DOBSON — Surry incumbents have wasted no time in registering their intentions to seek new terms.
Office-holders including the sheriff, all three members of the county board of commissioners whose seats are at stake and the clerk of court all tossed their hats into the ring for the 2014 election cycle Monday, the first day of the candidates’ filing period.
As anticipated, a bevy of candidates came to the Surry Board of Elections to file after the period opened at noon, including Sheriff Graham Atkinson; Mount Airy District Commissioner Larry Phillips; Buck Golding, who represents the Central District on the county board; Commissioner Eddie Harris of the South District; and Clerk of Court Rebecca Brendle.
Other filings Monday included that of Ervin Odom, as a Republican candidate for sheriff.
Also filing was Teresa O’Dell, a former employee of the clerk’s office, who is challenging Brendle. Brendle is a Democrat and O’Dell is a Republican.
A desire to continue serving citizens, and complete unfinished business, was cited by incumbents reached Monday after their filings.
“I hate the politics of it, but I love the public service,” Commissioner Phillips said of his reasons for seeking what would be his first full four-year term serving the Mount Airy District.
Phillips, 55, a resident of the North Franklin community, first joined the board of commissioners in September 2012 to replace Commissioner Garry Scearce, who had died in office, and was elected to Scearce’s unexpired term two months later.
“The economy is something I’m still passionate about,” Phillips, a local minister, said in listing goals for a potential new term.
“There’s a lot of changes going on,” Phillips said of the industrial-recruitment process, including a reorganization of the N.C. Department of Commerce, a state agency that has long steered industrial clients to localities. Given the keen competition from 99 other counties, Surry County’s challenge to improve its economy is greater than ever, Phillips said.
“We live in free-market state, so you can’t make a company come to Surry County,” he added of the need for expertise and recruiting finesse. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Community pride is playing a role as well, Phillips said. “The county’s been very good to me. I came here as a 19-year-old kid, and this county took me in and gave me a place to call home — and I’m honored to give something back.”
Commissioner Harris, meanwhile, filed Monday for his second four-year term as the commissioner for the South District. He is presently the board’s chairman.
“Obviously, my main goals are to make sure we get through this financial crisis with a strong balance sheet and I think we’re well on our way to doing that, and we also have some large capital projects (looming),” Harris said. He further mentioned a need to reduce the county’s debt service for past projects, which is burdening present revenues.
“I also want to work well with our municipalities and school boards,” said Harris, 52, an Elkin-area resident who is a silversmith.
Serving as a county commissioner is a demanding job, especially in juggling it with his full-time work responsibilities, Harris confided. “But I still love to do it,” he said of serving on the county board and meeting local residents. “I like the public servant part of this.”
Commissioner Golding said Monday afternoon that despite the economic and other problems faced by the county, he believes it is on the right track government-wise.
“We’ve got something started with a group of people who understands what the problems are,” Golding, 76, a Lowgap resident, said of the five commissioners who all are Republicans.
Golding is seeking his second-straight term as Central District commissioner, but also held the same position from 1994-98.
“I’m running for the same reason I ran the other time — just to give something back,” he said.
Golding, who was born and raised in Surry County, spent many years in the aviation field until retiring and returning to Surry County, where farm work has been among his activities.
He said he remembers his first term on the county board when the local economy was thriving, and wants to use his experience to help the county’s economy and unemployment picture improve. “And we’ve been trying to do what we can,” Golding said of the county commissioners.
The incumbent believes the situation will improve and wants to be serving when it does. “We’ll go forward,” Golding said.
A desire to continue the job he has started also was among the reasons listed by Sheriff Atkinson Monday afternoon in filing for his third four-year term.
“We’re proud of the work that we’ve done the first two terms,” said Atkinson, a longtime member of the Surry County Sheriff’s Office who was first elected in 2006.
Atkinson, 49, a resident of the Siloam community, said that during the past eight years the county has witnessed the development of what he called the most-professional and best-trained sheriff’s department in Surry history.
The incumbent added that he wants to maintain that trend for another four-year term. “We’ve got the same goals today that we had in 2006, and that is to make the Surry County Sheriff’s Office the best sheriff’s office in the state.”
Odom, a Dobson-area resident who filed Monday as a Republican candidate for sheriff, could not be reached for comment.
Brendle, the incumbent clerk of court — who was appointed to that position after the retirement of Pam Marion in 2012 — will be seeking her first full term, but is a longtime employee of the office.
“I have been in the clerk’s office for the start of my 12th year,” she stated of her reasons for running. “I truly enjoy serving the public and have a hardworking, dedicated and professional staff of 21 employees who work diligently to provide good service to the citizens of this county.”
Her goals include continuing “to provide the best level of public service to the citizens of Surry County,” Brendle added.
“I do believe that the Surry County clerk’s office continues to be one of the best clerk’s offices in the state and I want to strive on a daily basis to continue that.”
O’Dell, whose candidacy for clerk of court was made public in late 2013, has said she wants to get politics out of the clerk’s office and fulfill a longtime dream of serving in that position.
The candidates’ filing period closes at noon on Feb. 28.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.