02/04/08 — Starling considering bid for county commission

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Starling considering bid for county commission

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 4, 2008 1:49 PM

Longtime Republican Party activist Willie Ray Starling has announced he is likely to be a candidate for the District 5 Wayne County Commission seat -- one that is currently held by Democrat Bud Gray.

"I'm not locked in until I actually go down and file, but I'm giving real serious consideration to it," Starling said. "A lot of people have come to me and talked to me about running, saying that we need a voice for the working man ... I'm a lot of things and a voice is one of them. I'll speak my mind. You may not like it, but you'll know where I stand."

His motivation for considering the run is, in large part, a desire to leave a strong foundation for future generations.

"As a father, grandfather and great-grandfather, I am reminded daily how our children are our legacy in the world, and we owe them our best leadership," he said. "As a Wayne County commissioner, ensuring top-notch educational opportunities, improving the quality of county services offered our citizens, strengthening every aspect of public safety and attracting new industry and higher-paying jobs to Wayne County will be my primary focus, should I run."

Running for county commission, though, will be a bit of a different challenge for Starling.

In 2002, he lost the Republican nomination for state House District 11 to Rep. Louis Pate.

In 2004, he lost the Republican nomination for state House District 10 to former Rep. Stephen LaRoque.

In 2006, he beat LaRoque, but lost the seat to Democrat, Rep. Van Braxton.

Now, with his sights set on the county level, he is confident he can win.

"Bud Gray is a good man, but he's mighty quiet up there. We need somebody who will speak up," he said.

Starling's primary issue in the race is the 76.4-cents-per-$100-value ad valorem tax rate -- and the decision to put a quarter-cent sales tax referendum on the May ballot.

"I've been going around voicing my opinions and pushing the conservative agenda for years," he said. "Somebody has got to be up there with the nerve to say 'no' every once in a while and not keep raising taxes. We need somebody up there who cares about the common man."

But he is not strictly a one-issue candidate.

He is also concerned about education and the other issues facing Wayne County.

"Something needs to be done to work with the school board to come up with a solution," Starling said. "I don't think the problems we have are a lack of funding."

The main problem, he said, is that there isn't enough parent involvement -- in large part because schools have become too big.

"We need more neighborhood schools. All these problems started when we consolidated our schools," he said.

But in the end, he continued, solutions are mostly going to take hard work and understanding between the two boards.

"I will do my dead-level best to attend all the school board meetings and work with those people," he said.

He also said that he thinks his experience as a retired U.S. Navy Reserve chief petty officer and a retired federal Department of Defense civilian, last assigned to the U.S. Army's Special Operations Command, as well as his time in the county's Republican Party, have put him in a position where he can provide effective leadership.

"My life right now is based on the service I did with the government," Starling said. "My many years of government experience have well equipped me to serve the citizens of Wayne County, and if I decide to seek this office it will be with their best interests at heart.

"I embrace conservative moral values in my own life, and I would exercise true conservative leadership as county commissioner for District 5."