Campaign signs in yards across the county are attempting to woo voters in Union County’s Nov. 3 municipal elections.
But who are the candidates? And what are the issues?
Mayoral candidates for three Union County municipalities – Indian Trail, Waxhaw and Weddington – recently shared what they see as the primary issues, and why they believe they’re the best candidate.
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While Indian Trail, Waxhaw and Weddington are three very different towns, they share a common challenge: rapid growth.
Waxhaw’s population has grown nearly 30 percent since 2010 – from 9,860 to 12,750, according to U.S. Census figures.
The number of candidates running for mayor has dropped to two: Dustin Williams and Commissioner Stephen Maher.
Current Mayor Daune Gardner recently announced that she is withdrawing from the race, but her name will still appear on the ballot. John Whitley, director of the Union County Board of Elections, said candidates must withdraw before the end of the filing period to keep their names off the ballot.
Maher and Williams are registered as Republicans, according to public voter information on the North Carolina Board of Elections website.
Maher was appointed to his seat as commissioner in July 2014 after the resignation of Commissioner Sean Poccia. He worked for IBM for more than 34 years, he said, and now works as an independent consultant.
Williams has lived in Waxhaw for four years and is vice president of operations for Cummins Atlantic.
Both candidates cited growth as an issue for the town in emailed responses to questions.
“Waxhaw is currently facing many opportunities to grow the right way,” Williams said. “Waxhaw needs prioritized transportation and roadway solutions so that the appropriate commercial development can take place. Residential development has far out-paced commercial development, and the right balance needs to be initiated and followed through.”
Maher said the town needs to “effectively manage growth and encourage smart growth by building and executing on a conscious set of policies that balances the rights of property ownership with our town’s heritage. High on the agenda will be to establish a workable transportation plan that addresses Waxhaw’s need for more efficient and greater connectivity.”
Maher also said the town must “execute strategies that retain and promote healthy business development while seeking to attract new businesses that will bring us new jobs and tax revenue while balancing the needs of our citizens.”
Asked why he should be elected mayor, Williams said voters should vote for him because he would be committed to “collecting the voice of the community, and speaking to key issues within the community,” making sure the right decisions are made at the right time.
When asked why he should be elected mayor, Maher said he believes the position should go to someone with experience in local government, the perspective needed to recognize various town needs, and “can commit to giving the time needed to do it right. I am the candidate that can offer all three of these essential elements to our citizens.”
Williams’ website: www.dustintwilliamsforoffice.com
Maher’s website: www.facebook.com/Steve-Maher-for-Mayor-Waxhaw-462770860559366
Waxhaw Board of Commissioners: Four candidates are running for two commission seats, including: Fred Burrell, Amina P. Lee, Mike Osborn, and Brenda Stewart.
Michael Alvarez, who has been Indian Trail’s mayor for four years, is challenged by Roger Fish, who has served on several town committees since moving to Indian Trail 11 years ago.
According to public voting records, Alvarez is a registered Republican and Fish is a Democrat.
With a population exceeding 36,000, Indian Trail is now the largest municipality in Union County, surpassing Monroe, the county seat, by several thousand. It has grown 8.2 percent since 2010, according to U.S. Census figures, so it’s no surprise that both candidates agree roads and traffic congestion are major issues.
“The mayor, town council and town manager must persuade the N.C. Department of Transportation, which owns the roads, and the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization to raise our road priorities in a state and regional system,” Fish wrote in an email. “This is precisely what the town is attempting to do and what I plan to do if elected.”
Alvarez confirmed in a telephone call that he agrees roads and traffic issues are a problem in Indian Trail. But he said he sees infrastructure problems throughout the county, not just Indian Trail, and there’s no magic button for fixing it. He said it will require time, money, patience and teamwork.
Fish said the lack of resources for infrastructure places a premium on cooperation among jurisdictions, and “Indian Trail’s leaders have to be alert, agile, and willing to compete and cooperate with others.”
Alvarez said he is also concerned about the potential for runaway spending on projects that do not bring infrastructure improvements or provide a net benefit to residents. He offered as an example the $8 million town hall planned for the intersection of Matthews-Indian Trail Road and Chestnut Square Parkway.
“We do need something bigger,” he said. “But they’re building a building that is 10 times the size…. We’re going from nothing to the Taj Mahal.”
He said he wanted the proposed new town hall to go before voters in a referendum. The majority of the council voted against Councilman David Cohn’s motion to call for a referendum
Alvarez said he is the best candidate for mayor because of his experience and because “I am the most accessible… to the people. I will listen to them.”
Fish said economic development, jobs and projecting a positive image for Indian Trail are key issues. He said having a low tax rate and strong fiscal position will attract new businesses and residents.
Fish said voters should support him because he has studied the town and its issues and is a seasoned and experienced administrator and works well with other people to produce results.
Fish’s website: www.rogerfishformayor.com
Indian Trail Council: Eleven candidates – including three incumbents – filed for three seats: David Cohn (i), Pam DeMaria, David Drehs (i), Gary Evans, Michael Faulkenberry, Christopher M. King (i), Tiffany McGee, Tripp Melton, Suzanne Schooler, Amy R. Stanton, and Mark Wireman.
The biggest issues facing Weddington vary according to which candidate you ask. Current Mayor Bill Deter said the biggest issue is managing growth, followed by keeping taxes low, keeping low-density housing with 1-acre lots and keeping commercial enterprises restricted to the town center.
Councilwoman Pamela Hadley, who is running against Deter for mayor, has a different opinion, tracing back to the town’s decision in April to cancel its 10-year fire-service agreement with Providence Volunteer Fire Department. Hadley was the only council member to oppose that decision, which led to the fire department filing a lawsuit against the town.
“The biggest issue facing Weddington today” is the potential for millions of dollars in punitive damages from the lawsuit, which was filed in June and amended in July,” Hadley said.
Superior Court Judge David Lee issued a preliminary injunction Aug. 25 that prevents the town from selling the Hemby Road fire station.
Hadley said the town’s legal fees are already approaching $200,000, and a jury decision could cost up to $3 million more. She said these costs “and the heartbreaking divide of our community” could have been avoided if Deter had taken the advice of state and county officials or listened to the community.
Deter said he has heard people who opposed the decision complain about what they say is a lack of transparency, but that the decision to cancel the fire service agreement came after approximately 42 meetings held with different stakeholders.
Deter said he is the best candidate because he’s been serving in the role now for two years. He said voters don’t need to hear what candidates have to say, but “look at what we’ve done.”
Hadley said she is the best candidate because “I have the ability to listen to, respect and work with the citizens, state, county and local officials… I have the ability to put aside personal opinion in favor of public consensus.
“None of the candidates running want to raise taxes, change zoning of our current housing density or allow commercial outside of our Downtown area…” she said. “None of those issues are being threatened… We need to raise the bar of people’s expectations of government. And change the way we treat each other.”
Deter is registered as a Republican and Hadley, who moved to Weddington in 2002, is registered as unaffiliated, according to the public voter information on the North Carolina Board of Election website.
Weddington Town Council: Three candidates filed for the District 2 council: Scott Buzzard, Liz Callis and Mikki Weaver. There are also three candidates for the District 4 seat: Barbara Harrison (incumbent), Janice Propst and former mayor Walker Davidson.
Hadley’s website: http://pamhadley.com/
Deter’s website: www.billdeterformayor.com
To see sample ballots for each town, visit the Union County Board of Elections website at http://www.co.union.nc.us/Government/BoardofElections.aspx