Board of Commissioners
WE ENDORSE incumbents George Lucier, Tom Vanderbeck and Carl Thompson, who have helped the county improved its ranking as fourth out of the state's 100 counties in public school funding per student. In 2009, the board was honored as commissioners of the year by the North Carolina School Board Association for its innovative support of the county's schools in the midst of the financial crisis; teachers were not laid off, and the school budget was increased by 4 percent.
GOP commissioner candidates Brian Bock, Pamela Stewart and Walter Petty have formed a "constitutional conservative" alliance in John Locke-step with the far right. These candidates say they will change the direction of this progressive and effective board. This trio supports removing local government from decision-making on land use, instead allowing private property owners to determine how Chatham's land is to be developed and protected. If you want to know where that kind of thinking has led the county, drive through the hundreds of acres of defunct and bankrupt developments. (Editor's note: In print, there was a phrase missing in the previous sentence. It should have read "hundreds of acres," as it does here.)
We endorse Democrat George Lucier, who is seeking a second term. Lucier, a retired scientist, has lived in Chatham County for 37 years. In his first term as commissioner Lucier served as both chair and vice chair, and before he was elected commissioner, he served with Margaret Pollard on the planning board.
"When I took office in 2006, Chatham County land-use planning was ruled by big developers," wrote Lucier, whose first job as commissioner was to assist in implementing ordinances that would protect the rural environment of the county, as well as encourage careful growth. Lucier acknowledges that growth in Chatham County is out of balance, with a lot of residential growth but little commercial or business development.
Lucier says in his second term he will work to bring economic development and commercial development to the county while fostering its agricultural roots and discouraging sprawl. "We must make sure that our growth does not outstrip our ability to provide water, sewer, good schools and recreational facilities."
Republican challenger Brian Bock is a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who works as a financial planner/ analyst at the Chapel Hill branch of Sun Trust Bank. Bock has lived in Chatham County for more than five years and has never held public office in the county. Bock defines himself as a fiscal conservative who believes the Constitution and Bill of Rights "clearly state that we have basic rights given to us by God not by government."
Pros: Lucier is working on a regional consortium to construct a water treatment plant west of Jordan Lake, as well as a joint land-use plan with the town of Cary. He says he wants "to protect the water quality in Jordan Lake, enhance economic development in an area close to Research Triangle Park and to limit the legal ability of Cary to annex Chatham County."
Lucier voted for the resolution to keep the ICE program out of Chatham County because, he says, the 287(g) program can "encourage racial profiling," and create an environment of fear.
Cons: Bock says he will cut the budget 20 percent by cutting 5 to 7 percent every year he's commissioner. This would devastate essential services. At a candidates forum, Bock said the government should just get out of the way of its citizens: "Once the government gets out of the way ... the private sector can take over."
Campaign finance: Lucier loaned himself $2,000 of the $5,385 he's raised in this election cycle. Other backers include Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller ($100).
Bock has outraised Lucier, with nearly $9,000 in contributions, including $750 from the Chatham County GOP.
We endorse Democratic incumbent Tom Vanderbeck for a second term. Vanderbeck is a small-scale sustainable farmer who is the rural county government representative on the statewide e-NC Authority and is working to bring municipal broadband to Chatham County.
Challenger Republican Pamela Stewart is a communications manager for the Bayer Corporation, located in Research Triangle Park. She has not held public office in Chatham County but says she volunteers Triangle schools to teach children about science.
Pros: Vanderbeck serves on the Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization and Orange-Person-Chatham Mental Health Board, as well as several task forces in Chatham County that touch on crucial issues of housing, transportation, development and the environment.
Cons: Stewart did not return the Indy's questionnaire. Her election Facebook page says: "I am a 3C ... Constitutional Conservative Christian."
Campaign finance: Vanderbeck has raised $2,500 compared with $1,125 for Stewart, who counts Cathy Wright, a far-right candidate for state legislature among her supporters ($50).
We endorse Democratic incumbent Carl E. Thompson Sr., a Chatham County native. Thompson and his wife are co-pastors at Word of Life Christian Outreach Center in Siler City. He serves as director of continuing education at Central Carolina Community College. Thompson is the first African-American elected to the board of commissioners since Reconstruction. Thompson says he is seeking re-election so that he can finish what he began four years ago—to bring good-paying jobs to Chatham County, particularly in economically depressed Siler City.
Pros: He advocates fiscal accountability and notes that Chatham County has the highest bond rating of counties of similar size in the state.
Challenger Walter Petty did not return the Indy's questionnaire. He is a 52-year-old businessman who lives on the family farm in Bonlee. Petty owns Atlantic Power Solutions, Inc. He says the county must aggressively pursue job-producing industries.
Cons: According to his website, Petty will work to "eliminate the impact fee," a major source of school funding, and "stop major corridor ordinances." Petty has not held any public office in Chatham County.
Campaign finance: Thompson has raised $4,100 this election cycle, including $250 from Chatham Commissioner Sally Kost. Petty has a fundraising advantage with $5,100 in contributions, including money from the usual suspects—$750 from the Chatham GOP and $50 from Cathy Wright.
Board of Education
Four candidates are seeking the District 3 seat, but only one of them, Delcenia Turner, has returned our questionnaire and appeared at a recent candidates forum. Tina Ford, Jeff Johnson and Martin Pinnock did not return a questionnaire. Turner opposes keeping tenured teachers when they "have outlived their usefulness in the classroom."
WE ENDORSE Delcenia Turner, a civic activist and a children's advocate. If elected, she would be the only African-American on the school board.
Pros: Turner recommends teachng basic philosophy in seventh grade. She supports digital learning as long as it supports thinking processes instead of substituting for them. "I would not be in favor of throwing new technology at them[students] until they learned to master thinking critically and problem solving the old-fashioned way, on their own."
Cons: Turner opposes year-round schools and increasing impact fees to pay for the schools. "I would favor cutting some non-essential staff positions rather than limit instruction services for the children," she wrote on her questionnaire. She believes the county should look to the greater community for funding, although that's not a consistent revenue source.
Campaign finance: Turner is the only candidate who raised enough money ($1,000 or more) to file a report. Her $1,300 came in part from Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller and County Commissioner Sally Kost ($100 each).
WE ENDORSE Richard H. Webster, who, for the last eight years, has provided strong leadership for his 76 sworn deputies.They cover 707 square miles (that's 1.5 deputies per 1,000 people; state average is 2.5 deputies per 1,000 people). Webster is approachable and works on making himself and his deputies visible in the community.
Republican Larry Meadows is challenging Webster. He didn't return his questionnaire to the Indy, nor did he appear at a recent candidates forum. Meadows has been with the Siler City Police Department for 14 years and is a patrol sergeant.
Pros: Webster's office has a 44 percent average clearance rate of solving crimes, while the state average is only 28 percent. Earlier this year, Webster took heat for opposing the implementation of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) 287(g) program in the county. Webster believes the 287(g) program "is not an option for Chatham County."
Campaign finance: About 70 percent of Webster's $3,100 in contributions comes from his own deputies, who ponied up as much as $750 for their boss. Meadows didn't raise enough money to require filling out a form.