4 compete for 2 seats on county commission

4 compete for 2 seats  on county commission
April 26
08:30 2018

Two incumbents and two challengers faced off in a forum for two seats for District A of the Forsyth County Board of County Commissioners at the Central Library last week.

The forum was for Democratic candidates for District A, which represents the city. Voters will be able to pick two winners in the primary. There is no Republican challenger, so whoever wins on May 8 will get a four-year term as a commissioner. The incumbents are Everette Witherspoon and Fleming El-Amin. The challengers are Tony Burton and Tonya McDaniel.

El-Amin was appointed to fill Walter Marshall’s seat when he passed away last year. This is the first time the retired teacher and former Democratic Party chairman has run for office. He said naming the Department of Social Services building after Marshall was among his accomplishments.

“It took a leadership capacity to bring that about and I led that charge,” said El-Amin.
Witherspoon has been a commissioner since 2010 and is the chief executive of Chris’ Rehabilitative Services in Greensboro. He said he’d pushed for funding for education, school nurses and infant mortality reduction. He said that the infant mortality rate has greatly decreased under his tenure.

“All I have done is give our children the mechanisms to live better and I will continue to do so,” said Witherspoon.

McDaniel is the second vice chairwoman of the Winston-Salem NAACP chapter, director of human resources at United Health Centers and was campaign manager for the late State Sen. Earline Parmon in 2012.

“I got in this race because after The Women’s March, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I figured I just needed to stand up and bring forth a vision for constituency in District A,” said McDaniel.

Burton is a former teacher who is executive director of Northwest Child Development Centers, which runs Mudpies Childcare Centers. He’s also served on numerous boards. He said he’s running because he doesn’t believe the commissioners have been responsive to the needs of constituents and repeatedly encouraged attendees to tell commissioners what they want.

“If the people of the community will stand up and demand what it is that they want, then the county commissioners, regardless of if they’re Republican or Democrats, will react to you,” said Burton.

All the candidates expressed disapproval of the way county commissioner districts were drawn. District A is designed to give the board minority commissioners, but only two of them. District B is designed to give it a Republican majority. Both incumbents complained that it makes commissioners less responsive to the urban part of Forsyth and minimizes the board’s Democrats. However, it would take an act of the General Assembly to change the commissioners’ districts.
Local gentrification was among the topics that were discussed. Burton said gentrification was happening as more projects cross U.S. 52, which used to divide the black and white parts of Winston-Salem. He said the community needs to speak up against it.

“If we don’t get ready for them to cross 52, there will be no ‘us’ on the other side of 52,” said Burton.

Witherspoon said gentrification isn’t in Winston-Salem yet. He said local revitalization projects haven’t displaced residents, but have improved communities.

“Now, if you see white people and you see Starbucks on Cleveland Avenue, that’s gentrification,” said Witherspoon.

McDaniel said there was gentrification on the south and east sides of town as well as in Rolling Hills, an apartment complex that had constant building code violations until it was renovated last year. She said a home left to her by her grandmother has also been devalued in county tax reappraisals.

“You can’t talk about something you don’t know,” said McDaniel.

Fleming said urban renewal eliminated his grandfather’s grocery story and many other businesses in his neighborhood, tearing its economic heart out. He suggested attendees should contact the county’s Housing and Community Development Department for assistance in becoming a homeowner.

“You want to change gentrification?” said Fleming. ”Become a homeowner.”

On inmate deaths at the county jail, Witherspoon, McDaniel and Burton suggested electing a new sheriff. El-Amin suggested linking Sheriff’s Office funding with corrective actions at the jail. McDaniel also suggested electing new school board members, saying the current board is asleep at the wheel when it comes to requesting funds for schools.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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