Rowan voters will choose from 66 candidates for 42 open seats in November municipal elections
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — With 66 candidates running for 42 seats across the county, voters across can expect competitive races in November for most municipalities.
In Salisbury, voters can count on at least two new council members in Salisbury and a competitive mayoral race.
Friday was the last day for candidates for municipal office to file with the Rowan County Board of Elections. All municipalities will have races on the ballot.
For the first time, Salisbury voters will directly elect a mayor instead of City Council members voting among themselves. Previously, tradition gave the mayor position to the top vote-getter and mayor pro tem to second place. The 2021 candidates are the city’s current and former mayor — Karen Alexander and Al Heggins.
Heggins made history in 2017 when she was the first Black woman to serve as Salisbury’s mayor. She also unsuccessfully ran in 2020 against Rep. Harry Warren, a Republican, for a seat in the state House.
Alexander first served as mayor from 2015-17 before Heggins received more votes in 2017. After receiving the most votes in 2019, Alexander was again named mayor.
Alexander says she wants to use her role as president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities to provide the city with even more opportunities. With the federal American Rescue Plan funds coming and amid federal infrastructure plan discussions, Alexander said she aspires to be part of the body “making good transformational decisions.”
Heggins said her decision to run for mayor is “squarely centered on what needs to be completed and what needs to be newly implemented.”
“Salisbury deserves elected public servants who respect and value each resident as well as the public servants they are elected to serve with,” Heggins said. “Now is the time to focus our collective journey — our shared story — on moving our great city forward and ensuring that we leave no one behind.”
Salisbury’s candidate pool for City Council, where there are four seats on the ballot and two incumbents running, is a diverse one. It includes Rev. Anthony Smith and Harry McLaughlin, who are Black men; incumbent David Post, who’s Jewish; incumbent Tamara Sheffield, the first openly gay elected council member; Nalini Joseph, an Asian-American born in India; Jonathan Barbee, who’s Filipino-American; and Jessica Cloward, who’s from Puerto Rico.
Both the mayor and council members serve two-year terms.
Post, who was first elected in 2015, told the Post there are a few more things he’d like to complete. Among those is the KIVA program, a micro-loan initiative for women and minorities looking to launch a business. Additionally, he’d like to help fill the nearly two dozen vacant buildings. Despite the city’s recent parking study, Post said he feels more parking is needed and is a factor in some buildings remaining vacant or unused.
It would also be ideal, he said, to have as much stability as possible as the city searches for its new manager. Earlier this month, City Manager Lane Bailey announced he will retire at the end of the year.
Sheffield told the Post she has more to offer to Salisbury and more dedicated than ever to serving the city.
“I still believe in ‘People Over Politics’ and hope I get this opportunity to serve again,” Sheffield said.
Smith, pastor at Mission House Church, is a Navy veteran, employee of the Social Security Administration and a leading member of the Rowan Concerned Citizens organization. After leading grassroots community organizations for years, Smith said he feels called to scale those efforts to an institutional level.
Joseph told the Post she wants to use her 30 years of experience in the court system and working with nonprofits to “make Salisbury even greater.”
Barbee, who ran for the Salisbury school board seat in 2020, told the Post he was encouraged to run for a seat on the city council. He plans to run on the slogan, “People Over Money” and would like to see more growth toward the Mid-Carolina Regional Airport.
Cloward said in a Facebook post announcing her candidacy she wants to help make decisions that are “wise, noble and honest,” “stand up for righteousness” and tell the truth
In East Spencer, Mayor Barbara Mallett will run for re-election. She will be joined on the ballot by incumbent aldermen Albert Smith, Dwayne Holmes and Tony Hillian. The aldermen will be challenged by Shawn Rush, who’s the second vice chair of the Rowan County Democratic Party. Three seats on the board are up for grabs.
Though there are only three seats up for grabs in China Grove, nine candidates have joined the race. All three incumbents have filed for re-election, including Arthur Heggins, Don Bringle and Brandon Linn. Bringle, who was previously mayor, was appointed to the council in 2019 to finish the remainder of Charles Seaford’s term once Seaford was elected mayor. Incumbents will be challenged by Lou “Gary” Watkins, Josh Mullis, Cheryl Sheets, Krista Moon, Stacy Woodward and William “Joey” Jordan.
In Rockwell, longtime Mayor Beau Taylor will be challenged by longtime alderman Chuck Bowman in the mayoral race. In a Facebook post after his filing Wednesday, Bowman said it wasn’t an easy decision, but it was time.
“I know over the years I have made hard decisions being an alderman (making some people happy and some not so happy) but I always had the interest of the town first,” Bowman said. “Thanks for listening, and if I am elected mayor, I plan on listening a lot.”
Rockwell aldermen Justin Crews, Lizz Johnson, Chris Cranford and Stephenie Walker have all filed for re-election for the five seats set to expire. They are joined by a challenger, Dillon Brewer, who spent two terms on the Rowan County United Way allocations committee and has worked with other local nonprofit organizations. Brewer says he wants to see other young people from Rockwell come back or stay to raise families and begin careers.
Granite Quarry will have one seat for mayor and two town board seats on the ballot. Mayor William “Bill” Feather will not seek re-election. Instead, the mayoral race will be between Brittany Barnhardt and Mike Brinkley. Incumbents John Linker and William “Kim” Cress will seek re-election, joined by challengers Brandon Gibbs and Angela Nee.
In Cleveland, which will have three seats on the ballot, incumbents Bryan Little, Gerald Osborne and Richard Taylor have filed for re-election. They are joined by challenger Danny Gabriel, who was previously the town’s mayor. Cleveland Mayor Patrick Phifer will also make another run.
The race is packed in Kannapolis, which has 12 council candidates and three seats on the ballot. Mayor Darrell Hinnant will seek another term and has no competition. He is joined by incumbents Dianne Berry, Doug Wilson and Van Rowell. However, incumbents will be challenged by Jayne Williams, Milton Smith, Jeanne Dixon, Chris Gordon, Phil Goodman, James Litaker, Jordan Connell and Patrick “Bubba” Hartsell.
Only Landis, Spencer and Faith have races that aren’t competitive.
In Landis, just two seats are set to expire, and incumbents Darrell Overcash and Tony Corriher have filed for re-election. Corriher told the Post that as one of the board members to “make some good decisions” such as hiring former interim Town Manager Leonard Barefoot and current Town Manager Diane Seaford, he wants to continue such progress. Similarly, Overcash, who was appointed to former alderman Bobby Brown’s seat after his death in November 2019, said his priority is to move Landis forward.
“I have been a part of the restructuring of our town staff, budgeting and the (Land Development Ordinance),” Overcash said. “My priority is to move Landis forward in the positive direction we are now seeing and to move our town forward as we are seeing an exciting future ahead.”
In Spencer, Mayor Jonathan Williams is seeking re-election and has no competition. He is joined by town board incumbents Patti Seacrest, who is mayor pro tem, Steve Miller, Patricia Sledge and Sam Morgan. Rashid Muhammad, who filled an unexpired term in 2019 following the resignation of Howard White, has also joined the race for one of the six open seats, along with challenger Andrew Howe.
Seacrest said, as a retired educator and “lifelong learner,” she welcomes the opportunity to continue learning, especially in a town “on the precipice of so many great projects,” including Park Plaza. Miller told the Post the current board members have been “aggressive” in the town’s progress.
The town of Faith has five seats open, but only four candidates filed — Mayor C.J. Moody, Randall Barger, Mayor Pro Tem Matt Lyerly, Brian Campbell and Gary Gardner. All won re-election without any competition in 2019. Rowan County Board of Elections members voted Friday to allow a fifth write-in candidate to win the remaining seat rather than extending the filing deadline.
Board member George W. Benson said there was ample time to file for a run. Additionally, Rowan County Board of Elections Director Brenda McCubbins said a call was made to Faith town officials Thursday to notify them of the shortage.
Rockwell found itself in a similar situation during the 2013 election when Bobby Moore won as a write-in candidate after receiving 45 votes.
“Hopefully someone is interested, but someone can win with one vote,” McCubbins said.
A winner would have to be a resident of the town in which they’re elected.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.