South Ward representative John Larson has announced that he intends to run for re-election to his seat on Winston-Salem City Council. Larson has been in office since 2016 and would enter his third term as a councilmember if successful in 2024. Larson, 74, has lived in the South Ward for 48 years.
The South Ward is home to city hall and includes parts of downtown, Washington Park and Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
Larson is a Democrat and currently serves on two council committees: vice chair of the Public Safety Committee and a member of the Public Works Committee. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in applied history from the University of South Carolina and served as a captain in the US Army. Larson worked for 37 years for Old Salem Museums and Gardens as vice president of architectural restoration before holding political office.
In a press release, Larson said that he will fight to “achieve further investments” in areas such as parks and recreation, as well as strengthen public safety and give “fierce support” for all neighborhoods and small businesses.
“Finding solutions for affordable housing needs and working on sustainability issues will remain top priorities,” Larson said, pledging to “continue to be easily accessible and to listen” to his constituents.
“I’m particularly interested in buses right now, public transportation,” Larson said, adding, “Are we serving the public the way it should be served? I think a radical look at that is in order.”
Larson and his campaign co-chair John Merschel recently sat down with Triad City Beat to talk about Larson’s work on city council over the last several years and their game plan for this upcoming election season.
“I’m not a lone wolf,” Larson said, adding that his advisors help him understand “what’s going on in the city and how I need to vote.”
“It’s important to have a consensus. I don’t believe in just making a decision myself in a vacuum,” Larson noted.
“We keep him honest,” Merschel quipped.
“They keep me active, is what they do,” Larson said.
“There’s been a lot of early discussion about me not running, so I want to go ahead and mute that and be clear that we definitely are running for a third term,” Larson stated.
Larson said he’s learned a lot during his time as a councilmember.
“It’s been a huge learning curve for me because city government is complicated,” he said. “And I feel like I’ve just really now begun to get a handle on how things are decided — budget process, we’re gonna hire a new city manager, we’ve got a new police chief now, we’ve got possibly a new city attorney on the horizon, we’ve got possibly another assistant city manager on the horizon depending on how things get hired….”
With all the changes coming to city leadership, Larson believes that continuity for his ward is important.
“There’s changes that are occurring in government anyway,” Larson remarked, adding, “I think it’s a good thing for me to be on board, particularly for the South Ward.”
Larson also wants to retain his seat on council because of committee implications.
“Seniority matters in city council,” Larson said. Jeff MacIntosh has been a councilmember since 2013 — currently serving as the chair of the Public Works Committee and member of the Finance Committee. With MacIntosh announcing in January that he will not seek re-election in 2024, Larson is stepping up in seniority.
“We think that’s a real advantage for the South Ward,” Merschel noted.
As for the city as a whole, Larson has confidence in its “strong economic cultural base.”
“We’ve reinvented ourselves from being an industrial town to a medical town and scientific town and an arts community,” areas that need to be accentuated, Larson said.
Larson mentioned that while his job is to represent the South Ward, he hopes to be sensitive to the overall needs of the city.
“I talk a lot about the South Ward but I don’t live in a silo,” Larson said, adding that he thinks it’s important for every councilmember to keep the “overall health of the city” in mind as they go along.
Larson said he feels good about running a campaign again because he thinks it’s time well spent and he enjoys it.
“I’ve got good advisors keeping me inside the guardrails, what’s reasonable and what’s not,” Larson stated. “So we’re gonna give it a run.”
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