Four squaring off for Central District seat

By John Peters - jpeters@mtairynews.com
Childs -
Tony Tilley -
Marion -
Gary Tilley - -

There are four candidates vying for the Republican nomination for the Central District seat on the Surry County Board of Commissioners: Tony Childs, Mark Marion, recently appointed Dr. Gary Tilley and Tony Tilley.

Because no one has filed to run for the Democratic party seats in the November election, the May 8 primary will likely crown the overall winner for the seat.

The Mount Airy News recently posed several questions to the four candidates. Here are their answers, along with a little bit about each. The candidates are listed alphabetically.

Tony Childs

What is your experience? What other elected or appointed offices have you held, or have sought? What is your professional/job experience?

I began my career with VALIC from 1995 to the present as a Certified Financial Planner and registered stock broker. I’m responsible for the design, set up and administration of qualified retirement plans in the non-profit arena. I’m currently an administer for qualified retirement plans in businesses and school systems in the four-county area. Currently manage $64 million in assets and help over 3,000 clients plan, save and meet expenses during retirement.

I’ve served on the Surry planning board since 2012 and was nominated for chair in 2017. I’ve served as Guardian ad Litem for judicial district 17B, as vice chairman of Surry County Young Republicans in mid/late 1990s. I helped the Mount Airy Pregnancy Help Center get up and running and with board recruitment. I’m a leader in the Boy Scouts of America, I’ve helped coach baseball and basketball, and I’m a private pilot.

Why do you want to be county commissioner?

I believe we need a financially responsible gatekeeper on the board of commissioners. I was asked to serve by (retired board member) Buck Golding. I have served on the Surry County Planning Board for six years and the last year as the board chair. Community service is something that I teach my family, and I believe the best way to teach is by demonstrating and setting an example so they can be good citizens in the future.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Surry County?

Illegal drugs. There are many very important issues facing Surry County. Economic development, protecting farming, lowering taxes, safe schools, and preserving what makes Surry County unique are among the most important. However we are facing a crisis when it comes to opioid drug use. It is impacting families in all socioeconomic circles. I believe the drug epidemic is the most pressing issue and if we do not push back with an effective campaign to combat the drug importation and distribution then achieving all of these other issues combined will be hollow in comparison.

It seems that every candidate for nearly every office talks about the need to spur economic development, and this election is no exception. Specifically, how is that done? What can the county do that it hasn’t already done?

Having served six years on the planning board, I fully understand and embrace that spurring economic development is a vanguard issue and must remain front and center. I support more focused tax incentives with a limited timeline to attract and retain manufacturing. These have been a home run on a tremendous scale in other states and there is no reason we cannot have a better shot at them. I think we can bring good jobs to Surry County. Time to roll up our sleeves.

Surry County is home to several fine people who choose to make this their retirement destination. What is it that charms them so much? Is it the fast-paced lifestyle and quick access to the amenities of an urban setting? No, that is not why people like to call Surry County their home. Simple and safe living, low taxes are what makes this such a wonderful place. Becoming a Guilford County or Mecklenburg County is not something that I would consider a good thing. Slow growth is always a good thing. Fast growth will get you into trouble in a hurry.

One of the general discussions we hear in Surry County is that too many of our young people go off to college, then leave the community for better jobs. What is the answer to that? How can the county be more attractive to its young people, and what role do the commissioners play in that?

Being a father of six children of my own, I am happy to see my children further their education. We have utilized the first-rate educational system at Surry Community College and N.C. State. There are two issues when answering this question. The first is having opportunity for our young adults right here in Surry County. Attracting manufacturing as previously mentioned is axiomatic. I think that we already have local opportunity in many different sectors. Do larger cities have more to offer as far as the corporate world is concerned? Of course they do and by definition, they always will. I don’t see larger cities who offer more corporate opportunity as a being a problem.

Secondly, I have to ask myself if my son or daughter simply wants to move away for a time to see what the world is like out there. After I tell them that the grass is not as green as it appears in the big cities, they are going to do what they really want to do. My son, who attends N.C. State, regularly comments on how the people in Raleigh don’t seem very happy or don’t make eye contact. I say, “Welcome to Surry County where people will hold the door for you and smile.”

Is there anything else you’d like to say to the voters of Surry County?

Surry County is without a doubt one of the best places to live in the world. It provides my wife Stephanie and me with the freedom and friendliness to rear our children using simple Biblical values. That’s what I want from my community and I think that is what most people still long for. As county commissioner I won’t be going in with a mandate to come up with a melee of new tax initiatives, rules and regulations just to feel like I am being an effective politician. Once that new well-meaning government program is started, it’s like pulling teeth to back that thing down if not sometimes impossible. Throughout this campaign I have not been shy about spelling out my financial prudence and wanting to give the property owners a break. I am a conservative Republican who will be a financial check valve for the hard-working tax-paying citizens.

Mark Marion

What is your experience? What other elected or appointed offices have you held, or have sought? What is your professional/job experience?

The majority of my life was consumed with managing youth sports and other non-profit organizations. That coupled with professional duties associated with my 31-year career did not afford me the opportunity to run for political office. Now the opportunity and time is available for me to devote myself to serving as county commissioner.

Why do you want to be county commissioner?

Having worked with our youth throughout the county and working as a substitute teacher in our county schools, my desire to serve all the citizens continues to grow. I commit myself to working for a better tomorrow and allowing the residents of Surry County to have a voice.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Surry County?

Substance abuse is without a doubt the largest crisis our county faces today. The Surry County Board of Commissioners must work with the county sheriff’s office as well as other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to attack the supply of drugs in our area. Supplying the sheriff’s department with the resources they need is a vital component in the battle against drug and substance abuse.

It seems that every candidate for nearly every office talks about the need to spur economic development, and this election is no exception. Specifically, how is that done? What can the county do that it hasn’t already done?

Cutting taxes will lead to businesses investing more. Reducing red tape and government oversight coupled with an open mind to explore opportunities to assist our businesses will aid our small businesses to grow. In my opinion the county should pursue all businesses: small, medium, and large, and try to give them the environment to succeed.

One of the general discussions we hear in Surry County is that too many of our young people go off to college, then leave the community for better jobs. What is the answer to that? How can the county be more attractive to its young people, and what role do the commissioners play in that?

While it may be impossible to compete with the larger counties in our state, we need to create an environment that will encourage businesses to come to Surry and invest here. Doing so will allow them to grow and create opportunities for our youth. Investing wisely in our schools, infrastructure, and people will provide these companies with a skilled workforce and tools to develop. Developing education in skills and trades is an immediate goal.

Gary Tilley

What is your experience? What other elected or appointed offices have you held, or have sought before joining the board? What is your professional/job experience?

I was raised on a farm near Westfield, attended and graduated No. 6 in my senior class at East Surry High School, and earned an athletic and academic scholarship to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Following college graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in economics, I served in the United States Air Force as a nuclear Missile Launch Officer (Rank: Captain), while earning a master’s degree in economics and a minor in management. I have over 35 years of professional experience as a business analyst, manager and consultant; an instructor and academic dean at Surry Community College while earning a doctorate degree in higher education administration; and as executive vice president and CFO at Surry Community College.

My community and volunteer service: president of both the Sunrise Rotary Club and the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Surry County Republican Party, member of the Surry County Planning Board, the Board of Adjustment, and the Productivity Commission, Little League coach, Boy Scout committee, and numerous other church and community roles.

What first spurred you to seek a board of commissioner’s seat, and why do you wish to be re-elected to the position?

I have always had an interest and involvement in local government going all the way back to college where my studies included local government and public administration. I wish to apply a lifetime of acquired knowledge and professional experience to the work and improvement of county government.

This county is a garden spot to live, to raise a family, and to build on the good work of those who have served us so well in the past.

I have a track record of achievement such as being awarded Outstanding Achievement awards by the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce in 1989 and 1992; being elected twice as president of the Surry Community College Knights Athletic Club and a director of the Surry Community College Foundation; and being named to the board of directors of several other organizations like the Surry County Personnel Association, the State Employees Credit Union Advisory Board, and the Northwest Piedmont Development Corporation.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Surry County?

That is a great question. So many issues loom large for the county’s citizens like the opioid crisis, school and general public safety, good-paying jobs, and keeping the size and cost of government under control. However, if choosing one subject area where commissioners do have a greater responsibility and challenge, it is school funding.

By school funding, I mean the effort to replace older school buildings (capital outlay) that are no longer adequate in so many ways, e.g., ADA compliance, comfort and safety, and technology. In addition, various unfunded mandates from the state have created additional pressures for counties to pick up other costs in the category of current expense, e.g. teacher supplements and benefits.

It seems that every candidate for nearly every office talks about the need to spur economic development, and this election is no exception. Specifically, how is that done? What can the county do that it hasn’t already done?

I am very new to the county board of commissioners but I believe I can bring a different mindset to this discussion. With my background in economic studies, finance, technical education, and thinking out of the box, I am ready to explore what is feasible for Surry County.

The “buffalo hunt” for a large corporate start-up is a long shot, no doubt. However, we can continue to enhance our business-friendly climate (e.g., low tax rates, efficient county services, better building inventory and site selection) for existing industry to expand and for small- to medium-size businesses to locate here. We need to build on public-private partnerships. We can certainly build on the recent model of success with internships crafted by the local public schools, tourism, viticulture and enology, and the customized training and education provided at Surry Community College. SCC is #1 in the state right now in customized industry training and that’s a selling point. Current talk has to include SCC’s potential to support agri-business (e.g., hydroponics), and advanced manufacturing (e.g., mechatronics, electrical, welding, machining, engineering design, computer technology).

One of the general discussions we hear in Surry County is that too many of our young people go off to college, then leave the community for better jobs. What is the answer to that? How can the county be more attractive to its young people, and what role do the commissioners play in that?

The larger municipalities in this state are growing in population, jobs and wealth. Rural, small-town America is struggling to keep up. That is a reality.

However, I believe our quality of life, our natural resources, our school systems, our community college, and just plain good living is something that will continue to draw people to our area. We have a successful farming community. We have potential for more tourism, eco-tourism included. Look at our churches, the core of our faith-based community, and our unique cultural roots with old time music for example. And, certainly, some of the work in our small towns is the envy of the state.

However, we must do a better job of communicating the high-skilled, high-paying jobs that go unfilled right here in our own backyard. I’ve heard story after story of some of our young people going through the skilled, technical programs here at SCC or coming off internship programs getting starting salaries of $40,000 to $50,000. I hope that Surry County citizens know that having a pool of skilled labor in our county is vital to recruitment and industry growth. I intend to be a “megaphone” with my fellow commissioners and our industry expansion and recruitment team.

Frankly, the four-year degree is not for everyone and we, the commissioners, must encourage more discussion and program information, and communication to see that young people know about prosperous choices right here in Surry County.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to the voters of Surry County?

I am retired from Surry Community College with a mission to make Surry County better. I have ties all over this county. I love Surry County and have a vested interest in the growth of Surry County. Connie and I have grandchildren in four different schools in the county including an elementary school, a charter school, a magnet school, and a high school (with dual credit at Surry Community College). If you want me to serve, I shall do so with a commitment to growth, character, and transparency in the office of commissioner.

Tony Tilley

1. What is your experience? What other elected or appointed offices have you held, or have sought? What is your professional/job experience?

I have experience in budgeting and everyday operation relating to the fire department. I also have previous experience in management in retail. For the past three years, I have held an elective position as chief for South Surry Fire Department. Also I have served seven years as a board member for the fire department. As for positions at my church, I have previously served as a board member, on the Pastor Parrish Committee and am currently on the Board of Trustees.

For the past 12 years I have been a NCDA inspector where I enforce rules and regulations involving retail establishments along with the Farmer’s Market. This position consists of consumer complaints and working with the general public.

Why do you want to be county commissioner?

I have enjoyed my job throughout my area with various issues, along with my past 30 years’ experience as a volunteer with South Surry. I find satisfaction in helping people in need. My main goal is to serve all citizens of Surry County as a commissioner and be the voice of all.

What do you believe is the single biggest issue facing Surry County?

In my opinion the single biggest issue facing our county today is drug use.

Being a first responder, I see an increase in call volume and a shortage of volunteers. Due to the lack of volunteers, it creates an increase in response time for the people in need which supports the need for paid part-time firemen/first responders during daytime hours.

It seems that every candidate for nearly every office talks about the need to spur economic development, and this election is no exception. Specifically, how is that done? What can the county do that it hasn’t already done?

I believe in order to spur our economic development, Surry County should offer incentives that would be attractive to firms. Along with the incentives, we should lessen the rules and restrictions on some of the permits the county requires in order to encourage companies to locate in Surry County. Once permits are issued, a faster response from the county would be important so the projects could advance. Whether landing small or large manufacturing firms, we need the employment and revenue.

One of the general discussions we hear in Surry County is that too many of our young people go off to college, then leave the community for better jobs. What is the answer to that? How can the county be more attractive to its young people, and what role do the commissioners play in that?

I think it would be a tremendous asset if Surry Community College could offer more programs and degrees. For example, one way to entice young adults to continue their studies is to offer a two year agriculture degree since this is a large agri-business county. The role the commissioners play is to attract new industry within our county.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to the voters of Surry County?

I am a conservative, common-sense person that is interested in serving all citizens of Surry County.

Childs
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_tony-childs.jpgChilds

Tony Tilley
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_IMG_061.jpeg.jpgTony Tilley

Marion
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_mark-marion-head-shot.jpgMarion

Gary Tilley
https://www.mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_gary-tilley.jpgGary Tilley

By John Peters

jpeters@mtairynews.com

Reach John at 415-4701.

Reach John at 415-4701.