Rowland mayor facing challenge

First Posted: 11/2/2011

This is another in a series of articles about Tuesday’s municipal elections.

ROWLAND — The need to improve the appearance of downtown, getting new businesses to locate in vacant buildings, and providing more programs and activities for young and old are top issues of those running for Rowland’s mayor and town commissioners in the municipal elections on Tuesday.

Mayor Doris Elizabeth (Betty) Calhoun Hunt, seeking her third two-year term as the town’s mayor, is being challenged by Debra Thompson Strickland, who ran unsuccessfully in 2005. Two incumbent commissioners, Bernard Lowry Jr. and Allen Jean Love, are being challenged by political newcomer Betty J. Boyd.

“Continuing economic development is my main issue,” Hunt said. “We need to continue developing Main Street, move the park forward and address additional housing needs.”

Hunt said that the town is looking at ways of providing new housing opportunities and that there are already “some good” shovel-ready housing sites available once money is available.

Hunt said that the town’s budget is the best it has been in years, noting that the town has been able to hire a full staff of six police officers and this year gave town employee a 2.5 percent salary increase. She also said that the hiring of former Fairmont Town Manager Blake Proctor as the town’s clerk/finance officer has been a plus.

“I feel very positive about things,” Hunt said. “I have a clear vision of what needs to be done in Rowland and know the routes to get grants needed to fund projects.”

Hunt has worked for the Public Schools of Robeson County for 21 years, and is currently a bookkeeper at Rowland Middle School.

Strickland said she isn’t going to make promises she won’t be able to keep.

“But what I will do is work hard to make changes in the community, ” she said. “…There are so many things that aren’t being addressed at this time.”

Strickland, a lifelong resident of Rowland, said that as mayor she would like to explore the possibilities of lowering local property taxes, as well as reducing the cost of water and electricity to residents. She said she also would work with commissioners to improve the condition of downtown buildings in an effort to attract businesses, and would like to see the development of programs to prepare young people for jobs.

Strickland is a certified nursing assistant at a group home.

Incumbent Commissioner Bernard Lowry, who did not supply a photo to The Robesonian for this story, is seeking his third four-year term on the council.

“As a member of the council, I think we have done a good job trying to get better services for our town’s residents,” Lowry said. “The most important thing a commissioner can do is recognize the good ideas that citizens have and bring those ideas to the council.”

Lowry cited his contributions to improving conditions at the town’s park, encouraging economic development and restoration at the town’s Historic Depot as accomplishments during his time in office.

“We work hard giving citizens the best we can, such as good water and sewer services, for their taxes,” he said.

Lowry, a native of Pembroke and resident of Rowland for 20 years, retired from the U.S. Navy in 1991 after 32 years of service. After retiring from the military, he worked with the Rowland Motor Company for 16 years.

Boyd is making her first run at public office. A Rowland native, she lived in Washington, D.C., for more than 40 years before returning to Rowland in 2010.

Boyd, who has been active in the town’s STEP program, said she wants to see efforts to get the Historic Depot up and running and improvements to downtown buildings to continue. More programs for both the town’s youth and seniors are also needed, she said.

Boyd emphasized that more housing needs to be available in the town, especially for seniors.

“We need to come up with something that will attract retirees so they come back to the community,” she said.

Boyd is retired. He last job was an administrative assistant for her former church in Washington, Covenant Baptist. .

“As a commissioner I’ll bring forth my skills, knowledge and experiences to do the job,” Boyd said. “I’m willing to get out and do the work that is necessary to get the job done. I will make myself readily available to the community.”

Jean Love, the second incumbent whose seat is up for election, could not be reached for this story.

— Staff writer Bob Shiles can be reached at (910) 272-6117 or [email protected]

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