After serving as mayor of Mount Airy on an acting basis for two months, Steve Yokeley said he soon will be vying to remove the interim tag from that role.
“I have thought long and hard about it, and talked to a lot of people, and I have decided to run for mayor,” Yokeley said Wednesday.
“Everybody has been extremely positive,” he added regarding the prospect of his seeking the city’s highest elected office. Yokeley has been serving as both a South Ward member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners and mayor pro tem since the resignation of Mayor Deborah Cochran on March 31.
Yokeley had said when taking over for Cochran that he would entertain the possibility of running this year for the remainder of her unexpired term, and indicated Wednesday that positive public feedback helped cement his decision.
Meanwhile, with the candidates’ filing period looming, three other members of the board whose seats are at stake in the 2015 municipal election also said Wednesday that they plan to seek re-election.
They include Dean Brown, the longest-serving city councilman; Shirley Brinkley, who is completing her first four-term; and Jim Armbrister, who has been in office for more a year since being appointed to replace the late Scott Graham.
The candidates’ filing period for the mayor and commissioner seats opens on July 6 at 8:15 a.m. at the Surry County Board of Elections in Dobson. It closes at noon on July 17. Filing for any of those offices requires paying a $10 fee.
A primary, if needed, will be held on Oct. 6, with the city election set for Nov. 3.
Yokeley was elected as a commissioner in 2009 after running unopposed, and won a re-election bid in 2013 against two challengers. He still has more than two years remaining in his present term.
When Cochran announced her resignation in March, Yokeley was appointed by board members to assume the mayoral duties on an interim basis after her departure at the end of that month while also maintaining his role as a commissioner. The board’s Jon Cawley was the lone dissenter in that vote, explaining that he opposed one person holding both positions.
“It actually hasn’t been a whole lot different,” Yokeley said of his routine from serving in the two capacities.
A retired dentist who now operates his own realty firm, Yokeley said he received some urging to remain as a commissioner rather than seek the mayor’s post, but believes he could help the city better in the latter role.
One example he mentioned Wednesday concerns various actions in the state Legislature which will have a local impact.
“A lot of the future of Mount Airy will be determined by what happens in Raleigh, and I think I can better influence that as mayor than I can as a commissioner,” he said of the future role of the city’s top official.
“I think the focus may have to change a little bit.”
Yokeley also chairs the Mount Airy Redevelopment Commission, a group created last year to spearhead the revitalization of the former Spencer’s Inc. industrial property earlier acquired by the city government. If elected mayor, Yokeley said he might have to step down from that role.
Dean Brown, who plans to file for his third term on the city board next month, said Wednesday he wants to continue gains that have been made since he first took office.
“I feel like my service is not completed yet in Mount Airy, and the years of experience I have had have been successful and I’ve done a lot of good for the city,” Brown said.
Working to bring industry and jobs to town has always been a priority for him. “And I have brought some industries here myself,” added Brown, who plans to continue that if re-elected as well as trying to keep property taxes stable.
Brinkley said Wednesday her initial plan was not to seek a second four-year term in the seat she won by upending longtime incumbent Todd Harris in 2011.
“I had no intentions of running again, but when the mayor quit I felt like the city could not afford the possibility of having (a majority of) new people on board,” she said.
Brinkley said citizens tend to apply a label to everyone who serves in government, lumping them together as uncaring bureaucrats.
“And we’re all individuals,” added the first-term commissioner, who says she has endeavored to be a voice for everyone in the city, including fully researching all matters coming before the council.
“I believe we need commissioners on the board who are genuinely working for the public,” Brinkley said. “I am concerned for the citizens and I feel I work hard at it — as a commissioner, I am also a citizen.”
Ambrister said Wednesday that in wanting to seek his first full four-year term on the city council, he hopes to continue learning about the various issues involved and become more efficient in his representation.
One chief concern of his involves seeking to limit the role of government.
“I don’t want government trying to take too much control of people’s lives,” said Armbrister, a retired officer with the Mount Airy Police Department who also wants to help ensure it is adequately staffed. City police manpower “is extremely short,” he said of recent job vacancies.
Armbrister believes the municipality should meet some of its pressing capital needs while it has the money in the form of a reserve fund of more than $11 million.
He further expressed support for limiting the number of closed sessions the council holds.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.