DOBSON — A member of the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners is now looking to move up a notch after filing to run for mayor of the town on Monday.
Gary Bell was up for re-election this year as a commissioner, but rather than again seek that post, he is vying for the mayor’s seat now occupied by Dwight Atkins.
At last report, Atkins said he was leaning toward seeking his second four-year term as Pilot Mountain’s top elected official, yet had made no firm decision.
Bell was more definitive about the mayoral post after his filing Monday.
“I’m running because it was available,” he said. But Bell was quick to add that he was not looking to set up any head-to-head showdown with Atkins and mainly wants to give citizens a choice. “It’s really up to the residents.”
“He’s been a good mayor and I’ve enjoyed working with him,” the incumbent commissioner said of Atkins, adding that he also would “welcome” his entry into the race.
Bell, 63, a resident of West Ridge Drive, explained that his candidacy represents an effort to maximum his experience on both the municipal and state levels.
He has served as a Pilot Mountain commissioner for seven years and also is a former member of the board of directors for the North Carolina League of Municipalities, a statewide advocacy organization for cities and towns.
“I’m still involved with the league on action committees,” said Bell, who indicated that his collective experience is a plus for both him and the town in terms of playing an expanded role in Pilot Mountain’s leadership.
“We really need to identify who we are,” explained Bell, whose multiple occupations include rehabilitation consultant for historical properties, licensed real estate broker, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captain and commercial photographer for more than 40 years.
“We have been faced with constant challenges,” he said of town government.
One issue Bell mentioned was trying to take advantage of the municipality’s nearby namesake natural resource, Pilot Mountain State Park, by doing more to lure its visitors into town.
“And we need amenities here.”
Bell is the second person to file for office for the 2018 municipal election season in Surry County. Scott Needham tossed his hat into the ring for a Pilot Mountain commissioner seat on the opening day of the candidates’ filing period last Friday.
In addition to the mayoral seat and the commissioner slot now held by Bell, that of Commissioner Linda Needham, Scott’s mother, is up for grabs this year in Pilot Mountain, but there are indications she might not run again.
This year’s municipal election cycle in Surry County also includes three offices in Dobson, now held by longtime Mayor Ricky Draughn and town commissioners Wayne Atkins and John Lawson, and the seats of Elkin commissioners Jeffrey Eidson, Cicely McCulloch and Terry Kennedy.
In addition, three slots on the Mount Airy Board of Education are included in the present filing period that ends at noon on Aug. 3, now filled by Tim Matthews, Ben Cooke and recent appointee Kyle Leonard.
Greg Perkins filed Monday for the at-large seat on the city school board now held by Matthews.
Perkins, 52, who is associated with Perkins & Associates Insurance Specialists in Mount Airy, could not be reached for comment regarding his candidacy.
Draughn files in Dobson
Also Monday, Dobson Mayor Ricky Draughn filed for re-election.
Draughn, 63, had said on June 29 that he intended to seek his fifth four-year term in the office.
The incumbent cited several ongoing projects in the county seat which he wanted to continue working on, including an upgrade of the town water plant and multiple economic-development efforts.
Draughn indicated that he additionally wanted to help Dobson maintain its fiscal stability, including a property tax rate of 38 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.
In comparison, Mount Airy recently adopted a 2018-2019 budget that includes a 12-cent increase in the city’s tax rate, to 60 cents.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.