Watch video of WFJA’s interview with Republican Bill Carver, who is seeking one of three at large seats on the Lee County Board of Commissioners. Voters can choose up to three candidates. Incumbent Democrat Amy Dalrymple and challenger Mark Lovick and Republican challengers Paula Fine-Mbuangi and Sandra Jones are also seeking seats. Below, read answers submitted to The Rant monthly in August, September and October.
Briefly introduce yourself and describe why you’re seeking election to the Board of Commissioners.
CARVER: It is my distinct honor and privilege to seek office in this great county. I have a variety of life experiences that prepare me to be an active citizen and an effective local government leader. I’ve been a husband, father, US Navy submariner, counselor, teacher, principal of a local Christian school, and trustee for CCCC (Central Carolina Community College). My faith is important to me and it blesses me with an appreciation for all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, language or political affiliation. I was raised to be steadfast on applying Judeo-Christian principles in my every action while being willing to negotiate areas of preference. I’m running for Commissioner to be a voice of reason on the Board, seeking solutions to the challenges in Lee County through listening, creativity, and building on the strengths our citizens share. I hope to serve our citizens by promoting K-14 education initiatives, encouraging economic growth for new and established businesses, and overseeing reasonable taxation, holding those who spend our money accountable for prudent fiscal management. We can work together to make Lee County stronger, safer, and more prosperous.
What is your view as to the state of things in Lee County with regards to local government, and what measures will you take as a commissioner to see that economic growth continues to occur locally?
CARVER: I appreciate our elected officials and those who volunteer on various boards in Lee County. As a county commissioner, I will work diligently to examine our county’s past successes and failures, then carefully craft a long-range strategic plan to address growth, predictability and financial stability in the county. I will pursue a new round of performance audits for all county departments and develop a county-wide strategic plan and a strategic land use plan to prioritize county investments and to achieve measurable short and long-term goals. We need to get better productivity from our education system, providing a sound basic education for all students to achieve a trained and ready work force. We need to create a pro-business regulatory environment and maintain a fair and equitable tax structure for all taxpayers. I will continue promoting CCCC’s workforce development and advocate and encourage more apprenticeship programs. I will require SAGA (Sanford Area Growth Alliance) to balance its programs and efforts among new business recruitment and existing business expansion. I will support the unique needs of our agricultural community. The bottom line: make it more enticing to do business, live, work and raise a family in Lee County.
It’s been a big couple of years for Lee County in terms of economic development. Four new projects have been announced since 2019 that will bring more than 1100 new jobs and upwards of $680 million in tax base investments. Some, but not all, of these projects included an economic incentive from the county in the form of a performance-based grant which is tied to capital investment and job creation for a limited number of years. What is your view of this incentive program, and will you support its continuation if you win election?
CARVER: I am strongly in favor of promoting economic development in Lee County. We have numerous organic incentives that make our business climate attractive to new companies and give opportunity for growth for established businesses. I believe we can improve that climate by promoting work force development, apprentice programs, low taxes, policing, and stronger K-12 for all families in our county. My goal is to make our county as attractive as possible for people and businesses moving here and for those who have been contributing to our success for years and generations. The use of financial incentives should be rare and I will consider approving them on a case by case basis.
Do you support the passage of the $25 million parks and recreation bond to pay for the construction of a multi-field sports complex in Lee County? Why or why not?
CARVER: I support a strategic plan that addresses parks and recreational facilities. Constructing and maintaining these areas is an important aspect of local government and directly contributes to our quality of life. However, the current bond proposal is problematic for several reasons.
The wording is not specific; the referendum states funds are for “expanding and improving various parks and recreational facilities,” including a sports complex. The bond would add $25 million to the county’s debt. The debt is currently some $90 million and exceeds the county’s 2020 revenue budgeted at about $77 million.
It’s not clear how this expenditure measures up against other priorities; what effect will this obligation have on funds available to address mental health and homeless needs, adequacy of policing or debt reduction? Will a more remote large sport complex meet the demand for local parks that are accessible to children in various communities? Can the neighborhood parks be upgraded, maintained, and scheduled to meet requirements for league play as an alternative to one large complex?
I do not support the current bond referendum for parks and recreation on the November ballot.
Residential growth continues, with multiple new housing developments and apartment complexes springing up. What are your thoughts about how to provide a high quality level of services to both existing and new residents without having to consider an increase to the county’s property tax rate?
CARVER: Some construction projects are in areas annexed to the city; the annexation is often motivated by project developers needing to obtain water and/or sewer from the city. In these cases, both county and city taxes are paid by residents with the city providing most services except K-12 education. When a development has a high density of children, providing for increased enrollment can exceed the additional income from new county taxes.
The recently passed budget does not require a tax increase to provide services to new developments typically received by other citizens in Lee County. Future need for services can be met by sustained growth of industry that significantly contributes to the tax base.
We can focus on ways to raise the median per capita income and encourage new business to hire workers who will reside in Lee County; when our citizens prosper they contribute to increased sales and property tax revenue.
The country’s opioid crisis continues, and overdoses have spiked since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lee County government in 2018 joined counties and cities across the nation in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers seeking damages in order to fund programs for prevention, treatment and education. What is your view of this effort to combat the crisis, particularly since in the two years since, a long list of manufacturers have agreed to pay out billions of dollars in settlements in this type of lawsuit?
CARVER: I would like to see Lee County embrace an overall plan that addresses substance abuse and mental health. We need to consider providing an in-house treatment facility for services to Lee County residents. In addition, we can promote an education program to alert our citizens to the seriousness of substance abuse and options they or caregivers can take to obtain services.
The lawsuit settlements would be a major help in financing care and facilities in our county; however, even though those funds will most likely reach us, we need to act promptly to budget a response to both substance abuse and mental health without depending on a final resolution to the lawsuit.