Huntersville candidates square off in debate
by Staff Writer
HUNTERSVILLE – Mayor Pro Tem Sarah McAulay seemingly stole the show last week during the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce debate featuring all 11 candidates vying for town board.
The normally reserved, elder stateswoman of Huntersville’s board spent the night cracking jokes – some at her own expense – and defending her positions during her 20 years in office.
“I’ve been around town politics for five decades,” she said. “There are many things I like about this town that I hope to see continue.”
Those things included Discovery Place Kids and preserving the rural parts of town – things McAulay said she’s been proud to have voted for.
But much of the audience’s questions revolved around one thing: jobs. How the town could bring more in, how it could keep the ones it has and how to help small businesses.
“We have the only land in Mecklenburg County left to be developed,” Adam Boatsman said. “We need to let people know that if business is coming to this county, it’s going to be put up here and we need to get things like roads and schools in place now to usher in that growth.”
Adam Planty said he wanted to help out small businesses by streamlining the zoning process.
“Clean it up,” he said. “We need to know what problems small businesses are facing when they move into this town and know the issues they have getting through the zoning. We can’t fix it if we don’t know what’s broke.”
Jeff Neely, currently a member of the town’s planning board, stood up for the planning and zoning regulations saying they’ve kept the town appealing for the businesses and residents flocking to the area.
“We have the best town in the state,” he said. “I don’t want to look like Atlanta or a suburb of Atlanta. We’ve got regulation that works. Just look at the results.”
Former Commissioner Brian Sisson however felt regulations in a shaky economy would only hinder growth.
“The best thing the town, state and federal governments can do to help businesses is get out of the way,” he said. “So many regulations get in the way. … We need to be doing more to help business owners get what they need, not telling them how to run their businesses.”
Commissioner Charles Jeter said it was important to continue the trend the board already has in place of reaching out to businesses to keep growth coming to Huntersville.
“You have to get to know business owners,” he said. “You have to get to know them and know what they want out of this board. That’s something we’ve been doing and it needs to continue.”
When asked about raising taxes, all of the candidates took a fiscally conservative stance.
“I would look for areas where we can make cuts,” former Commissioner Charles Guinard said. “One of the solutions would be to work with other agencies to cut costs but keep levels of service where they are.”
Melinda Bales emphatically said she was against a tax increase.
“I will never raise taxes,” she said. “I am sure there is some fat that can be trimmed out of the budget even if we have to go line by line through it.”
Dempsey Miller echoed her tough stance on taxes.
“I would research every single thing in the budget to find somewhere to cut,” he said. “In this economy, right now, I wouldn’t want a tax increase. That would only hurt us more.”
Danny Phillips said he felt rampant government spending was one of the reasons the economy was hurting and a tax increase would only exacerbate those problems.
“The government has gotten too far out of hand,” he said. “I couldn’t support a tax increase unless it was absolutely necessary.”
Commissioner Ron Julian, who sat through a very contentious budget debate earlier this year, said the town was already stretched thin, but said he would not support a tax increase.
“Cuts can be made,” he said. “Either reducing services or holding off on hiring people, we can keep the tax base the same.”