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Macon commissioner candidates share their views

Three of the five seats on the Macon County Board of Commissioners are up for election this year, and all have a primary race that needs deciding for either one party or the other. Democrats will be asked to narrow down the field in one race, while Republicans will have two races on the ballots.

Last week, in an effort to help voters hear from the candidates firsthand, the Macon County League of Women Voters hosted a forum for those men running for commissioner. Five of the six involved in the primary election participated.

The primary issues in these races were addressed at the forum: issues about what role, if any, land planning should play in Macon County; and how to jumpstart an economy struggling through a recession.


Republican primary for district two (Franklin): Pick one

(The primary winner wins the seat for keeps, as there is no Democratic challenger for this seat in the general election.)

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Kevin Corbin, 50, insurance business owner

How would you help the local economy?

Corbin said that the recession hit Macon County particularly hard because of its heavy dependence on the construction market and tourism.

“What can we do? Government needs to stay out of the way. Small business creates business. Government does not create business.”

Corbin spoke about current efforts of the Economic Development Commission. He noted that the Board of Commissioners had identified the EDC as its top priority and taken measures to bolster it with the addition of a fulltime executive director as opposed to the previous position of an “economic development coordinator.”

“We hold them accountable,” he said, noting that the board gets a direct report once each month.

Where do you stand on land planning?

“I don’t have all the answers, and we’re learning as we go,” Corbin said of Macon County’s strident conversations about land planning. “It’s been very frustrating to me … when these things get emotional and people start arguing back and forth, it’s not helpful to anyone.”

Corbin said that he believes the recent move to define the planning board as clearly advisory in nature has helped, “and things will move forward in a positive way.”

What’s important to you to address?

Education, Corbin said, “is near and dear to my heart. Educating kids has got to be a top priority. If you don’t care about that, then you don’t care about our future.”

He said that the technology needs of the schools must be tackled. In 2000, he said Macon County went from 80th to 11th in state rankings on technology, but now the rotation of computers has gone from five years to nine and almost 10 years. Corbin said that some of the county’s healthy fund balance (it stands at 33 percent) should be allocated to the schools for the technology program.

“It just makes sense to take care of our kids.”


Vic Drummond, 68, retired owner of his own computer consulting and software development services business

How would you help the local economy?

While politicians might not be able to directly create jobs, “you can promote policies that attract businesses,” Drummond said, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a low tax rate and the continued development of a great school system and of necessary housing. “Those are the things that will attract people to come to the area,” Drummond said, adding that he does not support tax incentives for new business.

He did echo the sentiment that small business is the true future of Macon County and spoke of the need to have a trained workforce and adequate infrastructure.

Where do you stand on land planning?

“I believe that development is the lifeblood of any community. I’m against planning … that’s going to tell me where I can live, what size yard I can have or that will infringe on my rights to use my property as I see fit.”

Drummond did not totally exclude the use of regulations to fix development problems, but he did emphasize that “I’m against regulations simply for regulations sake.”

What’s important to you to address?

Drummond proposed a 9-percent property tax reduction. Macon County’s tax rate is currently the lowest in the state at 27.9 percent, it’s fund balance stands at 33 percent, more than double many counties.

Drummond said that millions would be returned to tax payers’ pockets under his plan, which would include holding the line on a 9-percent reduction until the fund balance stands at 25 percent.


Democratic primary for district 3 (Cowee to Nantahala): pick one

(The winner of that race will face Republican Paul Higdon in the general election.)

Bobby Kuppers, 58, Franklin High School teacher

How would you help the local economy?

The civics teacher emphasized three steps in his economic development ladder: keeping what’s there already by being an “entrepreneur-friendly community,” providing workforce training and ensuring there is adequate infrastructure.

“You can’t let your schools slip,” Kuppers said, adding that was equally true for the Macon County Airport facility and the recreation parks. Such things as good schools and recreation parks, Kuppers said, could prove “a big part of getting a company to come here.”

Where do you stand on land planning?

“I think there’s a misconception that there’s an equivalent between planning and regulations,” Kuppers said, adding that “tough economic times demand planning.”

Kuppers said that he believes the county needs to adhere to the Macon County Comprehensive Plan, a document commissioned in January 2009 that created a guide for policy decisions concerning the county’s growth.

He said going forward on proposals for governmental regulations on land planning people can expect to hear him ask, “How does that fit into the comprehensive plan?”

What’s important to you to address?

Kuppers said the challenge of coming out of a recession is that holding the line spending wise in Macon County has come at a cost.

“After awhile what you have is no longer what you need,” he said, referring to infrastructure as “the challenge” now facing the county.

“We’ve got to have a plan,” Kupper said, pointing out that computers in the schools, for instance, are now on a nine-year instead of five-year rotation.

Kuppers said the county’s recreation park, once Macon’s “crown jewel,” is showing impacts of reduced spending and attention.

“Our kids, grandkids, they only get one childhood.”


ick Snyder, 56, property manager

How would you help the local economy?

“I believe the county needs to explore every opportunity to make Macon County small-business friendly.”

Snyder indicated that he believes the county needs to consider making some financing available to companies that are looking to settle or expand in Macon County. Snyder emphasized that he’d want to see any such dollars extended tied directly to job creation.

Where do you stand on land planning?

Snyder, saying he wasn’t much of a talker, simply said that Macon County does need to review its existing ordinances to ensure they are not unduly burdensome.

“It’s making it hard on developers.”

What’s important to you to address?

Snyder briefly emphasized the importance of tourism.

“We need to make Macon County a destination, not a pass through.”

Snyder also said that he believes attention needs to be placed on providing affordable housing and affordable day care.


Republican primary for District one: pick one (Highlands)

The other candidate, Steve Higdon, did not participate in the forum or return a phone message seeking an interview.

(The primary winner wins the seat for keeps, as there is no Democratic challenger for this seat in the general election.)


Jimmy Tate, 40, landscape business owner

How would you help the local economy?

“I think we need to promote our county and be ready for (economic development) when it does get here. Promote, be ready and hold what we have.”

Tate said the table has been set in Macon County through work of the Economic Development Commission. He said that it is important that Macon County build and maintain excellent schools and keep a thriving medical community and hospital as incentives for new businesses.

“We need to outshine everybody else,” Tate said, adding that he, too, believes it’s important that the county keep property taxes low.

Where do you stand on land planning?

Tate has served as a member of both the Highlands planning board and on the Macon County Planning Board. He was recently appointed the liaison to the planning board for commissioners.

“As a county commissioner and as a resident, I will always be a good steward of this county,” he said, adding that he has also, as a small business owner, experienced burdensome government regulation before. “We need balance and commonsense regulations.”

What’s important to you to address?

Tate noted he’s “a rookie” at being a county commissioner. He said that if re-elected he has a simple goal of helping ensure government is efficient. Tate also wants to maintain good schools and ensure communities have adequate law enforcement protection.

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