WAKE FOREST — The question of how to responsibly guide the town’s growth was central last week at a forum for Board of Commissioner candidates.
Three newcomers – Mike Cole, Shinica Thomas and Jim Thompson – and one incumbent, Margaret Stinnett, are vying for two seats on the Board.
At the forum hosted by the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce, the candidates laid out a vision for maintaining what they characterized as the town’s friendly, small-town character.
They each emphasized making sure town services best meet the needs of residents, with many areas of agreement, though they highlighted some different aspects when asked about their budget priorities.
Thompson said that when it comes to the budget, he would emphasize “quality of life” improvements to items such as sidewalks, greenways and connecting streets, recreation opportunities and economic development.
“I’m a big proponent of economic development because that’s the way we increase our tax base,” he said. “We’ve got to do something to balance the commercial-residential imbalance in this community.”
Cole said the town should focus on basic services and infrastructure, as well as economic development that would bring more jobs to Wake Forest, rather than residents traveling to other places in the Triangle for work.
“It would be nice to see some of those businesses and corporations move to Wake Forest,” he said.
Thomas highlighted improving recreation within her spending opportunities, including making sure there is adequate staff to meet the town’s needs. She said the town should look at the needs of small children but also high school-age students.
“I’m talking about parks and growth in the parks, but I’m also talking about programs and staff for those programs,” she said.
She also said street connectivity between neighborhoods is an important issue.
Stinnett, who is running for a third four-year term, said that during her tenure she believes the town has spent its money wisely – both maintaining services and adding new ones.
“We have excellent town employees that provide those services and go the extra mile,” she said.
Stinnett said that it’s always a challenge to find enough money for everything, but that a possible bond referendum next year would give residents the opportunity to make it clear what their priorities for expanding the town’s services and infrastructure are.
Stinnett said she is still on the fence about whether to support the bond. It brings with it a tax increase, but the bond is a “necessary evil” to improve the town, she said.
Cole said he would support the bond as long as it is structured so that residents can clearly identify which improvements they prefer. Thomas agreed that as long as the money is used the way residents want it to be used, she is in favor of the bond.
Thompson said he also was in favor of the bond.
The election is Nov. 5. The deadline to register to vote in the election is Oct. 11.