If you’ve ever toyed with the notion of running for local public office, this could be your year. Each of Moore County’s 11 municipalities has at least one seat open this coming November.
We’re losing some quality leaders, some of whom have served with distinction for several years and possess significant experience. That certainly supports the addition of “new blood” to towns’ respective councils, but it means a steep learning curve for them — and possibly new directions for the rest of us.
Our two largest towns, Pinehurst and Southern Pines, are both going to have new mayors with the prior announced retirements of Pinehurst’s Nancy Fiorillo and Southern Pines’ David McNeill. Filling those two spots alone will be a big task for voters, but that’s just the start.
With candidate filing scheduled to open this coming Friday at 12 p.m., would-be council members are warming up for the four-month campaign season ahead. Some daunting challenges lie ahead for them — and all of us in measuring how well they’ll hold up under the responsibility of governance.
First, we need local town councils capable of coping with the continued pressure of growth. The answer is not to rubber-stamp every proposal that crosses the dais, nor is it to “shut the door” and pine for the days of sandy streets and front-porch rocking. The former is reckless and the latter is pointless.
Our Moore County towns are changing, much faster than many of us are comfortable with. So we are looking for council candidates willing to put in the time to weigh what’s good growth and what’s not. That’s not easy, and one often looks like the other. It will take dedication, discernment and direction to tease out what will add value to this community and what will merely add value to the tax base. Growth can give us more tax money in our coffers, but it can also be a demanding mistress that drains that amount and more in the service of new requests.
We need council members able to cope with disruptive road construction and the preservation of our businesses — and patience — during that time. Both U.S. 1 and 15-501 will begin undergoing radical change beginning next year. So we need local officials who can work with transportation officials to ensure minimal disruption.
Lastly, we need council members who are prepared to face budget pressures. The aforementioned growth is necessary for communities to thrive, but we’ve seen this year that it has forced many communities — even tax-allergic Pinehurst — to raise property taxes to cope with higher demands.
Our local town boards largely work well singularly and with other towns’ boards as well. They are guided by good and well-intentioned professional staffs. What we need are candidates who, once elected, can keep it that way.
We learned last Monday that we were going to lose Ken Byrd’s service on the Aberdeen Town Board of Commissioners after he declared he wouldn’t seek re-election. But we were not prepared Wednesday to lose Ken Byrd entirely, and his years of service to our community.
Ken’s sudden death stuns us. He was a committed, caring and energetic man locked in on service in whatever way possible. In Aberdeen he worked tirelessly to improve education, planning and development, recreation and business. He advocated for a new town library, and was passionate about the local charter school and the new public elementary school just up the road a bit.
Ken wasn’t from here, but he was of here. He served his nation, his state and his town with distinction. We will miss his leadership, friendship and stewardship.