With the experience of almost five terms under his belt, Carrol Mitchem, who has been on the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners since 2008, is running for a fourth consecutive term.
“I’ve been asked a lot why I’m running again,” he said. “A year or so ago, I said I wasn’t going to run again, but I had a lot of voters come to me and say, ‘Carrol, we want you to run, we need you in there. You are a voice for us and represent us well.’ After a lot of input from voters, I decided to run again. With soon to be 16 years on the board, I bring a lot of experience. I’ll stand on my voting record, if anyone wants to research that and if anyone has any questions on that, I’m happy to talk to them.”
Mitchem has also served as chairman of the board for three years.
“We went through some tough times and had to make some difficult decisions,” he said. “Sometimes you do things that you don’t really like to do, but you have to. I feel like I’m qualified to make those tough decisions. It may not be my most favorite thing to do but sometimes you have to make those decisions.”
With each proposal for a new development, residential or commercial, in Denver, the board is bombarded with concerns over traffic. Often NCDOT ends up as a roadblock to requests for traffic improvements.
“We can certainly have a wish list of what we want to see down there (the eastern side of the county) but NCDOT holds the ultimate decision on what can and will be done,” Mitchem said. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of discussions with DOT but sometimes it feels like it falls on deaf ears. They know we are concerned about it. Last year we put in the budget money to do a mobility study and they’ve almost got that completely done. That gives us a little more input to DOT – here, we have this, this is what this company says we need. It gives us a little bit more of an advantage and we’ll hopefully get a little more attention from DOT. They (DOT) still make the final decisions on what they do and when they do it. Our hands are tied. I recognize it’s a concern and there is a traffic problem. We do all we can do as the board of commissioners.”
Mitchem added that he recently learned that several Lincoln County road improvement projects were at the top of DOT’s list.
With several high-dollar projects on the horizon, including a new courthouse and the expansion of the county jail, a capital reserve fund has been established for the excess tax revenues created by last year's property revaluation. The plan is for those revenues to be used to offset a portion of those multi-million-dollar projects, thus reducing the amount the county would need to borrow.
“We do have that capital reserve fund and we are required to have at least eight percent of the budget in that fund,” he said. “It always helps to have some money that can be put on those projects which lessens the amount of money that you have to borrow. It helps you get a step ahead and get those projects paid off earlier. It’s a win-win situation if you have money in your pocket to pay on projects. It lessens the burden. We’ve already completed a lot of projects, the Senior Center, the 911 Center, renovated the Citizen’s Center, the new administrative offices. We’ve always got a lot going on.”
Other issues that Mitchell feels are important include making sure the commissioners continue funding the school system, providing the most money they can to make sure the students of Lincoln County are able to get the best education they possibly can. In addition, continuing to provide adequate funding to the sheriff’s office to keep the county as safe as it can be.
“Lincoln County is, in my opinion, a very safe county,” he said. “The crime rate is low, and we want it to stay that way.”
The low tax rates in Lincoln County is another point Mitchem wants to bring attention to.
“Of the 12 surrounding counties, Lincoln County has the fourth lowest tax rate and when you can keep your tax rate that low and still provide services to the citizens shows that we’re doing a good job in management and spending money wisely,” he said. “I want to continue to make sure that happens. When you keep your tax rate low, it helps draw in businesses because they want to pay low taxes too. Our low crime rates and properly funded schools also help attract companies. I want Lincoln County to be a place people want to live.”
There are three one-stop early voting locations which open on Feb. 13 through Feb. 29 and with the primary election occurring on March 3.