Eight vying for three Warren County commissioners seats

Apr. 18, 2014 @ 08:06 PM

Eight candidates have crowded the field vying for three positions on the Warren County Board of Commissioners in this spring’s Democratic primary.

The District 3 seat has attracted four candidates and two candidates each are in the Democratic races of Districts 2 and 4. No Republicans filed for the three commissioner seats on the ballot. Early voting begins Thursday and the primary is May 6.

In District 2, Ulysses Ross is not running for re-election, leaving the primary race to Richard Wilkins and Tare “T” Davis.

Wilkins grew up in Warren County, graduated from Warren County High School and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from Fayetteville State University. He has coached football, served as a volunteer firefighter and is currently deputy chief of the Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department on Lake Gaston.

Wilkins said he would seek to encourage economic development and businesses already established. He wants to change the trend of young people leaving by offering them opportunities at home. He cited family oriented events as a way to improve the perception of the county.

“I’m knowledgeable about Warren County: It’s home,” he said. “I can relate to the people of Warren County because I am one. I’m going to be fair. I’m a proven leader. Giving back is really big for me because Warren County did so much for me.”

Davis has a degree in criminal justice, 18 years in law enforcement and achieved the rank of sergeant in the N.C. National Guard. The small business started with his wife five years ago now has 10 employees.

Davis described economic development growth as a product of a broad base of education and infrastructure, and believes the county is more likely to generate small businesses rather than a large industry. He said the commissioners’ fiscal responsibilities trigger funding for schools, the sheriff’s office and all county agencies.

“To be an effective leader, you need three qualities: know who you are, know what you know and know what you can do,” Davis said.

In District 3, incumbent Ruby Downey is challenged by Andy Riggleman, Gary Morgan and Victor Hunt in the Democratic primary.

Downey, first elected to the board in 2010, said her priority is creating jobs. She would like to see fire and EMS stations in local communities and she is hopeful of lowering taxes.

“Warren County is a good place to live, but we can always improve,” Downey said. “I’ve talked with residents. I try to get them to recognize that they have a lot to offer.”

Downey has worked in law enforcement, both in the sheriff’s department and in the prison system. That experience inspired her to co-found several group homes with the objective of helping teenagers become productive members of society.

Riggleman said he has four major concerns about conditions in Warren County: jobs, longevity pay for county employees, education and taxes.

“It’s time for jobs to come back to Warren County,” said Riggleman, who has had a construction business for 29 years. “I get very little income in Warren County. I’ve had to go outside the county for my business.”

He said education needs improvement and he worries about the tax burden.

“Everyone says, ‘Don’t raise taxes.’ I want to reduce taxes,” he said. “Everything is going up: food, fuel, everything except your pay check.”

Morgan is concerned about fiscal issues that will affect both county administration and individual residents.

“The county needs to look at the problems that are likely with revaluation that’s coming in 2017,” he said. “Residential and business property values will show a marked decline, perhaps as much as 20 to 40 percent.”

He said combining services could ease some financial problems. For example, the county might operate a single maintenance department to service school vehicles as well as county vehicles.

“I’ve proven myself as an administrator,” Morgan said, citing his experience with Vance County Schools, and Vance-Granville Community College. “You’d be hard pressed to find a candidate with more experience.”

Hunt’s top concerns are education, parks and recreation, public safety and health care.

Hunt has had a first-hand look at the importance of education. He taught in public schools for 15½ years and worked in the federal correctional system for 20 years. Better education and more leisure time activities could keep young people on the right track, he said.

He favors support to volunteer fire departments and the creation of an urgent care facility for a county without a hospital.

“I’m a lifelong resident of Warren County,” Hunt said. “I recently retired so I have a little more time to give. I’d like to do whatever I can to improve the quality of life in Warren County. I benefit from this as well.”

The District 4 Democratic primary includes incumbent Bertadean Baker and challenger Charles Ayscue.

Ayscue wants to see a board with more diversity of the taxpayers. He listed taxes, county employees and Lake Gaston as some of the policy issues confronting the county.

He advocates better service to the Lake Gaston community through and EMS center and a satellite sheriff’s office.

“We need people interested in doing a job instead of just holding a seat,” Ayscue said. “It’s follow the leader instead of four different minds.”

Ayscue said people voting for him will be “voting for an honest man who has integrity and will have an open ear to listen to citizens.”

Baker is completing her first term on the board.

Among her priorities for the county are continuing to work on economic growth, health and education.

“There’s a lot of talk about economic growth and development,” Baker said. “It doesn’t just grow. You have to fertilize it. We’ve just hired a new economic development director.

“We have made quite a bit of progress.”

She wants to see the completion of upgrades to a radio system and the water system.

Baker is a former principal with half a century working in education.


Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.