EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of a series about the upcoming Troutman Town Council election.
BY DEBBIE PAGE
Troutman Town Council member George Harris is campaigning for re-election by making the same personal connections that helped him win his seat four years ago.
“The three steps I take are make all my campaigns involve door-to-door communication, respond to all requests for information from our citizens, and sit down on my porch with any one that has questions on how I voted on any issue,” Harris said.
“It is my hope that our citizens will give me an opportunity to continue serving on council for another term. I have never voted for or against any issue that has come before the town without thoroughly reviewing and gaining an understanding of all this issue involves.”
If he wins another term, Harris said he would push for more commercial and retail development, especially near exit 42.
“I will also continue to support the town manager’s efforts to engage with our representatives in Raleigh to get both monetary assistance and NCDOT help addressing our traffic needs in Troutman,” he said.
Harris said he believes the town has positioned itself for more industrial and manufacturing near exit 42 and along Murdock Road toward exit 45.
“This will allow for more good paying job opportunities for Troutman citizens. As a member of town council, I have supported this type growth in those areas,” he said.
Harris also believes the council must take care to balance housing developments with a good mix of retail and commercial development.
“While I agree that in the past council may have appeared to favor more residential, council has leaned more to commercial and retail over the past couple years,” he said. “Unfortunately, business will not come until you have enough rooftops to support them.”
The town also has to assure that water and sewer capacity is available before approving any type of development. To control costs, the town has to constantly be looking for opportunities to find a less costly source for water and sewer service, added Harris.
He also recognizes the need to encourage and support current town businesses.
“This includes promotion of each business as well as support of promotions any business may pursue. Economic funds in the town budget to provide grants to small businesses, especially downtown for refurbishment, can help.”
The town has purchased several properties and spent the past year remodeling them for retail, office, and residential purposes.
“Once they are complete, marketing these units to the right use will be the next step,” Harris said. “We should also look at economic grants to help small businesses grow in our town.”
The growth has also led to crowded conditions at Town Hall with the addition of new staff to serve the increasing population, but Harris believes the council has been on top of this concern.
“We have purchased the property where the new town hall will be located. We are also now establishing a savings account to accumulate the funds necessary for our match required for any grant we get to afford to build the new town hall and refurbish the existing town hall as the new police station.”
The town has made other acquisitions as properties become available.
“They fit with the community-approved 2018 Strategic Plan that calls for opening Lytton Street all the way to Wagner and closing off the downtown area by relocating Wagner Street to NC 21 beside Dollar General,” Harris said.
Roads and traffic are a problem in Troutman since the population triples each school and business day, but Harris said the council’s hands are somewhat tied since many of Troutman’s roads are state-owned. Those issues must be resolved by the NCDOT.
“Unfortunately, their (NCDOT’s) urgency doesn’t match ours. We continue meeting with them to address many of these concerns. I sit on the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization to also make sure our concerns are heard,” Harris said.
The council also conducts an annual review of town-owned streets, resulting in an improvement list created by the town engineer to keep on top of street maintenance.
Harris values transparency in government operation and decision-making.
“I think the recent letter the town received threatening a major increase in garbage rates is a good example of transparency.”
“Instead of waiting until the increase occurs, the town chose to let our citizens know what we know, along with our initial response to this potential issue, by sharing it in the WhistleStop newsletter after receiving the rate increase notification.”
“Utilizing social media, our digital monument sign, and our town website are other ways we promote transparency,” Harris added.
Harris believes that district voting may be in Troutman’s future.
“I think as the new neighborhoods get more established, this will become an issue that needs to be addressed. I personally believe precinct voting will need to be required in the future as more of these neighborhoods demand a voice.”
Harris is also an ardent supporter of the town’s recreation endeavors. If the town got a windfall, Harris said, “I would earmark every dollar for the ESC Park. This park is the most used park in Iredell County, and I fully believe that every dollar we can put in this park will be fully used for the good of all our citizens,” he said.
Harris believes that most pressing public safety issues in Troutman are the crosswalks on Wagner Street and the need for a crosswalk on Highway 21 near the elementary school.
The Troutman Police Department will need more officers, he added.
“While we have adequate police officers for citizen safety, we may need to look at additional SROs to help with school safety as well as traffic safety around our schools.”
Harris has a master’s degree in business from the University of Charleston. He worked 40 years at DuPont, including in management roles as manager of several of Dupont sites’ waste water treatment plants.
In addition to his four-year stint on the Troutman Town Council, Harris also has 16 years of experience as an elected official in Chesapeake, W.Va., mostly serving as the town treasurer.
“This role required that I was in charge of the budget and coordinating each years audit of the town finances.”
Though not a native of Troutman, Harris did spend almost three years at Barium Springs Home for Children before finishing his childhood years in Jones County.
“I feel a personal tie to Troutman and look forward to continuing to serve on council,” he said.