Today, The Mount Airy News continues a series profiling candidates involved in next Tuesday’s city primary. It began with Wednesday’s publishing of material on two of the four candidates for at-large commissioner, including incumbent Jim Armbrister and Gene Clark. The other two candidates in the at-large race, Gail Proffitt and Jerry Taylor, are being featured today through an alphabetical-order format. Candidates were asked to supply biographical information about themselves and respond to the same set of questions designed to highlight their views on various issues facing the city of Mount Airy. On Friday, the three candidates for a North Ward commissioner seat will be profiled.
Candidate name: Jerry Taylor
Address: Plantation Place Lane
Occupation: Employed by Sherwin-Williams Co. for 36 years; is now retired.
Previous political experience: None
Question: Why are you running for this office?
Answer: I’m running for commissioner because I believe that I can offer better leadership than the incumbent. I believe that the Westside Redevelopment Plan is pivotal to the future of Mount Airy. It’s the best chance for job growth in our lifetime.
It’s exciting and I want to be part of the process.
Question: What distinguishes you from your opponents in terms of the qualifications you offer to city voters?
Answer: I don’t know anyone else’s qualifications. I have 36 years of business experience in Mount Airy. I can guarantee that I will never come to a meeting without having read the material on the agenda and being prepared to discuss it with fellow commissioners and concerned citizens.
In addition, I will never support a last-minute agenda addition for the sole purpose of avoiding a public forum.
Question: The city redevelopment commission and its plans for revitalizing the former Spencer’s Inc. site and others have become a major issue in Mount Airy. What is your opinion of the process thus far?
Answer: At the last redevelopment commission meeting, City Attorney Hugh Campbell displayed a checklist that the redevelopment commission was required to follow. It’s my understanding that’s the law.
So my opinion would be about the law and not the process. Could we have a better law? I can’t say!
Question: Regardless of whether you support the redevelopment effort as it now stands, it certainly has become a controversial issue. How might it have been handled differently in your view, to avoid dividing the community?
Answer: Here again, the redevelopment commission followed the law. All the redevelopment meetings were open to the public, there was time at each meeting for public comment, so my opinion is about the law — not the process.
I would like to see the law changed so that representatives of a redevelopment commission could talk privately with the property owners about their plans. However, I can also see how such information released to the public could be harmful to the project as well as the property owners.
Question: Economic development, and jobs, continues to be a pressing need in our community. What suggestions do you have for improving the situation?
Answer: Mount Airy’s population has declined since 2010, the median household income in the reporting period from 2009-2013 was $32,000 compared to $35,000 in Surry County and $46,000 for the state.
For the same reporting period, we had 21 percent of our citizens living below the poverty level, a higher percentage reported by the county and the state.
We can’t keep sitting around and waiting for someone to dump 500 jobs in our lap, we have to try something different.
We have to make redevelopment work.
Question: Other than addressing the redevelopment plan and the economy, what do you consider the next high-priority item in the city and how would you seek to deal with it?
Answer: In a recent article in this paper, the reporter asked several candidates about campaign financing and one comment went something like this: This campaign is about more than redevelopment. He’s right, it’s about leadership and the lack of leadership among the present commissioners is alarming. I will be glad to discuss my concerns along with the minutes of recent meetings to prove my concerns are valid.
Question: How would you approach major votes; what would be your process in gathering information and making decisions?
Answer: I will meet people on the street, visit their homes or businesses, listen to comments at public forums, ask for opinions and support what is in the best interest of the citizens.
Question: What would you do to get more citizens involved in municipal government?
Answer: No easy answer here; how do you combat voter apathy? Maybe this election will give us some answers, I hope we see a huge crowd at the rock the vote forum (held Wednesday night), networking, a more vibrant downtown and more opportunities for political discussion.
Maybe the Millennial Generation will be different.