On Thursday night, the town of Elkin and The Tribune welcomed local candidates to speak at a forum event held at the Elkin Center of Surry Community College. Several positions were represented and though a few candidates sent statements, everyone had the opportunity to address their constituents. Even the citizens of Elkin who could not be present were able to participate through Facebook Live, in spite of some technical difficulties.
Unable to attend due to fulfilling her current duties at a joint justice committee meeting in Raleigh, Senator Shirley Randleman sent a statement that reminded voters that her “service is about people, not politics,” expressing her desire to address infrastructure needs in rural North Carolina. For Randleman, “there is nothing more important than the safety and well-being” of the residents here.
She expressed concern that, in spite of a low unemployment rate for Surry County, the median income is still low compared to the rest of the state, and by fixing infrastructure issues, Randleman hopes to recruit better paying jobs to the area. She also intends to provide the best education possible for local students and recognizes the need for public safety and allowing “individuals the ability to protect themselves, their families and their property.”
Opposing Randleman for the Senate District 30 seat is Democrat Michael Holleman, “an educator by trade,” who believes that, though Randleman’s statements are good, “action is where she fails.” Holleman is concerned that the needs of the over 500 students and co-workers he interacts with in the Wilkes County school where he works are not being met. Believing that it “is unacceptable” that custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria works and others have an income below poverty level for a family of four, Holleman hopes to win the seat for western North Carolina so he can make improvements.
As a lifetime resident of Wilkes County and participant in the community of Elkin, Holleman believes the area has “made (him) who (he) is today.” “I’m an educator because that is my mission; I believe in helping our youth. I need to take this mission to Raleigh, to make sure that the generation that’s coming up is taken care of.” Holleman said he thinks it’s time for his generation to step up and take responsibility for the money, resources, time and commitment towards a sustainable future.
Running for the East District Surry County commissioner seat was Ronald Bowman, who believes with better paying jobs, “everybody will live better.” As a retired police officer he understands that more security in the schools is necessary “for right now,” with the hopes that funds necessary will come from grants. Bowman also stated, “The elderly and the young are my priority,” and that, even though their situation cannot be fixed right away, by the time he leaves office Bowman hopes to be able to have such things as tax breaks in place.
Surry County native Van Tucker is running against Bowman. Tucker stated he has always been self-employed and has served the community in various ways in the past 20 to 25 years including as a commissioner, appointed this past February. As such he has made it a point to “protect the tax dollar as much as we can, but get as much as we can out of it.” According to Tucker, the board has worked hard with the current budget to set aside money for schools and progressive things that need to be done. Tucker stated, “If you are willing to have me, I’m willing to serve every chance I get, regardless of political affiliation.”
Also speaking were unopposed candidates Surry Commissioner Larry Johnson, Elkin mayoral candidate Sam Bishop, and House District 90 Democratic candidate Vera Reynolds. Representative Sarah Stevens was unable to attend due to the joint justice committee meeting in Raleigh. Unopposed Register of Deeds candidate and incumbent Carolyn Comer also sent a short statement regretting she couldn’t attend due to a previous commitment and thanking voters for their support.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.