This year’s election for the mayor of Siler City seems to rest, at least for the candidates, on the record of the current mayor.
Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.
SILER CITY — This year’s election for the mayor of Siler City seems to rest, at least for the candidates, on the record of the current mayor.
Incumbent John Grimes says he’s seeking his fourth full term as mayor on the strength of his record. Challengers Jackie Adams and Albert Reddick cite that record as the reason they’re opposing him.
The three candidates will be on this year’s ballot for a two-year term, and each brings varied backgrounds of political experience and ideas for Siler City and its government.
The candidates and where they stand
Grimes was a member of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners and Siler City Board of Commissioners before his appointment to the mayor’s chair in 2012 following the death of Charles Johnson. Grimes has touted the progress he and the board have made following the economic recession of 2008 and the ensuing loss of industry to rebuild the town economically and “make Siler City a better place to live and work.”
He said his focus is on economic development — particularly the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) Site located on U.S. Hwy. 64 northwest of town — along with government investments in making Siler City a more appealing place for both companies and residents to locate. The town has been awarded millions of dollars in grants to improve its water, wastewater and pipe systems, and Grimes said complimenting that with a facelift of downtown is a good recipe for a stronger economy.
“Economic development is the engine that increases income for our citizens,” Grimes said.
This is Adams’ first foray into politics as a candidate. Retired after a long career at IBM which included multiple patents and publications, she now owns the Oasis Open Air Market, the Oasis Fresh Market and Deli and numerous other properties in downtown Siler City.
Adams emphasized that she does not want to raise taxes; that improving the town’s economy will come from business recruitment.
“Increasing our tax base and making sure we are wise about how and where we spend our money is paramount,” she said. “We can attain funding and increase our tax base by attracting new business. We can win large grants for specific projects.”
Adams pointed to small software and robotics companies as ideal targets “that attract our youth for summer jobs or as careers” to help families grow and the town thrive. She also said she wants to reinvigorate downtown, filling its vacant buildings and working off the town’s “historic and niche characteristics.”
Reddick is making his third attempt to defeat Grimes. In 2015, he lost by just eight votes, but finished second by 314 votes two years ago. He currently serves as the president and CEO of the nonprofit Becoming One.
His emphasis, Reddick says, will be to create a more inclusive government that reflects the diversity of the town and ensuring the town’s government is reflective of its demographics. He added that he’s spoken to residents who have experienced “disrespectful treatment” from town staff and challenges when attempting to secure building permits or doing other changes to their property.
Reddick has also referenced the town’s financial picture. Siler City currently has $10,344,411 in debt and is planning to issue approximately $107,000 more this upcoming year. Reddick said his budgeting priorities are to “spend more to allocate resources to needed programs” and “keep the tax rates low.”
Time for a change?
Grimes, who is facing two challengers for the first time since 2013, said he’s carried a principle through his whole life about change, given to him by his father-in-law.
“There is only one constant in our lifetime and that is change,” Grimes said. “The pendulum swings so far one way then the other. As long as it keeps swinging, everything will be OK. But if it ever stops, you better watch out.”
Faced once again, as every Siler City mayor has, with the possibility of change, Grimes said he’s hoping to lead that change in the town.
Reddick said changes are needed, particularly in the relationship between the town’s police department and its citizens, vowing to “fully disclose the corruption in the police department” that forced changes in staffing.
He vowed as well to “level with the residents” with where the current police chief is from. Though Reddick did not wish to delve further, the comment was likely an allusion to Chief Michael Wagner’s time at the Albermarle County Police Dept. in Virginia. The county seat is Charlottesville where the “Unite the Right” rally occurred which resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, an anti-racist activist that was deliberately mowed down by the vehicle of James Alex Fields Jr. who had been known to espouse white supremacist views, according to multiple media reports. Wagner noted later that his department did not work that event as they were covering other issues in the county at the time.
Adams said she would approach change by being proactive in working in the community with staff and community leaders including those in civic, community and business organizations.
“I will do everything differently because it’s all been done the same way for so long,” Adams said.
Early voting started this week and will continue until November 1 at the Chatham County Board of Elections office in Pittsboro. For a full list of early voting times and dates, visit https://www.chathamnc.org/home/showdocument?id=45072. Election Day is November 4.
Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.