candidates Night. Program Director John Tart narrated.

"I've been where you are," Tart, a former county commissioner, told the candidates who were seated along the bay door to the fire station, "and I'd just as soon be where I am."

Lois Mooring defeated Register of Deeds John Chance in the primary, and she is facing Republican Chris West next month.

Board of Education Chairman Pete Gurley wants another term as the at-large member, but so does Joseph Hackett.

Republican incumbent Efton Sager and his Democratic challenger Mark Hood are going after the District 4 seat on the county commissioner board.

Democrat incumbent Atlas Price and Republican Hal Keck want the at-large seat on the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

Another contested race is for the Soil and Water Conservation's district board of supervisors. Incumbent Ben Rollins was present, but his challenger, Jesse Jernigan, was not.

Register of Deeds

Lois Mooring has worked in the Wayne County Clerk of Court's office 13 years. She said she knows all of the nine staff members in the Register of Deeds office, the lawyers and their staffs. She said she plans to keep the employees who are working in the Register of Deeds office.

"I have dealt with people all these years," she said. "You have to have the patience and the understanding to sit and listen to people tell you their needs."

Chris West has supplemented his income for the past 20 years traveling to the Register of Deeds offices in 17 counties and researching land records.

"I think I can provide the leadership to make it one of the best in North Carolina," West said, referring to his years of business management experience. He is the assistant manager at Wilber's Restaurant, where he has worked since he was 15. Having supervised a staff of 65 people, he said he would observe the office of nine with an open mind for the first 60 to 90 days before making any changes.

Board of Education

Pete Gurley was a classroom teacher and a principal before going to work in the school administration office in charge of maintaining and replacing school buildings. Then he was elected to the board of education, where he has been for the past eight years. He has been chairman twice.

He and Joseph Hackett disagreed about building new schools, whether the teachers are getting to keep their supplements and the student dress code.

Hackett said the teachers are losing the supplements as fast as they get them, but Gurley said they're not.

Gurley said he would have the students in uniforms if he could. "You've got to have a dress code. There's no question about it. If you didn't there's no telling what they'd have on when they come to school."

Hackett said the students already have a dress code, and it just needs to be enforced. He said some students try to push the limits, but he's not for uniforms. "This is not the military. Our kids did not sign up for it."

The voters have a right to decide on a bond issue for school construction, said Gurley. But Hackett said he does not believe in constructing any new school buildings. The board needs to get the children out of the trailers and into real classrooms first, he said, and current buildings need repair.

District 4 Commissioner

Efton Sager said that without a long-range facility plan, the taxpayers can expect to see more tax increases. "We have over many years just put out fires," he said. "We didn't have a long-range plan."

Sager said he would support Amendment One, which gives local governments authority to issue bonds to finance public improvements. "I think it's a good thing," he said. "North Carolina is one of two states that don't have it. My party opposes it. We don't all have to agree on everything."

Mark Hood said he didn't understand Amendment One well enough to discuss it.

Hood, who has 18 years of management experience during his 40 years with the power company, said he would look for ways to hold down property taxes.

"I feel if we put good people in the right places, good things will happen," he said.

He agreed with Sager about the need for long-range planning.

At-Large Commissioner

Atlas Price said he wants U.S. 117 completed and U.S. 70 advanced. There are 69 stop lights between I-40 and Havelock, he said. Counties along that route have formed a coalition, and he promised to continue working to open up the route. "It's hard to get industry in here to provide jobs if these things are not done," he said.

He favors a bond issue for school construction and the community school concept. "We have an obligation to satisfy the needs of the school system," he said.

Hal Keck also favors a bond issue. "I do not favor raising taxes in the near future, but I would put it forward to the voters and let them decide ... We need new buildings, repairs and reallocations. Some may need to be torn down and new schools put in other locations."

Keck said there is fat in the budget, and all county offices can be downsized. He would favor evaluating all county programs.

Soil and Water

Jernigan has been on the Soil and Water board 41 years and wants "one more term." He said the Soil and Water Conservation office has employees with long tenure and good experience giving technical support to farmers. He feels they've done a good job.