The Mount Airy News is publishing a series of profiles today and Saturday on candidates for contested races in Tuesday’s election in the city.
Those running for mayor are featured here — incumbent David Rowe, who is seeking his first four-year term in the office after being elected in 2015 to fill an unexpired term triggered by Deborah Cochran’s resignation, and Ivy Sheppard.
Each was presented with an identical set of questions aimed at highlighting the candidates’ positions on key issues facing Mount Airy and aiding voters in their decisions.
Candidates for a South Ward commissioner seat will be profiled Saturday.
Name: Ivy Sheppard
Address: West Pine Street
Occupation: Radio show producer, professional musician, small business owner.
Previous political or relevant experience: Ten years owning/operating a small business, city Cemetery Commission member, community outreach, engaged citizen, bachelor’s degree in political science/history from Guilford College.
Question No. 1: Why are you running for office?
Answer: I am running for mayor of Mount Airy because I have been called to serve our city. I will be a positive face and voice for Mount Airy. We need leadership with a fresh perspective to plan for the future and bring new jobs. We must work closely with our state legislators and business recruiters to assure that Mount Airy is at the top of the list for businesses considering relocating or expanding.
I want to give back to the city I love and call home and represent folks from all walks of life. Our city leadership needs to represent all of our electorate: blue-collar workers, teachers, grocery store clerks and other professionals; black folks, Hispanics and white folks; transplants and natives; old people and young. I was born in nearby Rockingham County. I grew up knowing the people of this region. Mount Airy is my chosen home. That is why I’m running for the office of mayor of Mount Airy.
Question 2: What makes you the better choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: My energy and determination make me the best choice for mayor. I have worked tirelessly in the last 10 years running and promoting my small business and will bring the same can-do attitude to work for Mount Airy. I will go house to house to listen to you, make trips to Raleigh to meet face to face with the state legislators and government officials who can make a difference in our lives and talk to anyone and everyone who will listen.
I promise you I will do everything in my power to pave the way for a healthy future with great jobs in Mount Airy.
Question 3: What would be your top priorities if elected?
Answer: Bringing good-paying jobs and listening to everyone’s voices. We as a city must create the environment to draw businesses that create jobs to support a stable, happy and healthy town. That means making sure our local Surry Community College has training programs for the industries and professions we have today and is planning for the jobs of tomorrow and encouraging businesses to expand and relocate to Mount Airy.
Question 4: In your opinion, what is the biggest problem now facing Mount Airy?
Answer: The biggest problem facing Mount Airy is the lack of good-paying jobs! People need meaningful employment that gives them purpose, structure and makes them financially stable. I feel certain that a lot of our drug and social problems would improve if folks were gainfully employed. As mayor I will be committed to working with industry, local and state governments and the community college to bring good jobs and vocational training to Mount Airy.
Question 5: Are you satisfied with the present status of the redevelopment project for the former Spencer’s industrial property? What, in your opinion, might be done differently to facilitate that effort?
Answer: Great rewards come at a risk and the Spencer’s project reflects that. Much of what is being done on this project is not public knowledge, so I’m not privy to anything more than those of us who read the newspaper and go to city council meetings know. However, the project is plugging along and the potential for Mount Airy is great with the success of the new hotel and apartments.
The downtown property value is poised to increase by nearly 50 percent with the successful completion of these projects, injecting an estimated minimum of $100,000 and maybe as much as $200,000 in additional property tax revenue annually.
That would be new revenue for our city that otherwise might have come from adding as much as a 2-cent tax increase to the current property tax rate.
That is why the right kind of development is so important. Good development brings jobs and creates a business segment that can help us pay for our infrastructure and services with its taxes.
Question 6: The city of Mount Airy is said to be facing a major financial crunch due to having insufficient funding for infrastructure projects, salary increases and other upcoming expenses. Other than raising property taxes or dipping into its reserve funds, what is the best way(s) for the municipality to increase revenues or reduce spending to meet those needs?
Answer: One great way to ensure that Mount Airy is financially healthy is to increase the tax base by encouraging development projects such as Spencer’s, welcoming new business like Starbucks and Aldi and utilizing the tax credits that will become available with the expanded historic survey.
Public-private partnerships are the wave of the future. By being smart and strategic we can add millions of dollars to the city’s coffers by expanding the tax base while not raising individual taxes. As mayor I will work tirelessly to increase Mount Airy’s tax base without raising our taxes.
Question 7: In what ways would you address high-traffic and high-density development issues while maintaining Mount Airy’s small-town character?
Answer: Economic development and preserving Mount Airy’s small-town character are not mutually exclusive. Our small-town charm doesn’t have to go away with growth. As improvements and opportunity increase in town, our charm will only increase.
Every town has and needs areas of high-traffic/high-density development, with U.S. 601 a case in point. That’s where good land-use planning comes into the picture. We must protect and preserve the areas that define our town historically and culturally and plan strategically for areas of growth.
Question 8: Is there anything else that you want to share?
Answer: My husband and I moved to Mount Airy because it is the place we want to live and make our lives. I grew up over in Rockingham County and have been drawn here since the day I graduated from high school and went to my first fiddlers convention. I fell in love with our house, which we are lovingly restoring.
I was inspired by meeting Mr. Ralph Epperson, a visionary who welcomed people from all walks of life into his station. WPAQ put their voices into the homes of every listener bridging all societal divides: age, race, gender and musical preference (bluegrass or old-time). He did what we, those who wish to be city leaders, must strive to do. He listened and he served, and was the first to adapt to change.
Similarly, as an old-time and gospel musician and producer of radio shows heard nationally, I understand better than anyone how important it is to stay true to tradition and, at the same time, move forward to survive and thrive in the modern age. I respectfully ask for your vote for mayor so that we can work to move our beloved Mount Airy forward together!
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.