It has been almost three weeks since Lincolnton voters elected Martin Eaddy to serve on the City Council. New to the realm of politics, he knows his term will be challenging, and mistakes may be made. But he believes his passion for improving and giving back to the city will outweigh any challenges he may face.
Eaddy’s love for his native Lincolnton stems from his childhood.
“I grew up in Lincolnton at a time where you walked down the streets and knew everybody,” he said. “Even as a high school student, I knew all the business owners. That’s sort of not the condition now, and it’s not something we can get back to. But the city literally helped nurtured me and developed my concepts of public service, so I felt the city of Lincolnton was where I wanted to attempt to give back.”
While some elected officials begin their careers in government and politics, Eaddy took a different route.
He describes himself as a “lifelong educator,” having worked 31 years in the “school business.” Eaddy has held several roles in the North Carolina education system, from teacher to principal to superintendent in Lincoln County. Eaddy began his career teaching at a school in Greensboro. From there, he returned to his high school alma mater, Lincolnton High School, where he served as an assistant principal and coach. After a few years as the high school’s assistant principal, Eaddy moved to Lincolnton Jr. High, where he made the transition from principal to assistant superintendent and, ultimately, superintendent.
After retiring from his role as an educator, Eaddy began doing consulting work in both North Carolina and Virginia.
“I was the executive director for a nonprofit called The Partnership for Excellence,” Eaddy said. “Most of my work dealt with school boards, leadership and strategic planning. Our goal was to take quality principals and support those who were being implemented across the state.”
In addition to his role with the nonprofit, Eaddy also worked as a professor at UNC-Charlotte. However, his position as the executive director was short-lived.
“It became obvious that we needed an executive director who lived near the legislature in Raleigh, since it was funded by the legislature,” he said. “So I moved out of that role and continued working with the organization.”
His last seven years of work were spent developing training programs for school boards across the state. However, even after fully retiring, Eaddy remained heavily involved in the community with various nonprofits and organizations.
A few years into his retirement, he began brainstorming ways to give back to the community.
“That spurred me to think about running for elected office, something I had never thought about before,” Eaddy said. “After some encouragement from citizens, I decided to run for office.”
Now in office, Eaddy hopes to begin making improvements with the council, starting with the budget.
“I think the number one overreaching problem is the budget,” he said. “The city lost 13% of its value during the last property evaluation.”
Eaddy goes on to explain that the city’s revenue base is down, and although water consumption is down, water debt remains the same. Business is also down, which in turn means that sales tax receipts are down. All of these factors have convinced Eaddy that the budget needs to be the major focal point for this upcoming year.
“I think we really need to be conscious of the budgetary decisions we make this fiscal year and do things in a planned matter,” he said. “We don’t want to make the mistake of solving long term problems with short term money. And a lot of people do that because it’s politically expedient to do just take some money and solve the problem. But then the next year, the problem comes back but the money is gone. I think we need to do a real rational assessment of our budget and set some budgetary priorities, make sure we earn for our citizens those services that are basic and that they all expect and then work backward from there.”
After the budget is properly handled, Eaddy says that he is eager to explore the possibility of developing residential areas downtown.
“I’m interested in looking into initiatives to enhance the opportunities for residents to live downtown and explore the development of those lofts above businesses,” he said.
Eaddy also stressed the importance of strengthening the relationship between the city and the county.
“We need to work to establish a positive relationship with our county commissioners and help them understand that it’s beneficial for the county for Lincolnton to be strong, just as it’s beneficial to Lincolnton for the county to be strong economically,” Eaddy said. “I think we just need to work together to make sure the county and the city are mutually benefitting from the arrangements we make for water and other shared services.”
On that same note, he believes that communication between the council and the public could be improved.
“I think the city is fairly transparent with its budget, but I don’t think we do a good enough job of making sure that the citizens take advantage of that transparency,” Eaddy said. “All the information is out there but unless a citizen gets stimulated to look at it, they don’t know.”
He cites the controversy over the garbage collection fee as an example where better communication and community involvement could have benefitted the situation.
“I don’t think the outcome would have been any different, but I think the temperament surrounding the discussion would have been different had citizens had the opportunity to really understand the relationship between services provided and access to revenues and what’s happened to the revenues,” Eaddy said. “So one thing I’d really like to see happen is for us to have a public hearing on the budget before the night the budget is adopted.”
Ultimately, he hopes to make a positive impact not only on the present, but for the future of Lincolnton.
“This is a good way to try to give back to the community that I grew up in and my children grew up in, and I hope if I have grandchildren, they will grow up here,” Eaddy said. “I want to make sure it’s a positive place.”