Mount Airy Mayor David Rowe had indicated that his re-election decision might not be made until right before the candidates’ filing deadline this Friday at noon — but it actually has come sooner.
“I have made my decision to run for mayor,” Rowe announced regarding plans to seek his first full term in the office to which he was elected in 2015 to fill the remainder of Deborah Cochran’s time in office after she had resigned.
Rowe filed his candidacy Monday with the Surry County Board of Elections in Dobson, ending speculation about the future of the chief executive post of the city. No one had filed to run as mayor before Rowe, who joined North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley in becoming the second incumbent to toss his hat into the ring.
A third present office-holder whose seat is affected by the 2017 municipal election, South Ward Commissioner Steve Yokeley, has not filed for re-election for that seat or announced his plans otherwise. Yokeley lost to Rowe in the 2015 mayor’s race.
Meanwhile, Todd Harris, a former South Ward commissioner, has filed for Yokeley’s position.
Enthusiastic about serving
Rowe explained Tuesday that there had been uncertainty leading up to his decision related to the pressures the mayoral responsibilities can present at times.
“A number of friends … felt like the stress of the job was taking its toll — but I don’t feel that way,” said Rowe, who mentioned that he also has received much support and encouraging signs among citizens to seek another term as mayor, for four years.
“It is a hard job,” he added. “But I’ve learned quite a bit about this job and I’ve learned not to expect what I normally would expect — government runs at a slower pace.”
Rowe is a top official of the Smith-Rowe construction firm, with which he has been associated since the early 1980s.
“When I sought the office of mayor 19 months ago, I was committed to making a difference based on my abilities learned through 36 years of construction experience working with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, usually with reasonable results,” he said a statement issued in conjunction with the re-election decision.
“As I announce my desire to continue to serve as mayor, my commitment has been strengthened by a fuller understanding of the magnitude of the office, the pace of government and the inner-workings of the city council,” the statement adds.
Rowe said some days as mayor are “really good” and others “really bad,” but overall the good has outweighed the bad.
In follow-up contacts on Tuesday, the mayor commented on one issue that has surrounded his time in that office: his health.
“It’s like being on eggshells — it’s not good, of course,” acknowledged the incumbent, who is 73 and has battled kidney ailments and diabetes in recent years and sometimes relies on a cane.
Rowe said he subscribes to the notion that the mind is more important to an office holder than the body.
Though admitting that city government affairs often don’t move fast enough for his liking, “I have enjoyed seeing what has been done,” Rowe said.
“We’ve got a lot of things going on that need to be finished,” he observed. “I believe we stand on the cusp of even greater things as we push forward with the Spencer’s redevelopment project and other business-development projects.”
Washington Post incident
The mayor also responded to questions Tuesday regarding statements he made for a Washington Post article published earlier this year concerning local race relations. Rowe was quoted then as saying that African-Americans sometimes bring problems on themselves and he wouldn’t, for example, hire a young black male wearing sagging pants at his construction company.
The Post article generated an uproar among the local African-American community, including demands by some that he resign. Others said they were willing to accept Rowe’s apology and embrace the controversy as a mechanism for opening up the racial dialogue locally.
“I don’t think the incident will ever be behind us,” he said Tuesday. “It was a bad thing, but good things have come out of it from a personal standpoint.”
In February, the mayor announced the formation of a “Hope for the City” team representing the diverse cultures of Mount Airy. It contains 20 members of different ethnic backgrounds and walks of life who reflect a cross-section of local residents and have met to achieve common ground.
The incumbent’s re-election statement notes that he has “gained an enhanced recognition and respect for the richness of diversity within our city and (I) pledge to be the mayor of all the people.”
“I’m just glad to have the opportunity,” he said of the chance to continue serving.
“My tenure as mayor has been both a humbling experience and a time of personal growth — I hope (citizens) will permit me to serve another four years.”