BY DEBBIE PAGE
debbiepage.iredellfreenews@gmail.com

Jerry Oxsher, born and raised in Smyrna, Tenn., attended Middle Tennessee State University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in professional chemistry and later attended graduate school at the University of South Carolina to earn a master’s degree in organic chemistry.

Jerry Oxsher

After working for two years in quality assurance with the Columbia, S.C., drinking water division, Oxsher began a job with the laboratory instrument manufacturer Metrohm USA as a field service engineer, which brought his family to Troutman.

“These jobs allowed me to travel frequently around the Southeast and hone my problem-solving skills,” said Oxsher, who is running for a seat on the Troutman Town Council in the November 2 election. “After several years in this position, my wife and I decided to start our own businesses. We are now the owners of LKN Extractions in Mooresville and also Smart Home Solutions LKN located in Troutman.”

BUILDING THE ECONOMY

Oxsher said Troutman is “definitely located in a very favorable location for economic development, and we are currently being targeted by larger developers and distributors as an ideal location for their facilities.”

“Instead of having to trying to attract this type of development, I feel that these opportunities are coming to us,” he said. “This bodes well for economic development opportunities, not only for our town, but our region as a whole.”

“I feel the largest issue we are facing regarding larger scale economic development is not the opportunities but where these facilities are geographically located. We must ensure that our town can accommodate this growth responsibly without damaging the daily life of the residents.”

Oxsher believes designating specific areas of town, such as the region around Murdock Road, as an industrial area is a solution that could benefit not only the developers but also the residents of the town.

“This would show developers that we are committed to welcoming them to our area by reserving a good amount of land for their developments with direct access to I-77. This geographic placement could also help regulate the amount of tractor trailers that would be driving up and down Main Street, which is already a current problem.”

“If we wish as a community to bring in large corporations while still maintaining our small-town feel, steps must be taken now that the growth is managed and directed in a positive way,” he said.

Oxsher also believes that the council must take active steps to promote and facilitate small business growth. “As a small business owner myself, I cannot say that this ‘brand’ exists at all.”

“From an observer’s standpoint, I feel that all the town’s energy has been focused on bringing in large corporations into our area, and I believe our local business owners are the ones that are paying the price.”

“Our current council seems set on trying to convince the town that bringing these large warehouses into our area is the key to our future prosperity, while I see it as only a piece of a much bigger picture.”

Oxsher favors partnering with the Troutman Business Network, a group of small business owners. “This is a resource the council can immediately use to learn the needs of our town’s small businesses,” he explained.

“I have spoken with a number of current and potential small business owners in Troutman, and they all, including myself, express their frustration with the number of roadblocks they encounter when simply trying to open a storefront in our town.”

“Most of these issues stem from our current UDO, which I feel is in dire need of revision. While I understand the intentions of the UDO, it places an undue burden and incredible financial obligation on those who wish to bring their unique goods and services to our community.”

“For some, the burden is high enough that they choose to take their businesses elsewhere or simply not pursue their dream at all.”

“I view that as unacceptable in a town like ours. We cannot claim to be a community that wishes to retain its small-town charm if we continue on with a system that drives away the backbone of a small community.”

Oxsher also sees amazing potential in the downtown area that needs to be realized. “Steps have been taken to ensure that there is plenty of parking and access from the greenway to our town center. However, it is very obvious that much more work needs to be done.”

“The empty buildings and storefronts are sad to see but are potentially an amazing opportunity for local business owners. The devil is in the details, but I would love to potentially pursue grant funding for downtown revitalization and creation of some sort of small business incubator program.”

“This could start with the property that has been purchased by the town. Through such a program, the town could provide a cost-effective storefront with amazing exposure for potential entrepreneurs from our own community.”

“Opening your own business is a great leap of faith, and a project like this could help encourage members of our own community to take this leap.”

DEALING WITH GROWTH EFFECTIVELY

To promote careful growth, Oxsher believes, along with amendments to and utilization of the UDO and the Future Land-Use Plan, the town can localize these larger commercial and industrial development sites to certain areas, while also designating the main thoroughfares of town for general retail and small business opportunities.

“I feel that small and local businesses are the backbone for any community seeking ‘small-town charm’ as well as solidifying the identity of a town. It is my opinion that this aspect of our local economy has been left to fend on its own, and it is suffering because of this approach.

“Steps must be taken by our town leaders to incentivize potential local business owners in our area.”

Growth also requires employing more staff to serve the town’s citizens. “I agree with recent discussions by the town council that an expansion is necessary moving forward and will benefit both the town staff and police department’s ability to grow in response to the projected growth expected for our town.”

“Relocation of Town Hall to one of the recently purchased properties while allowing our police department to fully occupy the current Town Hall space will definitely facilitate this expansion.”

Keeping up with infrastructure needs and sewer and water service is also important as Troutman’s population and businesses increase. “I fully support and encourage our town to vigorously explore any and all options regarding our water supply as well as other utilities.”

“Whether it be developing our own facilities or negotiating better contracts for these services, this work must be done. With the growth we are expecting, we cannot subject ourselves to the control of an outside company or other municipality regarding something that is a basic need for all residents.”

“I feel our prices are already too high as is and will potentially get worse as the town’s projected growth will increase our demand. Just like many other issues our town faces, we must be proactive and get ahead of this problem before it manifests itself. “

OPENING UP GOVERNING

If elected, Oxsher hopes to create more interest in town governance. “As someone that has been attending our town council meetings, I am very disheartened by the attendance and engagement from the community.”

“The monthly meetings have less than a handful of in-person attendees, and the livestreams average between 10 and 15 views. Increasing engagement in a positive manner is a tough task, as most people won’t turn out until there is an issue they oppose.”

“I feel that town council needs to work closely with our Director of Communications and Community Engagement to explore all options to close the gap between the residents and the town government.”

Oxsher has several ideas to promote interest in town meetings. “In our current age, social media represents the best way to reach a large percentage of our community quickly. I believe our town can better leverage this platform to interact with the community, not just to disseminate information.”

“I would also like to see an increase in community forums regarding issues in our town. I feel that forums are a more welcoming environment, experience better attendance, and promote an open dialogue when compared with just giving the citizens three minutes to speak at a council meeting.”

Oxsher also favors setting up a booth at town events like Front Porch Fest and National Night Out could help town staff and officials openly interact with the residents.

“Having a booth manned by council members could provide a more welcoming and less formal opportunity to engage the community.”

Oxsher believes that moving to a district-style voting might not be appropriate for Troutman. “Personally, I would like to pursue a more unified Troutman community as opposed to breaking us up into smaller representative districts.”

“While I definitely want all voices to be heard from every aspect of our community, I believe moving towards district voting is not in our best interest as a small town.”

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Oxsher sees many great ideas in the Strategic Master Plan. With COVID-19 numbers abating, Oxsher believes establishing a “Coffee Club” is a very low-cost investment that will take great strides in increasing the engagement with the town and provide an opportunity to get direct feedback from the community.

“We have a brand new coffee house located right on Main Street, and this could offer great exposure for one of our small businesses in town.”

Oxsher also favors moving ahead with creation of pocket parks throughout town. These lower cost options are not only attainable in the near future but also would provide a significant improvement to our town.

“I love our ESC Park, but I will always support local spots where community members can congregate. Small parks where children can play and community gardens where residents can share in their hobbies will always be a commodity in communities like ours.”

Oxsher also wants to expand progress in achieving the pedestrian and cycling pathway plans. “Improvements in both of these areas would provide useable outdoor space for those that live in our area and move our town towards accomplishing several items in the Strategic Master Plan.”

“Improved pedestrian pathways would lead to higher window traffic for small businesses in the downtown and Main Street area. Connecting the downtown area to the bicycle trails at Lake Norman State Park can lead to an increase in ecotourism and tie our community more closely to Lake Norman.”

“Improvements on both of these fronts push in the direction of the ‘Brand Athletic’ strategy and can help solidify an identity for our town for years to come.”

Oxsher realizes that bringing these pathways to life will not be an easy process. “Conceptualizing these ideas are the fun part, but trying to find the funding can sometimes spoil the best plans.”

“I would suggest targeting grant funding to accomplish these goals, as well as partnering with some of the larger corporations that are moving into the town to help invest back in the community.”

Oxsher would also like to see more attention and resources devoted to infrastructure projects.

“Whether it be road improvements or the aforementioned recommendations from the Strategic Master Plan, I would like to see the money go towards spaces that are open to general public and improve the aesthetics of our town.”

ADDRESSING TRAFFIC CONGESTION

With growth comes traffic, a point of contention for all residents of Troutman often discussed during council meetings. Although many roads, such as Main Street, fall under the jurisdiction of NCDOT, Oxsher believes the “nothing we can do” attitude at the town level regarding these roads is ineffective.

“While I understand that jurisdictions can’t be ignored, it is my opinion that a more proactive approach is necessary regarding both our relationship with DOT as well as improvement of the roads that we do have jurisdiction over.”

“Traffic and congestion on our main roads are creating many safety issues in our town. Congestion on our main roads and near our schools during peak hours are creating problems in our neighborhoods as drivers are using them as a bypass to circumvent the congestion.”

“This has lead to not only an increase in traffic on our side streets but also an increase in speeding through our neighborhoods.”

“I believe the council can help to improve roads to accommodate the higher volumes of traffic we experience, while directing the police to enforce the traffic laws on these known side streets.”

Protecting pedestrians is also a priority for Oxsher.

“A lot of emphasis is placed on our greenway, but the lack of pedestrian crossings at the intersection of Main Street and Murdock Road presents a hazard to not only those who use our greenway regularly but also those that visit our town for events at the fairgrounds and the Fourth of July Parade.”

FINAL PITCH

“My wife and I chose Troutman as the community where we wanted to start our family and spend the rest of our lives. We have two small children and are small business owners, so we have a vested interest in the future of our community.”

“We chose Troutman for the same reason as many others. We love and support unique small businesses, we want to have relationships with our neighbors, and we want to be able to see the stars at night.”

“I am running for Town Council to preserve this way of life. I feel we can accomplish this through proper strategic planning to open our doors to larger commercial developments without losing our identity and destroying our unique downtown area in the process.”

“This is my vision for Troutman, and why I want to represent you on the Town Council. As a scientist, I have the general approach to look at a problem from all sides, gather as much information as I possibly can, and then choose the path forward that is best for all parties involved, not simply pushing the solution that I personally feel is best.”

“While I do not claim to have all the answers we need to move our town towards a bright future, I am more than willing to do the work to help find these answers.”

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