Jay Wagner, a two-term High Point City Council member, made his bid for mayor official today, joining Bruce Davis, a former Guilford County commissioner, in the race.
“I love my city,” Wagner said before filing at the Guilford County Board of Elections at 2 p.m. “I desperately want to improve High Point. My goal has been economic development through revitalization.
“I think we’ve reached the point where the city, the general public, the business community and High Point University are all on the same page,” he added. “We’re not arguing about whether to do it anymore. We’re arguing — to the extent that there’s any argument at all — about how best to do it. We have buy-in from these parties. I’m the person who has the confidence of all those groups.”
Mayor Bill Bencini, who has only served one term in the office, announced earlier that he would not seek reelection
Monica Peters, a political newcomer whose vision for the city is in many ways aligns with Wagner’s, filed for the Ward 3 seat. Peters said she decided to run in March after talking with Alyce Hill, the current representative, and learning that Hill was not interested in another term. Peters helped launch We “Heart” High Point in 2014 as a citizen initiative to promote revitalization at a time when the previous council was dismantling City Project.
“I’m still a core city revitalization advocate,” said Peters, who serves on the board of the Southwest Renewal Foundation and founded the annual EbFest Music Festival and Makers Fair. “That’s where I see my passion.”
Brandon Lenoir, a professor of political science and political communication at High Point University, is working as a consultant for the Wagner and Peters campaigns, along with that of Donald Scarborough, a retired High Point University administrator who filed on July 7. Lenoir said the three campaigns are not coordinating with one another, but acknowledged they are “focused on similar issues: moving the city forward, revitalization. This is a critical time for High Point. If the wrong people are elected, it could take the city in the wrong direction.”
Both Wagner and Peters view the last municipal election, in 2014, as a turning point for the city. Wagner made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2010, and was first elected to council in 2012, but found himself on the losing end of many votes in his first term.
“We’ve gone from having a city council actually trying to kill revitalization efforts to one supporting of revitalization,” Wagner said. He added that the shift in direction led to a project to create a plaza next to High Point Library, plans to build a downtown stadium as a catalyst project, and a blight reduction program.
“Those all came from the council sitting down and coming up with a strategic plan,” Wagner said. “That should address the declining property values. A rising tide lifts all boats. That will allow us to reduce the tax rate over the long term.”
Peters expressed agreement.
“I love the momentum that the current council is on,” she said. “I want to keep the momentum going.”
The two candidates also agree that a focus on core city revitalization will have a beneficial ripple effect for the rest of the city.
“I do believe that through core city revitalization it will help alleviate poverty and violence,” Peters said, “because it creates jobs and opportunities.”