Opening of Filing Period Brings Candidates
Nick Picerno, a two-time chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, has filed for re-election with an eye on ensuring that the property revaluation scheduled for 2015 doesn’t result in a tax increase.
“I think the county needs leadership for that issue,” Picerno said Tuesday. “One would think that property values have declined due to the recession. I will continue to be a taxpayer watchdog because, in my opinion, the county doesn’t have a revenue problem.”
Picerno voted in 2009 to move a revaluation scheduled for 2011 to 2015, getting the county back on an eight-year cycle.
“The last revaluation (in 2007) resulted in a huge tax increase,” he said. “It’s my intent to make sure the net result in 2015 is not a tax increase.”
Picerno filed on Monday, the first day that candidates for the November election could let their intentions be known. He was joined by Whispering Pines Village Council member Randy Saunders, who is seeking the county commissioner seat being vacated by Tim Lea.
Lea is stepping down after two terms because he believes in terms limits, whether “self-imposed or legislatively imposed.”
Also on Monday, Aberdeen resident Tommy Davis, a frequent commenter on The Pilot’s website and critic of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, filed as a Republican candidate for state Senate, and incumbent school board member Bruce Cunningham filed for re-election. On Tuesday, incumbent school board members Kathy Farren and Laura Lang also filed for re-election.
Saunders, who considered a run for the Moore County Board of Education two years ago, said he decided to run for county commissioner instead because he felt that he could “do more good” if elected.
“I watch county politics in the county pretty closely and feel that the municipalities should have a voice,” Saunders said. “I’m not knocking the the current commissioners, but I feel like I can bring some more to the table.”
Saunders said his main goals would be to see the county work better with the municipalities, to ensure fiscal responsibility and to work with Moore County Partners in Progress on economic development issues.
“I’m not saying that the commissioners are fiscally irresponsible,” said Saunders, who earned bachelor’s degrees in finance and financial planning from Baylor University. “What I’m saying is that finance is one thing I’m really good at.”
Saunders, president of Imports Exclusive, said he would also relish the opportunity to work with Executive Director Pat Corso and his team at Partners.
“By helping to grow the businesses that are currently here and ones that may be interested in establishing business here, we create jobs, which in turn creates income for our citizens,” Saunders said. “I know that economic times are still tough and we need to do what we can to help our local businesses be successful.”
Picerno said he decided to seek re-election after his wife, Jan, “gave me her blessing.”
“It’s a hard job that takes a lot of time to do right. She believes in making a difference, and I think I am,” he said. “My heart is in Moore County. It’s the people’s county. It’s not my county. I’ve got no agenda.
“I look forward to serving the people. I hope I’ve earned their vote.”
Davis is making his first run for public office. He had tried to get on the ballot as a write-in candidate to run against County Commissioner Jimmy Melton two years ago but was unsuccessful because of a technicality on some of his petitions.
“I am not a politician,” Davis said Tuesday. “Like most citizens out there, I am concerned about the way government is operating. Spending is out of control. There are issues at the state level that I want to see addressed.”
Davis listed improving education and lowering taxes as some of his top priorities. He said he sees the need for improving public schools through volunteer tutoring work with Project Promise at Sandhills Community College.
“I see so many students who are ill prepared for college,” Davis said. “We can do better.”
Davis said North Carolina has the fourth highest gas tax in the country and is ranked ninth in overall taxation.
“If we have that kind of revenue, where is the money going?” Davis asked. “Why are we in debt? Why are our schools struggling? We have two options. We can educate our people or we can send them to prison. Both cost money.”
Davis said the tipping point for him in deciding to run for state Senate came when the county’s two legislators voted against the so-called puppy mill bill.
“That caused me to have a lot of anger,” Davis said. “I am an animal lover. North Carolina is second only to Pennsylvania in the number of puppy mills. That is a travesty. This was an example of the good-old-boys club up there. There is a lack of communication up there between legislators and the public. I want to change that.”
Davis, who has worked in law enforcement and owned a construction business, said he believes in term limits.
“If elected, I would serve eight years, which is four terms,” he said. “That is long enough.”
Cunningham is currently in his second term, representing District 5. He said he wants to continue his service to system.
“I enjoy serving on the board,” he said. “I think the system is heading in the right direction, and I want to continue working with the new superintendent and a board that is united in what we think is important.”
In an election year that will be defined by shrinking budgets and economic uncertainty for public education, Cunningham said school system representatives cannot continue operating under a “business as usual mindset.”
“We have to be mindful, but not deterred, by the tough economic situation,” he said. “You can’t stop educating kids because money is tight. You have to make accommodations and continue moving forward.”
Cunningham added that because the Board of Education has taken strategic action and planned for budget shortfalls in previous years, the system is better prepared than its surrounding counties to weather future funding losses.
Farren said that when she initially decided to run for the District 2 seat in 2004, she intended to only serve two terms. However, with the recent change in leadership for the system, she feels compelled to continue serving as a board member.
“With the hiring of a new superintendent and going through that process, I feel like it’s not the time to leave,” she said. “I’m excited about what I believe Dr. Spence is going to be starting and doing in Moore County, and I just want to be a part of it.”
Farren said she hopes to stress her dedication to seeing the school system become even better during her campaign.
“We are a good system,” she said. “We have lots of positive things happening in our system, and I want to be part of us becoming a great system. With that there are a lot of different components.”
Farren also echoed Cunningham’s points about the hard budget decisions board members had to make last year.
“We did some hard work last spring on the budget,” she said. “Although this isn’t going to be a great budget year, it’s not looking to be as bad as it has been in the past. Hopefully, this will show people that all the difficult decisions we made last year will be paying off.”
Lang, who is currently in her first term as the District 4 representative, said she would also like see where the school system will go under Spence’s direction.
“You feel like you did this huge thing that does not happen very often and you want to make sure that it goes in the right direction,” she said. “The energy and excitement that we have right now is great to watch moving forward.”
Lang added that she has learned a lot during her first term, and she has seen the board get many goals accomplished. She hopes to continue to help move the school system forward.
“I hope I get the opportunity to do it again,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the board, I’ve learned a lot, and I’m really excited about continuing to work with Dr. Spence.”
Four of the eight seats on the nonpartisan board are up for election this year. The other seat is held by Lorna Clack.
Managing Editor David Sinclair contributed to this report.
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