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6 candidates aim for 3 at-large seats on Newton council
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6 candidates aim for 3 at-large seats on Newton council

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The Frank & Sue Jones Amphitheatre in downtown Newton is an important feature of the city. Infrastructure and growth were two topics many of the candidates for Newton City Council touched on as they discussed challenges and solutions.

Residents in Newton will see a newcomer on city council regardless of the outcome of this year’s election.

While incumbents John Stiver and Ed Sain have filed for another term, Anne Abernethy Wepner declined to run again.

That leaves four other candidates vying for the three open at-large seats on the council: Sherry Sigmon, Dave White, Roy Johnson and Ivey Robinson.

Here’s what the candidates had to say about their plans if elected:

Ivey L. Robinson 

Ivey Robinson

Robinson 

What makes you the right person to be the people’s representative on the city council?

Because I care about people.

I want to see our community flourish with diversity and making sure that everyone knows that we are stronger together and we need each other.

I want to help make good sound decisions that’s going to make an impact in every community. If you make decisions to only cover one part of the city then you’re not doing your job as a council.

My saying is don’t give a man a fish but teach him how to fish and he’ll become a more powerful man or woman.

What do you see as the important challenge/problem facing your community and what solution would you support to that problem?

Civic infrastructure. If we can’t come to a common ground and build one another then I feel that we will always be lacking in our economy. It’s easy to build a building but if you don’t have bodies to fill that building then your building is vain.

Equality that every person be treated equal, that they be treated with dignity and respect.

Trust is a problem! The citizens feel as though they are talking about their issues, but they aren’t getting answers. They want to know, where is their tax dollars going? Why have brush been sitting outside for months? Why have I been paying $30 for the last two years?

If we would spend our money more wisely, then the citizens could see where their money is going. I want to help reduce wasteful spending. Don’t spend money on things that’s not going to make a major impact on the community.

Go after GRANTS; that’s free money.

Partner up with Western Piedmont Council of Governments, which will help stabilize the economy so will have extra money to pave roads and do other things that’s lacking in our community. Once we build a relationship with other cultures and become more diverse, we will see a spike in people wanting to work in our city again.

What actions would you support as council member to ensure Newton is a sustainable, viable community for future generations?

Engaging in community events that would bring all four zones together.

I would like to pursue millennials. They have a strong presence in the community, and I believe once they began to step up and take on the role of leadership and getting them involved with their local government — we will have a powerful generation that will be prepared to take the torch and run.

One of the reasons I’m running is to lead and to be a good example for my children so they will know with hard work and dedication you can pursue your dreams. So that’s the same way I feel about the millennials. Train, teach them to commit, to always keep in mind of those who left you a legacy.

To always gather wisdom from the wiser community that no stone be unturned.

God called the young because they are strong, and He called the older because they know and could lead the way to a better day.

John Stiver

Stiver 

John Stiver 

What makes you the right person to be the peoples’ representative on the  city council?

I have lived in Newton for 49 years and have been deeply involved in the community. I have served as a member of the Newton City Council for the past eight years, including six years of mayor pro tem and dedicate most of my time serving in this role.

My background includes 40 years in public education as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, middle and high school principal, director of secondary education and educational consultant.

Prior to joining city council, I served as chairperson of the Newton Recreation Board and Business Advisory Committee. I am currently the council member representative on the City Tree Board and an ex-officio member of the Business Advisory Committee. I recently began serving on the State Board of ElectriCities, which is the nonprofit membership organization for municipally owned electrical utilities that includes Newton.

The knowledge and understanding gained in my professional and city council experiences have prepared me to serve the citizens of Newton well for the next four years.

I have a thorough understanding of government processes, support our city’s strategic plan to manage anticipated growth, support continued economic development and will continue to address our city’s infrastructure needs.

What do you see as the important challenges/problems facing your community and what solution would you support to that problem?

The most immediate challenge is to improve our water and sewer infrastructure.

There are four issues to address: aging water and sewer lines – many are 60 to 80 years old; the constant repairs to a 40-plus-year-old water treatment plant and 51-year-old sewer treatment plant; ability to support anticipated residential and business growth; and providing water and sewer services to the unserved areas of the city.

None of these issues can be immediately or quickly resolved due to the high cost of these projects.

One solution to these challenges is long-term planning to increase the city’s tax base, which will increase revenues that can be applied to these projects. Over the past several years, the city has been experiencing positive trends in growing the tax base but more work is needed for additional growth. It is critically important that Newton continues to follow its long-term strategic plan to attract new small businesses, industry and residents.

Another solution is to gain and utilize funding from external sources, which includes recent and pending federal bills as well as grants and zero percent loans. I fully support applying for any opportunities that match with our needs. Newton has plans for several projects that are ready for submission as opportunities become available.

What actions would you support as council member to ensure Newton is a sustainable, viable community for future generations?

Newton is already undergoing a renaissance that is making it a more viable community for the future.

I have already supported many efforts that helped spur our recent growth. I will support actions to continue and complete many efforts that are already in progress, address our infrastructure needs, attract new business and industry, recruit residential developers, market our community and improve communication with our citizens.

I want to complete the downtown revitalization project, continue working with the Economic Development Corporation to attract new industry, and implement the recently approved marketing plan.

The strategic plan that was developed during my first term on city council set the direction for Newton’s growth. I support following this plan and revising it as needed to continue to make Newton a sustainable community in the future.

Roy Johnson

Johnson 

Roy Johnson 

What makes you the right person to be the people’s representative on the city council?

I have extensive experience in business, past city council experience and working in the community to be able to serve all the citizens of Newton.

I will listen, be effective, and accountable to the citizens of Newton, working together for Newton Now, and for Newton’s future!

What do you see as the important challenge/problem facing your community and what solution would you support to that problem?

With the challenges of COVID-19 over the past year , and continuing even now, it’s time to restore communication and city services to pre-pandemic levels. The city needs to be fully staffed.

• Removal of yard waste etc. Hire temporary contractors to catch up existing waste, until public works is fully staffed

• Make sure needed repairs throughout the city are identified and done.

• Respond to citizens calls, emails, etc. as quickly as possible. Response should be immediate and by phone or in person where possible.

• Pave streets and sidewalks at a faster rate.

• Provide city services such as water and sewer to areas not currently served.

• Retain our current city employees, and get fully staffed as soon as possible.

What actions would you support as council member to ensure Newton is a sustainable, viable community for future generations?

Support current businesses and recruit new businesses and industries.

Ensure communication between the city and citizens is effective.

Follow long-term plans for upgrades to city services, promote city growth, prepare for the N.C. 16/N.C. 10 corridor growth, encourage development, retain city employees and work hard to ensure the best quality of life for all the citizens of Newton.

Our city’s growth is going to offer opportunities and benefits that will benefit us all! We can grow and still retain the uniqueness of Newton that we have today.

As a member of your city council, I will always remember that it’s your tax dollars that are being used to operate our city and that they should be used in the most economical and beneficial way.

Ed Sain

Sain 

Ed Sain

What makes you the right person to be the people’s representative on the city council?

I feel that I have the ability to communicate effectively with not only the citizens but also with council members and make common-sense decisions about challenges that face our city.

What do you see as the important challenge/problem facing your community and what solution would you support to that problem?

The need for housing, infrastructure needs at out wastewater treatment plan. Having the city in position for the completion of the construction of N.C. Hwy. 16 from Charlotte.

These things can be accomplished by working with local leaders, county, state and national leaders. We must work together to accomplish these goals.

What actions would you support as council member to ensure Newton is a sustainable, viable community for future generations?

Completion of our downtown Streetscapes Project that includes replacing all underground infrastructures. They are the oldest in the city.

Also work with business leaders and investors to support the growth of the city to attract new businesses and new families.

We have many great amenities in our city that make our city more appealing.

Sherry Sigmon

Sigmon 

Sherry Sigmon 

What makes you the right person to be the people’s representative on the city council?

Today, many elected local, state and federal representatives have lost the trust of their constituents. Far too often, there exists a great divide between the wants of officials and the needs of citizens.

As a woman of great character, I value morality. In a world where accountability and trust are lacking in everyday decision-making, Newton is no different from cities of similar size or major metropolitan areas across the nation.

Residents should demand results from their elected leaders, verified by transparency and truth. For Newton, I am that person.

I hold myself and my family accountable every day. If elected to the Newton City Council, I will bring a return to open and honest communication with our city and its residents.

As a small business owner in downtown Newton, I see the need for vibrancy in our retail spaces. Our city offers a hometown feel that many residents desire. Give the people what they want.

Our city and its elected council persons should absorb and welcome responsible business growth, ensuring that our residing citizens and those visiting us have various options across the spectrum.

I am that person to lead Newton, its current and future business, and those customers who may choose to call our city home forward into the future.

What do you see as the important challenges/problems facing your community and what solution would you support to that problem?

Today, Newton, like so many cities our size, is suffering from growing pains. For some locales, that is too much growth; for others, not enough.

As elected leaders, we are to listen to the concerns of our citizenry truly and understand their problems and their desires.

As the "Heart of Catawba County," Newton should lead in efforts to welcome new and diverse businesses, provide a reliable infrastructure, low tax rates and affordable activities for our citizens and their families.

For far too long, Newton has fallen behind others within our community. We have lost opportunities to our fellow neighboring cities and towns, missing out on much-needed income and resources which could help assist our community needs.

If our citizens look around, what activities exist for our children? Outside of our vibrant city park system and Pin Station, our community lacks just-in-time offerings for our city’s families. Many of the new additions to our city have been ill-implemented and far missed the demands of our city's actual needs.

If elected, I would ensure that our city's children stay and play in Newton by expanding our parks and recreation department to include activities our kids want and their families to enjoy together.

Nothing is more disturbing than to see on a Friday night kid-less lit streets.

Newton can do better. Our city deserves better. If elected, I will promote the growth that will help preserve the family unit by offering more activities and venues for their enjoyment.

What actions would you support as council member to ensure Newton is a sustainable, viable community for future generations?

Wangari Maathai said, "Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing. You are just talking." Today, there is too much talk in politics. For many, the wrong kind of talk impedes the action and attitudes of elected officials.

As a community, we are only a strong as our weakest leader or biggest complainer. Actual change requires the work of all and a true leader brings everyone to the table.

My husband and I and our children have lived in Newton for well over 20 years. Today, our grandchildren roam within our city's schools and streets, and only with responsible leadership can I ensure that 20 years from now they will have a town they too, can be proud to call home. The pride and strive I possess will ensure that Newton blazes the path to responsible business growth, securing jobs and income for our city's residents.

Our county, our state, our nation is changing at a rapid pace. The great scientist Louis Pasteur said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Sherry Sigmon is that prepared mind that will keep businesses in Newton and lead the way for new and innovative companies to plant their roots.

Far too often, elected leaders get blindsided and shortsighted in their visions, distancing themselves from the actual needs of their communities and their people.

My children and family will tell you: I love to listen and as an elected council person in Newton, I will listen to what the citizens of our city want but more importantly what they need.

Most people want a million dollars or a great house or an expensive car but what they need is a safe community with respectable and trusted leaders with a vibrant atmosphere that offers opportunity and growth without costing them a fortune.

I am that leader, and if elected, I will bring safety and security but most of all success to the streets of Newton once again.

David White

White 

David White

What makes you the right person to be the people’s representative on the city council?

 What makes anyone the right person? If residing in the city counts, then I guess living here for over 25 years might work.

If being involved in the community is what is expected, then raising a family here and actively supporting school activities, 4-H, and programs at the Extension Office should count.

Church membership and teaching Sunday school lessons over the radio should also be considered.

Additional points for being an active member of the Newton Lions Club and of the Catawba Valley Bee Keepers Association. I am sure there are several in the community with similar credentials.

So, what makes me the right one? Well, instead of sitting in my chair and complaining, I made the decision to actively get involved. Getting involved in what the city or what the school board is doing should be a concern for all of us.

I don't presume to have all of the answers for what the office may bring but I'll have questions about why things are done and the way it's done.

There have been many changes in the city over the years, some good and others have left a question mark.

I'll bring what I think will be additional common sense and importantly new blood to the Newton City Council.

What do you see as the important challenges/problems facing your community and what solution would you support to that problem?

Every city has challenges and problems of every size and shape. Newton is not immune by any stretch of the imagination.

I think impacting all of us by some degree is crime, whether it is theft, property damage, drugs, assault or traffic offenses.

Sometimes the protections we rely on such as police and fire are the most demanding for cities to manage effectively for the citizens. With all that said, I think Newton is doing better than most and as with anything there is always future change to consider.

Another area of concern is infrastructure. By this I mean streets, sidewalks and utilities. These are beasts that are constantly consuming huge amounts of money, time and labor.

I don't see a single solution for any of these issues and there isn't one. Each one requires in-depth research and analysis from the affected department and common-sense, decision-making from the council as to the best course of action to resolve the problem.

Other than potholes and crumbling sidewalks there is the issue of taxes.

What is the return of investment to the citizens for the taxes paid? Do the taxes we pay meet our expectations of what the city provides? As a council member we need to address this and give a truthful answer to our citizens.

What actions would you support as council member to ensure Newton is a sustainable, viable community for future generations?

I believe the citizens of Newton have the ability to ensure that Newton is a sustainable and viable community for future generations.

They should vote for the candidates that serve the people. Vote for candidates that ask the hard questions and get those questions answered.

They should vote for the candidate that will be a good steward of their taxes and how its spent.

Vote for the candidate that looks to the viable future of the city and selflessly works to plan for that to happen.

Note: The headline of this story was corrected at 8 a.m. Thursday to reflect the accurate number of candidates running. 

Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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