Jeff Eidson, Tommy Wheeler, Skip Whitman and John Wiles vied for the open Elkin town commissioner seats at Thursday’s candidate forum. Each candidate had the opportunity to make introductory statements before answering four questions put forth by the community of Elkin after which they made closing statements.
Eidson, whose father and grandfather served as commissioner, moved back to Elkin after having kids. He believes the greatest challenge for Elkin at this time is rebranding the town and reinventing its image to draw residents and tourists. He said he believes this will help the economic development of the community which can lead to improvement of the infrastructure. As “The best little town in North Carolina,” Eidson thinks Elkin is the perfect place to live and raise a family due to the schools, climate and location enhanced by trails and the wineries which has led to a healthy tourist industry.
Although Eidson thinks that downtown is critical for the rebranding process, he said he also wants to see the CC Camp Road area thrive. “It is not the town’s responsibility to completely develop the downtown area,” Eidson said, adding “the environment we create will attract new residents to Elkin. We are already doing the right thing (to invest in the future of Elkin). We need to get everybody excited and motivated.” Eidson said he is “blessed to be able to come back,” and the wonderful attributes of Elkin makes it an easy sale. “If people look (at Elkin), they will come.”
Wheeler has served Elkin for 40 years and he is experienced with the budget process here after serving 20 of those years as a department head. Wheeler said he believes Elkin has some of the best facilities available for a town of its size which contribute to an excellent quality of life for its residents.
Although he thinks there should be a more aggressive approach to bringing jobs to the area, Wheeler said he thinks more affordable housing will better draw in new residents. “I think people will come here if they see what we’ve got. What we already have here is good,” and getting the word out is the best way to invest in the future of Elkin.
Wheeler said, “Downtown is the heart and soul of Elkin. CC Camp is the gateway for people coming into downtown,” thus both areas should be of concern to the development of the community. Wheeler stands on his record of leadership and service to Elkin. Although there are challenges to meet, Wheeler believes, “we are up to them.”
For Whitman this election “is not about politics; it’s about small town living.” Whitman, the incumbent commissioner, said he also believes the development of downtown is important however, “CC Camp is critical for our economic development,” making them equally important in different ways. Whitman said he would like to see continued investment in Elkin to make it, “the place where everyone wants to live.”
By making people excited about living in Elkin, Whitman thinks they will be willing to travel to work. Whitman, unlike other candidates is not an Elkin native, but feels the fact that he chose Elkin contributes to his worthiness as a candidate. “I could have gone anywhere in the United States. It’s the people that makes Elkin special,” as well as the recreation center, library, schools and hospital.
He said he believes the greatest challenge is to not lose the momentum currently experienced in Elkin. Continued motivation will help get things done. When Whitman first joined the commissioners he thought he was an informed citizen then he “realized how little (he) knew.” He noted that he had voted in the past to increase taxes as well as a water rate increase because he loves Elkin.
As a computer programmer, Wiles has a more analytical approach to the candidacy. He is concerned about losing people from Elkin due to lack of jobs, and thinks that the atmosphere of the town is one of its greatest attributes. Wiles said thinks the great services for the size of the town, the low taxes and cost of living are the attributes that should draw people here although enhancing services that appeal to a younger population would attract new residents and invest in the future of Elkin.
“The parks and trails are a good start, but making downtown more walkable” is another way to draw people, he said. According to Wiles, “Downtown is the anchor of our community but we meet people at the door at CC Camp,” thus both are equally deserving of development. Wiles stated, “Your participation is vital. I am asking for the opportunity to serve (Elkin).”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.