Commissioner candidates share their view
There are three Haywood County commissioner seats up for re-election, and five Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination, including the three incumbent commissioners.
Commissioners Kirk Kirkpatrick, Sorrells and Bill Upton point to accomplishments of the board in the past years, while Kyle Edwards, Maggie Valley, and Robert McClure, Waynesville, are seeking changes in local government.
The candidates were asked to share their views on top issues in the county and how they would address them. Their responses are as follows.
Kyle Edwards, 74
One year at Western Carolina University
General contractor, owner of Stompin’ Grounds
Experience: Business management
Why seeking office: Experience in business, better to manage money
Top three goals if elected:
1. Don’t buy it if we don’t need it
2. Dispose of unused equipment
3. Ensure surplus property money is returned to the general fund
Kirk Kirkpatrick, 45
Education: B.A. Catawba College; Juris Doctorate — Regent University
Experience: Served as commissioner for past 11years, local attorney for 19 years, and a variety of civic, county and community governing boards, including MedWest and Haywood Regional Medical Center governing boards.
Why seeking office: I began running in 2002 to make decisions that were in the best interests of the people. I soon discovered that the decisions that need to be made for the best interests of the people are not always ones that every person agrees on. I like to think I consider all factors before making decisions. My education experience and long family history in the county help me to be a good candidate for the job. I also consider the feelings, opinions and factors of issues and fairness before rendering decisions.
Top three goals:
- To see through the transfer of our Haywood County hospital to DukeLifePoint to ensure the citizens of Haywood County that they will be provided with quality health care in the future.
- Continued support of our educational system that promotes and gives an opportunity for our children to succeed and attracts new residents.
- Meeting the challenges of the changing legislature by addressing unfunded mandates and approving a budget and tax rate that aren’t a burden on the people.
Robert McClure, 67
Education: Two years at Western Carolina University
Experience: I have worked public jobs since graduation — 32 years at Dayco and I have worked with the Sheriff’s Department; also a total of 28.5 years in the Army Reserve. My wife and I also own a small farm at Crabtree. I love and care about Haywood County.
Why seeking office:
I have lived in Haywood County my entire life and see the changes in our county and feel the county is not going in the right direction. The commissioners do not seem to be concerned with getting new jobs into the county. The employees of Haywood County are not paid on the scale other counties are using. The wage scale is the lowest in all of Western North Carolina. How can we keep competent staff when our wage scale is so low?
Top three goals:
1. Find jobs for the young people of Haywood County allowing them to stay in the county.
2. Get out of the real estate business. Some of this property could be used as a recruiting enticement for new business.
3. Be more people friendly in our county business. We work for the people, not the people working for the commissioners. Decisions need to be based on helping the majority not a chosen few.
Michael T. Sorrells, 57
Education: Bachelor of science, University of Tennessee
Experience: Haywood County Board of Education, 2004-2008; county commissioner 2010 to 2013; small business owner, various boards and committees
Why seeking office:
I want to continue to improve Haywood County and the quality of life for all citizens. I feel I am the best person for the position for many reasons. I have lived in this county all my life. I work and own a business in the county and raised my family here. I have first-hand knowledge of Haywood County and its people. My common sense approach to government, my business background and my public service as a Haywood County Board of Education member and the last four years as a county commissioner have prepared me to be the best candidate for Haywood County Commissioner.
- Seek jobs and economic growth. We need to be aggressive in seeking out new job opportunities for our citizens. We also need to be focused on job retention and growing existing businesses. As a commissioner, I have been and will continue to be aggressive in accomplishing this goal. In the last four years, we have worked with existing businesses and provided necessary incentives to add over 125 new jobs and improvements to facilities that have increased our tax base.
- Continue supporting education. This is extremely important as we prepare our children and our citizens for the future. We must make sure we have a workforce that is educated and trained for future job opportunities. As a commissioner, I have and will continue to support our public schools and our community college so they can provide the education and training our children and citizens will need in the future.
- Continue to work to keep Haywood County an affordable place to live and raise our families. We should constantly strive to improve our quality of life. As a commissioner, I have and will continue to keep our taxes as low as possible. I will ensure streamlined government all while providing and improving services our citizens expect and deserve.
Bill Upton, 69
Occupation: Retired educator, county commissioner
Education: Master’s degree, Western Carolina University
Experience: County commissioner since 2006; Haywood County Schools administrator, 1971-1997, Superintendent of Haywood County Schools, 1997-2005.
Why seeking office: I enjoy working with our present commissioners. I truly believe we have a common goal of doing what is best for the citizens of Haywood County.
I believe that I am the best candidate for Haywood County Commissioner because of my experience and integrity. As a school administrator for 34 years and as a county commissioner for the past eight years, I have advocated for our most precious resources, our children and our families. I have managed large budgets with responsibility and integrity and I haven’t been afraid to make tough decisions. I have worked to find the best solutions to our county’s needs while being open to the will and voice of our citizens.
Top three goals:
- Keeping education a top priority by making sure the school system has resources to hire the best teachers.
- Providing job opprotunities by expanding businesses with economic development incentives
- Keeping taxes as law as possible by streamlining services