By Robert Flippo
The Chamber of Commerce held a meet the candidates event Tuesday, July 30 to prepare citizens for the Ward 2 City Council election on August 13. The three candidates for the election are Donovan Rubley, Bobby Williamson, and the incumbent Councilman Vernon Woods.The event began with Marian LeCrone, President of the Chamber of Commerce, making introductions and explaining the format for the event. Each candidate got to speak for ten minutes and they drew numbers at random to determine the order. Bobby Williamson went first, Vernon Woods second, and Donovan Rubley third.
Each candidate was asked to specifically answer what made them want to run for City Council, what their plan for roads will be and their views on wind power as well as any other remarks they wished to give.
Bobby Williamson spoke first and the theme running through his speech was growth for Piedmont. His focus was on the future of Piedmont and what the city has the potential to be. He emphasized that decisions need to be made not just to remedy a situation in the moment, but also positively impact Piedmont down the line.
Williamson said that it is time for Piedmont to come up with a comprehensive, long range plan for Piedmont’s roads. To Williamson, the key to Piedmont’s roads is to encourage development.
“One sure way to get the money to make our roads better is by growing our tax base,” Williamson said.
By working to bring new businesses to Piedmont, Williamson hopes to be able to pay for road repairs without having to raise the sales tax rate, which is already among the highest in the state. According to Williamson, bringing new businesses into Piedmont should be the number one priority.
As far as wind power, again Williamson’s views are tied to a desire to see Piedmont grow. For Williamson, the problem with having wind turbines on the edges of town, is that it will limit the growth of Piedmont in those directions.
Next, Vernon Woods took the podium. His first action was to address the elephant in the room, his recall. Woods said that the recall petition claimed he showed an unwillingness to listen to his constituents and that he favored wind power in Piedmont.
“What is said there is unfounded and it is totally wrong,” Woods said.
Woods assured that has spent a tremendous amount of time taking phone calls and listening to the problems of not just the citizens of Ward 2, but all over Piedmont. In regards to the idea put forward that he favored wind power in Piedmont, Woods said it was “not only wrong, but a lie.” He pointed any doubters to his record on the matter, in which he voted, along with the rest of the City Council, against allowing wind turbines in the city.
Woods reminded those in attendance that he served on the council for three years and was reelected with a vast majority of the votes in Ward 2. The indication of that reelection being that the citizens of Ward 2 wanted him to continue doing the work he had been doing but suddenly that has changed.
“I feel like the Cattleman’s restaurant ad on tv,” Woods said. “People say I used to have the best steaks and the best lamb fries in town. Well folks, I still have the best steaks and the best lamb fries in town. Although I’m started to realize how the lamb felt.”
As a platform, Woods said that his views and opinions have not changed since he was elected. For his platform he presented a few of the ideas he has been working towards. One goal was to offer a bond package to allow the city to overhaul the roads, which he did but the bond failed. Another was to get the Williams contract signed and out of the way which did happen. He also wanted to begin the process to improve the city charter and a committee has been working on that. He hopes that charter will be presented and approved. Goals for the future include annexing land along northwest highway, getting a better building for the public works department and expanding the fire department’s building to get them better facilities.
Last up was Donovan Rubley. Rubley began by giving his qualifications which include decades of leadership in the military and private business world. That experience, he says, has given him a keen understanding of budgeting and management which would be welcome on the City Council.
Rubley’s platform is “Piedmont First” which many might recognize from the t-shirts he had printed up. The idea for Piedmont First is that Piedmont has become too divided. People are so caught up trying to decide what side they are on that they forget they are supposed to be on Piedmont’s side. Rubley’s answer to that is to bring in new blood to the City Council.
“The city needs somebody who has not been on boards and commissions within the city government,” Rubley said.
Much like the other candidates, Rubley understands that Piedmont is growing and needs to be nurtured along that growth. One of his ideas to help Piedmont grow and increase the tax base to help pay for roads and infrastructure is to talk about affordable housing. His idea of affordable housing is homes priced from $140,000 to $180,000 and not subsidized by section 8. One of the things holding business back from coming to Piedmont is a lack of workforce. By having affordable housing in Piedmont, businesses will be able to hire workers in Piedmont.
As far as wind power, Rubley flatly stated he does not believe it is a good fit for Piedmont, especially when there is a large supply of natural gas in the area.
Overall, Rubley’s message was that Piedmont needs people who will work together for the betterment of Piedmont without playing politics.
The Ward 2 election will be held August 13.