District 34 State Senate candidates share thoughts on running for office

Rucho -
Sawyer -
Stinson -
Daoud - -
McMiller and family - -

Editor’s note: The following questions were emailed to candidates running for the new State Senate District 34. Their responses have not been edited for content or grammar, and are running, in their entirety, as submitted.

Vickie Sawyer (R)

• Age: 42

• Education: High School – Parkland High School, Winston Salem, NC; College – BA, UNC Charlotte – Special Education; Designations – Licensed Property, Casualty and Life Insurance Agent, Licensed NC General Contractor for Residential and Commercial

• Civic/community involvement: Trustee at Rocky Mount UMC Mooresville, NC; Iredell County Planning Board Member; President, Lakeshore Middle School PTO; Coach, 10 Year Youth Softball Coach; Past President, Treasurer (4 years) Lakeshore Elementary; Iredell County Schools Facility Task Force Member

• Place of residence and how long you’ve lived there: Mooresville, NC since 1997, UNCC Charlotte 1993-1997, Winston Salem, NC 1986-1993 and Arcadia, NC 1975-1986

•Family: Husband, Brett Sawyer; Daughters, Sydney Sawyer, aged 15, and Braedy Sawyer aged 11.

• Work place: Sawyer Insurance and Financial Services, 2002-Present, Co-Owner and Operator

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Yadkin County and how do you plan to address it?

A: Opioid epidemic. Yadkin County has already taken one step forward with their lawsuit against drug manufacturers. These companies have placed the importance of profit over folk’s welfare and they must be stopped. I would also like to see more focus on opioid awareness in our schools. It is important to enable our children with knowledge about the dangers of drug addiction.

Q: With school shootings on the rise nationwide, what solutions do you propose that would increase the safety for North Carolina students?

A: The biggest thing we can do is ensure we have a trained school resource officer in every school. We also need to have more training for teachers and guidance counselors on how to spot troubled kids early on to try and prevent them from reaching a point where they think of bringing a gun to school.

Q: How do you plan to remedy the problems with retaining and recruiting teachers in light of cuts in funding for technology, textbooks, supplies, and salaries/benefits?

A: The General Assembly has a plan to get the average salary to $50k per year. That is a good first step. The next would be to give more local control to counties and school systems so they can utilize state funds for the needs of their specific community as opposed to a one size fits all structure.

Q: What do you think is the biggest economic concern for rural counties such as Yadkin and how do you plan to address that and improve the local economy.

A: Workforce development is the key to getting good paying jobs into our rural communities. The first thing companies look at when locating to a community is if there is the workforce to support the business. I would like to see us leverage our community colleges and university satellite programs to train local their local workforce in high tech jobs that will draw companies to their communities. This will spur economic development across the county.

Q: Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Yadkin County. What experiences do you have that will allow you to connect and best represent farmers?

A: My grandfather was a dairy farmer so I know how tough it is for our family farms. I’ve seen first hand how regulation and unfair trade deals have made it more difficult for our farmers to compete globally. Having seen this first hand I want to take that knowledge to Raleigh and ensure we enact policies to make it easier for them to compete. Leaving existing tax credits for equipment and other farm essentials are critical. We can’t make it more expensive for them to grow their crops and sell them.

*****

Robert “Bob” Rucho (R)

• Age: 69

• Educational Background: South High School, Worcester, Massachusetts; B.A. in Biology, Northeastern University ; D.D.S., Medical College of Virginia, VCU; General Practice Residency, Worcester Memorial Hospital; Specialty in Prosthodontics, School of Dentistry; Boston University; M.B.A., Belk College of Business, UNC-Charlotte

• Professional Background: Dentist Specialty: Prosthodontics, Retired; Past President, Charlotte Dental Society; Past Trustee of the N.C. Dental Society; Chief, Department of Dentistry, Carolinas Medical Center; Treasurer, American Dental Association PAC; Board of Advisors; Belk College of Business, University of North Carolina – Charlotte; UNC University System Board of Governors

• Political Activities: Member, N.C. Senate, 1997-2004, 2007-2016; 17 years; Chairman, Congressional and Legislative Redistricting Committee; Chairman, Finance Committee; Chairman, Revenues Law Committee; Chairman, Unemployment Insurance Commission; Chairman, Energy Policy Commission; Appropriations on Education/Higher Education; Appropriations/Base Budget; Commerce; Education/Higher Education; Health Care, Insurance; Former Member Mecklenburg County Commission; 2 years; Former Member Matthews Town Board; 2 year

• Family: Married 25 years, Theresa Fritscher Rucho; Children Robby and Ross

• Place of Residence: I owned a home in Mooresville, NC from 1979-1987. Relocated due to employment duties. Returned to retire in Mooresville with my wife, Theresa in February, 2018.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Yadkin County and how do you plan to address it?

A: Agriculture and specifically farming is the cornerstone of the Yadkin County economy. We need to eliminate burdensome regulations and reduce the operating costs so our farm community is more business competitive. Also, open up new global markets to sell NC farm products world wide. Since republicans gained the leadership role, thanks to many Yadkin County voters, our state economy is booming as a result of historic tax cuts, that action put more dollars in the pockets of Yadkin working families. I plan to continue those policies as we push toward greater prosperity. Yadkin county families will share in the wealth.

Q: With school shootings on the rise nationwide, what solutions do you propose that would increase the safety for North Carolina students?

A: Protecting our students and citizens is a high priority especially in our schools, which are soft targets for would be criminals. Higher security at the school perimeters and providing safety resource officers are good first steps but eliminating or weakening the right to bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the US Constitution is NOT an option.

Q: How do you plan to remedy the problems with retaining and recruiting teachers in light of cuts in funding for technology, textbooks, supplies, and salaries/benefits?

A: Your question on education that said eduction dollars are declining is fake news! The NC Legislature under republican control has increased school funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. We raised the average teacher salary to $51750. to help attract and retain the best and brightest teachers? Other school funding has also increased especially dollars that are used in the classroom, that is where education happens! Education is critical to having a well trained workforce so the North Carolina and Yadkin economy can continue to produce new jobs. I will continue to promote college and vocational education.

Q: What do you think is the biggest economic concern for rural counties such as Yadkin and how do you plan to address that and improve the local economy.

A: A strong NC economy continues to provide more sales tax revenue to Yadkin county to operate the county and local government. As part of the Senate leadership team we will continue to reduce taxes and stimulate our economy. Also, I will work to increase the availability of high quality broad band service to all of our smaller and poorer counties, to make them more attractive to perspective companies. The best way out of poverty is not another government handout but having a good job and we must improve our business infrastructure to attract good paying jobs.

Q: Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Yadkin County. What experiences do you have that will allow you to connect and best represent farmers?

A: My agricultural experience is based on advice from leaders like Commissioner Troxler and local farmers to find the best way to improve our Agricultural Industry. No one can better find the solutions to the agriculture problems we face then the men and woman who directly work in the industry. My goal is to help Commissioner Troxler reach his goal of making NC Agriculture a $100 Billion industry. It will remain the number industry in our State.

*****

William’Bill’ Howell (R)

• Age: 71

• Education: Wingate College 73, Catawba College 75

• Civic/Community involvement: serves on Iredell Statesville School Board

• Place of residence: Statesville, NC, 25 years

• Family: Married for 47 years wife Deborah; two children and four grandchildren

• Work place: Retired

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Yadkin County and how do you plan to address it?

A: Eight thousand people get up every morning and go to work outside your county. Do the people of Yadkin County want more businesses in your county? If so I will help promote the county to bring in new industry. The medium income in NC is $50,500, the medium income in Yadkin County is $30,500. What do the voters want for their county? As an elected official I will represent the people who elected me but I cannot tell you what you need; you need to tell me how I can make your lives better.

Q: With school shootings on the rise nationwide, what solutions do you propose that would increase the safety for North Carolina students?

A: We need more mental health people in our schools. NC had a program for that position in middle and high schools but stop funding it. In Iredell Statesville Schools we still fund that position and intend to increase that number for next year. We need to put more SRO’s in our schools, I feel the State will help with that this summer. We need to spend money for security, better locks more fencing. These are barriers that will help to keep our children safe.

Q: How do you plan to remedy the problems with retaining and recruiting teachers in light of cuts in funding for technology, textbooks, supplies, and salaries/benefits?

I have told the NCAE that if elected I will introduce legislation to bring back teachers’ career status,their pay for higher degrees, and their retirement cuts. Many people teach because of the retirement package. The State of NC needs to fund education instead of cutting. NC schools get less than 30% of the NC lottery money. The state told us when we voted for the lottery it would help education, but they keep taking money away from our children.

Q: What do you think is the biggest economic concern for rural counties such as Yadkin and how do you plan to address that and improve the local economy.

A: Counties like Yadkin have been overlooked for as long as I can remember. The eastern counties of NC have great roads and bridges, something that has been overlooked in the western counties of NC.. One thing I would like to do In Yadkin and Iredell counties is to improve roads. This is something that I will work on if elected. I would recommend to the citizens of Yadkin County to form a citizens coalition to look at where you want to go. Do you want more companies to come into your county or do you want to work on county tax base another way? Planning for the future is imperative for any community. Yadkin County went down in population in 2016-17, this might be something that needs to be looked at. I will work to help citizens of Yadkin County to improve their lives. Another way that I can help is to get AT&T to bring more WIFI by adding towers.

Q: Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Yadkin County. What experiences do you have that will allow you to connect and best represent farmers?

A: For the better part of 30 years I taught in schools in rural areas where farming was the main business. I taught at North Iredell High School for 11 years and a lot of our students come from farm families. I got to know many people who are in the business of farming, I feel this if a positive for me.

*****

A.J. Daoud

• Age: 61

• Education: B.S. Barry University, M.B.A. University of Phoneix

•Civic/community involvement: Small business owner in the district for over ten years, former NC GOP 6th District Chairman, former N.C. Lottery Commissioner, Past Vice Chairman Habitat for Humanity and Past Chairman United Way Surry, Mason, Fraternal Order of Police, Past National Vice President Police Athletic Leagues. Member Friendly Chapel Church

• Place of residence: Main Street, East Bend, 6 months, business in East Bend over 10 years

• Family: Wife Angie Thomas Daoud and two grown children – Joey and Baileigh

• Work place: Huff Funeral Home, East Bend; also at Cox Needham Funeral Home, Carolina Cremations, Swicegood Funeral Home, Barker Funeral Home and American Funeral Partners

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Yadkin County and how do you plan to address it?

A: As we have been meeting folks in Yadkin the number one overwhelming concern of residents is crime and the opioid crisis. Many of our neighbors see how crime and gangs are moving into our quiet county from Winston Salem and the Charlotte area. As a former police officer I was shocked to learn the age of police equipment in Yadkin and how the Sheriff and local chiefs are struggling with getting resources and manpower with no help from the state budget. In order to fight crime and protect citizens I will help my fellow police officers and firemen, I will be loud in Raleigh to make sure we are fighting crime!

Q: With school shootings on the rise nationwide, solutions do you propose that would increase the safety for North Carolina students?

A: As a former Police Officer and School Officer, I have been outspoken on this critical issue. As in the letter I wrote last month to the Yadkin Ripple, I feel that we are not moving fast enough on this critical issue. After 911, our nation and our state put IMMEDIATE resources into Airports and Government buildings. How come in this time of need our Raleigh folks are just sweeping it under the rug to committee? Immediate actions could be taken such as creating better perimeter security, better internal safe rooms and actions to protect our kids physically. In Raleigh this will be one of my first actions.

Q: How do you plan to remedy the problems with retaining and recruiting teachers in light of cuts in funding for technology, textbooks, supplies, and salaries/benefits?

A: As Lottery Commissioner, I was the only fiscal conservative on that commission. Under Democrat leadership the lottery funds have been misdirected to items other than our children. Recently, Governor Pat McCrory recognized me as the only person who watch the spending at the lottery organization. If run properly, the lottery could fund teachers pay and needs. Another one of my top priorities when in Raleigh.

Q: What do you think is the biggest economic concern for rural counties such as Yadkin and how do you plan to address that and improve the local economy. T

A: There are several issues that should be of concern to the voters of Yadkin but rarely make the light of day. First, our sales tax dollars go to other areas of the state. Wonder why those old bridges and potholes never get fixed? Next the State has a tier system to determine the allocation of funds to local communities. The system is old and broken. Yadkin never receives a fair share to support libraries, roads, public safety etc. Raleigh’s good old boy old system also prevents Yadkin from being on the radar for new business recruitment and thus no new job creation. We need jobs now! We need a loud voice to fix this injustice.

Q: Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Yadkin County. What experiences do you have that will allow you to connect and best represent farmers?

A: Yadkin County has a rich history with tobacco farming in early years. Having primed tobacco in my high school years I gained lots of respect for those who put food on our table. Leadership in Yadkin saw the potential future in wine production and was the ground breaker in that industry in our state. It also helped the small mom and pop farms to survive the changing times with tobacco. Since the last Agriculture Census, our county lost 4% of farms but revenues grew 33%. Our farmers have shown the state how to keep the Ag business growing (we are ranked 36). I feel the continued focus on reduction of regulations and promotions of product must be a priority to our senator in Raleigh. As a small businessman I know how to grow our visibility. Why not a Yadkin Winery Visitor center on 77 to replace the old welcome stations? How about winery centers along 77 exits to help market Yadkin products? These are the ideas I am looking forward to pursuing in conjunction with local leaders to become a reality

*****

William Stinson (D)

• Age: 54

• Education: Studied Mechanical Engineering and Economics at North Carolina State University

• Civic/community involvement: Boonville United Methodist Church-Board of Trustees; Youth Soccer coach 2000-2012

• Place of residence and how long you’ve lived there: Boonville, NC- 54 years

• Family: Married to Laurie Stinson -30 years

• Work place: Smith Farms-15 years

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Yadkin County and how do you plan to address it?

A: The biggest issue facing Yadkin County is that our representatives in Raleigh have sold us out to the special interest groups, raised taxes on the working families and short changed our public school system. When elected I will be strong and proud native North Carolina voice for our working families and public education.

Q: With school shootings on the rise nationwide, what solutions do you propose that would increase the safety for North Carolina students?

A: The vast majority of school shooters have had mental health issues. Mental health issues often do not become apparent until adulthood, that is why I would be in favor of raising the age of individuals wishing to purchase of a firearm that don’t have parental approval. We need to expand mental health care opportunities especially for rural areas like Yadkin County. We need to enhance school security which sadly takes money away from the primary purpose of schools to educate our children.

Q: How do you plan to remedy the problems with retaining and recruiting teachers in light of cuts in funding for technology, textbooks, supplies, and salaries/benefits?

A: The reason I entered this race, was my concern about the inadequate funding of education from the North Carolina General Assembly. Per pupil spending has dropped to one of the lowest in the country. We don’t need to send the people responsible for the cuts to education back to Raleigh to make more cuts. To attract and retain good teachers, salaries and benefits have to be competitive. We need to fully fund the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Scholarship program, which before funding cuts brought some our best students home to teach in Yadkin County.

Q: What do you think is the biggest economic concern for rural counties such as Yadkin and how do you plan to address that and improve the local economy?

A: The economy of rural North Carolina has suffered as a result of poor leadership in the General Assembly. Metropolitan areas in North Carolina are booming, while rural North Carolina workers are paying more in state taxes and receiving less for rural school systems. Rural counties in North Carolina would see a boost in their local economy by simply fully funding pubic education. We need to establish broadband internet access in rural areas. That would help expand e-commerce for local business, farms, wineries and agri-tourism.

Q: Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Yadkin County. What experiences do you have that will allow you to connect and best represent farmers?

A: As a small farmer myself and since I work on a larger farm, I understand the challenges of small farms and the challenges of large farms. I have worked with dairies, poultry, grain and tobacco farmers for 35 years. I understand the burden of regulation, variability of the weather, and dealing with commodity prices that you can’t control. My heart and soul will always reside with the citizens of Yadkin County, when elected I fight tooth and nail for the best interests of Yadkin County and the great State of North Carolina.

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Beniah McMiller

• Age: 36

• Education: Bachelors of Science in Computer Science/Engineering; Masters of Arts in Business Administration

• Civic/community involvement: Ordained Minister

• Place of residence: Statesville, 3 years

• Family: Tai McMiller, Spouse; Six Beautiful Children: 5 boys and 1 girl

• Work place: Computer Science Instructor- Mitchell Community College

Q: What do you feel is the biggest issue facing Yadkin County and how do you plan to address it?

A: The biggest issue facing Yadkin County is the lack of abundant medical facilities. In rural areas, such as Yadkin County, we need to be able to provide funding to pay for medical facilities to assist with preventive healthcare. My in-laws reside in a rural county like Yadkin County. There are several towns within that county (like Yadkin) that have residents who do not receive the care that they need. There is a growing need for more medical facilities and professionals in the area and funding needs to be in place to attract these professionals and fund these facilities in the area- like Yadkin County. Without this kind of funding, the only care that our residents can receive is in the Emergency Room (ER). This makes costs astronomically high and leave residents of rural areas without the preventive care that they need. Statistics show that without expanding Medicaid, the costs are passed down to those with medical insurance.

Q: With school shootings on the rise nationwide, what solutions do you propose that would increase the safety for North Carolina students?

A: School shootings are on the rise nationwide. We need to allot more of the NC Public Schools budget in the area of mental health. We need to increase the number of school counselors and school psychologists in our schools. These trained professionals can educate our teachers of the warning signs that their students may display when facing life’s situations. My wife has been working in the mental health field for many years. Now, she works as a School Counselor at a local elementary school. On a daily basis, she works with children that can display an array of mental health issues- even those students may have a parent at home with a mental health disorder. What other solutions do I propose, we should ensure that local authorities that are zoned to patrol areas that include our schools- visit our schools more. We can also make this a community-based solution by asking retired law enforcement and formal military to volunteer at the schools that are close in proximity to their homes.

Q: How do you plan to remedy the problems with retaining and recruiting teachers in light of cuts in funding for technology, textbooks, supplies, and salaries/benefits?

A: Can we receive funding for technology and other school supplies without increasing taxes? The answer is simple, absolutely. As an Educator, I value our NC teachers. We can offer tax incentives to educators. This will help to retain our teachers. By providing more professional development opportunities for teachers, this will reduce the incidence of burnout. We also have to seek innovative ways to educate our youth. By utilizing corporate grants from companies who desire to invest in education, we can receive the assistance that we need in our schools for supplies and technology- especially in our low-income/ high needs schools. These schools are less likely to have technology in the classroom. In addition to this, there are also major companies that have foundations allotted to assist schools that are low-performing.

Q: What do you think is the biggest economic concern for rural counties such as Yadkin and how do you plan to address that and improve the local economy?

A: Addressing the concerns for rural communities such as Yadkin requires a comprehensive strategy that takes inventory of the existing assets and needs of the county. We have to address the educational gap. A college education is necessary for achieving economic prosperity. We have to also address the lack of infrastructure. By addressing this, we can increase the population in our rural areas. There needs to be opportunities for citizens to have the option of working from home. The increase of infrastructure, helps with this. Adhering to all of this, would attract employers to the area and invest in areas such as Yadkin County.

Q: Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Yadkin County. What experiences do you have that will allow you to connect and best represent farmers?

A: Currently, I teach in higher education at a local community college. There, I am also an Instructor with the Agricultural Early College. I teach students who have a desire to become one of the future farmers of America. In addition, my in laws have years invested in the tobacco industry. They know what it takes (without technology) and I have witnessed how a community can come together to support such a growing industry. My hopes it to share my experiences with local farmers and listen to their concerns, needs, and core values.

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Candidate Lisaney Kong (D) did not respond to emails or phone calls.

Rucho
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_bob-headshot-formatted.jpgRucho

Sawyer
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_IMG_3975-formatted.jpgSawyer

Stinson
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_William-Stinson-formatted.jpgStinson

Daoud
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_39429643444_6754f74fa7_o-formatted.jpgDaoud

McMiller and family
https://www.yadkinripple.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_McMiller-Family-formatted.jpgMcMiller and family