LEE COUNTY: Two incumbents, one challenger file for election

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Three more people signed up Monday to campaign for local municipal offices in hopes of being elected in November.

Incumbents Sam Gaskins, of the Sanford City Council, and Jim Davis, of the Broadway Town Commissioners, filed for re-election. Chet Mann filed in a bid to be Sanford's mayor — a position now held by Cornelia Olive, who hasn't filed yet and said Monday that she hasn't decided whether she will run.

Mann said if he's elected mayor, he will focus on responsible economic development strategies and ensuring the city does everything possible to provide good services and help create quality jobs.

"I'm running because I'm a family man and a local businessman," said Mann, who owns mortgage company Prime Lending and filed for candidacy accompanied by his parents, wife and sons. "I'm active in the community and want to make it a great place to work and live, and I think I can do that as mayor."

Mann started Prime Lending in 2009 after working in the oil and gas distribution business. He's chairman of both the Lee County Education Foundation and the Lee County Arts and Community Center, and he has previously been chairman of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors in addition to serving on other boards and civic groups, including the Central Carolina Community College Board of Trustees.

This is the first year the Sanford City Council elections will be partisan, due to a bill recently passed by the General Assembly despite strong objections from the council. It was introduced by former mayor pro tem Mike Stone, now a Republican representative to the General Assembly. If Olive does seek re-election, there will be a primary in September because both she and Mann are registered Democrats.

Gaskins, who represents Ward 1 in Sanford and is mayor pro tem, isn't facing any challengers yet. However, while he said he hasn't heard any specific names mentioned, he does expect a contest in November. Gaskins, a Democrat, said he anticipates a Republican challenger but thinks that no matter who steps up against him, he's the right choice for the city.

"I think we have done quite well being able to hold the line on taxes, given the difficulties that have been presented to us due to the sales tax redistribution," he said. "And we have the possibility that the state legislature is going to do something similar to us by removing the excise tax which we receive, so there are a number of financial difficulties that I think — with my experience in industry and dealing with large budgets — I will be able to help with."

Gaskins, who's in his first term on the council, has been a chemistry professor at Guilford Technical Community College since 1999. He previously spent more than 20 years as a manufacturing manager for Pfizer and Coty, and he has been president of the Sanford Kiwanis Club and the Temple Theatre board of directors in addition to serving on other boards and groups.

Besides the seats held by Gaskins and Olive, council members L.I. "Poly" Cohen and James "J.D." Williams are also up for re-election. Neither has filed yet, although local attorney Norman "Chas" Post III has filed to campaign for Cohen's seat. Post is a Democrat, as are Cohen and Williams.

Davis, who was Broadway's town manager before joining the Broadway Board of Town Commissioners, said he "would simply like to survive the economic challenges that have been placed against Broadway," and that he doesn't have any specific agendas or goals in mind otherwise.

"I like the direction that the board of commissioners [is] going with the town of Broadway at this time, and I would like to see it continue to go that way if possible," Davis said. "I have either worked for the town or been on the board of commissioners for the last 42 years. I have a feel for what's going on in the community, and I'd like to think I'm an asset to the board."

With Davis's filing, four people have now announced their candidacy for one of the four seats available on the town board. Fellow commissioners Woody Beale and Tom Beal, the mayor pro tempore, filed Friday along with Betty Sauls, former president of the National Secretary Association, who is seeking her first term on the board. The board wasn't included in Stone's bill and will remain nonpartisan.