Quality of life a vital issue

Aug. 14, 2013 @ 05:03 AM

Entering politics was a sudden and unexpected turn for a former newspaper woman, but a decision Sanford Mayor Cornelia Olive said she wouldn't change.

"The newspaper business has taught me who to go to when I have questions and what sources I need to get the job done," she said. " ... It has taught me not to settle for the first answer and to always keep asking. And if the questions were not answered, I'd ask them again until I got an answer that satisfied me."Olive, who has served as the city's mayor for the last eight years, is seeking re-election against challenger Chet Mann, a mortgage banker. Olive and Mann, both Democrats, will appear on the upcoming Sept. 10 municipal primary ballot; because there are no Republican challengers, the winner will take the seat in December.

Olive returned to Sanford after a stint as editor of The Outer Banks Sentinel in the early 2000s and was shocked by what she saw in the city.

"I was surprised at what I read in the paper and what I saw around town," Olive said. "One of the things was I thought the city needed to be cleaned up. I made a list of things that would help and made to an appointment to see a city manager."

She eventually ran for the Ward 2 seat, served for two years and then won her bid for mayor in 2005.

"I am so proud of Sanford and its citizens," she said. "I wanted the citizens to feel more involved in government. I felt there was an absence of involvement."

Olive focused on beautifying the community but with an emphasis toward economic development, she said. Installing neighborhood parks, applying for grants to restore historic neighborhoods and hosting block cleanups have been priorities, she said, and maintaining Sanford's visual appeal and other quality of life issues will continue to be important.

"We have an attitude of welcome to anyone who chooses to work here," she said. "We have come close to several major industries, over the last several years, and we have studied what other cities have that we lacked to see why we were not chosen."

Promoting entrepreneurship, supporting small business and providing training for highly-technical jobs will be important to lower unemployment and create more opportunities in the city, Olive said. 

"I think I have been a good public servant," she said. "I have been humbled and honored to be mayor for the last eight years. I think am approachable and accessible, and I really do care about what concerns the folks may have."

If re-elected, Olive promised to be an independent thinker, be accountable to her actions and not play politics for personal gain. Increasing community pride, law enforcement visibility and cooperation between the city and the county should be steps taken in the future, according to campaign questionnaire Olive provided to The Herald.  

Olive also served as the editor of The Sanford Herald and was a desk editor for The News and Record, The Herald-Sun and Furniture Today.  A journalist's objectivity, she said, has discouraged her from becoming judgmental and made her a realistic optimist in her political life.

"Journalism taught me about suffering," Olive said. "Taught me about power and control. I like to think that the newspaper is the conscience of the community and that is the role I see myself in as mayor."