Jackson commissioner candidates to face off in primary
During the May 8 Primary Election in Jackson County, two Republican candidates for county commissioner will race for the right to appear on the November ballot.
Commissioner Charles Elders, of the Barkers Creek community, will be seeking a fourth term on the board, while challenger Jarrett Crowe, of Cherokee’s Wolfetown community, hopes to become the first enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians elected as a Jackson County commissioner.
The winner of the primary — and, later, of the general election race against Democrat Gayle Woody — will face a long list of tasks and issues when the new term starts in December. Jackson County is in the midst of completing a list of capital projects totaling millions of dollars. At the same time, the county is wrangling with how best to keep its schools safe — and how to pay for those improvements — as well as issues of economic development, balancing growth and heritage, and how best to guide development as the economy picks up once again.
Elders touts his experience on the county commission and the relationships he’s built with constituents and regional leaders — combined with his business savvy as the owner/operator of Elders Superette Exxon station — as the reason voters should choose him for another term.
“With the experience I’ve had in business and the 12 years having served (on the county commission), I am I think in good shape to help the county,” he said.
Crowe, meanwhile, said he’s had significant experience serving on other boards — though never as an elected official — and would do his utmost to put the county and its citizens first.
“I love Jackson County,” he said. “I love the people and I want the best for the people. If elected, I would do my utmost to help the citizens of Jackson County.”
Both Crowe and Elders feel like the county’s headed in a good direction overall. They’re both in favor of consolidating the county’s health and social services departments, of the capital projects the county is currently planning and of spending more for school safety. However, they cite different priorities to pursue if elected for the 2018-2022 term.
Crowe would like to see more transparency — in particular, he’d like to see the county commissioners hold off-site meetings more often.
“I just think county commission meetings need to go out in the communities,” he said. “I have advocated for years for them to come to the Wolfetown gym and have a commissioners meeting out here. My people here, they don’t know who’s on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.”
Elders, meanwhile, cites continued work on the health and social services consolidation as a priority, as well as preparing to expand courtroom space at the adjacent justice center.
“The justice center is really getting overcrowded, and it’s got to stay what it says it is — a justice center,” said Elders. “Therefore as time goes on, we will be having to liquidate more offices such as we got started with plans of getting the code and permit office out and putting it in another location (at the health department).”
In regards to the divisive Sunday morning alcohol sales issue, which commissioners voted to deny this week, both Crowe and Elders — who voted no on the issue — say they’re against Sunday morning sales, though Crowe said he would rethink the issue if presented with evidence showing it was for the betterment of the county.
“You walk a fine line on that issue, because you don’t want to upset the people that have been here for generations, that have families that have been here for generations, but also you want the county to grow, and in order to do that there’s some things we kind of have to give up,” he said.
Elders, meanwhile, feels like the issue boils down to respect for the county’s many churchgoing people.
“I just feel like we can do without the sale of alcohol during a couple hours on Sunday morning and show respect to our churchgoing people and our churches to not sell alcohol or serve alcohol in the nearby restaurants or bars while our people are worshipping in church,” he said.
In regards to growth, Crowe said that it’s important to ensure the county has rules in place to guide safe and responsible development, saying that he supports the steep slope rules the county adopted several years ago.
“The mountains are our main resource, and that’s why people come here to the mountains, but when you start building homes, eventually those homes, they could slide down the mountain,” he said. “There has to be rules on how much damage you can do to the side of a mountain, and the steep slope ordinance — I believe they are correct in their rules and regulations that they have set already.”
Elders says he thinks the county is “on the right track” with the rules in place now and that it should concentrate on attracting industry to the area, with the county perhaps purchasing land for future development as an industrial site.
“It would be good if we could get some industrial business back in the area,” he said. “It’s maybe a long shot, but I’d like to see us bring anything that creates some jobs for people in this county and try to keep our local people when they finish their education so they don’t have to leave.”
When it comes to school safety, both candidates expressed deep concern for recent violence in the country and threats of violence in local schools.
“It may cost us a little more than we would like to spend, but we can’t set back,” said Elders. “Our number one resource is our children, and we can’t neglect listening and doing our very best to be prepared for this.”
“School safety should be local government’s top priority,” Crowe agreed. “They are our future, and I believe that we need to have more resource officers in our schools, the more the better. Security cameras, yes. Having someone to monitor the doors, who comes in and out, yes. Spending the money to do that, yes.”
• Age: 44
• Community: Wolfetown in Cherokee
• Qualifications: Has served on numerous boards and committees, including two terms on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Board of Elections, president of the Cherokee Boys and Girls Club board, vice precinct chairman in the Jackson County Republican Party and the N.C. Board for Licensing of Soil Scientists. Has previously run for tribal and county elected offices, though unsuccessfully. High school education with some college.
• Occupation: Retired from 26 years as a performer with Unto These Hills.
• Reason to run: “I’m concerned about the economic development for Jackson County and about seeing storefronts in downtown Sylva that are empty, that should have people in them.”
• Age: 74
• Community: Barkers Creek
• Qualifications: Has served 12 years on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, with appointments to many other boards and committees in that time, including current seats on the Department of Social Services board and as chairman of the Mountain Projects board. High school education with restaurant and business management training.
• Occupation: Owner/operator of Elders Superette Exxon station
• Reason to run: “I’m in contact with people daily. I get to hear a lot of complaints, a lot of requests. I just feel right now that I’m in a position that I can continue helping Jackson County another four-year term.”