5 hopefuls seek 3 Stantonsburg board seats

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Five people are in the running for three open seats on the Stantonsburg Board of Commissioners.

Newcomers Coley Hunt Rhodes, Jeanna Clary and James M. Fontaine threw their hats in the ring along with incumbents Donnie Bass and Jackie Grice.

Of the five candidates, Bass and Clary provided written responses to questions The Wilson Times distributed by mail. Surveys were sent to candidates’ addresses as provided to the Wilson County Board of Elections and were mailed the same day.

Early voting continues from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays through Nov. 3 and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4 at the Wilson County Board of Elections, 112 Douglas St. Election Day is Nov. 7.

As with all municipal candidate surveys, responses are organized by alphabetical order of the candidates’ last names. The newspaper’s questions and candidates’ answers are as follows:

Where do you see your community in five years and what would you do to help the town achieve that vision?

BASS: In five years, I see Stantonsburg as a small town that has an opportunity to really grow. With the development of the industrial park along Highway 58, near 264, Stantonsburg would become a bedroom community for the employees of these corporate businesses. Improvements and upgrades have been made to the town’s infrastructure to efficiently and effectively handle additional utility services and loads. With additional residents and a larger traffic volume, opportunities for small businesses would grow as well. Tenants will fill currently empty businesses and downtown revitalization would take place. Our public services departments, fire, EMS and police will be as strong and involved as ever. I will be an active advocate that will promote our town and encourage others to call Stantonsburg home as well.

CLARY: Our community is vibrant with events, a nice park and a police force that is visible and responsive. We also recently gained the ability for online payments for utilities. I see us building on this vibrancy and progress by inviting and working toward more technological advancement to attract business and involvement by more members of our community.

Why are you uniquely qualified to serve your community in an elected capacity? Please share any details about your background that you feel are relevant to the office you’re seeking.

BASS: I have been blessed with the honor of serving on the Stantonsburg town board for the past eight years. I was born and raised in Stantonsburg. While on the board, I have been asked to make some very important and difficult decisions. I will continue to be a voice for each and every citizen.

CLARY: My background in the legal and banking fields and working with the general public in every job I’ve held since I began working at age 16, along with my education and professional experience, will aid me in the technical parts of governing and have given me the people skills, diplomacy and tact to listen to my constituents.

How would you work at a regional and state level to bring resources and grow the community?

BASS: I also currently serve on the Wilson County Planning Board and have gained knowledge to better grow our county and Stantonsburg. Strategic planning, staying abreast, securing state and federal funding and resources such as grants will help grow our community.

CLARY: I would reach out to the Wilson Economic Development Council and our local Chamber of Commerce to develop leads for attracting business, and the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments to look into grants to improve services, infrastructure, equipment for our police department, and other such things for our community along with any other such agencies that can aid us.

What is your stance on open government issues? Would you ever consider enacting staff-time surcharges for public records requests or support the posting of public notices on low-traffic municipal websites instead of publishing them in the newspaper?

BASS: Open government is a positive approach to transparency. I encourage and invite all the citizens of Stantonsburg to attend our monthly meetings. For those who cannot attend, our meeting minutes are available for review on the town’s website. Websites and the newspaper are great tools to get information out to the public.

CLARY: This is actually three questions in one. An elected representative’s responsibility is to represent the views of their constituents. A government operating in closed session in matters not required to be so heard by law is operating outside of the law and interest of the people it purports to represent. Further, no citizen should have to fight to receive information/documents they are entitled to receive under the North Carolina Public Records Act. I will never support enacting staff-time surcharges for public records requests, as I believe the current charge of 25 cents per page more than covers the time a staff member would spend to make copies.  I personally paid $77.75 for a copy of the Stantonsburg Town Charter. I copied the 311 pages myself, and it took less than an hour. I don’t support the posting of public notices solely on low-traffic municipal websites, as a good portion of the members of our community are elderly, on fixed incomes or otherwise economically depressed and may not have internet access. Notices should be published by both newspaper and municipal websites to ensure every member of the community can be notified and involved.

How does the broadband in your town compare to larger cities? How does that affect the future of your community?

BASS: The availability to broadband networks are limited in Stantonsburg. Regardless of the size town, everyone should have the opportunity for equal internet access. There should not be a monopoly or very few choices for this service. The more suppliers of such services in the same area create competition amongst themselves and bring down costs to the customer. Lack of availability limits growth and restricts resources to those who could benefit.

CLARY: We have broadband services available from Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) and HughesNet. There is the option of internet through mobile hotspots from cellular phone companies, but it is extremely cost-prohibitive. My plan, if elected, is to look into grants to expand infrastructure for other companies, such as Greenlight or Centurylink, to expand the services available to our community.

If elected, what would you do to stay responsive to your constituents’ concerns?

BASS: Just as I have done the past eight years, I will continue to have open lines of communication and welcome all suggestions and concerns. I will do my best to be the voice of each citizen who entrusts me with their vote. I believe in a community TEAM — Together Everyone Achieves More. Doing this will keep Stantonsburg “the best little small town in North Carolina.”

CLARY: I will provide multiple points of contact for constituents to reach me, including in person, phone, email, social media, or other available platforms. I am running because I don’t feel our current leaders listen to their constituents, and some have at times during meetings treated them poorly, rudely and with contempt, and I will not follow in those footsteps.