Walnut Cove residents should have an easy decision at the polls on Nov. 7 in selecting town commissioners and a new mayor.
Charles Byron is running unopposed for mayor and incumbents Sharon Conaway and Elwood Mabe are seeking re-election for the town’s two open seats on the board. All three were invited to respond to questions from The Stokes News about their thoughts and visions for their town. Below are their unedited responses.
– Please provide a history of your public service including any boards or councils you have served on and any subcommittees you have served on.
Byron – I am the chairman of the Walnut Cove Planning and Zoning Board and I have been an active member of the Walnut Cove Small Town Main Street Committee. I lead the effort to replace and improve the “Welcome to Walnut Cove” signs and personally installed them. I completed that project on time and below budget. I served on the subcommittee in charge of organizing the successful Walnut Cove Springfest and Christmas tree lighting. I have attended almost every council meeting since moving to Walnut Cove.
Conaway – I am a delegate to the Piedmont Triad Regional Council of Government and have served for 8 years. I am currently serving, and have served several terms, on the Executive Committee. I am a member of the Northwest Piedmont Rural Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee and have served for 8 years, serving one two-year term as Chairman. I serve on the Board of Directors for the Piedmont Triad Regional Development Corporation.
Mabe – Served as a town commissioner, mayor pro tem, coached little league baseball, serving as scoutmaster for 29 plus years, member of Bethesda UMC, have attended Bethesda for 50 years, I am active in the activities of church, have served on many committees within the local church, district, Western North Carolina Conference.
– How long have you lived in Walnut Cove? How many terms have you served and what first made you want to run for office?
Byron – I have lived in Walnut Cove for about 4 years. I have lived in NC for more than 20 years. I fell in love with Walnut Cove when I first started visiting the downtown here 20 years ago. Over that time I watched it slowly lose much of its vibrant business and country charm. However, the citizens have never lost their love and respect for our town and their desire to see it thrive again. I believe I can bring the commitment and vision to create a path back to the Walnut Cove that was the economic and social hub of Stokes County again.
Conaway – I have lived in Walnut Cove proper for 30+ years. I have lived in Stokes County for all of my life. Having been involved with the Town of Walnut Cove and attending board meetings for many years prior to running for office, I believed that the best way that I could serve our community was to serve on the Board where I could utilize my experience and education to benefit our citizens and taxpayers. I have served for eight years.
Mabe – I have lived in town for 26 plus years and within a 5 mile radius of town my entire life, I am in my second term as town commissioner, I first ran at the encouragement of town citizens and also a desire to serve my community.
– What do you consider to be the best assets / skills / experience you will bring to the table if elected?
Byron – I have been a proven and effective leader in roles throughout my business career. I graduated number one in my school with my engineering degree and have had a diverse and successful career in manufacturing and banking. My success has always been based on the ability to develop and implement good short term plans as well as long term visions. Walnut Cove has immediate opportunities for improvement as well as significant long term potential. As my campaign slogan states, we can truly “restore the pride”.
Conaway – My education and professional experience has been a tremendous asset as I have served over the last eight years. I have a BS in Accounting from High Point University and a Master of Business Administration from Wake Forest University. My entire professional career has been in finance. I have worked diligently to ensure that the decisions that I made on behalf of the citizens and taxpayers were based on sound financial reasoning to safeguard the future of Walnut Cove for many generations to come.
Mabe – Experience from the past years I have served on the town board, also as mayor pro tem, working closely with town managers, mayor, other commissioners and citizens.
– What do you see as the three biggest issues facing Walnut Cove during the next term? How do you propose those issues be addressed?
Byron – The three biggest foreseeable issues Walnut Cove faces in the next term are the need for downtown restoration, infrastructure and water improvements, and the Walnut Tree Annexation.
The first point in my five point plan for Walnut Cove is proactive economic development. Currently, the town has no business liaison to encourage good businesses and jobs to return to Walnut Cove. I believe the town needs to establish a business liaison that understands and promotes the business assets of our town. On average about 6,900 cars pass through our downtown daily. This is far more than many towns enjoying much more business development. Our commercial real estate is reasonably priced and our labor base is plentiful and talented. Effectively spreading the message of the great opportunities that potential business owners and job creators have in our community can bring the downtown and the surrounding communities back to the thriving economy it once was.
Walnut Cove needs to work toward water independence. The cost of infrastructure repair and improvements can often be offset by grants or low or no-interest loans from the state if these can be effectively identified and pursued. This should offset any need to increase fees to the citizens. Effective management should allow the town to ultimately REDUCE the fees for services which are now the highest they have historically been.
Regarding the Walnut Tree Annexation, because this is now a legal matter that I may be a factor in, I have been advised not to comment on this at this time.
Conaway – The three biggest issues facing Walnut Cove are infrastructure needs, financial sustainability and economic growth. Walnut Cove needs strong leaders that understand the town’s needs and who are committed to ensuring that Walnut Cove will be able to sustain the services and infrastructure needs of our citizens and taxpayers for future generations. Walnut Cove needs elected officials that will continually monitor and prioritize Walnut Cove’s changing infrastructure and service needs, working to ensure that the necessary measures are taken to protect and preserve our future sustainability.
Mabe – Need to update the water and sewer system, seek out grants to help offset the cost of updated systems, recreation for the youth, seek help from the youth and parents to see what is needed and a way to fund these projects. As all small towns we are need of more businesses to attract people to our town.
– What is your favorite thing about your community? What do you think is your community’s greatest strength?
Byron – That’s the easiest question on the list. My favorite thing about Walnut Cove and its greatest strength are the people. Whether you’re in Tuttle’s hardware, Just Plain Country, or Main Street Diner, you always know you will be met with a smile, hardy welcome, and an opportunity for an uplifting conversation. Very often those conversations meander to what we remember Walnut Cove was in its prime and our regret
Conaway – My favorite part of the community is the people. Walnut Cove is a town filled with people of outstanding character which is out greatest strength. I believe in Walnut Cove and its’ people. If our Town is successful, we will all be successful.
Mabe – The friendliness of the town citizens, quiet neighborhoods, people helping other people, the businesses especially the good restaurants.
– Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about you or your candidacy?
I have not been a Walnut Cove citizen for long, but am I a Walnut Cove citizen by choice. I choose Walnut Cove because of what it is, and what it can again one day be. I have a five point plan for Walnut Cove.
· Proactive Economic Development
· Downtown Clean-up and Maintenance
· Hear the Voice of the People
· Vision for the Future
· Honor the Heritage
I am a planner, and a doer, and I know that with the right team of citizens from the local community, churches and businesses that the town can get back on the fast track to prosperity and vibrancy. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, to make the hard choices, and to inspire commitment to a long term vision. My wonderful wife and I plan on being proud Walnut Cove citizens for the rest of our lives, Lord willing, and we want to be able to tell our sons that we were part of the effort to restore the pride.
Conaway – My responsibility is first and foremost to the taxpayers and citizens of Walnut Cove. In my service, I have based my decisions on what I believe to be in the best interest of our town after thorough and deliberate review. In today’s world, far too much attention is paid to the rhetoric and focusing too often on emotion rather than factual evidence. The world has enough problems without promoting hatred and resentment based on an insufficient factual foundation.