Today, The Mount Airy News concludes a series of profiles on candidates involved in next Tuesday’s city primary, for which early voting is continuing at the Municipal Building and in Dobson. There are three candidates for North Ward commissioner, incumbent Dean Brown and challengers N.A. Barnes and Bruce Springthorpe. Each provided biographical information and responses to a series of questions designed to highlight their views on issues facing city government. The two top vote-getters in the primary will face each other in the November general election, as will the top two finishers in an at-large commissioner race involving incumbent Jim Armbrister, Gene Clark, Gail Proffitt and Jerry Taylor. Profiles on those candidates were published earlier this week.
Candidate name: Bruce Springthorpe
Address: East Country Club Road
Occupation: IT Director, Association Data Inc.
Previous political experience: One campaign four years ago.
Question: Why are you running for this office?
Answer: So that the citizens of Mount Airy, not just a select few influential people, will be represented on the board.
Question: What distinguishes you from your opponents in terms of the qualifications you offer to city voters?
Answer: Growing up here and understanding and appreciating the area’s history, culture and people. Belief in an open, representative government and our constitutional rights. Experience starting and building a successful technology business from scratch. Serving on the boards of national and state non-profit organizations. Knowing how to create a budget based upon priorities. Having an old-school work ethic.
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: The stated objective was worthwhile. The method has been total madness, with those involved arrogantly believing that their end justifies any means they want to use. The citizens of this town have been victims of secrecy, deception, bait-and-switch tactics, demonization of opposition and quashing of dissent. Their loud voices have had no impact whatsoever on the decisions made. All of these are hallmarks of fascism, not democracy. Plus, placing that kind of power in the hands of unelected people is counter to everything about our system of government I was raised to believe.
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: Had the purchase of the Spencer’s property been done with openness, with our commissioners going to the people and press and saying, “Hey, this is what we think needs to be done for the city and this is how we can do it,” it would have been much different. That’s leadership, and I think the majority of the people would have supported this.
It doesn’t matter now whether the buying of the Spencer’s property created the need for the redevelopment commission or the commission was the original goal and the buying of the property was the way to get it passed. What does matter is having a couple of influential people meeting with the board in secret, then together conspiring to buy the Spencer’s property, again in secret. Read John 3:20-21. That pretty much describes why the public reacted the way it did, me included.
Question: Economic development, and jobs, continues to be a pressing need in our community. What suggestions do you have for improving the situation?
Answer: While tourism has been a wonderful help in easing the pain of the mill closings, we shouldn’t believe that Andy is going to carry us forever. As the people that relate to his show fade away, our biggest tourism draw will follow. We need to plan now for that happening, not double-down on it by spending taxpayer money so that a developer can build a hotel.
To me, our single-best solution for the future lies in nurturing local small business startups. We have a lot of very bright, very ambitious young people who lack the practical know-how, the money or both to get started. Combine them with a well-regulated but less Small Business Association-and-bank-driven city loan program for finance. Next, tap into our own retirees, and the new ones we are attracting, to create a local SCORE-like organization. Stir in their “been there and done that” business experience and this recipe could incubate a small business revolution here. That means jobs. Not just for the business owners, but for the whole community.
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: One of my concerns for a while now has been our ancient water-sewer lines. Providing such services is one of the basic things a city must do and we’re reaching the point where leaks are going to be more than just a temporary nuisance. In the downtown area, this would also be a great opportunity to put the other utilities underground, eliminating the phone poles and wires.
Question: How would you approach major votes; what would be your process in gathering information and making decisions?
Answer: Ultimately, the best information comes from history. Has this worked before? If so, under what conditions and do we have those conditions? If not, why not, and are we headed toward the same mistakes? What are the long-term benefits and consequences? What is the cost and, if applicable, the return on investment? Is it strictly legal, not just “can-we-get-away-with-it” legal? Does it violate the rights of those affected? Is it as fair to all affected as it can be?
Get this information from both government and non-government sources. Pull all of that together, and decide. Finally, present it to the citizens and try to convince them of my position. If I can’t convince them, then I don’t vote for it.
Question: What would you do to get more citizens involved in municipal government?
Answer: Remind them, again and again, of what has happened in Mount Airy over the last two years and that, if they don’t want it to happen again, they need to show up both at the polls and at the city council meetings.
Re-earn their trust by:
• Making sure that, unless it absolutely must, by law, be discussed in closed session, that it will be discussed before the public. And have the local paper and radio stations on speed-dial in case this doesn’t happen.
• Listening to them. We are “representatives,” not dictators. I believe that, unless it is illegal or unconstitutional, I am obligated to vote the way the majority of people voicing their opinion tells me to, even if I personally think they are wrong. This is not to “win votes” or get re-elected. It’s what I am supposed to do.
• Providing citizens with a forum outside of city council meetings. I will create a web page or Facebook page – at my own expense and independent of the city – to keep them informed. And, guess what? Unlike a recent one for the redevelopment commission, it will actually allow for public comment and debate! I’ll present my positions there and those who disagree can show me why they believe I’m wrong.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.