The race for the Moore County Board of Commissioners District 1 seat gained steam this past week as unaffiliated candidates John Misiaszek and Phil Vandercook entered the race in back-to-back filings Wednesday and Thursday.
Of the four county commissioner seats up for grabs in November, the District 1 seat has garnered the most competition.
As unaffiliated candidates, Vandercook and Misiaszek face an uphill battle, at least in terms of name recognition against GOP-primary winner Jim Von Canon. Von Canon earned nearly 60 percent of the Republican vote in the May primary, beating out Angela Vacek and David Mclean in the race.
Unaffiliated voters are the fastest growing base of voters in North Carolina. Similar trends can be seen in Moore County, where unaffiliated voters make up 27,040 of the state’s 74,076 eligible voters, according to the latest data from the State Board of Elections.
In Moore County, unaffiliated candidates need to get a minimum of 2,924 signatures — or four percent of the county’s registered voters — to enter a general election, according to state election standards.
Misiaszek submitted 3,624 signatures, of which 2,970 were valid. Vandercook sent in 3,392, of which 2,936 were valid.
Misiaszek is a resident of Woodlake Country Club outside Vass and a retired certified public accountant. He was the chief financial officer of a public company in Rochester, New York for 25 years. Prior to that, he spent six years in public accounting with Price Waterhouse.
Misiaszek has been a regular attendee of commissioners meetings the past six years.
Misiaszek became more active politically in 2016 when Hurricane Mathew severely damaged his community and forced the state to drain Lake Surf, the large lake that served as its centerpiece. Misiaszek and a few other Woodlake residents petitioned county commissioners for help rebuilding the compromised Woodlake dam.
“We weren't looking for money. What we wanted was for them to establish a taxing district so that money could be borrowed and then we exclusively in this community could repay that debt,” Misiaszek said. “The county commissioners refused. As a consequence, property values fell dramatically. We've lost $74 million worth of property value here.
“And so I go over (to board meetings), pay attention, make public comments all the time, virtually every meeting, and they fall on deaf ears,” Misiaszek said, “because I'm not in one of those five seats. And the only way I can at least get them to listen, really, is to have one of those five seats, so I'm gonna try.”
Misiaszek said he’s running as unaffiliated because many people chose to register as such.
“I am independent. My thinking is independent. I'm not going to be swayed by any ideology.”
Misiaszek believes there should be more opportunities for the public to comment on issues, noting that the board meets during the week when many people can’t get off work to attend. He suggests having a “listening session” at convenient times and locations where people can voice their concerns to the board.
Another priority for Misiaszek is growth management. He supports growing more commercial and industrial development by providing more funding for Partners in Progress, the county’s independent economic development arm, or even making it its own county department.
Vandercook is a resident of Whispering Pines and a recently retired veteran. He served in the United States Army for 32 years, achieving the rank of Major. He is active in numerous local veterans organizations and is commander of American Legion Post 12 in Carthage. He’s never run for office.
“I see this as a way to continue to serve my country,” Vandercook said. “What kind of kept me going overseas is that I believed in America, and I believed what we were doing. . . . So I think this is a really good transition for me.”
Vandercook is registered as a Republican. In a phone interview, he said the “only reason” he is running as unaffiliated is because he missed his filing date and this was his only option to get on the ballot.
In an earlier press release, he wrote that the “conservative voters in Moore County are increasingly unaffiliated. This shows their awareness, independence and distancing from divisive partisanship.”
Like most other candidates, Vandercook sees growth as a primary issue facing the county, and managing growth is a priority for him going into the election.
“I see the county commissioners as managing the policy for the future of the county,” Vandercook said in an interview. “And then really we just need to take into consideration everybody. Everybody that is concerned, we need to be able to make sure that their voices are heard, and that’s how we move forward.”
Vandercook said he agrees with the current priorities of the Board of Commissioners: education, public safety and essential services.
Despite running independently, Vandercook is an active member in his party. In January, he and his wife traveled to Washington, D.C. to join thousands in a national protest against COVID-19 vaccination requirements. He said he had participated in the rally because of a “lack of information” regarding COVID-19.
Vandercook believes he will make a good candidate because of his military background, which provided him an expertise in long-range planning. He said this expertise will allow him to communicate effectively and “facilitate [discussion] even with all the stakeholders.”
The general election is Nov. 8. The winner will replace Commissioner Catherine Graham, who chose not to seek re-election after two terms on the board.
Contact Evey Weisblat at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.