Hamlett wants to be part of collaborative board

By DeeAnna Haney | Oct 28, 2013
Dr. Ralph Hamlett

A lifelong resident of Canton, Ralph Hamlett is running for alderman in hopes to bring a sense of collaboration and compromise to the town’s governing board.

Dr. Ralph Hamlett, 62, is a professor of communication at Brevard College, also serving as an adjunct professor at Haywood Community College. His father, James Ralph Hamlett, served as Canton’s police chief for nine years until his retirement.

Like many of the other alderman candidates, Hamlett shares the desire to create economic growth in Canton.

“We need to use our voice to sell the town of Canton, which seemingly hasn’t been done effectively in the past, to come up with some sort of vision statement or mission statement and work together to target certain potential businesses and actively courting them, selling the values of Canton…” he said.

He believes offering incentives to potential business owners would entice them to take up shop both downtown and on Champion Drive.

“What we need is not only quality businesses, but businesses that treat their employees well and give them affordable wages so they can raise their families well,” he said.

He would like to find a way to attract a big box retail store and restaurants to Champion Drive.

Though he knows many people wish to see downtown Canton return to the hey day it once was several years ago, Hamlett said, “unfortunately, that’s not going to happen because people don’t walk the downtown streets to go to a drug store. But they will walk downtown to go to a specialty store — stores they can’t find anywhere else.”

Improving aesthetics of downtown will be a way to attract more unique stores. To make those improvements, he believes the board could work closely with the building and business owners and offer incentives for them to keep the buildings looking nice.

“As we try to extend the tax base, what we can do is offer incentives for individuals, maybe reduced tax rates for improvements that they do make. If they invest in Canton by improving our town, in turn we can invest in them,” he said.

Another priority for Hamlett is to make sure sewer systems and water lines throughout town are up to date.

“We shouldn’t wait until it breaks to make a repair. We’ve got to be alert to the needs of Canton to take steps to make sure we’ve got our water system up to date so we don’t have breakage,” he said.

Though he’s aware that budgets are tight, he wants to make sure the board makes needed street repairs.

“Many of our streets are in dire need of repair — grass growing up through the asphalt and potholes,” he said.

Hamlett is also an advocate for offering recreation opportunities for youth and activities for senior citizens.

“Growing up in Canton, I could always go to the pool and that was central for many of us. The pool is in dire need of repair and it’s going to be an expensive undertaking,” he said.

To fund the project, he said the board could explore grants and bond referendums to offset the cost.

“I would in no way advocate doing away with the facility. Something needs to be done,” he said. “I would like to see perhaps reduced rates (at the pool) for Canton residents. They are tax payers and they should enjoy the benefits of paying taxes.”

Camp Hope is also a recreational resource Hamlett would like to see the board promote to the county and tourists for events.

“I would like to see it used as it once was as a camp for kids during the summer,” he said.

He believes that an employee at the town hall could take over the responsibility of promoting facilities like Camp Hope.

“I would not advocate making a new hire for someone in economic development. I would argue that we have positions already available where that can be done,” he said, adding that the new town manager, whoever that will be, could assign those responsibilities.

Hamlett said he is not sure of his position on the idea of raising the county’s occupancy tax by 2 percent to help fund recreation projects.

“If there would be guarantees that the money would be used to benefit Canton, I would be supportive. That’s the caveat. I would like to see guarantees,” he said.

Hamlett said he is not running for alderman for accolade or for his ego, but because he loves Canton and wants to see it not only grow, but thrive.

“One of the reasons that people suggested I run and one of the reasons that I am willing to run is because I think I can bring my intelligence and somewhat of a vision to the board. My education background will inform my thinking as I work with other board members,” he said.

He intends to approach the decision making position as alderman with compromise in mind and to collaborate with the board even when the vote doesn’t go his way.

“What I do know I will do — I will talk with my colleagues and with the mayor and I may disagree, but I’m not going to be disagreeable and that is key to my personality,” Hamlett said.