Featured photo: From L-R, top to bottom: Kay Cashion, Alan Branson, Alan Perdue, Paul Meinhart, Pat Tillman, Derek Mobley, Frankie T. Jones, Jr., Kenny Abbe
This year’s general election takes place on Nov. 8. Early voting will start on Oct. 20 and runs through Nov. 5. For more information on voting, including how to register, vote by mail and more, visit the Guilford County Board of Elections website here.
In the races for Guilford County Commission this November, five of the nine districts will be up for grabs. Commissioners serve staggered four-year terms and are elected by district and at-large on even numbered years. Candidates for the at-large seat, District 1, District 2, District 3 and District 7 will face off and the winner will represent the districts for the next four years.
To see which district you are in, visit the county’s website here.
District 1’s representative, Democrat Carlvena Foster, does not have a challenger so she will be the only candidate listed on the ballot.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is comprised of nine total seats, including a chairperson and vice chair who are chosen every December to serve the upcoming year. Commissioners are responsible for adopting the annual county budget and establishing the property tax rate as well as adopting local laws. During the pandemic, the county commissioners also acted as the county Board of Health to pass mask mandates countywide.
TCB asked each candidate about their job experience as it relates to serving on the commission, what challenges they think Guilford County is facing, how they would spend federal COVID-19 funding and more. Candidates are listed alphabetically by last name with incumbents listed first.
Each candidate’s full answers are linked as a document at the end of their section.
The at-large seat represents the entirety of Guilford County. The current incumbent is Kay Cashion who has held the seat since 2004 when she was appointed to replace Democrat Jeff Thigpen who went on to become the county’s register of deeds. Cashion faces Republican Alan Branson who served as a county commissioner from 2012-20 when he narrowly lost his re-election bid to Democratic newcomer Mary Beth Murphy.
Kay Cashion (D, i)
As an incumbent, Cashion mentioned that her 17 years of experience have helped her “get a good understanding of priorities.” She has served on multiple budget committees, including the county’s internal budget and the joint school and county budget committee. Despite being a Democrat, Cashion said that her background in running a business for 50 years means that he is “more fiscally conservative, but still has a heart and concern for those who need services.”
When it comes to what the county should be spending more money on, Cashion said she would prioritize infrastructure, broadband access, homelessness issues and behavioral health services, including transitional housing for women with children who are in recovery.
Cashion has a strong volunteer background working with organizations that assist those in recovery, including her time chairing the county Family Justice Center and representing Guilford County on the Sandhills Mental Health Center.
When it comes to affordable housing, Cashion said that the county is working with nonprofit housing providers and with Greensboro and High Point leaders to alleviate the issue. Cashion also serves on the housing coalition committee and on the continuum of care board that addresses homelessness.
Read Cashion’s full answers here.
Alan Branson (R)
As the Republican candidate, Alan Branson highlighted his fiscally conservative policies in his answers to TCB. Branson said that during his tenure he helped lower county taxes, something he would push for if re-elected.
His priorities include increasing safety and security within the school system, Branson said. As such, he said he is not in support of defunding law enforcement and said that “they need more money, not less.”
“We need to provide adequate funding for our EMS, fire and sheriff departments,” he said. “We need to offer them good pay and benefits so that more people will join these forces to make our communities safer.”
He noted that the response time of officers and the number of shootings each day are of “utmost concern” for him.
In terms of spending, Branson said that the county should focus on spending more money on health and welfare, drug rehabilitation, the Family Justice Center and parks and recreation. Less money should go to nonprofit organizations, he said.
To combat the affordable housing crisis, Branson said that the county should “continue strong economic development outreach in both the urban and rural areas of Guilford County.”
Read Branson’s full answers here.
District 2 makes up the southernmost portion of Guilford County near Pleasant Garden as well as areas of the west including parts of High Point and Jamestown.
Alan Perdue (R, i)
Incumbent Alan Perdue has represented District 2 since first elected in 2014. Because he did not send updated answers for the general election, TCB is using information that Perdue provided for the May primaries.
Perdue mentioned that one of his priorities includes making sure that county departments that provide essential services are adequately staffed. This draws from Perdue’s experience as the former county Emergency Services Director and his time as a volunteer firefighters.
“The county must continue to evaluate their ability to compete and attract qualified personnel in order to meet the demands placed upon them by the public,” he said.
He also noted that maintaining infrastructure while keeping property taxes low is important for him. Like his Republican colleagues, Perdue said a focus on fiscal conservatism has served him well as incumbent.
“It is vital to understand that simply spending more money on something does not automatically make it better,” he said. ‘It’s what you do with those resources that really matters.”
During his tenure, Perdue said he’s been proud of overseeing projects like the building of the new emergency-services facility, the new animal shelter and the new behavioral health facility.
Read Perdue’s full answers here.
Paul Meinhart (D)
While Democrat Paul Meinhart has never run for political office, he told TCB that his experience working as an aide to NC State House Rep. Pricey Harrison from 2004-16 as well as his experience lobbying lawmakers will help his role as a county commissioner.
Some of the topics that he is passionate about include environmental/sustainability, social justice, equality, animal rights and fair/affordable housing issues. As such, Meinhart told TCB plainly that the biggest challenge to Guilford County currently is “the threat to democracy, brought on by authoritarian, right-wing fascists ie; Maga Republicans and the majority of the current Republican party.”
He said that he believes in safe, affordable access to abortion, same sex marriage, safety protocols during pandemics and in democracy.
If elected, Meinhart said that he would also bring his professional experience working as a state-licensed general contractor to the role.
“I have a keen insight into zoning and development issues, housing issues and codes and ordinances,” he said.
Given his background, he said that there is no easy, simple solution when it comes to affordable housing.
“There are so many variables involved,” he said. “There are private landlords, slum lords, commercial landlords; they all have different dynamics involved. Ultimately, human greed and profit is the main culprit behind real estate prices, so we need to start there.”
One area where Meinhart and his opponent agreed was in law enforcement. Meinhart called the idea of defunding police “ridiculous” and said that more money is needed to properly compensate officers. However, he does support reform, stating that “anyone who is racist, homophobic, belongs to right-wing hate groups or has a history of criminal violence, should not be in law enforcement.”
Read Meinhart’s full answers here.
District 3 starts in the center of Greensboro and makes its way up towards the northwestern portion of Guilford County near Oak Ridge and Stokesdale.
The decision by District 3 incumbent Justin Conrad to not run for re-election opens up the seat for a new face. Political newcomer Derek Mobley faces long-time school board member Pat Tillman.
Derek Mobley (D)
Democrat Derek Mobley currently works as a quantitative analyst, building mathematical models to predict how customers’ financial choices will affect the company. This experience, he said, would translate well to working as a county commissioner because of his insight into how people respond to policy decisions as well as his financial accounting and economics background.
As for his priorities, Mobley said that combatting generational poverty and violent crime are at the top of this list. He also said he wants to invest more in public schools and in first responders to alleviate the issues listed above. He also sees affordable housing and substance abuse as issues to tackle but said that job training and education programs for youth could help with those.
In addition to increasing pay for first responders, Mobley said he supports more funding for schools for infrastructure and educator pay. Looking back on past commissioner’s decisions, Mobley said that if it were up to him, he would have provided some property tax relief as well.
Building on his priority of decreasing violent crime, Mobley said that he believes that too much money is spent on prisons and not enough is spent on actual law enforcement.
“Most developed countries have larger police forces than ours per person and less strict sentencing for offenses,” he said. “This makes it easier to deter crime and keep more non-violent offenders from going to prison, which can create lifelong obstacles that are difficult to overcome. I think we should spend our resources staffing our police force with well-trained officers instead of filling the jails.”
Read Mobley’s full answers here.
Pat Tillman (R)
Pat Tillman currently serves as the school board member for District 3, a seat he won in 2016.
Because he did not send updated answers for the general election, TCB is using information that Tillman provided for the May primaries.
As a school board member, Tillman said that one of his priorities if elected to county commission is funding the schools. He said that funding career academies, which provide training for students in areas such as health science, manufacturing and IT, will help to “reimagine public education.” Tilllman also said that the county needs to focus more on job creation and retention, noting that as a whole, more workers are moving to the Triangle and to Charlotte.
In terms of budgeting, Tillman said he would want funding to be focused on three areas: health and human services, education and public safety. He would look more closely at commissioners receiving raises and the 208 staff positions that make up the county for “any efficiencies there.”
Like many other candidates running for county commission, Tillman said that he supports funding law enforcement to attract and retain personnel.
He said that his vision for Guilford County is for it to be the most business friendly county in the southeast, the safest county and the cleanest and most welcoming one in the region.
Read Tillman’s full answers here.
District 7 covers the multicultural southeastern suburbs of the city then runs along the eastern side of Greensboro, hooking slightly to the west before the lakes.
Frankie T. Jones, Jr. (D, i)
Incumbent Frankie T. Jones, Jr. was first appointed to the District 7 seat after longtime incumbent Carolyn Coleman, who had held the seat since 2005, passed away in late January at the age of 79.
As a new incumbent, Jones said that his priorities are affordable housing, economic development, education and health and human services. Since joining the board in March, Jones said his proudest accomplishments include helping get the school bonds passed, co-hosting a property tax town hall in Southeast Greensboro, working to allocate COVID-19 funds, passing a budget that included pay increases for educators and spending time mentoring youth in custody at the juvenile detention center.
Jones also noted that his professional experience working as an attorney, as well as the vice president in the investments department for Lincoln Financial, has come in handy during his time on the board.
“As an attorney, I have significant experience in advocating for others,” he said. “This experience translates into my ability to effectively advocate for the needs of the community.”
Part of advocating for the community includes pushing for affordable housing, which Jones said is critical. He said the county should explore diverse housing options and solutions including having more streamlined and consistent property permitting regulations. Jones is also focused on funding the health department, which would help communities affected by infant mortality and hypertension.
“One potential solution is working with local health networks to support the creation of additional mobile units that can go to communities to deliver health services,” he said.
In addition to funding health and affordable housing, Jones said that more money should be spent on mental-health services to divert people from expensive trips to the emergency room. He also supports raising teacher pay and attracting high-paying jobs to Guilford County.
In terms of law enforcement, Jones said that he supports more training for officers, as well as community policing models. More resources and a focus on recruitment, is also important, he said.
Read Jones’ full answers here.
Kenny Abbe (R)
According to Kenny Abbe’s candidate website, the Republican candidate supports transparency in government, the Second Amendment, tax cuts, funding education and smaller government.
Abbe notes that he would not support tax increases and is actively against mask mandates, vaccine mandates or “other restrictions that infringe on individual rights, business and commerce, or travel.”
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