Filing ends for municipal races

By Tom Joyce -

DOBSON — The candidates’ filing period for 2018 municipal elections across Surry County ended at noon Friday with last-minute entries including two more people running for the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners and an incumbent Dobson councilman.

When the smoke cleared, a total of five people had tossed their hats into the ring for two commissioner seats available in Pilot Mountain this year, with two others vying for mayor, offering voters a full slate of contested races.

In contrast, the three candidates who filed in Dobson are all incumbents who will face no opposition for new terms.

Pilot Mountain races

The two people who filed Friday to run for commissioner in Pilot Mountain are Chuck Koubenec and Kenneth Smith.

They are part of a relatively crowded field seeking the commissioner seats now held by Gary Bell and Linda Needham.

Bell filed to run for mayor, thus he cannot run to retain his commission seat. Evan Cockerham, another commissioner whose seat is not up for re-election. also filed to run for the mayor’s post, with incumbent Dwight Atkins deciding not to file this year for his second four-year term in that office.

The filing period passed with Needham not seeking another commissioner term, as had been anticipated.

But Scott Needham, her son, is in the race along with Donna Kiger and Gary Marshall and the two newly filed candidates.

Pilot Mountain has no ward or district system, meaning the two top vote-getters in the November election will win the seats.

Koubenec, 62, a resident of Main Street, decided to enter town politics on the heels of a controversial rezoning matter officials dealt with in April.

“This is my first foray into running for office,” he said Friday afternoon, although Koubenec otherwise has been involved in public affairs on state and other levels.

“I decided to get involved locally,” added Koubenec, a production planner for a company in Rural Hall.

He was motivated to do so by the rezoning issue that involved a proposal for a large subsidized housing project outside the town limits, which officials also were looking to annex.

The rezoning request was denied after a large group of citizens opposing it, including Koubenec, attended a public hearing, and he believes the outcome would have been different if not for that turnout. He was concerned about the impact the housing project would have had on Pilot Mountain.

“Being a small town, our services are pretty stressed already,” Koubenec said. “I didn’t see that we were able to take on anything along those lines.”

This incident motivated Koubenec to seek a commissioner seat.

“But I am encouraged by the revitalization downtown,” he said of another effort by Pilot Mountain leaders. “That has been a very positive thing.”

At the same time, the downtown area has some empty storefronts that need to be filled, said Koubenec.

Smith, 75, could not be reached Friday for comment about his candidacy. He recently locked horns with town officials over a rundown building he owns.

Dobson incumbent files

In filing Friday, Dobson Commissioner John Lawson ensured that all three incumbents in town whose seats are affected by the 2018 election will be running again.

Lawson, 67, who has served as a commissioner since 2008, said Friday afternoon that he did not know if the lack of opposition is a good or bad sign, but is happy about the progress made during his time as a member of the board.

“I’m just excited with what we’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ve accomplished a lot of things.”

Lawson, a South Main Street resident, specifically mentioned plans for building a town greenway and a downtown beautification project.

“We’ve just had a good run, and I thought I’d keep going as long as they want me,” he said of citizens.

Lawson is a retired manager of the Lance snack company, with which he was employed for 30 years.

Previously filing for re-election in Dobson were Mayor Ricky Draughn, who is seeking his fifth four-year term, and Wayne Atkins, who has been on the town board of commissioners for about 10 years.

The closing of the filing period Friday also revealed a trio running unopposed for three commissioner seats at stake in Elkin, incumbents Jeff Eidson and Cicely McCulloch, along with William Gwyn.

Incumbent Terry Kennedy opted not to run again.

While filing for municipal offices ended Friday, it will continue for three seats on the Mount Airy Board of Education until Aug. 3 at noon.

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.