DOBSON — The opening day of a local candidates’ filing period on Monday was greeted by a flurry of interest, especially among those seeking municipal offices in Pilot Mountain.
One incumbent councilman in Dobson, John D. Lawson, also filed to seek another term.
In addition to non-partisan municipal elections in Pilot Mountain and Dobson, the filing period began Monday for three seats on the Mount Airy Board of Education, but no one tossed their hats into the ring for those on the opening day.
Included are the District “A” city school board seat now held by Mike Hiatt, which covers the Mount Airy No. 1 precinct; the District “B” seat of Ben Cooke, which affects the Mount Airy No. 2 and 3 precincts; and the at-large seat held by Tim Matthews, covering precincts 1-7.
The candidates’ filing period ends on July 18 for seats in Dobson and Pilot Mountain and Aug. 1 for the school board.
Pilot Incumbents File
Candidates stepping up to the plate Monday from Pilot Mountain included a member of the town board of commissioners who filed to run for mayor, plus two incumbent commissioners whose seats are affected by the 2014 municipal election.
Dwight Atkins, who is in his first term as a commissioner, is seeking the mayor’s post in the wake of an earlier announcement by the present office-holder, Earl Sheppard, that he would not seek another term.
“I’m running because I think it’s the best way I can serve the community,” Atkins, 59, said of his mayoral candidacy. “And I think the town needs a mayor that citizens are comfortable talking with” concerning issues they might have.
Overall, the mayor should provide a “vision,” Atkins said, one that includes working to make the community more affordable and appealing while also maintaining basic services such as water, sewer and street maintenance.
Atkins additionally wants Pilot Mountain to grow and be more of an “attraction,” and in that vein he has spearheaded a move to have it become part of the Main Street Program of the N.C. Department of Commerce.
This would allow Pilot Mountain to benefit from design and other expertise to make the downtown area more aesthetically appealing as well as economically viable.
Atkins is retired from Surry Community College, where he chaired the mathematics division, and now works mostly as a consultant in fields including management systems analysis while still teaching college math classes occasionally.
Also filing Monday for new four-year terms were Pilot Mountain commissioners Linda Needham and Gary T. Bell. Both cited a desire to continue work that has been started during their tenure.
“The commissioners in the town of Pilot Mountain have worked very hard to get some things (accomplished) to better the town and to help the citizens, and I would like to have the opportunity to continue with the different…projects that we have,” Needham said after filing.
A specific item that Needham, 70, is interested in is trying to get more business into Pilot Mountain. She manages a number of real estate holdings in town and is now in her second term as a commissioner.
Bell, 59, who is in his first term as a councilman, said he has been encouraged by increased interest by citizens in their local government.
“The people of Pilot Mountain have become so involved with the town since I’ve been in office,” said Bell. “I’d like to continue that and keep up their interest in the town.”
Bell maintains several occupations, including property rehabilitation consultant, commercial photographer and captain in the U.S. Coast Guard.
One goal he has going forward, if re-elected, is helping Pilot Mountain achieve more of an “identity.”
“I feel like the town, in the last few years, has gotten to the point we’re starting to move ahead,” the incumbent said. And Pilot Mountain needs to make sure it maintains a unique presence economically and in other areas and not be left behind compared to other municipalities.
“We need that identity,” Bell added. “We have a tremendous amount of potential.”
In filing for his second term on the Dobson Board of Commissioners Monday, Lawson also said he wants to see the county seat make additional progress.
“I’d just like to continue what we’ve started,” Lawson, 63, said of the present town council. “I think since we’ve been in, we’ve sort of stabilized the town government.”
In the past, Dobson has had its share of political controversies, but “you don’t hear as much” in that regard these days, said Lawson, who is retired from a snack food company.
He mentioned the hiring of “professionals” to guide the day-to-day operations of Dobson, including Town Manager Josh Smith and members of his staff.
“We’re much more transparent and forward-thinking,” Lawson continued, although he didn’t want to slight the accomplishments of town officials in the past.
He mentioned several key projects launched recently such as water system improvements, including an overhaul of the Dobson water plant, and the development of a town recreation park.
Going forward, Lawson wants to see the water plant upgrade through to completion and also is interested in launching a downtown-beautification project with the help of citizen volunteers.
In addition to the seat held by Lawson in Dobson, those of Mayor Ricky Draughn and Wayne Atkins are up for grabs this year.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.