11/05/07 — Multiple candidates seek opportunity to lead village

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Multiple candidates seek opportunity to lead village

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on November 5, 2007 1:45 PM

The Village of Walnut Creek will have six contenders -- two incumbents and four other residents, some newcomers -- on Tuesday's ballot for the three available council seats.

Incumbent Thomas Hill Shaw was the first to file for re-election.

Shaw, 60, was appointed to the council in 2004 to fill a vacancy. He ran in 2005 for the remaining two years of his unexpired term and won.

Shaw said he enjoys serving on the council and helping tackle its problems.

"If anyone wants to call and tell me about their problems, I'll listen," he said. "I'll bring their problems to the council and try to help them out. I learned real quick that people aren't afraid to call you at night to discuss things."

He wants to create a closer relationship between the council and Walnut Creek's residents.

"If elected, I will try and make the village and the council have a stronger bond," he said.

Shaw said he foresees continued growth for the village.

If elected, he said he will push for expansion of the village's sewer system as well as improvements of the playground and recreation area. Housing developments will also contribute to the progress.

"We have got to plan for that expansion," he said. "We need to provide services for these residents in a timely manner."

Still involved with the Walnut Creek Crime Watch, Shaw previously served as the chairman for two years. He also is part of the Certified Emergency Response Team and strongly supports the village police department.

Retired since 2003, Shaw worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 36 years, ending as the information technology manager for the state of North Carolina. He graduated from N.C. State University and majored in agronomy.

Incumbent Danny Jackson has served two terms on the council.

First elected as a write-in candidate, Jackson 47, was urged to serve in the wake of the damage wrought by Hurricane Floyd.

He said he never intended to get involved in politics, but could not decline.

"I've never ever dreamed of being a council member, but because the residents came to ask me to do so, I felt I should help," he said.

Jackson has lived in the Village of Walnut Creek for 17 years.

"I wanted to live in Walnut Creek since I was a boy," he said. "I bought a lot my first year out of college."

Jackson currently serves as the village's police commissioner. He said he will continue to work to make the village safe. Having a strong police presence is crucial, he added.

"There was a reason we developed a police department from just one ranger doing everything, and a city clerk working out of her house," he said.

Jackson said Walnut Creek residents learned they have to be able to cope with the problems that come with being a municipality. The storm proved to many that the village had to be operated like a small town.

"All it had for years was a small brick building working as a city hall. The hurricane opened people's eyes. They realized stuff had to be taken care of and attended to," he said.

Jackson said he hopes the village will eventually get its own U.S. Postal Service office. He said the council should continue to pursue other services to improve the quality of life at Walnut Creek.

"I really care about Walnut Creek, and I want it to be a great place to live," he said.

Jackson holds a bachelor's degree in business management from East Carolina University. He is part of the family business, Jackson & Sons, founded by his father in 1974.

Dave Colburn, 60, is running for a seat on the council for the first time. He said he believes the council has done good work and is seeking a seat in hopes of helping continue that tradition. He said his business experience could benefit the council and the town.

"The people that have been on council have done an amazing job. I'm not replacing a problem. I don't view it that way," he said. "They have done a lot of work to benefit the community, and I want to be a part of it. I want to take some initiative to maintain the ambiance and atmosphere of Walnut Creek and help it grow and grow in the right way."

Colburn said the council has managed to keep taxes relatively low and he would work to keep it that way.

"I want to continue the excellent work that has been done by this current council to be a proponent for a good infrastructure and reasonable tax rate."

He said he also would work to develop the village's lake and continue to upgrade services and utilities. Planning is critical to the success of those ventures, he said.

"We have to determine how large we want Walnut Creek to be first," he said. "There is an interesting mix of people living here, and we have to have services that both the younger families and senior citizens will enjoy. The new playground area is a great start."

Colburn has lived in the village for 12 years. A graduate of Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, N.Y., he completed graduate work at the University of Michigan, the University of Illinois and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He is semi-retired, but still works as president of Electronic Data Systems and is on the board of directors for SmartOnline, the Walnut Creek Country Club, the Automotive Industry Association and the Automotive Sales Council.

Candidate Greg Ricker, 44, finished third in the race for two seats on the council in 2005.

He said if elected he would like to see the council do more long range planning. The village is growing and planning to accommodate that growth is vital now, he said. The village's infrastructure has to be able to keep up, he said.

Ricker said he would start with traffic patterns and road development.

"The roads that surround the village, I don't know if they are going to be able to handle more traffic."

Ricker also wants to increase security of the village.

"Occasional checks at the entrance aren't a bad idea," he said. "It may become a gated community if the residents wanted that, but going private means taking on additional expenses, and I don't know if that will happen."

As a member of the lake committee, he wants to increase lake enforcement as well.

"I think we have an opportunity to be a little stronger with enforcement in the village today," he said. "The lake is looking the best it has in several years but we need to address dredging and maintenance issues.

"There is a strong lake committee now who is very pro-active. Let's keep it up."

Ricker said he is running because he believes people need to be involved in their communities.

"I think all of us have an obligation to make the community we live in better," he said.

Ricker is vice president of information systems at Strickland Insurance Group, and before that, he was the director within information technology operations with Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio.

Jeff Wharton, 49, is running for a seat on the council for the first time.

He is the current chairman of the Walnut Creek Crime Watch and plans to continue to his work with that committee.

"I am concerned with safety, security and friendliness of the village," he said.

He said he wants to "bring a perspective of the residents" to the council.

Wharton said his top concern is family. He said he would work to improve the quality of life in the village. Specifically, he said, he will push for a new sewer line, water irrigation controls and more recycling instead of burning garbage.

"Air quality is also important," he said.

Wharton is the executive vice president and general manager of IMPulse NC in Mount Olive. He also is a certified flight instructor.

Willis Underwood III, 43, is a write-in candidate for the council. He ran for a seat on the council several years ago and was urged by friends to try again.

He said if elected he would listen to the concerns of residents.

"I don't have an agenda, per say," he said. "I just desire to be a voice for all the residents of the village.

"I guess it sounds cliché, but I would like to have more participation from the village," he said. "I would like to do what the mayor (of Goldsboro) is doing and having block parties, so to speak, and have residents come here to let me know where they want the village to go."

Underwood said he believes he would be a good council member. He said he loves living he village and work diligently to keep its family atmosphere while at the same time, planning for its growth.

Underwood attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in political science. He owns Underwood Insurance Services.

The village council has five members in all. Terms are four years. The five council members select one to serve as mayor.