Incumbent Commissioner Ernest Lankford will be facing challengers Boh Mabe, Rick Morris, Andy Nickelston, Devin Parrish, Andy Stevens, Jamie Yontz, Wayne Barneycastle, Allen Brown and Jamie East in the May 8 primary election.
“We have 10 Republican candidates for county commissioner on the ballot in May. The top three vote getters will advance to the November elections,” said Stokes County Board of Elections Director, Jason Perry. “Since Greg Collins and Steven Hewett were the only two Democrats to file, they’ll automatically advance and there’s no need for a vote.”
The Stokes News sent each of the candidates on the primary ballot a list of questions concerning their thoughts for the future of Stokes County. The questions and the candidate’s unedited responses are printed below.
Early voting begins April 19 at the elections office in Danbury and April 30 at the King Library and Walnut Cove Fire Department. For more information visit http://www.co.stokes.nc.us/vote/
– Please provide a history of your public service including any boards or councils you have served on and any subcommittees you have served on. Are you involved in any civic organizations or church groups? If so which ones?
Rick Morris: I served on active duty in the U.S. Army for 26 years and retired as a colonel. My wife Kathleen and I moved to Stokes County in 2003 and I was hired as the Stokes County Manager, a position I held from 2003-2005 and from 2011-2017. I am a member of the Lawsonville Ruritan Club, Walnut Cove Masonic Lodge #629 A.F.& A.M, the American Legion Post in King and the N.C. Sheriff’s Association. I previously served on the Board of Directors for the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina and as a governor’s appointee to the Code Officials Qualification Board in Raleigh. I’m a member of the Oak Hill Primitive Baptist Church near Austin, Texas and also enjoy visiting other churches in and around Stokes County.
Jamie Yontz: Stokes County School Board from 2011 to present, Served as Chair of Stokes County School Board for two of the eight years and Vice Chair two of eight years, Church Board of trustees 2005-2007, Church Facilities Board 2004-2008.
Ernest Lankford: Currently I am a County Commissioner and consider it an honor to serve the great people of this county. I have served on the Stokes County Board of Education, the Stokes County Planning Board, and as the Veterans Service Officer for Stokes County. I am a member of Peter’s Creek Baptist Church where I am a Deacon and I have served as Sunday School Director. I am a member of the Lawsonville Ruritan Club where I have served as Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, and President. I have been a volunteer fireman for the Lawsonville Fire and Rescue and have served on their Board of Directors. I am serving on the board of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council of Governments, the Department of Transportation’s Division Nine RPO – which includes Stokes County, and I’m on the Board of Directors for YVEDDI. I am also serving on the Work First Board of Directors and the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners’ Trustees Insurance Pool. Finally, I have been a little league baseball and basketball coach in the Lawsonville community.
Devin Parrish: I am a member of Unleashed Ministries Church in Pilot Mountain and a member of the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy. I’ve never served on any councils or subcommittees, but my heart has always been devoted to public service. I’m at a point in my life now where I can do this.
Boh Mabe: I am an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army and Army National Guard as well. I have been a volunteer chaplain with Novant Health for the past 24 years, have been working with youth groups in various churches over 30 years. Currently involved in evangelism. I have been self-employed for the past 35 years as a sub-contractor. I have a good understanding of how business works and I have great interactions with the public. The values that guide me in my personal business will also guide me as your commissioner.
Andy Nickelston: I am a member of Mayo Mountain Church and in the Praise and Worship group. I also help out with many of the activities at my Church. I’ve also spent time coaching youth teams in different sports such as softball, baseball, basketball and soccer.
Jamie East: My family and I are members of Brookhaven Baptist Church.
Andy Stevens: My name is ANDY STEVENS and I am running for Stokes County Commissioner on May 8th. I thank The Stokes News for the opportunity to answer the following questions they provided to each of us and for publishing these answers in their paper for the benefit of all Stokes County voters.
I am a graduate of the United States Military Academy (West Point) and a US Army Veteran.
I am a life member of Grass Roots North Carolina (grnc.org). Since 2013 I have been its volunteer State Director of Local Government Affairs, speaking before the State Legislature, County Commissions, and City and Town Councils across our state advocating for our Constitutional Rights and Freedoms.
I am a member and volunteer of the Stokes County Arts Council. I attend and support their events and programs in our community.
I volunteer with Friends of the Stokes Shelter (FOSS) and I look forward to its success building a shelter that supports but does not replace the obligation Stokes County has to provide humane animal control services. I volunteer with SpayStokes. A low cost spay/neuter solution for pets here in Stokes County
I am active in our local Stokes County government at all levels: Town Councils, School Board, and County Commission. I attend meetings and speak out on the public record. I am a member of King Moravian Church.
Allen Brown: no response
Wayne Barneycastle: Well I grew up in this county and have been able to watch it grow to where it is today. I have service this county for 38 years with the Fire service and work with the EMS service. I have had the opportunity to serve in several position in our county. I have serve as President of the Fire & Rescue Association, serve as Fire Chief with the fire dept. I’m still serving as one of the Fire Commissioner at this time.
– What do you consider to be the best assets/skills/experience you will bring to the table if elected?
Rick Morris: I bring a strong work ethic to the job from my time in the military. My formal college education is in the areas of business and government contracting. I gained high level business experience working on the acquisition of Army missile systems, including my position as the Program Manager for the Hellfire 2 Missile System. As the county manager for Stokes County, I attended the County Administration Course at the UNC School of Government, and served as the Stokes County Manager for 9 of the past 14 years. I also worked as a consultant in the Washington, D.C., area for 5 of the past 14 years, where I gained valuable business experience in the private sector. I feel that my leadership and business experience from the Army and private sector prepared me well for the county manager position and likewise will be major assets if I am elected as a county commissioner.
Jamie Yontz: I believe that my approach to local government is based on a common sense approach. I have consistently made decisions while on the school board that are fair and consistent and based on needs in the county. I have worked with budgets over the past seven years that have been very challenging, and along with other school board members and central office have been able to continue to see growth. While being on the school board I have also heard concerns of citizens regarding issues at the commissioners level and believe that with a forward thinking, proactive approach, we can start progressing our county. I also believe that we must get citizens involved and sitting at the table when discussing plans to advance our county.
Ernest Lankford: I consider my vast background of experience to be my best asset. As a County Commissioner I have had the opportunity to serve on statewide boards and committees involving safety, health care, economic development, and mental health with county commissioners from all over North Carolina. I have worked through many budgets and helped make decisions that impact the well being of the county and its citizens. In my professional career in management at RJ Reynolds I worked with others for many years solving problems and making decisions on a daily basis to save the company money. My work ethic comes from being raised on a tobacco farm and my love for our county comes from living here my entire life.
Devin Parrish: My experience as a manager at Walgreens for over 5 years along with over 6 years in the technology field make me an ideal candidate. Managing a drug store requires dedication, vision and the ability to work well with others. With technology, one must stay current with new and innovative things at all times. I’m well versed in these areas and will lead our county into the future.
Boh Mabe: I have been self-employed for the past 35 years as a sub-contractor. I have a good understanding of how business works and I have great interactions with the public. The values that guide me in my personal business will also guide me as your commissioner.
Andy Nickelston: I have a lot of business experience working in our family companies. I understand economics and can use those skills in helping out our county. In the past 10 years I have worked with my father, mother and brother to take our companies from 10 or less employees to 50+ employees. We have also extended our work area up and down the east coast. Since there are five Commissioners, I have the experience of working with others to get issues resolved.
Jamie East: Hard Work ethic, Value of strong morals, Good listener, Open minded to peoples opinion & Communicating with others.
Andy Stevens: I received one of the finest public undergraduate educations offered in this Country. It has served me well over the past 40 years both as an Officer in the service of our Country and as a Business Professional in the Private Sector. After my military service, I’ve worked in Operations Management (District, Regional and General Manager) in a variety of roles and industries. Much of my experience was managing within multistate, multimillion dollar corporations with annual operating budgets up to $80 million dollars. Additionally, I’ve worked as a Financial Analyst, Director of Supply and Distribution, Director of Budgets, and Corporate Treasurer which is invaluable experience for creating and overseeing large Annual Budgets.
Recently I discovered and reported a $90,000 error in the current Stokes County budget. How? I asked for and reviewed the entire 220 page budget. I have the skills and knowledge we need on the County Commission.
Today I am employed as the Plant Coordination Manager for a business employing approximately 900 on a 24/7/365 shift schedule. Turnovers and transitions in both the private and public sectors are inevitable for many reasons. Pay alone will not be a solution. Again, I have experience that can help tailor solutions to our specific County needs.
Allen Brown: Hello, my name is Allen Brown and own two very successful business in the county and I think my business experience would give me a unique view for county commissioner.
Wayne Barneycastle: I work for Leggett Platt company where I have been a manger for 27 years I know what it’s like to work on a monthly budget.
– Why have you decided to run for Stokes County Commissioner?
Rick Morris: After becoming Stokes County Manager, I took a keen interest in our local government and the importance of working effectively to serve the citizens of Stokes County. I think the Stokes County Government should be operated using accepted business practices that deliver services in a professional manner without the waste of any taxpayer dollars. As a commissioner, I will use my education and experience to “Move Stokes County Forward” so the county can better realize its great potential. I would do this through a better county budget development and approval process, better retention of county government and school system employees, aggressive expansion of Internet availability, increased emphasis on economic development to keep taxes low, and the delivery of basic services to all county residents in a professional manner. Finally, I would always seek direct input from Stokes County citizens on what they think the priorities should be for their commissioners.
Jamie Yontz: As stated in the previous question, after sitting on the school board I believe that the future of our county is on this election. As a school board member, I see the leverage the commissioners can have on county departments, and would like to see that change and commissioners become door holders and not gate keepers of the county. We have to become servant leaders in order for our county to see growth.
Ernest Lankford: I have decided to run again as county commissioner to continue a history of strong conservative leadership to strengthen and move our county into the future. We need to attract industry and small businesses to keep property taxes low. We need conservative spending and sound business practices to ensure that our county’s infrastructure meets the needs of the county. Stokes County is a very special place to me and as a commissioner I pledge to you that I will focus on what is in the best interest for all citizens. I will continue to work with the current commissioners to improve education through funding for our public schools and community college, through funding to maintain our county departments and county services such as public safety – including EMS, Fire Departments, 911 communications and law enforcement, public health – including environmental health, social services, economic development and county infrastructure – including broad band internet.
Devin Parrish: I’m running for County Commissioner because I want to serve the great citizens of Stokes County and because we need a break from the same old song and dance. We need to be a proactive county, not a reactive one. We need Commissioners with foresight, new and fresh ideas, and the ability to listen and have open, honest dialogue with everyone. I am that candidate!
Boh Mabe: Stokes County is not only my home but home to 3 of my 4 sons and families as well as your home. My heart is burdened to do what I can to ensure that Stokes County stays a great county and continues to progress for our next generation.
Andy Nickelston: Being a citizen of Stokes County all my life, I’m worried about the future of our county as far as job creation and the economy that comes with new jobs. I would like the opportunity to be a commissioner to help change the infrastructure of the county to make it more appealing to outside companies. I’m also concerned about the drug problem in our community. I would like to see more vocational classes for our students in all our schools to better prepare them for the work force. That’s why it’s important to not only bring in new jobs but to have workers better prepared for these jobs. I would like to try to resolve the issue of the amount of teachers and EMS workers exiting the county system.
Jamie East: My wife, Laura and I have three children that attend local schools and call this home. It is important to us to see them as well as the entire next generation inherit a community they can be proud of. One with a solid fountain that can benefit from growth into the future.
Andy Stevens: Our governance should be citizen based and not the job of professional politicians. Elected Office is not an entitlement and should not be a career. The Stokes County citizens I’ve spoken with want to maintain conservative, frugal, and limited government. They don’t want to see Stokes County import the high taxes, over reaching regulation, and crime they see in neighboring liberal, progressive Counties around us.
Our neighbors want Commissioners whom they believe and more importantly they trust to retain traditional conservative values here. I am a Limited Government, Low Tax, Constitutional Conservative. I’ve been that way my entire life. My views and philosophy are shared by many. I’ve been asked to run and endorsed as well. I’m willing to serve when many with similar views may not because of the rigors of campaigning for public office.
Ask any elected Commissioner and they will tell you a tremendous amount of time and effort must be committed to serve effectively. I will retire from private employment by November and so will have the time to effectively engage and serve the citizens of Stokes County if I’m honored to win election as County Commissioner.
Allen Brown: I am a lifelong resident of Stokes County and I want to give back to the county, that has done so much for me. (Make Stokes County Great Again)
Wayne Barneycastle: The reason I decided to run is first I have a great love for this county. I feel I can bring a lot to the table with my knowledge.
– What do you see as the biggest issues facing Stokes County, and how would you address them?
Rick Morris: A few of the most important issues in Stokes County that I feel should be addressed are:
School Safety – I feel school safety should be a top priority and to that end I would support every public school having a full-time SRO Sheriff Deputy in the school. I would fund this using the 4-Cent Tax Fund that is already in place for school construction and renovation.
Lack of Availability of High Speed Internet and New Business Expansion – I would aggressively support all efforts to accelerate the expansion of high speed internet to all parts of the county to support education requirements for the schools and economic development requirements for the expansion of business in the county. I would also work to expand water and sewer, and other infrastructure to attract new businesses.
Retention of County Government and School System Employees – I would look at competitive pay and other incentives to keep the county and school system from losing their best people to surrounding counties. This would save a lot of taxpayer dollars that are being wasted on training and numerous other costs that result from the high turnover of personnel.
Opioid Abuse – I will strongly support education and other programs to prevent the deaths and other problems caused by opioid abuse. I would also support programs offered by Cardinal Innovations to treat opioid addiction plus mental health issues that are also present in the county. Last of all I would support the Sheriff in his efforts to limit access to illegal drugs.
Child / Adult Protection and Foster Kids – I will strongly support the efforts of the Sheriff’s Department and the Department of Social Services (DSS) to ensure the safety of children and adults in the county, who are often negatively impacted by drug abuse and other parenting issues. I would also ensure resources are available to properly support foster kids that are under the care of DSS.
Jamie Yontz: While the Commissioners will face numerous issues, I believe the one of most important will be creating plans to stifle the loss of revenues in the county due to a declining population. Plans to attract residents to our rural county will be a challenge, but can become reality if we define our “brand” and celebrate it with neighboring counties. The increase in revenues would allow for improvements in services provided to our citizens and give opportunities to invest in other infrastructure needs.
Ernest Lankford: The biggest issues facing Stokes County is public safety, drug and opioid abuse – including mental health and jobs. These will be my top priorities. Each one of these issues are very complex and it will take multiple solutions to solve them.
1) Public safety will be maintained through trained personnel and technology. Our sheriff and all county law enforcement has already started working on a safety plan that will be very beneficial. Grants through the State and Federal Governments will help with funding opportunities.
2) Decreasing drug and opioid abuse will only be solved by every citizen’s willingness to take action. Medications should be guarded and citizens should be suspicious of illegal drug activity and report such activity to the proper authority. Mental health services will play a critical role for those who need help. It will take everyone to help identify those in need. It will take education and services by professional care givers – like Cardinal Innovations – to provide treatment.
3) The County Commissioners are in the process of hiring a Economic Development Director who will be tasked with the job of recruiting businesses that will bring employment opportunities to the citizens of our county and increase revenues to pay for services.
Devin Parrish: The biggest issues facing our county is infrastructure and tourism. We need to expand water and sewer throughout the county and make high speed Internet available to everyone. We are also are in possession of the Piedmont’s greatest treasure: Hanging Rock. Not enough people outside of our county know about it. Advertising and more publicity would go a long way in curing this problem.
Boh Mabe: The biggest issue we face is infrastructure. Being a rural county has its blessings, benefits and problems. I firmly believe with conservative, careful, precise planning and consulting with the experts, in time we can resolve this issue. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.
Andy Nickelston: To fix these problems … Jobs- Build better Infrastructure to attract other business, Give reasonable Tax incentives with sound contracts for Guaranteed good paying jobs that impact the tax base while also keeping the County a small close knit community.
Schools- Work with local tech collages to see about implementing new vocational programs in the schools.
Retaining Skilled Workers- Incentives, Tax breaks, and tuition grants for guaranteed work years.
Drugs- Work with the Sheriff’s Department and help with their needs to shut this problem down.
Tourism can also help fund a lot of this. We have one of the nicest parks on the East Coast and a lot doesn’t even know it exist. I would like to see an occupancy tax charged to the ones coming here visiting the area. With more lodging here in the future that would help out.
Jamie East: 1 – Education: Education salary concerns, Education quality including Safety
2 – Community Safety: Effects of drugs within the community, Crime Rate
3 – Economic Growth: Support and promote small business’, Future growth and economic endeavors
We would address the above one at a time with open minded conversations collaborating with all community leaders and board members to see successfully outcomes.
Andy Stevens: While there are many issues we can discuss, I will briefly cover two I hear most frequently from fellow County residents.
(1) Combating Addiction and Dependency in our Community; and
(2) Opportunities for Economic Development.
(1) Stokes County has a growing problem with addiction, dependency, and abuse of substances both legal and illegal.
Addiction and substance abuse affects nearly every family in our County and it grows worse by the day. I myself, an alcoholic who no longer drinks have suffered the personal and public devastation and repercussions addiction creates. In fact, some believe my own personal experience should permanently disqualify me from even serving as Commissioner. Many people don’t run for office because they fear the Politics of Personal Destruction. Ask yourself this question: Can the problems of Addiction and Dependency be solved by those in office who believe addicts and substance dependent individuals are worthless? Should we shame them, dismiss them, or deny them opportunity for hope, redemption, and future success? No, we should not and I will not. Only one person who walked this Earth was perfect and I thank God he is the source of my salvation.
As Commissioner I will work with all parties public and private including health professionals, law enforcement, the judiciary, support groups, and those afflicted to develop simultaneous strategies to address needs, resources, staffing, and policy. We must recognize and separate the criminal behavior from the mix. We must remove the criminals from our streets and comfort, care for, and treat the victims. I will engage, communicate, and support any and all in our community to disrupt the flow of illegal substances, provide resources for intervention and treatment, and promote the recognition that these individuals are not nameless evil shadows, but our children, our parents, our friends, neighbors, and even ourselves.
(2) Economic Development and growing the Stokes County economy
We must collectively find a way to grow the economy in Stokes County and reduce pressure on raising property taxes as the source of County revenues. I am not one who believes economic development is a magic potion, and I certainly do not believe it is the role of government to pick private sector winners and losers with taxpayer dollars and incentives.
Far too often the promised results do not materialize and dollars critically needed elsewhere are wasted and not available. Our Towns are centers of population and infrastructure within our County. We must coordinate with the elected leaders in these municipalities to most efficiently and productively add value for commerce to grow.
We enjoy the benefits of our natural resources and we encourage visitors to come see the beauty we possess. We must find ways to keep visitors here longer and offer them opportunities to lodge, dine, and spend their money here. Updating our County websites to remain fresh, current, and timely is a small, relatively inexpensive step that can immediately produce great returns.
When we invest our public treasury on risky adventures we must insure we have agreements in place with those who receive public funds that contain expectations and performance objectives that can be measured and evaluated. Deals for the benefit of taxpayers in return for our public money must come with strict performance guarantees.
We need private enterprise to recognize the gems and draws we have and encourage creative business minds to capitalize on this expanding and profitable market. The private sector has an extremely important role to play. Government must get out of the way, resist the role to dictate and regulate, and allow free enterprise to flourish here in Stokes County.
On this matter of growing the Stokes County economy it will take consensus of all the Commissioners to achieve a successful outcome. I will actively solicit and entertain all suggestions and offers brought to the County Commission for action or investment with an open, but analytical mind. I will ask tough questions. I will ask for meaningful, quantitative performance guaranties and benchmarks before my vote to allocate any funds from the public treasury for any such efforts.
Finally, we must understand that even with visitors spending money we do not enjoy the density of population to support the full range of retail and commercial experiences other urban Counties enjoy. We must encourage one and all to do business locally and spend their money here.
Allen Brown: (Jobs) We need to bring more business into the county and create more jobs and I have a idea of how to do that without costing the county any additional money and only a business owner who started with nothing and now owns two very successful business in the county and who employees local stokes county residents would know. (Schools) need to be safe for our students, so if you have to walk through a metal detector at the Stokes County Court House in Danbury, you should have walk through a metal detector at all Stokes County Schools as well.
Wayne Barneycastle: The biggest thing I see in our county right now is the water and sewer and think we need to get with the planning board and see where were are at this point and start working really hard to bring more to our county. Go out and apply for Grants to see if we could get help from the State. Economic development is another big one we need to work really hard on to bring more jobs.
– Is there anything else about you personally that you would like voters to know?
Rick Morris: If elected as a Stokes County Commissioner, I will continue to work hard and serve the people of Stokes County just as I tried to do as their county manager. I will be a commissioner for all citizens of the county and will listen to the peoples’ concerns and ideas as I work to develop good policy for our county government. I will bring no personal or hidden agendas to the job. My only agenda will be a strong and well-run county government that “Moves Stokes County Forward” and fairly serves all of the people of Stokes County by providing the important services they need. I would encourage you to talk with the county government and school system personnel that I worked with as county manager and also check out my website (www.rickmorriscommissioner.com) to view additional information on my background plus other items such as my responses to questions from other Stokes County citizens.
Jamie Yontz: I believe that I bring a common sense approach to decisions being made. I believe in being proactive and establishing 5,10,15,20 and 25 year plans for what we want Stokes County to become. I believe in ALL of Stokes County and have a voting record to support it. I stand on my word and would encourage citizens to research my claims.
Ernest Lankford: If you, the people, give me another term I will work hard for you and uphold my commitments to keep property tax low, maintain a strong education system, support public safety, be open, fair, and consistence during making decisions, will support all county volunteers, support our veterans & senior citizens, promote economic development for creating more jobs, and ensure quality services for all citizens. Thank you, and remember “God Loves You”
Devin Parrish: First and foremost I’m a Christian and I love God! Second, I’m a husband to my wife, Courtney, and a father to our children, Gracie and Jack. Lastly, I’m a clean slate with no agenda or allegiance to any person or special interest group. I am a constitutional conservative who fully supports our Second Amendment rights and I love our great nation!
Boh Mabe: Finally, I’d like for you to know that I have no personal agenda, serve no special interest, will show no favoritism. Every community is important and the concerns of the citizens will be in my thoughts with every decision made as your commissioner. I will do all with honesty and integrity, keeping the interest of the people first and foremost. God bless.
Andy Nickelston: I am godly family man. I am a father of 5 beautiful children. I do seek God’s guidance in my decisions. I am a very hard worker and strive to succeed in everything I do.
Jamie East: For the past 40 years I have called Stokes County home. Raised on a small tobacco farm with parents who taught me the value of God, Family, and hard work. I am grounded by my Christian faith and the value of strong morals. With your support and my hard work ethic I believe we can witness these things in action. Most of all I want to work alongside the heart of this community, its residents.
Andy Stevens: I believe our County has an obligation to provide best in class services to its citizens including Education, Law Enforcement and our Courts, Animal Control, Public Health/EMS, and basic government services.
I believe our County Commission meetings should be open and transparent and I advocate for the public transmission of all meetings via electronic means. As a Commissioner I pledge to serve no more than two terms if elected. I pledge to be your advocate for a limited, constitutional low tax government. I pledge to be accessible and to encourage participation by our constituents, the citizens of Stokes County.
In conclusion, with 10 candidates in this race many of you will have a personal favorite. I ask if I am not your FIRST choice as Commissioner then please make me, ANDY STEVENS your SECOND choice when you vote on May 8th. Please don’t sit this election out. You can make a difference. Thank you.
Allen Brown: Yes, I pledge to donate County Commissioners Salary to local Stokes county charities. I would challenge all current and incumbents to donate County Commissioners salary to local charities. I feel that serving as County Commissioner should be a Volunteer Elected Position.
Wayne Barneycastle: I have really enjoyed going across this county talking to the people and hearing their different views and comments. If I’m elected I will work hard for our county and do the best I can to serve the people just like I have for 38 years.