2015 Candidates Forum

The candidates for Wake Forest Board of Commissioners were asked six written questions for the Oct. 13 Candidates Forum. Below are their responses:

1. What have you done since becoming a resident of Wake Forest to become involved in the Community? Please provide any examples of participating in Town Government or Community Events.

CHAD CASALE: Since arriving in Wake forest my family has become members of Hope Lutheran Church and we have participated in numerous events at church as an outreach into our community. Some highlights were our participation in Touched by Hope (a free medical clinic to provide medical services to community members with limited access to healthcare) and the Tim Tebow foundations Night to Shine (a prom night experience for special needs adults and children) which was one of the best experiences of my life. I am also a member of the Men of Hope (small group of men serving God and the Church and the community) through acts of faith and community service.

BRAIN CLEMSON: Since moving to Wake Forest, I have dedicated my time to raising four boys. Most of my involvement in the community centers around activities in which my children either currently or previously participated. Two of my boys played baseball in the Wake Forest baseball recreation league and took ice skating at the Polar Ice House at the Factory. My two youngest are active with CASL soccer. As a family, we have attended Wake Forest Unplugged events as well as the Carnival for the Kids, which is associated with the Wake Forest police department. I have supported our schools through participation in Spirit nights, fundraisers, etc. Now that my children are getting older, I am able to give back to the community, which has given our family so much, by serving in town government as a Commissioner.

GREG HARRINGTON: I was hired as the Wake Forest Police Chief in Oct 1993 and moved here with my family in Jan 1994. I found out leading up to the Wake Forest 4th of July fireworks show that my officers worked with the 4th committee by assisting motorists in directing them to park in what use to be called the Jr. parking lot at the high school. The officers were in the lot directing the drivers where to park. I did not believe that was our responsibility so I went to a July 4th committee meeting to express my concern and let them know we would not continue in that activity. Because I went to that meeting I have been a committee member ever since. The past three years I have had the privilege of dressing up as Uncle Sam during the fire works. I replaced a very long time and well respected member of our town (Bob Allen) who held that honor for 10-15 years.

In 1995 I became involved with the Wake Forest Hoops for Wake Forest Basketball Tournament and served on that Board of Directors until we cancelled the tournament in 2009. In 2009 two other leading community members, Mike Johnson and Lisa Hayes, and I formed the Wake Forest Purple Heart Foundation which sponsors an evening to honor the men and women from our area who have been awarded the Purple Heart. From this event the North Carolina Purple Heart Foundation was formed and these dinners have been established in five different cities. More are planned in different parts of the state. The men and women who have been honored are our hero`s and deserve all the respect we can show them.

I have been part of the Wake Forest Community Christmas Dinner committee for the past five years. This dinner is held the first Mon of December and is a great community event where the Community Council presents the annual Citizen of the Year, Peggy Allen Lifetime Achievement Award, and Organization of the Year award. I`ve attended this dinner for many many years. I am also a member of the Wake Forest Community Council. I have been a Lifetime member of the Wake Forest VFW Post 8466 for numerous years. The VFW is involved in many community events and is well respected locally and throughout the state. I currently serve as vice – chairman of the Deacon Board at Oak Grove Baptist Church. During my 16 years as Police Chief I attended many community events simply because I enjoyed being involved in the community. I was a member of the local Kiwanis club for many years. I served on the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors many years ago. After I retired in 2009 I was appointed to the Wake Forest Planning Board and served for two years before running for a seat on the Wake Forest Town Board. I have served as a Wake Forest Town Commissioner for the past four years and have enjoyed almost every minute.

BRIAN PATE: I served as the Vice Chairman of the Wake Forest Chamber Government Affairs Committee for 2 years and Chairman for 4 years. In addition, I have been heavily entrenched with Wake Forest Town Government for about 13 years serving as a board member of the Wake Forest Chamber. The Town of Wake Forest chose my former company, Brian Pate Entertainment, to produce events such as First Light Wake Forest in 2008 and 2009 during the Centennial Celebration throughout 2009. In addition, BPE also provided entertainment at every major event in Wake Forest including the Wake Forest July 4th Fireworks/Children’s Parade, Meet In The Street, Six Sundays In Spring, the Koinonia Foundation, Rotary Club, YMCA We Build People Campaign, the Wake Forest Birthplace Society and the Boys and Girls Club.

Along with that, I have volunteered over 100 hours per year in local schools presenting to students in Wake Forest Elementary, Wake Forest Middle School, Heritage Middle School and Heritage High School while also being the PA announcer for Heritage High School Football and Basketball.

ANNE REEVE: I have been a resident since October 1987. I first became involved in the early 1990s. I was seeing things happen, with very little input from the citizens. That was mainly because information was not getting to people about some of the developments (this has changed). At that time, all of the Town Commissioners were from the core of downtown Wake Forest. I felt that someone from outside of that core should keep a better eye on what was happening.  I have served on the Transportation Committee (twice); I had an ad hoc position on the old Tree Board (now Urban Forestry). I have been a long time member of the Chamber of Commerce and participated in the many activities they provide to the community. I make an effort to attend as many ribbon cuttings/openings as I can. I want businesses to know that the Town appreciates their starting a business here. Also, I participated in the Government Affairs Committee several years ago.

2. Site examples of concerns you might have with recent town board decisions. Please give a solution to these concerns.

CHAD CASALE: The town board has, over the past 15 months, voted to approve every single residential or commercial development project brought before them. The current infrastructure of the town cannot support this uncontrolled growth. We all sit in traffic around town both on weekdays and even on the weekends. This congestion will only continue to get worse as more and more development projects are approved and completed. I believe that the town should begin to focus more on commercial and industrial development (for local jobs as well as tax base building) and go so far as to put a complete moratorium on residential construction for several years so that the focus can be placed on infrastructure improvements and then continue smart growth.

BRIAN CLEMSON: I think overall the town board has done a great job with both commercial and residential development. One issue that seems to have generated some attention recently is the relocation of the Bobby Murray Chevrolet dealership to the tract of land now occupied by the Capital Golf Center. Residents within the Shearon Farms community have expressed concern with traffic patterns that could develop as a result of the dealership relocating to the area. It appears that the town board spent considerable time reviewing and discussing the request to rezone the property including reviewing traffic impact studies, etc. My concern is that residents concerns were not given more weight. My opinion is that when a commercial development is proposed near an existing community, that input from potentially impacted residents be the primary focus. What solutions were discussed to alleviate residents’ concerns other than those proposed? How do they address the traffic concerns that were raised? Were other locations suggested that might suit the dealership and not impact the community?

GREG HARRINGTON: We all have different views on subject matters that come before the board. As everyone probably knows I have spoken out about waiving the Town Ord allowing alcohol to be sold and consumed on city streets and sidewalks. I have said I am not against drinking pre se but we have an ord against this and until its changed it needs to be enforced and not encouraged.

BRIAN PATE: First, the decision to use the Futures Fund to pay for a road connecting Capcom to Rogers Road is one I disagreed with the majority on. The Futures Fund is for Economic Development funding and the people who created that fund intended for it to be used in order to spur economic development in Wake Forest and those funds borrowed would be repaid with interest. The Wireless Research Center of NC is a great example of the great things this fund can do. It is being replenished with the interest from the loan made to the wireless center. That is the type of project the Future Funds should be used for in my opinion and not for infrastructure.

Secondly, I would have put a condition on the Bobby Murray Chevrolet property that was approved in August. The private road running through Sherron Farms is maintained by funds the developer is receiving from the home owners association. I would have had a condition where the Town should have taken over that road before it would be used by the dealership rather than have the HOA incur the cost until the town takes over the road.

ANNE REEVE: The only time I have had concerns has been when it seemed we had our backs up a brick wall to vote for approval. Most citizens don’t realize that we are often sued for disapproving a development project. Unfortunately, with the current “dislike” by the Legislature of Municipals, spills over to the judges. Most of the time, the petitioner wins. Even if we vote no two times – i.e. Sienna Townhomes – they got a ruling in their favor. As far as a solution to this type of situation – I have no answer. I believe that we all make the best decisions we can make based on the information we are provided. I think that perhaps there are some items in the UDO that may need to be addressed, so that we have more control over what we can/can’t do.

3. What are some of the current issues about our town and what would you do to address them?

CHAD CASALE: Development and the lack of infrastructure to support the growth. I would like to see more focus on commercial and industrial development and put a hold on residential to allow the town to catch up infrastructure wise.

BRIAN CLEMSON: With the addition of residential communities in our town over the last few years, we have failed to keep up with other aspects of a growing community such as infrastructure improvements, industry, and activities to engage kids and teens. As new communities are developed, we should ensure that roads are capable of handling traffic volumes before congestion becomes an issue. We should have infrastructure in place at the outset and should be working with the school board early on, planning for community schools to be in place to support the growth that is expected. Coming from a technical background, I would like to see more tech industry in the Wake Forest. This would bring more jobs to the area, keep the spending on goods and services local, and help Wake Forest become a tech hub in this part of the state. As we move to 2020 and beyond, we need to be embedded with the tech industry. That area is growing rapidly and to ignore it is a recipe for being left behind. Programs offering opportunities to engage teens in coding, web design, and various network design concepts could be offered and partially supported by tech companies that locate here. This could evolve into cyber/coding competitions with teams competing from Wake Forest, Rolesville and surrounding communities. Job shadowing programs, internships, and leadership seminars could be established, thereby providing young adults with the skills needed to feed into these new industries that have located within Wake Forest.

GREG HARRINGTON: Growth and traffic would probably be the two biggest issues. I ran as a pro growth candidate four years ago and I still believe we need to encourage growth. No matter how good it may sound to some to stop growth even for a short time its not good for the health of the community. I have had the privilege to live in several cities while working in the law enforcement profession. I can tell you that Wake Forest is way ahead of any of them because of our current town board members and those who served before me. All the other cities I have lived in have experienced very little or no growth because it wasn`t really desired. Wake Forest has a AAA Bond rating and that’s because we have an outstanding staff and good leadership. Without our growth we would not be at that level.

BRIAN PATE: People are concerned about 3 things: 1) Growth 2) Traffic and 3) Schools. They all go together. As more people desire to live in this area, growth with occur organically and draw housing and business to the area. A moratorium on construction is not the answer. If you stop it, it will be very difficult to restart it once you have reputation with builders of not being open to building. That has happened in many rural towns and now the maintenance of the infrastructure is becoming very expensive and the tax base cannot afford to pay for repairs. There is a balance that must be struck. First, the commercial tax base should be close to 30% of the total tax base. Wake Forest is known for being friendly to small business. There are businesses all over this area that are ripe for growth and I would love to see them take up store fronts locally. When a consumer buys local, that consumer is paying for dance lessons, soccer leagues and much more for the local owners in this area, thus reinvesting in Wake Forest.

Second, there is the timing issue. Some people say, “Don’t build until the infrastructure is in place.” That would be great in theory, but if that was the requirement, the taxpayers would have to foot the entire bill for that infrastructure, thereby driving up taxes significantly. As it is now, Wake Forest shares in the cost with developers with new construction. Granted, sometimes the timing doesn’t work perfectly. Road projects, bridge replacements and stop lights get delayed, not because of issues with the town, but issues with DOT scheduling. The key is to find the best way to work through those challenges and hopefully recognize them before they occur.

ANNE REEVE: Traffic. It has been an issue for a long time – especially on S. Main Street. The increased development and increase in residents accessing those businesses has created a bad situation. The Town has worked with DOT for years trying to resolve some of the issues in that area. Unfortunately, NCDOT’s budget is spread around the state. They have finally agreed to do some “safe” improvements, but that will take several months to complete – but again, no one is going to like being “inconvenienced” while the improvements are being made.

4. How could you best serve Wake Forest by engaging with County Commissioners, School Board, and General Assembly?

CHAD CASALE: Wake Forest is a thriving community. However, we as a town, need to continue to garner support from all available resources. The County Commissioners need to be engaged to assist in providing funding for infrastructure upgrades. I believe that the town board should partner with WCPSS to address the need for more public schools in Wake Forest. I think that the town board should also be pressing WCPSS to provide more special needs programs in Wake Forest. I personally send my Son to Lynn Road Elementary (by Crabtree Valley Mall) every day because there are no programs here in Wake Forest to address his needs and the needs of so many other children in our community. The General assembly needs to understand that we, as a county and as a town, should not be supporting other counties or municipalities by “revenue sharing”. Basically, the State taking a portion of Wake Counties tax revenue and shipping it to “poorer” counties. We need this revenue here at home to support the massive growth in progress, to provide services and infrastructure upgrades to our own residents and prevent property tax increases due to lost revenue.

BRIAN CLEMSON: I would work with the town commissioners to participate in discussions with the school board, looking for ways to keep Wake Forest students enrolled in schools closest to their homes. Also, I would want to ensure that capacity planning is managed in such a way as to plan for new schools in the area early enough that we can avoid overcrowding of existing schools. The town board needs to take an active role in interacting with the General Assembly to attract new industry to our area. All possible avenues to create business incentives should be pursued. Working with leaders in the General Assembly, the hope would be that we could recruit new industry at a state level and direct some of that to Wake Forest. Wake Forest needs to get more vocal with General Assembly members to take advantage of grant money such as that which was offered under the N.C. Job Development Incentive Grant and used to bring industrial projects to Charlotte.

GREG HARRINGTON: I recently read that someone said that “working together works“. No one can get things done by themselves so we should reach out to each other. Although our leaders in Raleigh do good work they will seek our input on local issues on occasion. The Wake County School Board really seems to have a mind of their own but they have been known to listen to our concerns when it comes to school assignment. By reaching out to other government agencies we make known our concerns and hopefully politics can be set aside for the good of all our citizens.

BRIAN PATE: Recently, we have seen the results of the Mayor, Commissioners and citizens engaging with Wake County representatives. The school board recently changed a plan after parents in Wake Forest opposed the reassignment of students. Those parents accurately pointed out that too many transfers were being allowed into Heritage and that is what was limiting space. I have good working relationships with Senator Chad Barefoot, Representative Marylin Avila and Representative Chris Malone and have been friends with all of them for a while. Engaging with them on the state level for the best interest of Wake Forest is always a must. I intend to continue those relationships. In addition, I have relationships with staff members of all of our representatives in Washington, DC including Senators Burr and Tillis and with Congressman Holding. I have worked with each of them in the past and would be happy to work with them again in the future.

ANNE REEVE: We must become more proactive with these groups. Mayor Jones does a great job at the Legislature. We aren’t as close to the County Commissioners and School Board. However, with the recent re-assignments of Heritage High School to Rolesville HS, they did listen to us (Commissioners & Mayor & parents) and made the decision today not to move the Heritage Students to Rolesville. There can be results, we have to make the effort.

5. What would you do as a Commissioner to improve downtown?

CHAD CASALE: Downtown Wake Forest still holds on to its small town charm in spite of the massive growth seen around it. This needs to remain intact. We, as a town, need to know that our downtown business are there and are ready to provide residents with the goods and services that they need. I would encourage more persons, through advertising, to come down and support our local businesses. This is very easily done especially with social media. The town must continue to maintain the downtown area and not allow and areas to fall into disrepair.

BRIAN CLEMSON: The downtown area has certainly seen some changes since I first located here in 1998. One enhancement I would like to see is Wake Forest offer free wifi throughout downtown. This would help to build the reputation of Wake Forest as a connected community. The Wake Forest bus loop was a great addition to the town. I would like to see hours extended on the weekends. This would help to bring more of a nightlife atmosphere to downtown by allowing people the flexibility to stay out longer. Residents and visitors alike would not have to worry about parking a personal vehicle. Patrons of White Street Brewery could stay longer and not have to worry about driving as well. Another idea would be to bring more music and even craft festivals to downtown. Entertainment could be provided by local talent as well as budding musicians from area schools such as Music Academy South. Outdoor activities such as these will bring more people downtown. Food trucks could be brought in to supplement what is offered downtown already.

GREG HARRINGTON: As the ex-officio ( Town Commissioner ) member to the Wake Forest Downtown, Inc I am always impressed with the new and exciting ways the WFD board comes up with to enhance downtown. I support almost everything they do–with the exception of the waiving of the alcohol ord. There are several properties downtown that need to fixed up and the owners should be willing to seek businesses to move in. I would support the town in working in any way possible to continue to make our downtown one where people want to come to. The streetscape project needs to be expanded to include all the side streets and Brooks St. This was a nice improvement but its only partially finished.

BRIAN PATE: Over the past 15 years, the downtown area has found three gems in my opinion. 1) The Cotton Company: The vision provided by the Johnson’s in renovating this building to give budding and experienced artists a place to show their wares was a boon to Wake Forest and it is a destination for art junkies. 2) Wake Forest Coffee Company has transformed downtown into a meeting place for many movers and shakers in Wake Forest. The ability to shop local for coffee, hot chocolate or specialty drinks means that we are keeping money locally here in the economy. 3) White Street Brewing and the vision of Dino and Tina Radosta has done more for downtown in the last three years than anything I can remember. When I first started coming to Wake Forest, I remember Doodles Night Club being the only nightlife available. With the addition of White Street Brewing, La Foresta, Las Margaritas, Over The Falls Deli and WF Coffee, we have the pillars of what could provide a great family evening atmosphere.

ANNE REEVE: As one commissioner there isn’t much I can do individually. As a group (and I do personally) continue to support the great events that are downtown. Continue to assisted the business owners anyway we can. I believe the new streetscape is an excellent example of what the Commissioners can do/have done for downtown. Our Public Information Officer is doing an awesome job promoting downtown and events.

6. Are you in favor of incentives for businesses? Please explain and give examples?

CHAD CASALE: Starting a small business is a monumental task. I have the utmost respect for small business owners. After all, my dad was one for 30 years. I believe in and support tax breaks and tax incentives for all new businesses. I support incentives for long time businesses as well if they continue to make investments in not only their own business, but the entire downtown area as well.

BRIAN CLEMSON: Yes, I am in favor of incentives for business. As mentioned earlier, one option would be to make use of available grant money that the state would have available for this purpose. Non-financial incentives would consist of those harder to quantify items such as adequate parks and greenways, good schools, art, technology, and an attractive housing market. Securing new businesses in Wake Forest will consist of proving that the town can provide sufficient workforce, services, and the previously mentioned items to make it an attractive place to locate a portion or all of the business. As a Commissioner, I would help to pursue ways to improve Wake Forest along many of the areas mentioned. For me, the technology programs I have mentioned earlier would be an excellent way to bring technology to Wake Forest and show our commitment to that industry.

GREG HARRINGTON: I`m really not sure how to answer this question because I see both sides of the issue. On one side the tax payer should not be responsible for incentives to bring in a business that may or may not pay off in the long run. Its a chance that could leave the taxpayer with a bigger bill. If an incentive is paid for one business then the argument is made to pay incentives for any business that is looking to locate here. The other side of the coin is–why not ? If an incentive will help a business make up its mind about locating here then we as town leaders should do anything possible to help them. We may not see any benefit from the business for several years but the by-product of that is the number of people hired and moving here and spending their earned money here. The taxes from that side would help off set some of the money we pay in incentives. To me its a two edged sword with arguments on both sides. I support our business community and will continue to support them regardless of how any vote goes on this.

BRIAN PATE: When the right opportunity comes along, incentives can play a part in drawing business to the area. The Futures Fund can be used for these incentives as long as they are ultimately repaid with interest in order to provide opportunities for other future businesses. Occasionally, an incentive to bring a business could be realistic but I would hesitate to do it on a consistent basis. I would take the approach of carefully studying each proposal and making a decision based on the merits of the request balanced with what the business provides in terms of local jobs, contribution to the tax base and whether employees can earn a living wage and afford to live in Wake Forest.

ANNE REEVE: I am a true believer of Economic Development, however, for the size of our town and budget restraints, I can not see how we can get into the incentive business. About the only thing I think we can do is perhaps waive some of the development fees.