Name as it appears on the ballot:Earl McKee
Full legal name, if different Earl Thomas McKee
Date of birth: July 5, 1952
Home address: 5200 Kiger Rd., Rougemont, NC 27572
Mailing address, if different from home:Same
Campaign website: www.earlmckee.com
Occupation & employer: Self-employed – farmer- McKee Agri-Products
Spouse's name: Sandra Lloyd McKee
Spouse's occupation & employer: Retired teacher, Orange County Schools
Years lived in Orange County: 57
Cell phone: 919-812-3248
1, What are the three most important issues facing Orange County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
1) Taxes and Spending- When faced with shortfall in revenue we must try to reduce expenses. We cannot fund every request without increasing property tax burdens on our citizens
2) Identifying budget priorities- We must continue to support our schools, sheriff's department, and emergency services. We also must fund essential county offices including health and social services.
3) Economic Development- We need to work toward extending sewer and water lines into the economic development districts, simplify the planning and permitting processes, and work to reverse the image of Orange County as being anti-business.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I have been involved in activities and organizations in Orange County since the early 1970's.
Currently I serve on the Orange County Planning Board and this has allowed me to see the planning and permitting process from the inside. Having been involved in small-scale development projects, I was familiar with the difficulties in navigating the regulations necessary to complete the projects.
Helped organize the Caldwell Fire Department in the late 1970's. I served as a volunteer fireman for 22 years and served on the Board of Directors in several capacities. Currently I am President of the Board. As President of this board, I have worked with board members to develop a workable budget that does not require an increase in our tax rate while continuing to improve our service to the community.
I am a lifelong member of Little River Presbyterian Church and have served several terms on the Elder Board as well as chairing committees.
Having served on these various boards has given me the ability to work with others to achieve the best outcomes for all involved.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I define myself as being conservative on fiscal issues and moderate on social issues. Having served on the Board of Directors of Caldwell Fire Department, I have worked to ensure that the taxpayers received excellent fire and first responder protection without having yearly tax rate increases. I support funding our schools, public health and social services as well as public safety and waste collection services the citizens of Orange County expect.
4. Provide a candid assessment of the county's waste transfer site location process, what went well, what didn't and what can be learned from the debate? Do you agree with shipping trash to Durham? How ultimately should Orange County dispose of its trash?
The search for a waste transfer site spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and untold hours of staff time, only to reject all of the proposed options and ship the trash to Durham. While the use of the Durham facility will provide short-term relief, Orange County needs to take responsibility for its own trash disposal and work toward a long-term solution. Future discussions should explore regional solutions to trash disposal through new technologies. If anything can be learned from this past search process, it is that this will continue to be a contentious issue and that in the end the board will have to make some difficult decisions.
5. The county is culling, combining and eliminating some of its advisory boards and commissions because of overlap and inaction. What types of advisory boards and committees are productive and useful to the board? Which boards should be eliminated? How will you work with these groups in office?
Any recommendation on combining and/or elimination of advisory boards and commissions should come from the county manager. This will reduce the amount of political influence involved in the process. While I will not select specific boards for elimination, I believe that the staff should look at these boards and commissions from the perspective of 1) why it was established 2) is that need still relevant 3) does it overlap with another board or commission. Once elected, I will consider the work and recommendations of these boards and commissions in making decisions for residents of Orange County.
6. What your position on library services in Orange County? To what extent should the country pay for the Chapel Hill Public Library and how much money can the county reasonably afford to commit to this effort?
Orange County's commitment to public library services is displayed by the recent opening of the new facility in Hillsborough. This centrally located facility along with satellite facilities in Carrboro and Cedar Grove provide the citizens with print, as well as electronic access to information. In addition to these facilities, Orange County also contributes toward the operation of Chapel Hill Public Library to offset the cost of service to county residents. I would support continued funding for the Chapel Hill Public Library at current levels while working to increase the level of service through our County Library System.
7. Do you support the half cent regional rail tax? How do you envision regional rail working for Orange County. Where will it connect? When and how?
Support for any new tax proposal should come from those who will be required to pay that tax. The overwhelming rejection of the Land Transfer Tax Initiative in 2008 indicates that there is very little support for new tax proposals. I believe that we must focus in the short term on providing of the needs of Orange County residents without placing additional tax burdens on them. Any rail service planned for the future should take advantage of existing infrastructure wherever possible and focus on service to the greatest number of our residents. All options to obtain federal or state grants toward this service should be investigated. Regardless of how or when we proceed with this discussion, I think that we need to insist that passenger rail service be looked at from a cost/benefit basis.
8. As a commissioner, how will you provide effective oversight of the many county departments, sheriff's office, etc. while in office?
Oversight of any county function can be achieved by the board through the budget process, and establishing clear goals and expectations. On a day to day basis the county manager should be responsible for oversight in order that every department in Orange County is free from political influence. The role of a county commissioner should be to work to set policy and goals for the county, listen to citizen input in order to determine if the taxpayers are receiving the services they are entitled to, and chart the future direction of Orange County so that all of its citizens benefit.
9. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
In every group or board that I have served on over the years I have always tried to ensure that everyone had an equal chance to express their views. I have tried to work toward solutions that achieved the best outcomes for these organizations. My election to this board would bring a rural voice of moderation to this board and give many people in Orange County the representation they feel has been lacking for many years.
10. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
If there is any one issue that stands out above all others it is: Spending. It is necessary that we hold the line on spending in all areas and reduce spending wherever possible in order to reduce the need for continuing tax increases. I realize that everyone talks spending reduction as long as it does not affect them and that many people will be upset over cuts to their favorite programs but I believe that we are going to be faced with continued revenue reductions from the state. We must make the necessary adjustments now in order to ensure that Orange County is positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the future.