Voters in Haw River will fill one vacancy on the town council and a long-serving councilman is up for a re-election. In addition to 14-year incumbent Lee Lovette, three candidates have filed for the two town council seats on this year’s Haw River ballot.
The other candidates are Cathy Bellamy Dickens, who ran unsuccessfully for school board last year; Shawn Riggan; and Kristin Smith, who was one of two candidates who sought an appointment to the council in 2020 after then-council member Kelly Allen was elected as mayor in 2019.
MEET THE CANDIDATES – Biographical information on the Haw River town council candidates: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-for-haw-river-town-council/
A decision about who to appoint was delayed for months after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Later, in November 2020, the council deadlocked 2-2 over whether to appoint Smith or Debbie A. Brown, who also sought the council’s nod for a short-term, two-year term to fill Allen’s council seat.
Dickens listed her previous political experience as District Supervisor of Soil and Water in Fayetteville in 2016; she was also a candidate for the Fayetteville city council in 2017, but withdrew shortly prior to the election, according to local news stories at the time, in order to reconcile with her husband and move to Alamance County.
She placed tenth out of 11 candidates for four ABSS school board seats on last year’s countywide ballot.
Regarding the stalemate over who to appoint to the council vacancy after Allen’s elevation to the mayor’s seat, the councilmen went into a 14-minute closed-door session last November when councilman Steve Lineberry, the town’s former police chief, asked Smith, “Is there any reason that you know, to your knowledge, that the Haw River police department wouldn’t want you to fill this position?”
“I can’t speak for them,” Smith responded, “but I wouldn’t know of a reason.” She added, “There are only two down there who even know who I am anymore, so I don’t even talk to them, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”
Lineberry called for the closed session, ostensibly under a personnel exemption. Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr. later objected to the town’s attorney, Charlie Davis, about the procedure, quoting from the state statute which specifies, “A public body. . . may not consider or fill a vacancy among its own membership except in an open meeting.”
Boney called the town council’s proceeding a “flagrant violation” of the Open Meetings Law.
The newspaper also had to seek from the attorney the votes of the councilmen who voted, in what the publisher said was yet another violation of the law, by written ballots which state law says are to be available for public inspection.
The newspaper was ultimately able to determine that mayor Allen and Lovette voted for Brown while council members Patty Wilson and Steve Lineberry voted for Smith.
After the deadlock, the town council resolved to leave the seat vacant until the 2021 election.
For this year’s election questionnaire and request for biographical information, the newspaper never received any response from several telephone calls, voice mails, and emails to Smith.
As all candidates had been told in advance, the refusal to participate would result in the newspaper listing the candidate’s answers as “Refused to respond,” which is how all of Smith’s questions are annotated on page 6.
Most say taxes, spending “about right”
Among the three candidates who did provide information and positions on local issues, all three believe that the town’s tax rate is “about right.”
Lovette says all four major departments of the town – police, fire, public works, and parks and recreation – are adequately funded, and he would not vote to raise taxes, if necessary, to increase funding for any of the four.
Riggan believes that all four departments need more funding, but would also not vote to raise property taxes to accomplish that objective.
Dickens says she wants more funding for the police and fire departments; she says she would support higher property taxes, if necessary, in order to fund those increases.
Dickens also says she would support a tax increase for more funding for parks and recreation, although she did not respond directly to a question asking about the adequacy of its funding.
Neither Lovette nor Riggan support a mandate for town workers to be vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus. Dickens did not respond to the question.
Both Lovette and Riggan say they are vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus; Dickens says she is not, but is going to get vaccinated.
Haw River is one of the few local municipalities that lost population between 2010 to 2020, based on Census figures released earlier this year. Asked for their ideas on how the town can grow, the candidates are virtual cheerleaders.
Dickens says, “We can hold more family and friends events and show the outside world that Haw River is a fantastic place to raise children and everyone is friendly and the town is quiet.”
Lovette says, “Town can grow by attracting industry that provides good jobs. Also need housing and apartment complexes like neighboring cities.”
Riggan says, “We need to promote how great a place to live Haw River really is. We’re between Mebane and Burlington. We have the Haw River trail, and it’s become very popular. Nobody else in the county can say they have something like it. Bringing more business in can attract more people.”
In terms of where they see the greatest potential for residential growth, Riggan says, “Off of Trollingwood Road. It’s convenient to the interstate, and people love that.”
Lovette points to “area long Trollingwood Road, Graham Hopedale Road, and Highway 49 North.”
All three candidates who answered the questionnaire say they would prefer to see council salaries stay the same.
For the full questionnaire and the candidates’ responses, see page 6; biographical information is also on page 6.
For full list of questions and candidates’ response, click HERE
Biographical information on Haw River town council candidates: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-for-haw-river-town-council/