Aberdeen has been the beneficiary for much of southern Moore County’s growth over the past 20 years, and it has been spending the past few years trying to catch up.
The town merged with and incorporated the Crestline Fire Department to handle increased fire service on its southern border. It is set to open a new police station in the coming weeks. It has seen significant revitalization of its downtown blocks. And it struck a sewer agreement with the Moore County Board of Education that brings service to a lot of land up N.C. 5.
That may yet be the least of it. A new town sports complex is under development on U.S. 15-501. The town is set to buy the former Aberdeen Elementary School on U.S. 1 for $900,000 for new community activities. Major road work on the books for N.C. 211, U.S. 15-501 and 1 in the coming years will radically alter traffic flow through the town and encourage new development. And the opening of a new elementary school off N.C. 5 could spur the development of hundreds of new homes — already approved — between 5 and Roseland Road.
With that in mind, the next Town Board of Commissioners will face a number of growth-related challenges to its services, budget and staffing. Luckily, residents have several great candidates running for office this year.
Current Mayor Robbie Farrell is running unopposed for re-election to another four-year term. Originally elected as a commissioner, Farrell first won the mayor’s seat in 2013 and again in 2017.
For the Board of Commissioners, voters will choose from Daniel Behnke, an alternate on the town planning board; Timothy Helms, who served on the town board in the 1990s; incumbent Wilma Laney, first elected in 2017; and retired pharmacist Tim Marcham, a regular meeting attendant.
All four are civic minded and actively engaged in the town. On balance, however, we found Daniel Behnke and Wilma Laney to be the two most deserving candidates.
Behnke moved to town with his wife three years ago, and the two immediately got involved in its affairs. While she is involved in historic preservation, Behnke serves as an alternate to the planning board. A professional planner by trade, Behnke has worked for the village of Pinehurst and Moore County and now works for a planning consultant.
Behnke is a refreshing, forward-looking voice interested in what some term the “smart growth” of Aberdeen. He is eager to preserve much of what makes the town special — its downtown, its walkability and level of municipal services — but also take on growth by being proactive.
Behnke spoke of working collaboratively with state officials on road projects to ensure they go smoothly and don’t cause more problems. And he sees ways to improve on things such as downtown parking and landscaping. His vision is what Aberdeen could use over the next several years.
Laney has served ably these past four years and been an open-minded commissioner on a variety of issues, collaborating on a number of matters. “We get along. We work well together.”
Although she’s lived here more than 16 years now, Laney brings her experience of living in larger communities that frequently require partnership across governmental borders. That perspective has come in valuable with her representing Aberdeen on a couple of regional committees focused on planning and transportation issues.
Although Laney admits to being “a little nervous” about all the potential growth facing Aberdeen, she says the town is well positioned to handle what comes its way. She touts decisions such as construction of the police station and the sports complex as good choices by the board to look forward.
As she has the last four years, Laney will be a stable presence on the Board of Commissioners.