WEST JEFFERSON — The 2020 Republican candidate forum was held on Feb. 4 at The Venue at the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce. The six candidates on the Republican ballot for BOC were presented with questions by both the moderator and the audience.
The panel of candidates was comprised of Jerry Powers, William Sands, Jonathan Jordan, Paula Perry, Jason Krider and Wayne Osborne.
The evening’s moderator was Nathan Miller from Watauga County, and vice chairman Steve Mochen was the time-keeper.
Some questions were prepared in advance, but the audience was welcome to write down any questions they wished to ask any of the candidates.
Before the BOC candidates started being addressed with a variety of questions, they each gave a brief introduction.
Powers introduced himself as an Ashe County native who graduated from Northwest Ashe High School in 1972. He spent 11 years as a volunteer EMT, worked at Southern Devices as a machinist for several years and become a full-time farmer in 1989 until recently when he began experiencing knee pain.
Sands, who has been on the BOC for 10 years, originally grew up in Surry County and graduated from Pond Mountain High School before attending University of Alabama for a degree in business management. He owned a part-time home in Ashe County since the 1980s and following retirement he began volunteering with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office. He is involved with the WJ Lions Club and is a member of Bald Mountain Baptist Church and is a Sunday school teacher.
Former N.C. Rep. Jonathan Jordan has owned a small law firm in the county for the past 15 years. He shared that he had the honor of representing Ashe County in Raleigh in the state House of Representatives for eight years. Jordan wants to continue to make sure that the county is ready for the changes that the widening of Hwy. 221 will bring and work with Sheriff B. Phil Howell to ensure the community’s safety. He also wants to ensure that there is also a strong budget for the Ashe County Schools.
Perry lives in the Buffalo area and has served on the BOC for three years. She said she feels fortunate to be able to serve as a county commissioner and hopes the community will come together to select her to continue serving for the next four years.
Krider is an Ashe County native who is a 1992 graduate of Beaver Creek High School and three-time graduate of Appalachian State University with a degree in history and both a master’s degree and an education specialist degree in school administration. The Krider family has a small farm in Todd where they still raise cattle and sheep. He has been involved in the agricultural community for his entire life. He is a strong advocate for education and children. He and his family are active members of Bethany United Methodist Church and he and his wife are involved in Imagination Ashe.
Osborne is a resident of Creston and has worked full-time as a paramedic and has served for 26 years. He has been a member of the Creston Volunteer Fire Department since 1978 and retired after 30 years with the Ashe County Rescue Squad. He feels like he has been led to run for a seat on the BOC and feels he can use his common sense and love for the community to help out its residents.
When asked the question of what makes them a good candidate for the BOC, the panel answered based on their personal experiences.
“I just want to see Ashe County keep growing, I want to be able to be in there and help every member of Ashe County, not there rich not the poor but everybody. Over the years as paramedic, I treat all different kinds of people. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich, whether you’re poor,” Osborne said. “When you’re in the back of my truck, you’re my patient and I will treat you the same no matter what. And that’s why I feel like I’d be a good candidate.”
“You can look at the things I voted on in Raleigh and I think they follow along with you and your values and your family’s values. I worked to help protect our children, to fund things adequately,” Jordan said. “I was a county attorney for another rural county, Stokes County, for several years and they have some of the same issues we do as a rural county.”
Another topic of discussion was the question of what could the BOC do to help reduce the tax burden on Ashe County residents struggling to pay property taxes.
Perry shared that this has been something that the BOC has been dealing with as long as she has served and with those before her.
“We just need to really be careful, that’s why we have such a hard time in our budget time trying to keep things down and trying to have the people look at what their necessities are, not what their wants are when they’re applying for funding in the budgets so that we don’t have to raise the taxes,” Perry said.
When presented with this question, Powers felt it is a self-inflicted problem.
“In today’s society we probably need to look at the opportunity to pay the taxes over a period of time, and I’m not saying to be late. But encourage people to paying their taxes to maybe get started when they’re due in August, not wait until Jan. 4 or 5,” Powers said. “I think it could be a workable solution to accept tax payments in a programmed agenda.”
One member of the audience proposed a question based on the recent amendment passed in Yadkin County that made it the first county in the U.S. to be a Sanctuary of Life for the unborn. The question was originally addressed to Perry asking whether or not she planned to follow their lead.
Perry said that although she had not heard of that, she does feel that it is an important issue in Ashe.
“To me, I’m pro-life, I would go for something like that if it gets brought up that’s my feelings. I’ve not had anybody mention that in the area. I don’t know about the other commissioners, if they’ve heard anything,” Perry said. “But that’s something for the churches to get involved with to, that would like to see that happen.”
Next the question went to Jason Krider who also shared that he is Pro-Life but would not want to view it as following the lead of another county.
“We need to get feedback on that. I certainly don’t think that a board should jump to doing something like that without getting input, without having discussions or those critical conversations that you have to have,” Krider said. “That’s a big issue and there’s two sides to every issue so both sides need to be heard.”
After two hours of following the cycle of questions, Miller and Mochen gave each candidate thirty seconds to tell the audience why they should give them their vote.
Krider went first and his key points were that he was born and raised in Ashe Co., is a hard worker and is willing to do whatever is necessary to make the county a better place.
“So I’d appreciate your vote, get me in here and I’ll get busy from day one,” Krider said.
Osborne shared that he is honest and will do everything he can to help the county.
“I love Ashe County, I never wanted to move out of it. I just want to help the county and my community,” Osborne said.
Powers spoke about accountability.
“God made Adam and Eve accountable in the Garden of Eden, so if you want to spend more money and become less accountable for anything that you want to spend, don’t vote for me,” Powers said.
Sands spoke about his experience during the years working on the BOC and how it is just as important to have new commissioners as it is to have experienced ones.
“That is so important, to keep the experience on board. But yet, it’s good to have new people as we’ve experienced with the two we had recently,” Sands They brought in new ideas and it’s been good. We’ve got a good thing going for us.”
Jordan shared that since he has a record that shows what he has voted for in the past, the people know what they are getting when they vote.
“You know what you’re getting. You’ve got somebody who’s going to pay attention to the details, that’ll be there working for you because you’re out there living your life you can’t be running government. That’s what we’re here for,” Jordan said.
Perry expressed that she appreciates the votes in the past.
“You’ve seen me in there at work and sometimes I vote by myself and sometimes together, but I think I try to work with the others and get a good understanding and listen to the people of the county,” Perry said. “And having my own business I think is a real big plus, to give you insight of what goes around in the county.”
Following an introduction by president of the Ashe County GOP Steve Mochen, Ray Pickett who is in the running for North Carolina House of Representatives to represent District 93 against Rep. Ray Russell, gave a two-minute speech.
“I decided it was time to put my name in the hat and try to take that seat back and represent this district for the good people in it, the good hardworking people in it, and do what is needed for here,” Pickett said.
He shared that he plans to continue to visit Ashe County frequently to speak to members of the community.
“I do want your vote, I need it desperately, and we need to win this thing in November,” Pickett said in closing.
The next speaker was Sonny Thomas, who is the Ashe County campaign chairman for Dan Forrest.
He shared some of Forrest’s views on allowing parents to make decisions regarding the education of their children rather than bureaucrats and how Forrest is entirely pro-life.
Following the introductions by Pickett and Thomas, Matthew Leach and Donna Shumate, candidates for District Court judge each addressed the crowd.
The election will be party primary-only on March 3 and there is no Democratic candidate who has filed in the race.
Leach attended college at UNC-Chapel Hill and law school at Elon University. He began a private practice focusing on child custody support, DSS cases and criminal defense cases.
Leach then started in a district attorney’s office, where he currently works as a prosecutor. He works primarily with superior court cases involving sex offenses, drug trafficking and major felony assaults.
“I’m proud to be part of this district, I’m already representing you and I’d like to continue to do that as your judge,” Leach said.
Donna Shumate is a lifelong resident of Alleghany County who left only to go to college.
Shumate attended Alleghany High School and completed her high school education at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. She attended the University of North Carolina following high school and attended Campbell Law School.
Shumate has completed both criminal and civil court cases. She has completed a lot of child custody cases and construction law suits.
She has also served as the county attorney for the past 15 years.
“I’ve been practicing law for 26 years, so I’ve seen a lot, I’ve seen a lot of people the good and the bad. Learned a lot just beyond the law, about how people interact and what their motivations are. I think a judge needs to be fair and be able to understand people,” Shumate said.
To conclude the evening, Mochen reminded the crowd of some important upcoming events for the Ashe County GOP.
Feb. 18 will be the next Ashe County Republican Party meeting and will begin at 6 p.m. at Sweet & Savory Bakery & Deli. Those planning on eating should arrive at 5:30 p.m.
There will not be a meeting in March because the county convention will be held on March 7 at 11 a.m. at Ashe County Courthouse.
On April 21 the Ashe County Republican Party will meet at Sweet & Savory for the month.
After the forum concluded those in attendance were welcome to speak one-on-one with the BOC candidates, as well as Pickett, Leach and Shumate.