Edwards seeks change in Canton
When Carole Edwards looks at her hometown of Canton, all she sees is potential for a prospering downtown and better recreation opportunities.
That vision and hope for progress is the reason she decided to run for alderman — to not just talk about change, but to make it happen.
“I just want to see Canton progress and move a little bit and not just sit there in a stalemate,” she said.
Edwards, 57, is retired from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and now works as a supervisor at the Haywood County Department of Social Services.
She's attended several board meetings and is longtime friends with Mayor Mike Ray and his wife, both of which has helped her understand some of the major needs in Canton.
The issue at the forefront of her mind is revitalizing downtown Canton by bringing in more businesses and improving the appearance of many of the rundown buildings.
“We are strapped financially like all other municipalities. We certainly don’t want to raise taxes. So my thought is we need to start researching other avenues for incentive money available for small communities so we can revitalize,” Edwards said.
If elected, she intends to create a partnership with building and business owners downtown to figure out solutions to the problem.
“If we can work together, they can get some revenue for their building and we can get businesses in our town,” she said.
Champion Drive is another area tapped for growth with a brand new sewer system. Edwards would like to court chain restaurants and retail stores to the area.
Another issue she feels strongly about is creating more quality recreation opportunities for families, starting with the old Canton pool. After years of patching up cracks on the deteriorating structure, she said it’s time to make a decision about the pool.
“That’s the last outdoor pool in this area and we need to make it a better place for families, and I think we can do that,” Edwards said.
Because she expects the town’s budget to be strained like every other year, she said the board could sponsor fundraising efforts and create community partnerships to help with the project.
“Patchworking it is not going to work forever,” she said.
If elected, Edwards also wants to find a way to build more ball fields at the International Sports Complex.
“For as many ball tournaments that we already have, we could see some major financial return off of that sports complex if we are willing to put money into it. You are never going to make any money off something if you don’t put money into it,” she said.
She plans to get the community involved in the effort and recruit volunteers who would be willing to donate time and talents to reach the original vision of the complex.
Another possible source of recreation funding could come from a 2 percent occupancy tax increase, an idea that never came to fruition earlier this year.
Edwards said if the issue resurfaces, she will be in favor of the 2 percent tax increase.
“It would certainly benefit everybody to have it. To me, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I do not think it would hurt our folks coming here to visit, considering what other places charge,” she said.
Marketing the town’s recreation facilities such as Camp Hope and the sports complex will play a big role in bringing tourists and income into town, she said. Edwards believes that
“I think we can utilize our current resources and it could be a part of someone’s job description. We can look at our current positions and we can rewrite some of the job descriptions,” she said.
As a longtime member of FOCUS on Canton, the group that created the popular Mater Fest, Edwards believes the town board could be more active in making events happen downtown by working in conjunction with FOCUS.
“We could do great things together, I really feel like we could,” she said.
If elected alderman, Edwards also intends to involve the community in all the board’s decisions.
“I want to hear what people in town have to say, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent because that’s what we are supposed to do. We are public servants for the town of Canton,” she said. “We have a great community and we have people that want to be involved. It’s just a matter of putting it out there.”
Ultimately, she would like to be a part of making Canton a place where her five grandchildren will want to live when they grow up.
Joining a brand new board will provide a fresh perspective for the town that she hopes to be a part of.
“I am not a politician. I don’t have a platform. But I do have a love for my town and I have a desire for it to come back somewhat to its former glory…we need to make it a desirable place where people want to live and make their home,” she said.