Candidate for Hoke County Board of Commissioners
1. Please tell voters a little about yourself, your background and experience.
My name is James A. Leach. I have been a citizen of Hoke County all my life. I am married to Valerie Leach and we have two children, Christopher and Taylor. I am pastor of Rockfish Grove Freewill Baptist Church and I’m District Elder for the Southern Pines District of the First Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church. I am also the Chairman of the Trustee Board of Cape Fear Conference B.
2. Why are you running for the commission?
I love Hoke County. Everywhere I go, I tell everyone that Hoke County is the best county in North Carolina. Having been a Hoke County Commissioner for 28 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes and a lot of growth. It is an honor to serve the citizens of Hoke County and it’s an honor to be part of a wonderful team of my fellow Commissioners, the County Manager, staff and advisory boards.
3. If elected for an upcoming four-year term, what are some of the things you hope to accomplish?
During my 28-year tenure as a Hoke County Commissioner, I have been involved in the construction of four schools, the Hwy 211 Sports Park, the construction of a wastewater plant and the construction of several public buildings.
I’m not finished yet. It is especially important to me to take care of all citizens, and I have a soft spot for children and senior citizens. Our Board of Commissioners will be constructing a Parks & Recreation facility that will serve all ages of our County’s population. I want to make sure that we have adequate services and programs to care for our aging citizens.
We also plan to begin construction of a court facility building that will house courtrooms, judges and court staff. This building will be much more efficient for our citizens as they conduct business with our Clerk of Court’s office and serve on jury duty.
I want to keep the property tax rate low and still provide our citizens the best services possible, in particular education, public safety and health and human services.
4. As a commissioner, what will you do going forward to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Hake County?
The priority must be the safety and wellness of our citizens. We must continue to encourage handwashing, surface disinfection, social distancing and wearing masks. We are obtaining and distributing personal protective equipment (PPE), installing thermal screening systems in our public buildings and enhancing customer service areas to minimize contact and remain sanitary.
Our small businesses have been hit hard during the pandemic. They have been told to close, to minimize occupancy and to enhance their sanitation measures. Our Board has used the opportunity to pass along federal and state emergency funds to our small business owners. We always encourage supporting our local businesses, but that is especially important as we all try to regain normalcy.
5. As a commissioner, how will you encourage economic growth in Hoke?
I think keeping the property tax low is important to encourage businesses and industry to locate in Hoke County. The availability of county water and sewer is important to businesses considering Hoke County. It important to work with the local agencies, such as NC Southeast and the Southeastern Economic Development Commission, to get the word out about Hoke County’s advantages: low tax rate, infrastructure, rail availability and access to Interstate 95.
Our public school system and community college are committed to workforce development. We want to continue to work with Fort Bragg and retiring veterans to encourage military-related businesses.
6. Would you support funding a new high school? What about other county-funded construction projects?
I realize that we are very near the point where we will have to make some decisions that will result in the expansion and upgrade of our existing high school or the construction of an additional high school elsewhere in the County.
County-funded construction projects enhance the lives of our citizens. The new agricultural building houses our Cooperative Extension and 4H and youth activities. That building also includes a large room that could be used to host conferences and can be used as an emergency shelter and Emergency Operations Center.
The new Parks & Recreation building will include multi-purpose rooms for activities for all ages, an indoor walking track and a much-needed swimming pool that can host swim meets and accommodate swim lessons.
7. Hoke County currently has a property tax rate of 73 cents per $100, and in recent years the county’s General Fund balance has grown to over $27 million. What steps would you support in managing the county’s finances from here?
Keeping the property tax low helps Hoke County appeal to families looking for a home and businesses and industry looking for locations.
Maintaining a healthy Fund Balance is essential. The NC Local Government
Commissioner requires a minimum Fund Balance of 8% of the operating budget. A growing Fund Balance is how we pay for emergency needs and capital projects.
8. Is there anything else you would like for voters to know about your views and goals?
My priorities are family and quality of life in Hoke County. All citizens benefit from sound local government.
9. If you have one, please provide a link to your campaign website or Facebook page that we can share with voters.
(No response returned)