EDITOR’S NOTE: Iredell Free News invited candidates in the run-off election for two at-large seats on Statesville City Council to make their final pitch to voters, outlining their experience, vision, goals and plans for the city. Election Day is Tuesday, July 26.
BY JAMES PRESSLY
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Like most Statesville parents, grandparents, workers, churchgoers, and small business owners, I am not among the insiders at our Statesville City Hall. I am not a certified land planner; I am not a Phi Betta Kappa or Duke Law School grad. I don’t know a single quote from Adam Smith like at-large Councilman Steve Johnson. But I do know how to work hard, how to fight for what’s right, how to serve the needs of ordinary Statesville citizens, and how to create policy that moves this city forward.
One of the most pressing policy needs for our Statesville City Hall is to develop and implement a Strategic Plan, and the fact that we don’t have a strategic plan is an unacceptable failure of the current administration. Having a strategic plan is city government 101, the most basic and fundamental of municipal operations. And here’s what it does: It not only helps the city council with its decision making, but, more importantly, it boosts citizen engagement, transparency, and creates opportunities to enhance public trust by sharing information in an open, accessible, and convenient manner. The strategic plan opens up the doors of our city hall to our citizens. No more secrets; no more back door deals.
When a city does not have a strategic plan, strange things can happen. Here’s a great example: With absolutely no policy behind the recommendation, our City Hall is proposing to extend a new water line all the way to Troutman at a cost of around $20 million when the city’s own engineering report says there are $28 million worth of repairs needed within the city itself. If Troutman needs a new water line, let Troutman pay for it. If we don’t use the $20 million of federal funds to address much of the $28 million in required repairs and replacements, those of us in Statesville who pay taxes will be stuck with that cost. It is simply as stupid as it is foolish to spend the $20 million on a water line to Troutman for the benefit of Troutman and out-of-town millionaires when repairs and replacements are required right here in Statesville.
The strategic plan should include policy goals related to water and sewer lines, transportation, quality of life issues, education, annexation, housing, and yes, Statesville economic development. We must make it a policy goal to recruit more manufacturers and industries with higher-paying jobs to Statesville. Warehousing and distribution jobs are great, but we need more jobs at or above the North Carolina average wage level. As much as we spend on Iredell County Economic Development, how do we explain to our citizens that Statesville family incomes are almost half of Mooresville’s and our poverty rate is almost twice as high? Over the past five years alone, Statesville taxpayers sent more than $600,000 to Iredell County Economic Development yet our family incomes are $34,500 per year less than Mooresville’s. The strategic plan must focus on Statesville economic development, how it affects our citizens, determine why Statesville is so far behind, and make a plan to move our citizens and our city forward.
Statesville has so many strengths and assets. We have a strategic location and some of the lowest taxes in the region. We have a huge surplus of water and sewer capacity to serve new employers and manufacturers. If elected, I look forward to working with our citizens, city council members, and city staff to create a strategic plan which identifies and targets high-wage employers who can occupy Statesville’s old mills and manufacturing warehouses, and create better employment opportunities for our hard-working citizens.
Most of us are not millionaires. Most of us worry about the cost of groceries or filling up our truck with diesel fuel. Inflation is hurting our Statesville families and small business owners. As inflation continues to ravage family and small business budgets in our community, I can’t think of anything more reckless than sending $20 million to Troutman and out-of-town millionaires when we have such pressing needs right here. We have to steward our limited resources wisely. We expect our city and its leaders to do the same with our tax dollars.
I’m your candidate for the Statesville City Council, and I ask for your vote.
James Pressly is a candidate for an at-large seat on Statesville City Council.