Aurora mayoral candidates discuss issues|Boyd, Williams answer inquiries at a public forum

Published 10:56 pm Tuesday, October 13, 2009

By By The County Compass
Special to the Daily News

Aurora’s mayoral candidates — Clif Williams and W.C. Boyd Jr. — tackled a wide range of issues in a forum hosted Sept. 29 by The County Compass. Approximately 50 people attended. A sampling of the questions and the candidates’ responses follow:
Q: Both of you gentlemen are going to be in a position for people to criticize you. Can you handle this in a calm and sensible manner?
Boyd: I am also on the planning committee for Aurora, and we, not too long ago, went through rezoning. We decided we were going along with the proposed topic. We had one member who wanted to omit mining quarries, cemeteries, and bars. I knew one family who wanted to put a restaurant/bar into the town limits, so I spoke up on their behalf. I learned, going forward, that I would try to make the best decisions and whatever my decision I would learn to live with them. If you are right, you’re right. And, if you are wrong, you are wrong. I am just going to be honest with people and hopefully get the same respect in return.
Williams: Certainly, I don’t think anyone could have entered a political race under more controversial circumstances. It was heartbreaking to see what this town was going through back then. That was nothing that I wanted to be a part of. All I wanted to do at that time was something to help the Town of Aurora. I have to deal with controversy, with employees, with things of this nature all the time in my business. I am constantly having to be a mediator of some sort. But, I don’t think that is an issue. It is how you handle problems that will set the candidates apart who are running for this office, and I feel like I am well qualified for that.
Q: Are you going to be able to get away from your employment to attend the various classes, seminars, etc. required of an elected official to perform his duties as mayor?
Williams: First of all, as mayor, there is no absolute requirement that I go to all of the classes that are out there. There are some classes that I will attend; there are some that I won’t attend. As mayor, I am going to be able to give my board some direction and insight on things that we need to do as a town. I have Judi Lannon, who is our town administrator. She is doing her best to get educated right now. She is going to be attending all the classes and things, and I will depend on her advice for matters relating to the state and the town. As far as making decisions, that is not going to be a problem. I have been doing this type of thing long enough. We have legal counsel at all of our meetings, and he has been there for us whenever we run into an issue or a legal question.
Boyd: I am in a little bit of a different situation than Clif, who kind of runs his own business. One of the advantages I do have is that I work for one of the largest companies on this side of the earth. Any time when any of the employees are doing anything for the community, PCS encourages that person to do whatever is necessary to help provide community service. So I feel like my employer would support, and let me do whatever might be necessary – whether that would mean going to seminars or going to meetings.
The leadership aspect of being mayor – as I said I worked for 20 years at a commercial printing company – that has been my background, supervising and managing other people. Being a leader is in my background. I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army so I feel qualified to be the leader – the mayor – of Aurora.
Q: What do you think can be done to have a stoplight placed at the intersection of N.C. Highway 33 and Fifth Street?
Boyd: I remember getting in an accident at the same intersection you are talking about when I was 16 or 17 – actually working for Aurora Industrial Supplies at the time. (Laughter.) First, I would have to examine and determine what type of accidents have been occurring. We have to analyze and do some research before we make a decision. I will also say that, looking at the way traffic runs through Hwy. 33 and Fifth Street, a stoplight may become a problem. Most people who were brought up in this community don’t like change. I will have to do the research to see if it is justified to put a stoplight there.
Williams: About two or two and a half years ago, we did have a severe accident with a death, if I am not mistaken. And, there have been numerous deaths over x-number of years. At that time, Mayor Douglas did ask for an investigation to be done to see if a stoplight was merited at the intersection and that study was done. The Department of Transportation, based on the study, made the decision that it did not warrant putting a light at that intersection. Also, with funds being as tight as they are in North Carolina, there is probably a good chance that they would not commit to doing something like that.
It will be a decision by the Department of Transportation. The Town of Aurora cannot make that decision.
Q: What are your plans to improve Aurora?
Williams: First of all, I want to find developers for Bailey’s Creek. That’s kind of where we left off when the economy went south on us. That is really in the forefront on our minds – we need to develop that 110 acres. We need to take advantage of the waterfront in this town. We have a beautiful waterfront and it is one of the things that we somebody comes to Aurora — what are you going to do? You are going fishing, going hunting — so we need to take advantage of that asset. We have got to grow this town. Our town is getting smaller, instead of getting larger. We have got to turn these things around. If we don’t, to be able to run the facilities here like water, sewer, and police protection — which we can barely afford right now — is going to be a bigger burden on the citizens who are remaining in this town. That is going to be one of my first priorities, to try and figure out a way that we can make this town grow. We also want to continue with the town enhancement – again, getting back to the waterfront. When you get to the end of Main Street, right now, we’ve got this nice little creek to the right and to the left of us, and you cannot even get a boat up there because the water is so shallow. One of the things we can possible do is to get that creek dredged out so that we can get more boat traffic and activity up there. I think we need to negotiate a lease of the Hodges Marina. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but Beaufort County is trying to build a replica of Blackbeard’s ship, the Voyager. It is about a $5 million project. Blackbeard is North Carolina’s most famous citizen. We can capitalize on all that history.
Boyd: First and foremost, my plan would be to clean up Aurora. When I use the term ‘cleanup,’ I am referring to efforts to try and beautify our town. You probably read in the paper a few weeks ago that I was concerned about garbage containers being left out by the curbside, people not cutting their grass. One thing I have noticed that has remained the same is that when you go and voice your opinion at these town meetings, the feeling that I get is that you have to be kind of skeptical as to who you are dealing with. When I brought up to the town board, my ideas for beautification of Village Green Apartments I noted that the property manager had not cut the grass for over a month and a half, or better. Because I brought this to the attention of the town, would you believe that this man started cutting his grass every week? It is just a fact that we, as citizens, have got to call it like it is. If you want people to come back into this community, you have to beautify this place. Part of this is trying to get our kids off the streets. We should serve as mentors for some of these kids, because God knows they need some guidance from community leaders. Again, we are working on some things — and I am looking at my daughter — that may be happening over the next few months that will bring some of our talent back to Aurora. I believe if we clean up our community first other beneficial things will follow.
Q: The town recently decided to rezone its entire waterfront. Will the candidates explain to us, maybe even give us a little tutorial on zoning? What changes are we looking for along our waterfront?
Boyd: I was on the planning board and all of the discussions that we had, I was definitely in favor of the rezoning because it gives us more latitude to do more things. My understanding is that prior to the rezoning, the only thing that could be done was boat slips and things of that nature. The change opened up the area to many other applications.
Anything that can bring business into the community, I was open for.
Williams: That is exactly true. That was the idea behind the rezoning. Again, one of the leading things to making this town grow is our valuable waterfront. With the prior zoning, you could not do anything with the property. But, by changing the zone, you could actually build on your property to do something besides just putting a dock there.
A lot of people these days like to build waterfront homes and they want to look out over the wetlands to see the birds and the wildlife and things of that nature. The way we were previously set up in Aurora, that was just not a possibility. The town board passed this along to the planning board as an opportunity for the future and they saw it the same way. I agree with passing it and I am thankful that the town did it.
Editor’s note: The Washington Daily News and The County Compass, a new newspaper serving Pamlico County and the Aurora area of Beaufort County, entered into a partnership in which The County Compass will provide the Daily News some of its articles about the Aurora area and the Daily News will provide The County Compass with selected articles, including sports stories about Southside High School.