BY MIKE FUHRMAN
Bobby Compton has served the residents of Mooresville in various capacities for more than four decades.
He retired after working as a town firefighter for 31 years and has served as a town commissioner for the past 12 years.
Despite raising about $150,000 less than his opponent Chris Carney, Compton hopes to continue working on behalf of citizens as the town’s next mayor.
Compton has heard residents’ complaints about the town’s handling of the Josh’s Farmers Market debacle, and he shares their frustrations about traffic congestion.
The issues facing the next mayor and town board — two new commissioners will also be elected on Tuesday — are complex and there are no quick or easy answers, Compton said.
Voters should not expect the next mayor to single-handedly fix the traffic congestion, Compton said.
“I am not a politician,” Compton said. “I will not tell the people what they want to hear.”
The town is feeling the pressure of more than a decade of explosive residential development, and the road network — which is primarily the responsibility of the N.C. Department of Transportation — has not kept pace.
Compton points out that N.C. Sen. Vickie Sawyer, who lives in Mooresville, co-chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and she has been working to expedite state funding for local road improvements.
“If she can’t pull enough strings to help her hometown, who can?” he said.
Town commissioners have been criticized for approving large apartment complexes, which have added thousands of vehicles to local roads without any major road improvements. Meanwhile, applications for multi-family developments continue to come before the town board.
Property owners have the right to sell and develop their property, Compton pointed out, and the town board’s power to manage growth is somewhat limited by state law and local zoning ordinances.
The demand for new apartment units is fueled by the skyrocketing cost of single-family homes throughout the region, which Compton said has placed home ownership out of reach of many residents.
“People are moving here to work,” he said. “This is a destination.”
Despite the growing pains, Compton is proud of the town’s efforts to improve residents’ quality of life during the past four years. He points to major investments in Liberty Park, the new police headquarters and the new West Branch Library.
“Look at what we accomplished in three and a half years,” he said. “We accomplished a lot.”
The town is also working on creating a traffic management center, which will enable town staff to manage the flow of traffic on town and state roads.
The new council will be tasked with hiring a new town manager after Randy Hemann left for a new position in Tennessee. Hemann cited “moral” differences with the Mooresville board for his decision to pursue another job — and Compton blames his fellow commissioners for running Hemann off. The State Bureau of Investigation is also reportedly investigating at least one commissioner.
Compton wants to ensure that the next manager is a highly qualified member of the International City Managers Association and has experience dealing with growth and transportation issues. Like his opponent, Compton believes the next manager must be more customer focused and must demand that all town employees adopt that approach to their jobs.
Among his other priorities are making sure the Mooresville Police Department and Mooresville Fire-Rescue have the resources to recruit and retain the region’s best first responders.
In addition to serving on the town board, Compton served on the Public Safety Committee, Board of Commissioners Nominations Committee, Mooresville Bicycle Master Plan Steering Committee, Mooresville Downtown Commission and Stormwater Committee. He has also served as the board liaison to the Mooresville Historic Preservation Committee and served as chairman of the Centralina Regional Council.
While Carney received about $100,000 in campaign contributions in a single night, Compton raised about $14,400 for his run for mayor.
Nearly 50 years ago, when Compton was working as a firefighter, someone first suggested to him that he would one day serve as mayor of his hometown.
Over the years, he said other residents of what he calls “core Mooresville” have asked him to run. That’s why he filed and why is standing for election on Tuesday, November 7.
“It wasn’t my idea,” Compton said. “It was their idea. I’m answering the call.”
The polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.