Commissioner candidates square off in Yadkin race

YADKINVILLE

As Nov. 2 nears, the four remaining candidates for the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners have begun to distinguish themselves.

The candidates have identified their priorities and sharpened their plans for improving the county’s economy, which include expanding the water system and improving the schools.

One Democrat, Larry Worth Vestal; and three Republicans, Roger L. Evans, Kim Clark Phillips and Brady Wooten, are running for the three seats being contested.

The top two vote-getters will each serve a four-year term. The third-place finisher will serve a two-year term.

Allen Sneed, a Republican, is running unopposed for a two-year term. Sneed is already a member of the new board, but he must still participate and be elected in the general election.

Sneed was filling the remainder of the term vacated by Josh Baity. Baity resigned in June 2003, and Evans was appointed to fill the seat until the 2004 election.

Sneed, 70, beat Chad Wagoner and George Rouchard in a Republican primary for that seat.

Commissioners Lloyd Davis, Brent Hunter and Johnny Myers chose not to run for re-election, creating openings for three new commissioners.

Larry Worth Vestal, 56, said his top priority would be to support local agriculture. Yadkin consists primarily of farmland. Farming has been a longtime contributor to Yadkin’s economy.

Vestal, a retired manager with the N.C. Employment Security Commission, said he would focus on recruiting jobs. Unifi Inc. cut positions in 2000-01 and Sara Lee Corp. closed its Yadkin plant in 2001.

Incumbent Roger Evans, 55, has been known as a fiscal conservative. On many spending items this year, he either abstained or voted against them.

Although he said he wants to improve Yadkin’s schools, he voted against the county taking out a $6 million school loan for high-school-expansion projects. Evans, however, recently voted for spending about $474,000 for the animal shelter.

He said he voted against the school loan because of the way it was handled.

Evans, who retired from Westinghouse, said he uses a “common-sense approach.” He voted against the current budget that included a 5-cent increase in the propery-tax rate. Evans said that if he wins, he wants to “keep taxes as low as possible,” although the school loan might require a tax increase.

“When a previous board has obligated you, sometimes your hands are tied,” Evans said.

Phillips, 46, said she wants to create and implement a five-year plan for Yadkin County. The plan would deal with short- and long-term needs, she said.

She supports building a water and sewer system that connects all towns in the county. She also supports school construction, the wine industry and attracting new industries and businesses.

Phillips is a research associate at Wake Forest University.

Wooten, 62, said that the county should focus on education.

“Teachers, as well as parents, are the foundation of how our children conduct themselves in adulthood,” Wooten said in a statement.

Wooten is a member of the local Citizens for a Sound Economy, a national group that advocates for lower taxes. He said that he is “100 percent against raising taxes.”

County Manager Cecil Wood has said that a tax increase is probably needed to help pay for the $6 million school loan that commissioners approved.

Wooten said that he would remain committed an anti-tax-increase pledge he signed months ago. Citizens for a Sound Economy distributed the pledge.

Wooten and Sneed are the only candidates who have signed the pledge.

Wooten said that if the Local Government Commission authorizes the school loan, he would use “zero-based budgeting justify each line item.”

That budgeting system would determine if allocations for any items could be eliminated or increased, he said.

“I’m committed not to increase taxes unless the voters approve a bond issue that calls for a tax increase,” Wooten said.

• Titan Barksdale can be reached at 727-7369 or at tbarksdale@wsjournal.com

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