Watch video of WFJA’s interview with Republican Paula Fine-Mbuangi, 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 Bill Carver 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.
FINE-MBUANGI: I am a Christian, Wife, Mother and Grandmother. I have been an IT Professional for 15 years, nearly 14 with my current employer, and I was recently nominated to be the Vice Chair for Outreach and Recruitment for the Lee County GOP. As a taxpayer with a child in the Lee County School system, I want to make a difference in Lee County by improving our economic growth, improving the quality of our workforce, and making the county a great place to live, work and raise a family.
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?
FINE-MBUANGI: I believe our local government can grow the prosperity of Lee County by lowering taxes to make us more competitive with surrounding counties. I want to encourage existing businesses to expand and new businesses to come here, hiring Lee County citizens. We can improve the quality of the workforce and reduce regulatory burdens on businesses. I also want to see improvement in our infrastructure and land use planning.
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?
FINE-MBUANGI: We have not witnessed job growth the past 4 years under the current commissioners. Despite the many targeted financial incentives, our actual employment has dropped in both workforce size and employees at work in recent years. I would like to achieve a level playing field for all businesses whether old, new, large or small in our County. As a County Commissioner I will insist Lee County strictly follow the ruling of the NC Supreme Court Maready Case of 1995-1996. According to the High Court our growth incentives must fulfil an actual “public purpose” to be permissible. I will encourage our economic developers to review and put to practice the several requirements from this case.
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?
FINE-MBUANGI: I am a huge supporter of sports and recreational facilities for the families of Lee County. This bond is worded in a way that does not guarantee facilities will be built for the benefit of most families that need access to recreational resources. I support cost-effective recreational solutions that benefit all residents, across all of Lee County- like pocket parks and access to school playing fields. We need to be very careful taking on debt for non-mandatory capital projects in Lee County. We have legal requirements to build and maintain schools and law enforcement facilities. We need to preserve debt capacity for that purpose.
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?
FINE-MBUANGI: Lee County will be responsible for schools and social services for the residents of the new housing developments. The City of Sanford will be responsible for most services and annexed areas, not impact county taxes. Based on the current budget that was passed, there will not be an additional tax increase for new developments for next year.
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?
FINE-MBUANGI: Once the monies are allocated, I believe there should be a collaboration between possibly city and county officials to identify an existing facility in Lee County. The treatment center should provide temporary in-house detox, medical treatments, psychological counseling and education directed at preventing a relapse. The treatments should be limited to Lee County residents to prevent a financial burden on Lee County taxpayers.