Stallings candidates discuss projects, taxes

STALLINGS – Election filing is closed and candidates are gearing up for Election Day on Nov. 5.  Five positions are open on the Stallings Town Council including the mayor and districts 1, 2, 3 and 6.  The only candidate running unopposed is Deborah Romanow in District 6.

This week, Union County Weekly is taking a quick look at the candidates in Stallings for the mayoral and town council elections. Each candidate was asked the same four questions and responded through email. District 3 candidate Sergio Carrera did not respond to questions. Some candidates’ answers were shortened due to space restraints and one question was held. Find out more information about these candidates and other candidates from western Union County towns in future issues.

Stallings Mayor

Wyatt Dunn
704-882-3310
mwdunn@carolina.rr.com
www.WyattDunn.com

Relevant experience:  Eight years on Stallings Town Council, two years mayor pro tem
Education:  BS in community and regional planning, Appalachian State; Independence High School, Mint Hill
Family: Wife, Terri, of 32 years; children Matthew, 29, Tyler, 26 (LT JG in U.S. Navy), Allie, 18 (graduate of Porter Ridge High School), grandson Keegan, 3 months old
Years lived in Stallings:  17 years, Mint Hill native

What is main reason you’re running for election?

After serving eight years as a Stallings councilman, I am running for Mayor.  This election is about a vision for Stallings, leadership, character and bringing common sense government to our town.  I have voted for and led two tax decreases during my terms on council and will continue to be very conservative when spending taxpayers’ money.  I believe in protecting our citizen’s rights and property while maintaining a high quality of life.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan (CIP) after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?

The CIP is a tool to control spending and manage growth.  The CIP allows for a transparent view on how our money will be spent in future years.  The next step is to manage the CIP conservatively and not allow unnecessary projects to drain our funds.  The goal is to do projects that are needed and benefit everyone in Stallings.  Stallings Municipal Park is an example of managing taxpayers’ money to do the project.  We spent too much money on unnecessary items on the park but overall it benefits Stallings as an economic development tool to draw commercial growth and to provide recreation.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.

When I was elected in 2005 I promised the citizens of Stallings I would never vote for a tax increase and I’ve kept that promise.  The Stallings budget is too large and I voted for a 1 percent decrease in spending, but was in the minority.  Some of the projects have merit, like building sidewalks, but I do not support additions to town hall or renovating the civic building.  My opponent will try to make the Stallings Police Department an issue.  I support the Stallings PD and it is here to stay but their spending will be reviewed just like any other department.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

As mayor of Stallings, other issues to focus on are managing storm water and recruiting businesses that provide jobs.  We need to keep our storm water fee the same and prioritize projects that affect our citizens.  We have been successful in recruiting businesses to Stallings and we must continue by keeping our infrastructure in good condition.  My vision for Stallings is to keep taxes low and focus on quality of life projects that benefit everyone.  I believe I’ve demonstrated the vision, leadership and character during the last eight years that you want in a mayor.  Thank you for your support in the last two elections and please get out and vote on Nov. 5.

 

Al Graham
704-882-4223
algraham@carolina.rr.com

Relevant experience: Four years Stallings Town Council, co-chair Stallings/Indian Trail joint storm water committee, 30 years business owner/operator in local area.  Thirteen years working with Stallings zoning and permitting on business and residential projects
Education: High School; two years business/economic, horticulture
Family: Wife, four daughters (two married), one grandson
Years lived in Stallings: 13

What is main reason you’re running for election?

To introduce a plan that includes future investment to our infrastructure that will enable the town to grow our tax base to offset future tax increases as costs increase.  To stop the tax-and-spend method we currently have. To repair a council that does not work for Stallings as a whole. To represent all residents of Stallings with concerns and ideas. To make Stallings a place businesses would like to invest in and help grow our economy.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan (CIP) after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?

The next step is eight years past due and the most important component of a CIP. Investment for return. The future investment of dollars for sewer in our business districts will enable the town to receive a return on spending. We need to partner with the county and state to achieve infrastructure goals.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without  an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.

Eight years ago, Stallings had a fund balance of more than $5 million to be used for future growth or it should have been given back to the residents in a substantial tax reduction. The fund balance has been used more than once in the past eight years with only a small “token” tax reduction to residents. This was done for the purpose of future campaigning. I support using the fund balance for future growth projects that will give the town a return on investment. (Potter Road/Pleasant Plains intersection including storm water curb and gutter, sewer). I support the maintenance and public safety components of the CPI.   I do not support any tax increases in the future. With proper council guidance the town should be able to grow the tax base enough to support future controlled expenses and lower tax rates over time.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

Town leaders should focus on repairing a governing body that can work for the future of all town residents. Leaders should work regionally with other jurisdictions and agencies to promote a good economic condition for Stallings. Future growth is limited and our government and expenses need to be, also.

 

Stallings Town Council
District 1

James Arnette
980-202-0402
james.arnette@gmail.com

Relevant experience: Deacon at Idlewild Baptist Church for six years and served as vice-chairman for the last year.  I have spent more than 20 years in the Information Technology field and am currently working at Bank of America
Education: BS in business administration from Bryan College, master’s of information technology from University of Phoenix
Family: Married to wife for 13 years and we have three small children
Years lived in Stallings: 12 years in Country Woods East

What is the main reason you’re running for election?


I heard there was an opening and wanted to serve the people of Stallings by taking part in the city council.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?

I think the capital improvement plan was a good step in meeting the needs of the town while managing expenses.  The next step is the follow through on the implementation of different projects in the plan and making sure we stay within the budget.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.

From what I understand of the current town leader’s decision to pull from the fund balance, I feel this was the correct decision.  I would not vote for a tax increase to pay for these projects.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years? 

I think the main focus in the coming years should be on commercial growth in Stallings.  This would provide more jobs and taxable income from businesses.  This in turn would provide the funds needs to meet future capital improvements.

 

Regis Griffin
704-776-5204
griffrf@netzero.com

Relevant experience:  Served as a council member for eight years, five of those as president, on the Edgewood Borough Council in Pennsylvania.
Education:  Master’s degree in information science from the University of Pittsburgh and project management professional certification from the Project Management Institute.
Family:  Wife, Katherine
Years lived in Stallings: I’ve lived in North Carolina for three years and in Stallings for a year and a half.

What is the main reason you’re running for election?

I am running simply so I can contribute to my community.  The best way for me to do that is to use my eight years of experience as a municipal elected official to benefit the residents of Stallings.  As I hear the issues and residents’ concerns, I can relate practically every one back to a previous challenge that, through time, effort and desire I was able to solve.  Being an elected official at any level presents its challenges.  However, being in a position to help solve your neighbors’ issues and problems is very rewarding.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?

I believe that the leaders’ first step is to monitor the new plan to make sure it is going to be performed on time, on budget and deliver the expected results and benefits.  Once that is established, the next step will be to continue to develop the plan to identify capital improvement opportunities that increase quality of life, public safety and support revenue generating opportunities.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.

As a candidate, and in practice in my previous elected position, increasing taxes is always the last resort.  I would not have supported a tax increase.  Using a fund balance, in effect the town’s unallocated reserve funds, to support a Capital Improvement Plan is wholly appropriate.  Council and the manager need to review the plan annually to ensure executing the plan does not negatively impact the financial stability of the town.  And, elected and appointed officials have the flexibility to adjust the plan based on new information and unforeseen circumstances.  Therefore, I feel that the town should move forward with the projects but be prepared to adjust the plan as necessary.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years? 

Much of my focus, while an elected official, was on establishing effective and efficient government services and accountable, ethical and transparent government.  I believe town leaders need to focus on removing situations where conflicts of interest can exist.  One current example is that the police chief currently reports to the town manager.  It is an inherent conflict for the police chief to report to another appointed or hired staff member.  The police chief needs to be independent and report directly to elected town officials.  I also believe town leaders need to ensure the town is on a sustainable fiscal path through planning, forecasting and responsible spending to ensure expenses stay in line with revenues to minimize the future need for tax increases.

Rick Widmann
704-906-1930
rwid5zkv@aol.com

Relevant experience: 30 years in management/leadership positions with National Gypsum Company and Fortune Brands.
Education: BS in business administration – Boston University’s College Of Business Administration; MBA – Western New England University’s School Of Management; JD – Western New England University’s School Of Law.
Family: Married.
Years lived in Stallings: Seven years

What is the main reason you’re running for election?
To provide a better quality of life for everyone.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?
Provide clear communication about the plan to all the residents to ensure the issues/proposals meet the requirements of the community.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without  an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.
Not in favor of tax increases to pay for these projects.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

Cutting cost and waste in government, lowering taxes and improving efficiency and productivity.

 

Stallings Town Council
District 2

Rocky Crenshaw
704-882-3994
rcrenshaw3@windstream.net

Relavent experience: Worked for IBM for 21 years; employed with TTM/PRO-TEL for 15 years; and contracted to Bank of America
Education: Graduated from Independence High School; two years at Central Piedmont Community College
Family: Married to wife, Robin, for 30 years.

What is the No. 1 reason you’re running for election?

I have been president of the Stevens Mill neighborhood Board of Directors for about 10 years. During that 10 years we have made a lot of major improvements to our neighborhood without asking for any assistance from Stallings. I believe with proper planning, you can have projects and see them finished. All of our projects were completed without any increase to the homeowners’ dues.  This is planning. Our accomplishments have included: No increase in HOA dues in the past 10 years; built a park and picnic shelter; up-fit on our front entrance; added decorative/custom street, stop, speed limit, neighborhood information signs; added speed humps; and have had 100 percent HOA dues collected for 10 years.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?
Capital improvements are always good, if they can be completed without a major tax increase. There again (is needed) proper planning.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.

I think if the citizens of Stallings don’t see any capital improvements, they like myself often wonder “What is all my tax dollars being spent on?” Any time you can show a sign of capital improvements or projects being completed as planned, in your town without a huge tax increase, this would tell me and most citizens that Stallings has a well-organized town council and planning board. There always has to be some fluff in the yearly budget for the unexpected. There is always ways of cutting back in the budget, to be able to complete well-planned projects/capital improvements without a tax increase. Yes, don’t ever start something and not finish it. This is failure.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

Better planning, tighter budget, make some cuts in spending where possible and maintain a fair tax base for the taxpayers of Stallings.

 

Reed Esarove
704-564-0211
resarove@council.stallingsnc.org

Relevant experience: Current town council member
Education: B.S. in criminology from Florida State University
Family: Married to Tammy Esarove and have twin daughters and a younger son.
Years lived in Stallings: Approximately eight years

What is the main reason you’re running for election?
To continue the town’s future planning, maintain the current tax rate and to protect future investment in the community. Most importantly, preserving our citizens’ quality of life and build upon that whenever possible.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?
I think we should continue to adequately fund current projects and develop long-term project goals for infrastructure and economic development.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without  an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.
Yes, given the options available. No, I have not supported any tax increase in my four years of being on the council, and I will work to avoid any in the future. The projects have been funded by capital funds that the town has set aside for the last several years in order to accomplish these types of projects without a tax increase. The mark of good government is planning for the future with the resources that we have now.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

This next four-year term is going to be very dynamic due to a number of issues this next council will face. Some of them being: storm water phase 2 permitting requirements, revaluation within Union County, the changes in revenue as well as local government authority from the General Assembly and infrastructure needs (water and sewer) for increased economic development. There are and will be other important topics but these are a few significant issues.

Stallings Town Council
District 3

Walter Kline
704-668-5449
wkline2@carolina.rr.com
www.WalterKline.com

Relevant experience:  U.S. Army Officer Veteran (Rank of Major).  Management experience in private sector working for Ford Motor Company, American Standard, CHC, Bank of America.  I have held positions of increased leadership and management responsibility to include profit and loss budget accountability.
Education:  Bachelor of science in manufacturing technology, master of arts in business
Family:  Karen, my wife of 24 years.  We have two daughters who are both pursuing college educations.
Years lived in Stallings: 10 years

What is the main reason you’re running for election?
There is a time in life when we need to look beyond self and see how we can serve our community.  It is that time for me.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?
We must always focus on ensuring we are meeting the needs of our community in providing the services we deem as necessary. The capital improvement needs for infrastructure is a means to have a plan in place to understand the long-term costs and a plan to provide.This is good stewardship of assets that we have made investments in as a town.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.
I believe it was the right thing to pull from the fund balance.  We cannot continue to return to the revenue stream of increasing taxes.  We need to remember that we are still in a very slow economy; people are struggling to live within their means in the home.  We need to do the same as a town government.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

We should always explore how we can make government efficient in providing services.   This is an expectation we as citizens need our elected representatives to have as a priority continually.

 

Stallings Town Council
District 6

Deborah Romanow
704-941-1818
Deborah.romanow@ucps.k12.nc.us
www.facebook.com/DRomanow

Relevant experience:  Have served on the Stallings Planning Board for more 11 years
Education: B. S. in education from Bob Jones University and master’s in educational leadership from Wingate University
Family:   Jim, husband, married more than 34 years; two grown daughters and a son-in-law
Years lived in Stallings: 12 years

What is the main reason you’re running for election?
Having served my community for more than 11 years on the planning board, I want to further serve my town by giving a voice to the people in the town while making decisions in the best interest of the whole community.

Recently the town council approved the capital improvement plan after more than two years of work and discussions.  What do you feel should be the next step for Stallings leaders in regards to capital improvement?
Continue to evaluate the needed projects for capital improvements and determine the priorities based on community involvement.  I don’t have a definitive plan but will be willing to be a team player in the discussions.

This year’s budget was about $7 million, including some capital projects, and town leaders had to pull from the fund balance in order to pay for the projects without an increase in taxes. Do you feel this was the best course of action; would you have supported a tax increase to pay for the projects; or do you feel the town shouldn’t move forward with these projects at this time? Please explain why.

I believe pulling from the fund balance was the correct and best course of action.  Raising taxes in this deflated economy would have been foolish.  I am convinced that council, mayor and the town manager carefully considered all options and felt this was the best way to proceed.  Perhaps another year this would not be the best course of action and looking at cuts in spending or a small tax increase would be wiser.  Contrary to what we are being told in the media, our economy is still not healthy.  No one likes tax increases, but sometimes it does have to happen.  I am thankful Stallings still has one of the lowest tax rates in the area.

What are some other issues you feel town leaders should focus on in the coming years?

Working together with the council, mayor and town manager as a team in a professional way to grow our downtown area as well as transportation needs such as road improvements, sidewalks and public transportation.   Listening carefully to the individual communities by having regular meetings with them while keeping them in the know about what is going on in town.

 

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