John Charles Robbins
Familiar faces are asking for new terms on the Rockingham City Council in the municipal election set for Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Longtime Mayor Gene McLaurin is running for reelection to the city’s top job.
Meanwhile, four candidates are vying for three open seats on the City Council: incumbent councilmen C. Bennett Deane III, John P. Hutchinson and Gene Willard are seeking re-election, and face challenger Teressa Beavers.
The Daily Journal sent questionnaires to all the candidates, with the results included in this article.
McLaurin, 55, who lives on Fayetteville Road, has been the mayor of Rockingham since 1997. He is the president of Swink-Quality Oil and Gas Company.
Asked what plans he has if elected to another term, McLaurin listed several priorities.
His No. 1 priority would be to maintain the city’s “excellent” financial condition — A3 bond rating from Moody’s — and low tax rate. Rockingham is ranked 61st out 92 among similar sized North Carolina cities in tax burden per capita, he said.
McLaurin listed continued partnerships with county, state and federal leaders to create jobs and economic growth as his second priority, and went on to offer recent examples.
“Richmond County-City of Rockingham has upgraded waste water treatment service to assist existing industries with expansions that have created jobs for our citizens, helped Rockingham Speedway officials with efforts to return NASCAR racing series, and continued to develop additional sites and shell buildings in Rockingham Industrial Park-West,” McLaurin said.
In addition, Rockingham city government has worked with state officials to alleviate public health issues by providing sewer service in portions of East Rockingham, and to secure funding for Hitchcock Creek to make water quality improvements, and signed an agreement with the state to install and maintain a campground on Pee Dee River, he said.
“Hinson Lake is another example of a joint project with NC Wildlife Resource Commission,” McLaurin said. Plus, Rockingham has worked with county government and Congressman Larry Kissell and USDA Rural Development to install a new sewer connection along Highway 220 between Ellerbe and Rockingham, he said.
As a third priority, McLaurin said, “Continue to focus on quality of life improvements. Examples include the City of Rockingham purchasing the former McKenzie Furniture store to become the home of Discovery Place KIDS-Rockingham, Cole Plaza concert series, expansion of youth recreation programs, and developing Hitchcock Creek blue trail.”
Deane, 46, lives on Fayetteville Road, and has been a member of the City Council since 1999.
He is a State Farm insurance agent.
Deane’s plans, if reelected, include: “Continued leadership providing outstanding city services keeping the city fiscally strong, maintaining a low tax rate, while improving the quality of life for our citizens.”
He also vowed to continue to be open and responsive to citizens and to always make decisions that are in the best interest of Rockingham.
Deane also offered this statement: “I’m the longest serving councilman and have provided strong leadership that has kept Rockingham’s finances extremely sound. We’ve been able to keep our tax rate stable without reducing services or employees. During my tenure, we’ve built city hall, renovated the fire and police stations, upgraded our water distribution and waste water treatment facilities, created the Hinson Lake facility, made downtown improvements , and established Plaza Jam. I want to continue serving to see through several big projects underway to include Discovery Place Kids, the Hitchcock Canoe Trail, the camping facility and boat landing on the Pee Dee and additional recreational facilities.”
Hutchinson, 44, who lives in Ann Street, has served on the City Council since 2005.
He is a financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors.
When asked what plans he has if reelected, Hutchinson said, “When I talk with Rockingham citizens, three things come up all the time; people want more job opportunities, more housing opportunities for senior citizens, and more local entertainment and activities. Rockingham folks are looking for things to do here. If I am reelected, these will be my goals for our town.”
Hutchinson went on to say, “We know that Rockingham works well with other organizations. Recent successes include Discovery Place Kids, Rockingham Speedway, Hinson Lake, and the Hitchcock Creek Canoe Trail, among others. I believe we can continue to make good things happen here, especially if we focus on the things most important to us.”
Willard, 67, who lives on Stanley Avenue, has been a member of the City Council for nearly eight years.
He is the owner of Skyline Barber Shop.
“I am very proud to have served the city of Rockingham,” Willard said.
“I am also proud of the council’s accomplishments such as: Hinson Lake, Discovery Place, land securement for Hitchcock Creek Recreational Complex, renovations of Police Department and Fire Department, and the expansion of the waste water system,” he said. “I would like to add that these things have been obtained without a tax rate increase. We have not had a rate increase in the city of Rockingham since 2003.”
Willard said he will continue to work for the commercial and industrial development of the city.
“We have been fortunate to gain retail businesses such as Ollie’s and Farmer’s Furniture in the old Walmart shopping center. I have been excited to see local business owners open with faith in our city. I believe in this city and know we have great potential and I will continue to support anything that promotes growth and quality of life in the City of Rockingham,” said Willard.
Beavers, 48, who lives on Arbor Road, has never held elective public office. This is her second bid to be elected to the Rockingham City Council.
Beavers is an educator with Richmond County Schools.
Asked what plans she would have if elected, Beavers responded, “To improve the city climate in order to attract more businesses, industry and jobs. Create a positive culture for citizens to feel more positive about their city government. I pledge to support small businesses and new businesses in Rockingham. I will truly represent all people/voters in the community not just an elite few.”
Polling locations for voting in Rockingham are the Parks and Recreation Building at Browder Park located at 1311 Rockingham Road for voters registered in Rockingham #1 Precinct; and the Calvin Little Room at the Leath Memorial Library located at 412 E. Franklin St. for voters registered in Rockingham #2 Precinct.