Zebulon Board of Commissioners candidates make their case at forum

amoody@newsobserver.comOctober 17, 2013 

— Three of the five candidates vying for two seats on the board of commissioners touted their experience and their desire for growth as reasons why voters should put them in office.

Beverly Clark, Annie Moore and Glenn York answered a series of questions at a candidate forum Oct. 15 at Zebulon Town Hall.

Two of the candidates running in the Nov. 5 election, Anne-Marie Mazur and her husband Michael Mazur, declined an invitation to participate in the event.

Clark, the only incumbent in the race, cited her 12 years of experience, while Moore and York, who ran unsuccessfully in 2011,explained why they are best-suited for the job.

“My experience working in state government, being involved with policy making, budgets, personnel issues – I think I have the qualifications to do a good job,” said York, a retired correctional administrator.

Moore, who is running for a seat on the board for the third time, on several occasions stressed town growth would be one of her main goals as Zebulon commissioner.

When asked what is Zebulon’s greatest strength and how the town should take advantage of its top strength to promote growth, Moore replied: “If we get more businesses downtown we can help Zebulon grow.”

Clark, the incumbent, pointed to the various grant funding obtained by town staff when answering the same question. York said being a quiet, farm-type community has historically been one of Zebulon’s greatest assets, and said the town should work to maintain that type of environment.

Clark and Moore followed suit after York named street paving as a top-priority capital project over the next four years. All three candidates agreed N.C. 96 has the most urgent traffic needs in town.

The also agreed that a commissioner needs to be a vocal advocate regarding school-related issues that are important to residents.

“As a commissioner, you need to be in contact with your representative for the school board, stand up for your town and get what your children need for the area,” Clark said.

Clark admitted that speaking out is her greatest weakness and said that “even after all these years,” she still needs to work on being more vocal if re-elected.

York mentioned the challenge of settling into any new position as an obstacle he would have to overcome if elected. Moore said she would have no weaknesses, and again alluded to her core objective. “I would like to see the town grow and to me that’s not a weakness,” Moore said.

Discussing downtown

The candidates faced two questions pertaining to recent initiatives in Zebulon’s central business district – what thoughts they have on improving downtown, and whetherthey support the recent push to establish an arts center. As part of the latter, they were also asked what the town’s role should be in creating an arts center.

Clark said downtown merchants that are currently working to form an association might address some of the needs in the area. She said it would be good if property owners would “do some things to clean up some of their properties.”

Moore said she agreed with Clark.

York mentioned to the ongoing efforts of the Zebulon Beautification Committee to spruce up downtown, and said the recently-adopted overlay district ordinance will also help improve its appearance.

As for the idea of an arts center, Clark supports the idea and said the town can, too. But she said the group of people pushing for the center should be the ones “to do the negotiation for the land and anything else they need,” rather than the town.

York said an arts center would create a win-win situation.

“The history of the (United) Arts Council working with municipalities has shown there is an economic advantage to having an arts center,” York said.

Moore said establishing an arts center would give the town another place where people can go and children can become involved.

Asked to explain the town’s ethics policy as it relates to commissioners and if the policy should strengthened, York said it’s simply about doing the right thing – even when no one is looking. He said the current policy is “very good” and that it does not need to be strengthened at this time.

Clark spoke of an ethics class she took after being elected to the board.

“It just goes to say that you don’t accept gifts from people, you have to watch for the conflict of interests, be very conscious of what you do and do the right thing,” she said.

Without citing specifics, Moore said the town’s policy should be strengthened, and that there are a lot of things in Zebulon that need to be done.

The candidates were also quizzed on the ethical connection between a commissioner and town staff members in terms of responding to concerns from the public.

Clark said she would carry a concern to the town manager, the mayor and the other board members to find a solution. Moore said that if there is a problem the board of commissioners cannot solve, “you have another step, which is the planning board.”

York said if someone has a problem, he would try to address the issue with town staff.

To close the forum, the three were asked to name a time they had to make a choice between between two viable options, and describe the decision-making process they went through to make that choice.

Moore said she had no idea. Clark recalled the challenge of creating design plans for the renovation of town hall. She said those involved “came to agree to disagree and it seemed like everything turned out alright.”

York pointed to times in his career when he had to make budgeting decisions that took a toll on personnel.

“We tried to do it with integrity, as far as policy was concerned, and with prayer,” York said.

Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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