Though you wouldn’t know it because the race is so low-key, Mount Airy has an election coming up in just 12 days.
While there have been a smattering of candidate signs around town, and we’re sure candidates are meeting with civic and social groups at times, this campaign season thus far has been marked by a level of civility and professionalism that is in marked contrast to the 2015 municipal elections.
Kudos to the candidates in this present election season for speaking to the issues and passing up cheap personal attacks. As we saw two years ago, those negative campaigns can cause rifts that linger long after election day, to the detriment of the town.
Not that there aren’t sharp differences between the candidates in this year’s campaign.
Mayor David Rowe and challenger Ivy Sheppard, South Ward Commissioner Steve Yokeley and challenger Todd Harris, as well as North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley — who is unopposed in his re-election bid — have all expressed significant differences on several issues that could have become explosive if handled wrong.
The ongoing — and somewhat leisurely moving — Spencer’s redevelopment project, the slow-growing economy and lack of good-paying jobs, questions about the readiness of the local workforce to attract those higher-paying jobs, the future of downtown, race relations, even distrust of government, are some of the issues that cropped up at Tuesday night’s candidate forum held in downtown Mount Airy.
The various candidate responses were thoughtful, showing an understanding of how the ideal world sometimes must conform to the financial limitations of the real world. They talked openly about some of the weaknesses in the local economy — including what some believe is an ill-prepared workforce — as well as ways they might overcome those challenges.
While the candidates disagreed with one another, sometimes strongly, they stayed on point talking about the issues, and showed a level of respect for one another that is refreshing and needed. Most of all, we believe the candidates showed they have the good of the city at heart, rather than any personal agenda.
That makes us believe the city will be in good hands after Nov. 7, regardless of which candidates emerge victorious.
We also offer kudos to the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, which organized ran the candidate forum. By putting on such an event, the chamber gave local residents an opportunity to see and hear the candidates, all on stage at the same time. As Randy Collins, chamber president and CEO, told us prior to the forum, his agency did this to help local residents become better informed so they can make an educated choice when voting.
Now we hope city residents will do their part and cast a ballot. Nov. 7 is election day, but early voting — which includes the opportunity to both register and cast a ballot — is underway now. City residents can vote at the Board of Elections office in Dobson until Nov. 4. They can also vote at the city municipal building in Mount Airy from Nov. 1 until Nov. 4.