For the first time in years, Troutman Mayor Elbert Richardson will face an opponent on the ballot when town voters will go to the polls this fall.
Retired Iredell County Lt. Sheriff Ron Wyatt is challenging Richardson, the first time the mayor has faced anything other than write-in votes since he was first elected in 1999. Voters will also be selecting two town board members.
▪ Richardson, 72, is seeking his fifth term as the town’s leader. Richardson says his 16 years in office have been occupied with two major initiatives: At first, “cleaning up the reputation of the previous administration and working on the town’s neglected infrastructure.” Then, in his more recent terms, “addressing responsible growth, including the build-up at Exit 42.”
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The mayor said he was especially proud of the quality-of-life improvements in Troutman during his time in office, including the extension of the greenway, a new library and the construction of the Town’s ESC Park.
He is also pursuing a partner with the town and county to develop a business/light industrial park. “Such a facility would provide jobs and much-needed, nonresidential tax base so that the residential property taxes are not required to be the primary source for providing services.”
Born and raised in Florida, Richardson moved to North Carolina in 1965 to begin a career in banking, including the North Carolina National Bank, the predecessor of Bank of America. He serves on several regional committees, including the Salvation Army Board, the Iredell County Community Foundation, and the Charlotte Regional Conference of Mayors.
He is married to the former Joyce Bowden and they have three grown sons and five grandchildren.
▪ Challenging Richardson is Ron Wyatt, 49, a Troutman native who served with the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office for nearly 22 years. While Wyatt says growth is the biggest issue facing the town, he is also concerned with town taxes and fees.
“I have listened to many in the community voice their concerns as to why we have the largest water/sewer rates of any town in North Carolina” he said. “I also have heard displeasure of our tax rate. I have chosen to roll my sleeves up and get involved as mayor.” Wyatt said that, if he is elected, he will be “physically available at Town Hall daily to help the citizens of Troutman to address these concerns and others that may arise.”
Regarding growth in the town, Wyatt said that “we must have personnel, policies and planning in place that will no longer allow developers to promise one thing, get the profit and leave without completing their promises.”
Wyatt was raised in the Troutman area from childhood and attended local schools. He volunteers at Troutman Middle School coaching football. “I love the Troutman community and the many friends and acquaintances here.”
Married to the former Julie Brawley, they have twin sons age 12.
Troutman voters will also select two candidates from a field of five to serve on the town board, and at least one will be a newcomer, because longtime board member Betty Jean Troutman has chosen not to seek re-election.
▪ The incumbent is Judy Jablonski, 71, who was appointed by the town board in June 2014 to finish the term of her son, who resigned when he moved out of town. She sees growth as the town’s major issue.
“It is inevitable, and how we handle it is critical. In order to preserve the nature of our town, we must work to incorporate the correct balance among residential and commercial development, and light industrial growth via the creation of an industrial park.”
Jablonski has previously served on the Board of Adjustment and the town Planning and Zoning Board. She and her husband, Dick, grew up in Connecticut, moving to Troutman in 2004. They have one son and one grandson.
▪ Seeking a spot on the town board for the first time is John Larew, 66, a retired 911 telecommunicator with Iredell County and the Cornelius Police Department. Larew also sees growth as the town’s major issue.
“The town needs new businesses, commercial growth and continued improvements to our infrastructure to have balanced growth” he said. “With the influx of new businesses, it will help keep our tax base low, as well as giving jobs to people in our area.”
Larew serves as vice-chairman of the Troutman Fire Department Board of Directors. He and his wife, Janice, moved to Troutman in 1977. They have one grown son.
▪ Giovanni Pellegrino, 46, owner and operator of Pellegrino’s Trattoria in Troutman, is another candidate for town board, also seeking office for the first time.
Pellegrino also cited growth as a major issue “but I don’t want this town to be like the next Mooresville. It’s ready for a little growth. More than that I’d like to see what we can do to save our citizens some money on taxes and for the business owners, like myself, to make things a little easier to establish and keep their life savings or investments in the town.”
Pellegrino, a Manhattan native, is single and came to Troutman in 2007, when he opened his family restaurant on Main Street.
▪ Also seeking office is James Troutman, husband of retiring town board member Betty Jean Troutman. While he also agrees that business growth is important, Troutman cites traffic as the town’s biggest issue.
“I’m ready to work with the state DOT to address the traffic issues we face in town, especially trying to make left turns from Main Street. I’d also like to see an industrial park developed in town, and some more growth near Exit 42.”
Troutman, 74, was raised in the town and worked at the Southern Screw Co., as well as Town Hall. He and his wife, Betty Jean, have one child and one grandchild.
▪ Brian Schafer also filed to run for the Town Board in July and his name will appear on the ballot. However, he has since stopped campaigning as his job may require him to move out of state, he said.
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cast your ballot
Voting will be held 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Troutman Baptist Church, 305 Perry Road. Early, one-stop, voting at the Board of Elections in Statesville begins Oct. 22 and ends at 1 p.m. Oct. 31.