Andre Knecht, left, and Kate Woods, right

There are three district elections for the Lee County Board of Commissioners in November. Here, we have answers from the candidates for District 3 (the southern half of Carolina Trace and most of Lee County south of Tramway Road), Republican incumbent Andre Knecht and Democratic challenger Kate Woods. These answers were published unedited and as received from the candidates in the September and October editions of The Rant Monthly.

In person early voting begins on Thursday at the Lee County Board of Elections at 1503 Elm St. or the McSwain Center at 2420 Tramway Road. Hours are 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Friday between Oct. 20 and Nov. 4. In person early voting will also be available from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5. Election Day is Nov. 8. For information about absentee ballots, click here.

Please introduce yourself and describe your qualifications for office:

KNECHT: No response.

WOODS: I’m Kate Woods, a ten-year resident of Lee County, mother of three children who attend Lee County Public schools, and wife of an Army Veteran. I manage events and catering sales as well as food and beverage operations at Carolina Trace Country Club. I’ve spent the last seven years involved in the management of the Carolina Trace Association, the last two as Vice President and Chair of the Safety & Security Committee. With that, I’ve assisted in major infrastructure improvement projects, participated in budget discussions, and represented the needs and concerns of over 1,600 homes and 3,000 economically and socially diverse residents both on the Board of Directors and to outside agencies like NCDOT and the Lee County public school system. I believe that we should all strive to be of service to our community. In this country, we find ourselves in a situation where elected officials no longer serve as the direct voice of their constituents, voting instead in their own self-interest. Serving as the voice of my community, I intend to advocate for their needs. I want to reignite trust in our representatives. This is a pivotal time for Lee County as we experience exponential growth. I feel a responsibility to ensure that future growth and development is benefiting our residents.

Lee County has experienced massive tax base growth in recent years, leading to an increase in property tax revenue. How will you balance the opportunity to decrease property tax rates with other needs brought about by growth (capital projects such as the new library) and the public’s vote in 2020 to proceed with the multi-sports complex?

KNECHT: No response.

WOODS: Tax reduction often sounds good on paper, but economically speaking it is rarely a good idea to reduce assessments unless you are in possession of an incredibly large surplus. We have a duty to ensure our current infrastructure can support the exponential growth in people, traffic, and consumer needs coming from the influx in jobs and homes to our area. The county voted to move forward with the construction of the multi-sports complex, and we have a responsibility to see that fulfilled—especially when it has the potential to drastically increase our tourism revenues. Athletes and their families will eat at our local restaurants and shop at our local businesses, and more opportunities will be provided for the youth of Lee County as they host and compete against other youth athletes from around North Carolina and outside the State. As we travel between Charlotte, Raleigh, and Rockingham for my childrens’ sporting events, we spend money in those communities; it is time to see that revenue return back to Lee County. Not to mention that projects like the new library next to O.T. Sloan Park are a valuable resource and vital to the continued success of our young people. We have a lot of bright minds in our county dedicated to making sure we can meet our financial obligations, and should they come up with a budget that both reduces county taxes while also meeting the commitments made to the voters. I see no reason not to support that.

Have you signed any pledges or promises to outside groups or individuals in exchange for an endorsement? If so, please describe them.

KNECHT: No response.

WOODS: I have not, nor would I ever, sign any pledges or promises that dictate how I may vote or behave just to receive an endorsement. I have been inspired by the fierce independence and freedom in thought of Lee County residents. Just as we would never allow Cumberland or Harnett or Wake counties to dictate county policy here, I will never allow myself to be influenced or cast my vote at the behest of others. I have too much respect for my constituents and myself.

Soaring building costs have changed plans for the county’s multi-sports complex, for which nearly 59 percent of Lee County voters approved a $25 million bond in 2020. Now that the project is slated for completion in multiple stages, what will you do to ensure it becomes a reality in as close alignment as possible with the voters’ wishes while also keeping additional spending minimal?

KNECHT: No response.

WOODS: A $25 million dollar project in 2020 is not a $25 million dollar project in 2022. The key to making sure the multi-sports complex gets completed as originally intended, is to make sure our county continues to see the revenue needed to fund its completion. With a proportionate increase in revenue, we can adjust to the increase in total project cost without diminishing the project or overburdening the residents of Lee County. I am committed to making sure our county continues to see that needed revenue so that we do not allow increased construction cost to be used as an excuse to default on the promises made when the bond was approved in 2020.

To ensure we complete each phase without changing the final product, it is imperative to stay well informed on the trends in construction costs and make sure that our RFPs are bringing in companies with competitive pricing. We need to keep a close eye on the market so that we can make informed decisions that could bring our total project cost closer to the original cost. A 1-year delay on Phase 2 could mean the difference between millions when it comes to the cost of building materials. We have qualified individuals managing this project, they just need the support of a commissioner who understands the process and is willing to give them all the needed tools and backing to do what is best in each situation.

Confidence in elections has eroded nationwide in recent years, particularly following the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Will you recognize the outcome of your race in 2022, and if elected, what steps will you take to show the public that Lee County’s election process and election workers can be trusted?

KNECHT: No response.

WOODS: When you deny the outcome of an election, you undermine the entire electoral process, you diminish faith in our elected officials, and you reduce the trust people have in our government on all levels. I vow to accept the outcome of my race with grace. If elected, I will reinforce the trust I have in Lee County’s electoral process and its elected officials by standing fast to the promises I make during my own race. The public understandably mistrusts their officials when they lack transparency and ignore the will of their constituents. I hope by exemplifying what I seek in a representative, someone who listens to the needs of my constituents and prioritizes their concerns, that I can reignite trust in all aspects of Lee County’s government and election process. I will also encourage participation in the election process. Nothing builds trust like volunteering as a poll worker and experiencing it first-hand.