Candidates for the upcoming Yadkin County elections for Commissioner, Board of Education and Sheriff took part in an informational forum on Tuesday hosted by the Yadkin County Chamber of Commerce. Chamber Director Bobby Todd said the group has a 25 year history of hosting the forums as a way to inform the public on candidates views ahead of the election.
This year’s forum was held at Maplewood Baptist Church in Yadkinville and also included a livestream of the entire event via the Maplewood Church Facebook page.
Candidates in each race were given two minutes each to answer a series of questions presented by moderator Justin Somers which included questions solicited from the audience.
The 140 seat in the church were full with many guests at the forum standing in the back or in the lobby viewing the proceedings on the livestream. Organizers with the event said there were more than 1,700 viewers on the livestream.
Kicking off the event were School Board candidates Barry Cole and incumbents Tim Parks, Tim Weatherman and Sam Crews. Newcomer Cole said looking ahead and preparing the school system and students for an ever-changing world would be his priority if elected. Incumbents Parks, Weatherman and Crews talked about ongoing facility needs, supporting teachers and more.
The candidates were presented with audience questions regarding Critical Race Theory (CRT) and gender roles for athletics.
“I’m not for Critical Race Theory being taught in schools. I think that’s indoctrination and if you’re an athlete you need to play the sport for the gender you were born,” said Parks, to a round of applause from audience members.
All four candidates adamantly agreed that they were against transgender students play sports with the team for which they identified as well as CRT.
Crews did note that CRT is not currently in the school curriculum and said the School Board always monitors the curriculum and has not found any CRT in it thus far.
“We actually look at the curriculum that’s handed out every year to our students … and we verify that there’s nothing that Raleigh is trying to sneak into Yadkin County’s curriculum,” said Crews.
Incumbent Commissioners Kevin Austin, Gilbert Hemric and Frank Zachary were joined by newcomer Cliff Collins in the forum. Candidate Rodney Gordon was not in attendance. Event organizers said he did not respond to the invitation to participate.
Growth of the county was a big topic for the candidates in the Commissioners race. Collins said he would like to see more economic growth, particularly in the Hamptonville area where he resides, in the areas of places to stay and dine. He also noted the need for infrastructure to support such businesses.
Slow and steady growth of the county is what the incumbents all said was a priority.
Growing salary demands for the purpose of retention and recruiting was also a priority discussed by all the candidates.
Nick Smitherman took the stage alongside incumbent Sheriff Ricky Oliver to close out the forum. Oliver discussed his lengthy 45-year career in law enforcement. Smitherman also has experience in law enforcement, having worked for the Sheriff’s Office from 2010 to 2017.
Use of techniques and equipment such as canines and drones were among the questions from the audience. Both candidates said those tools could be useful but would have to be taken into consideration along with other more pressing budgetary needs such as staffing.
Both candidates said increased pay for deputies was a priority. An audience question on how salaries are determined gave Oliver the opportunity to explain that salary grades are set by the County Commissioners, not the Sheriff.
Both candidates were asked what their motivation was for running for sheriff.
“I think over the last 11 years we’ve come along way in this county in providing professional law enforcement services to the citizens, and that’s what they deserve,” said Oliver. “We have a much better trained organization than we had before. Most of our officers have completed advanced certificates in law enforcement, they’ve went back and got degrees and we develop field training officer programs in our agency. Along with that, we don’t want to back up, we don’t want to back to where we were. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort moving our sheriff’s office forward. My motivation is to keep going in that direction. I feel that the citizens of this county deserve the best services available to them and I feel that with my 45 years of experience, my education and background in management, we can do that. Management is tough right now, law enforcement is challenging and there’s a lot going on in the field of law enforcement right now that has to be addressed by good management.”
Smitherman said, “the motivation for running simple.”
“I had the opportunity while working as a deputy in this county and field training officer to build my integrity; to make contacts with the citizens. and over the years shortcomings have been called to light. That’s just what it is. We cannot afford to become complacent. I don’t think for a second that Sheriff Oliver has done anything to directly put our citizens or our deputies in dancer, however I do believe the complacency is continuing to grow, and that’s across the board. We’ve got to do everything we can,” he said.
Though not part of the official forum agenda, NC State Senate candidates Vann Tate, Eddie Settle, Lee Zachary, Shirley Randleman and judicial candidate Laura Byrd Luffman were each given a few moments to speak.
Tuesday’s forum can be viewed in its entirety on the Maplewood Baptist Church Youtube Channel at youtube.com/user/maplewoodbaptist