Iris Hunter Richmond County Daily Journal

October 1, 2013

HAMLET — Residents had the opportunity to address candidates running for seats in Hamlet’s municipal election Tuesday night at the National Railroad Museum in Hamlet in a town hall-style candidates’ forum.

The candidates included: Bill Bayless, who is running unopposed for mayor of Hamlet; Dewey Brower, who is seeking re-election to his council seat and Jesse McQueen, Eddie Martin and Bert Unger, all of whom are seeking seats on the Hamlet City Council.

Van Billingsley, owner of the Electronics Service Company in Hamlet, asked two questions of all the candidates present. He asked if they would ask for input from a business owner if they were going to be affected by a change in the law.

Billingsley had a personal and professional stake in the candidates’ answers, as the Hamlet City Council recently decided to hold off on making a decision to adopt a revised Telecommunications Tower Ordinance.

All of the candidates agreed that it would be beneficial to receive input from people or businesses that would be affected by such proposed changes.

Billingsley said that the reason why he was asking the question was because last month the council conducted a public hearing regarding the proposed changes to the ordinance. However, he did not hear about it until approximately two hours before the meeting which left him little time to react or form a position on the issue — which he ultimately opposed.

At that meeting, Billingsley stood before the council and spoke about why it would not be a good idea for the city to adopt some of the proposed changes. He also mentioned that he has over the last 38 years he has built many towers and read over many ordinances and had the knowledge and experience for his opinion to be a credible one.

In the city council meeting, he also said that the proposed changes to the ordinance concerned him because the revisions would stifle small businesses.

“Some parts of the ordinance that they are proposing stifles entrepreneurism within the city, and lots of other cities and counties are actually trying to make it easier to conduct communications businesses within their city,” Billingsley said at the time.

Each of the candidates were asked what their No. 1 priorities were in their individual campaigns. The candidates were all on one accord with regards to the betterment of the community.

My top priority will be to make Hamlet better, said Brewer.

McQueen said that he want to keep businesses in the community as well as bring more business into the community.

Martin said he wants to improve Hamlet’s business atmosphere and try to be friendly to existing businesses.

Unger said create and maintain a cohesive community.

Bernice Owens, the volunteer coordinator of the event, said that she has been planning to have this meeting for about two months.

“This forum was held for the concerned citizens of Hamlet to meet the candidate so that we know what they are thinking and we can tell them what we are thinking,” she said.

— Staff Writer Iris Hunter can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at