The two candidates for the Southwest Ward seat on Winston-Salem City Council are both social-justice oriented, but some of their policy priorities differ.
Scott Andree-Bowen and Kevin Mundy, the two candidates for the Southwest Ward seat on Winston-Salem City Council, met for coffee for the first time on Wednesday, after chatting on social media for a couple weeks.
“We’re not politicians; we’re not going to slander each other,” Andree-Bowen said. “He’s a good guy; I’m a good guy.”
The two candidates are vying to replace fellow Democrat Dan Besse, who is retiring from city council after 19 years to run for state House. A social justice-minded Democrat, Besse was sometimes the only white member of city council who voted with black colleagues on council — often as not his reasoning was that he wanted to avoid votes split along racial lines.
The two candidates in the March 3 Democratic primary have a lot in common with each other, and with the city council representative they’re seeking to replace. Both Mundy and Andree-Bowen are white men who prioritize compassion in their approach to local governance, and Mundy joked that no matter who wins the primary, the winner will be a Methodist. Mundy serves as the director of the Green Street United Methodist Church choir. Andree-Bowen is the director of youth and food-pantry ministries at a local church; he isn’t publicizing the name of the church, which he said prefers to stay out of politics.
The 57-year-old Mundy has extensive experience in nonprofit and corporate management, and currently serves as program and alumni coordinator for Leadership Winston-Salem. Mundy previously served as community relations director for Sara Lee Apparel (now Hanesbrands), where he organized the Crosby National Celebrity Golf Tournament, which raised money for the Crosby Scholars program, which prepares middle and high school students in Forsyth County for college. More recently, he led the Sawtooth School for Visual Art as executive director.
Mundy said he first thought about seeking a seat on city council two years ago, when Besse made his first bid for state House. Mundy added that he didn’t realize Besse didn’t have to give up his seat that year, because the state House and city council election calendars were not aligned.
“I thought if I had the opportunity to run for city council, I would go for it,” Mundy said. “This is not a stepping-stone for higher office for me.”
Andree-Bowen, who is 41, previously taught 8th grade history at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy and pastored a church. He said doing the two jobs simultaneously “led to some hard burnout.” As a teacher, Andree-Bowen said he learned that some of his students are both the perpetrators and victims of violent crime, and he came to see crime as closely linked to poverty.
While directing the food pantry at another church, Andree-Bowen accepted appointment to the Winston-Salem Urban Food Policy Council and started volunteering with the Think Orange campaign, a local initiative to fight hunger. As a member of the Think Orange campaign, Andree-Bowen said he drafted a policy implemented by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to move breakfast into the classroom in high-poverty schools to ensure that children are getting fed at the beginning of the day.
When he learned that Besse was planning to run for state House again, Andree-Bowen said, “With what I’ve been doing, I felt like I know enough to step in and fight for those people.”
The Southwest Ward stretches west from Peters Creek Parkway through Ardmore and other neighborhoods bracketed between Business 40 and Interstate 40, and then balloons out into suburban areas that nearly reach Clemmons. The middle-class ward includes two hospitals (the top two employers in the county), Hanes Mall, and a vibrant retail corridor along Stratford Road.
Both Andree-Bowen and Mundy envision themselves as representatives of not just the ward, but the entire city.
Addressing what he called “food apartheid” in the city, Andree-Bowen said he wants to find a way to reopen the Liberty Street Market, which is located in the Northeast Ward, and also attract grocery stores to that part of the city.
“What’s good for the Northeast Ward in my opinion should also be good for the Southwest Ward,” he said. “If people there are starting to grow their wealth, the dollars are going to come here to the Southwest Ward because we’re a retail business ward.”
Mundy expressed a similar view that “everything ties back.”
“If we have a literacy problem at third grade, it doesn’t matter if it’s the Southwest, West or East Ward,” he said. “We’re going to pay the consequences for it in the whole city.”
Both candidates said they would like to decentralize police operations.
Mundy said he would like to see the city “build more substations,” while Andree-Bowen said wants to see the department add “precinct houses” so that officers are more directly tied to local areas. And both said they would look closely at salaries to ensure that officers receive adequate pay commensurate with the difficulties of the job.
Comments during their interviews with Triad City Beat provided a window into how the two candidates would work with the police.
Mundy said he had recently met with the Police Benevolent Association, and touted his business experience as an asset in figuring out how to pay for additional resources.
“There’s something they’re trying to get, and the city is resisting,” Mundy said. “If they implemented it, there would be some cost savings. That’s an example of how my familiarity with a [profit and loss] statement can help.”
Andree-Bowen said city leaders need to work to improve the relationship between the police and residents. To accomplish that, the candidate said he would make the Citizen’s Police Review Board “more visible and have more power.”
“Our minority community has fear because of the things that have gone on across the country,” Andree-Bowen said. “Enhancing the board would bring accountability. It protects the public, and protects the police.”
Both candidates are concerned about the loss of affordable housing, citing plans by a private developer to redevelop the Ardmore Terrace Apartments and Cloverdale Apartments, and increase rents. But they highlighted different solutions.
Citing the high demand for real estate in downtown, Mundy said the city has some leverage to require developers to set aside affordable units in exchange for access to financing at favorable interest rates.
Andree-Bowen said he is a fan of the Shalom Project, a nonprofit that is developing affordable housing on Peters Creek Parkway.
“If we can find a way to partner with these agencies, we can help them build houses, apartment complexes and tiny houses,” Andree-Bowen said. He added that he has “more of a nonprofit mindset.”
Unique among candidates for city council during this election, Andree-Bowen is emphasizing a goal to “make Winston-Salem a leader in the fight on climate change.”
“I want to start with all the municipal buildings,” he said. “We can put solar panels on top of our recreation centers. We don’t have to do it all at once. We could do a pilot project with one, show the benefits, and then move on to the next one.”
One of Mundy’s signature issues is investing in the arts to promote economic development.
He said he wants the city to “benchmark” against Greensboro, its neighbor to the east, adding that he suspects that Winston-Salem allocates a smaller portion of its annual budget to the arts. He also said Winston-Salem should consider a policy adopted in Albuquerque, NM to require developers to set aside a percentage of funds for public art.
“We as a city have to pay up,” he said. “We don’t have a performing arts center. You’ve got the Tanger Center [in Greensboro]. There’s DPAC in Durham, Blumenthal [Performing Arts Center] in Charlotte. All we’ve got is the Stevens Center. That’s owned by the University of North Carolina, and its main function is for student performances. We as a city have missed the mark.”
Mundy noted that, if elected, he would be the first openly gay member of city council. While the current city council is friendly towards LGBTQ+ rights, Mundy said it hasn’t always been that way, recalling that in the mid-1990s the council considered a resolution to “uphold family values of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”
It’s important to have leadership from an array of backgrounds, he said, adding that human relations is not just about race.
“I’m adding to the tapestry,” he said.
But Mundy’s primary pitch to voters is that his social-justice values are balanced with analytical skills honed in the business world.
“I lead with my heart, and follow that up by looking at the facts,” he said.
It’s a distinction that doesn’t bother Andree-Bowen.
“Kevin has done a lot in more of a management role,” he said. “He’s more rooted in nonprofit and for-profit management. I’ve been more working down in the streets with the people.”