On Tuesday evening, the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce held the 2014 Candidate Forum downtown. Four of the five candidates running for seats in the Forsyth County Commissioner’s race attended the forum.
District A Candidates
Current Commissioner Everette Witherspoon and opposing candidate Donald Scales attended the forum to speak to the public about the issues that were most important to them. Commissioner Walter Marshall, the third candidate running District A, did not attend.
Scales, a lifelong resident of Forsyth County, admits that he doesn’t have as much political experience as his opposition, but he is passionate about Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Scales pointed out that he is an active volunteer in the community, and he thinks he is the best candidate because he is committed to the people.
“I am committed to listening, and I am committed to studying,” Scales said.
Scales believes that Forsyth County’s biggest issues that need to be addressed are property taxes and affordable homes.
“If we can bring more people in, we will see things like more revenue,” Scales said.
Scales also mentioned that he believes in collaboration and conversing with the people.
“More people should get involved,” Scales said. “More people means bringing more ideas.”
Commissioner Witherspoon believes that the future of Forsyth County relies on job creation, education and health care. Unlike Scales, Witherspoon doesn’t believe that taxes trump everything else.
“Having the lowest tax rate doesn’t necessarily mean having the lowest poverty or unemployment rate,” Witherspoon said.
Witherspoon openly named himself a liberal, and said that the Board of Commissioners is currently too conservative with money.
“We are very conservative right now,” Witherspoon said. “We have to invest.”
Some of the investments that Witherspoon mentioned have to do with the education system. He pointed out that when businesses look to branch out to different parts of the country, they will look at the area’s education system as one of the deciding factors. Witherspoon then mentioned that perhaps developing an early college or a middle college would be a wise investment for the county.
Witherspoon also said that he was an advocate of the Nurse-Family Partnership due to the high infant mortality rate in Forsyth County.
“I am a fighter,” Witherspoon said.
Both candidates believe that more funding should be given to the Sheriff’s Department, but when asked if the Sheriff’s Department and the Winston-Salem Police Department should join forces, they slightly disagreed.
Scales, an advocate of collaborative efforts, thinks that it could be a good idea. Witherspoon said he wasn’t sure of how efficient that would be.
District B Candidates
“This is a job interview,” Commissioner Mark Baker said.
Commissioner Baker believes that the top priority should be making Forsyth County a “business-friendly county.”
His approach to helping businesses is to make sure that the government isn’t in their way.
“We have to ask ourselves ‘what is the ultimate goal of the government in business?’”, Baker said. “And then we have to ask what the County is doing to get in their way.”
While Baker believes in a more “hands-off” approach, opposing candidate and former superintendent of the Forsyth County School System, Don Martin, thinks it is important for the government to invest in business.
Martin believes that more money should be invested into programs such as Winston-Salem Business Inc. so that new businesses will be more inclined to choose Forsyth County as a home.
“We should use incentives while we have to,” Martin said.
While Martin is more interested in bringing new business into Forsyth County, Baker is more interested in doing more with the businesses that already occupy the county.
Both men have been important figures in the Forsyth County Education system for many years, so it is no surprise that they are passionate about education. During their time in the school system, they both say that they have learned to “ask good questions.”
Martin was quick to point out that the schools need efficient technology. Currently only 22 schools in the county are equipped with the right technology, and 58 schools are lacking the right technology.
When the issue of timeliness in regards to the Commissioners moving forth with projects, Baker defended the commissioners.
“Commissioner Linville always lets everyone have their say.” Baker said.
He also said that it was important to be conservative and that the board takes their time with issues because they don’t want to make a mistake with people’s money.
Martin brought up the library project, and said that it was “inexcusable” that the project has taken so long.
“It was passed four years ago, and we just now selected an architect,” Martin said.