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Meet Your Candidates: Cramerton



In our ongoing commitment to inform and educate Gaston County residents, the GBA is proud to present a comprehensive compilation of responses from the candidates running for office in Cramerton, NC. We believe that there is great importance in ensuring every resident has access to the information they need to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

Candidates were asked:

  • Please provide a short introduction (50 words or less) highlighting your professional background and achievements.

  • What inspired you to run for city/town council, and what specific qualities or experiences make you well-suited for this role?

  • What are your top priorities for your city/town (specifically pertaining to the business community), and how do you plan to address them if elected?

  • Please select one of the following local issues, and provide a brief description on your stance on the topic: Economic Development, Public Safety, Transportation & Infrastructure, and Education

To view candidate responses from other municipalities, please click here.


 

Candidates for Cramerton Town Commissioner

  • Dixie F. Abernathy

  • Richard E. Atkinson

  • Houston Helms

  • Joshua Julian

  • Kelly Newman

  • Jennifer G. Ramsey

 

Dixie Abernathy - Running for Cramerton Town Commissioner

My professional background spans four decades in education, including service as a teacher, school principal, and Assistant Superintendent of the Gaston County School System.

  • I have degrees from Wake Forest University, Winthrop University, and East Carolina, and have received various recognitions within my professional career, including North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

  • Currently, I work at Queens University of Charlotte as an Associate Professor of Education.

In the year 2017, I was elected by the citizens of Cramerton to serve in the role of Town Commissioner. I found this experience to be a very rewarding and significant one, but as my four-year term expired, I decided not to seek re-election, encouraging others, instead, to get involved.

  • After 22 months away, however, I have decided to run once more. I believe Cramerton can do much better in terms of spending priorities and allocation of precious taxpayer resources.

  • Instead of being eager to replicate the expansive development of other small towns across our state, many of our citizens are focused, in contrast, on maintaining our small-town priorities and seeing reduced tax rates.

I believe I am well-suited for this role for several reasons.

  • First, as mentioned previously, I have served before, and if elected, will bring that wealth of municipal experience (as well as my eighteen years of leadership experience within the school system) to the role.

  • Secondly, I know myself to be someone who will not waiver on the right things for town citizens.

I am a woman of principle and integrity, and am not willing to “flip” on my core values in order to get elected. I am running for the average citizens of our town, who, I believe, want leaders who stand by what they say, and who are not persuaded to pursue special interests or projects that benefit only a select few or any one individual’s self-interest.

Instead of addressing this question in terms of “my” top priorities, I do so, rather, in terms of what I perceive to be the top priorities of the citizens with whom I have spoken, those who encouraged me to run for office, and those whom I have met while campaigning door-to-door. From their viewpoint, I believe the top priorities for our town (that specifically pertain to the business community) are:

  • Conservative fiscal policies, including significant reductions in the town’s tax rates.

  • This impacts the business community within our town in that all feel the impact of inflationary pressures on the pocketbook, which drives down consumer spending when coupled with a struggling national economy and, more locally, increased property valuations.

  • Specifically, citizens are disheartened when their hard-earned tax dollars are spent in ways that expand local government and promote special interests while ignoring neighborhood and community needs that make everyday life more satisfying and comfortable for the average citizen.

  • As recently highlighted in Business Insider, quoting statistics from Bloomberg economists, the average American is experiencing thousands of dollars in increased household spending, including a projection of an additional $2,200 in food and energy costs (Winck, 2022).

  • Our local businesses feel these pressures as well, while working tirelessly to pay rent, utilities, payroll, and costs associated with marketing.

  • If elected, I plan to engage in all budgetary discussions with a conservative eye for spending and with careful and fair appropriations that improve our town collectively.

  • The current economic struggles of average Americans should be no time for frivolous, special-interest spending, and I will hold firm to these ideals.

Addressing our infrastructure needs, which include deteriorating streets and crumbling sidewalks in some of our older neighborhoods. These are long-term, cost-intensive projects, yet, simply “kicking the can” and ignoring these challenges will not ensure a safe community for future generations. We live in a town that is over a hundred years old, and as such, we bear a responsibility to maintain all parts of this town in ways that promote safe pedestrian and vehicular travel. This impacts the business community as well . . . safer transport and pedestrian walkways will encourage community engagement. If elected, I plan to work with fellow commissioners in designing a multi-decade, operational plan for infrastructure improvement, including a failsafe blueprint to be followed by future Boards in maintaining an appropriate timetable to address these important challenges.

Community safety; including support for our police and fire departments.

  • This priority also acknowledges the areas in our town where speeding continues to occur, and where mitigating strategies of all varieties should be utilized in addressing such.

  • This impacts our business community in that safe streets and communities provide a foundation and an invitation for commerce within our town.

  • In too many large urban areas throughout the U.S., we can easily see the effect on the business community when ill-advised policies remove the sense of safety for average shoppers or business owners.

  • Cramerton is a safe community – our citizens wish to keep it as such.

  • As a commissioner, I plan to not only herald the accomplishments of our first responders and law enforcement, but to also do everything possible to support safety initiatives.

Retaining our small-town values: Cramerton is a small town, and the feedback I have received from so many voters is that retaining our “small-town” values is imperative. This impacts businesses as well. As a commissioner, I will: a) promote local businesses that employ so many from our area, b) encourage local farmers through an active farmer's market, c) encourage people to attend and enjoy local amenities, festivals, and museums (such as our own local Cramerton Historical Museum), and d) promote community through town events and gatherings. We should do everything within our power to encourage patronage at our town's businesses and restaurants and to schedule town events in ways that trumpet a true partnership with these important establishments.

While each of these is deserving of a response, I will focus on public safety as the local issue for my description and stance. In our little town of Cramerton, we enjoy a stellar Police and Fire Department. This has been the result of the right balance of incentivization, support, leadership, and community respect for the outstanding individuals who work in this capacity. While I served on the Board prior, one of the last meetings I ever attended was one that included an action item to increase the base starting salary of our police officers. Not only did I support this suggestion, I also made the recommendation and motion to elevate our police salaries even further. It is imperative that our town have the ability to leverage salary and benefits as we recruit and retain the very best there is in public safety and law enforcement.

Safety, however, reaches beyond those outstanding first responders who serve our town.

  • It reaches into each neighborhood and into every home, where citizens expect and deserve streets free of potholes, sidewalks void of deep cracks and gullies, and curbs that consist of more than crumbling concrete.

  • While many areas of our town are beautifully paved, there are others that are dismally facing the effects of erosion and time.

  • This is a safety hazard even more than it is an aesthetic challenge, and our town’s citizens rightfully expect this to be addressed.

Finally, our safety as a community is not an isolated topic, impacted only by our own decisions and actions.

  • Ongoing and often excessive development throughout other municipalities can and has led to encroaching traffic throughout our own downtown and main thoroughfares.

  • Providing connectivity packages that ensure safe passage for school children as well as for pedestrians is critical, as is exercising all available strategies to reduce speeding and to promote safe streets for our town’s residents.

  • Ensuring a safe environment in our downtown area provides local business owners with the security to remain long term within our beautiful town.

  • Safety must remain a priority as we work to keep Cramerton a safe place for all who live and visit here.


 

Richard E. Atkinson - Running for Cramerton Town Commissioner

I graduated from NC State University with a Bachelor of Architecture Degree.

  • I am a registered architect and co- founder of ADW Architects, PA. As a Licensed General Contractor I co-founded the General Contracting Firm of Edifice, Inc.

  • Although I retired in 2010 both these companies are still thriving businesses headquartered in Charlotte NC.

  • I currently serve as Director of the Cramerton Historical Society Museum.

  • I received the Cramerton Citizen of the Year Award in 2019 and the Ted Reece Spirit Award in 2021.

My involvement in the town began with the Centennial Celebration in 2015. I researched and wrote the History of Cramerton Time Line from 1905 -2015. I served on the Veterans Memorial Fundraising Committee and for 3 years was President of the Cramerton Historical Society. This gave me a lot of interaction with the Cramerton Board of Commissioners and inspired me to get involved with the day to day operations of our town. My expertise and skills as a businessman, a professional architect and general contractor has allowed me as a town commissioner to review architect/engineer and construction contracts. Since being elected in 2019 I have served on many committees. A few being The South Fork River Committee, Metropolitan Planning Organization (department within NC DOT), I chair the Cramerton Economic Development Advisory Committee and I am currently on the committee to update our Land Use Code.

Cramerton has two business centers, Center Street in downtown and Market Street at the Food Lion Shopping Center area.

  • We need to finish the streetscape on both sides of Center Street with landscaping and a better lighting plan to enhance our downtown area.

  • A lot of improvements are needed at the Market Street Shopping Center such as sidewalks on both sides, landscaping and sufficient lighting.

  • If elected for a second term I will continue to work to secure additional grants to improve public safety and upgrade the building façade in our town.

I cannot talk about public safety without mentioning infrastructure. I am currently working with NC Representative Donnie Loftis alongside Mayor Wills and Town Manager Zach Ollis to secure a substantial grant for pedestrian connectivity.

  • This grant money would allow the town to add a pedestrian walkway across two very dangerous roadway bridges in our town.

  • Our students and our citizens need and deserve a safe passage across Rocky Branch Creek on Lakewood Road and Duharts Creek on Cramer Mountain Road.


 

Houston Helms - Running for Cramerton Town Commissioner

Personally, Anita and I have been married 21 years, lived in Cramerton for the last 16 years and have a son, Garrett, now a freshman at UNC Charlotte.

  • Professionally, I spent 30+ years in the Banking industry (Bank of America; Wells Fargo).

  • I currently serve as Cramerton Commissioner, previously holding offices of Mayor Pro-Tem and Commissioner over sporadic terms since 2009 (elected twice; Board-appointed twice).

  • I’m a member of the UNC Charlotte Athletic Foundation Board, having graduated twice with a BSBA and MBA from UNC Charlotte.

My heart [has inspired me to run].

  • Followed by… citizens and neighbors who nudged me to seek another term. Cramerton is just so easy to love… and I do.

  • So when you LOVE something, and people you respect ask you to GIVE back to that something.… you do it. And I’m HAPPY to.

  • That’s why I’m here.

I think the finance industry teaches you how to operate a business.

  • From people, processes to technology… over 14 years, I’ve found the application of those skills to town government to be a solid fit.

  • But most importantly… to be humble, never forget who you represent and just work.

  • Mixing those skills and traits together has been a pretty good model for me in giving back to the town.

I’ll continue to do that.

[T]he top priority is managing and tempering the explosive growth of the eastern side of our county. It’s obviously a regional topic, requiring mutual goals, planning and execution across Cramerton and its neighbors.

I will address this priority by working with my peers to establish an EconDev and Transportation planning org much like has been done in Western Union County, NC: WUMA. The objective this alliance would be to study, advocate for, recommend and promote regional solutions to the issues affecting the municipalities in Eastern Gaston; inclusive of land use planning, transportation concerns and economic development.

Then there’s the Catawba Crossings Project; a bridge connecting Gaston to Mecklenburg between New Hope Road and I-485. That’s an absolute MUST for Cramerton.

Public Safety is number one. Relatively speaking, Cramerton is ‘safe’; the numbers prove that and citizens ‘feel that’ as I’ve learned campaigning door to door. But KEEPING Cramerton that way isn’t a lay-up. It requires Police/Fire input and Board approval through the budget cycle to maintain the highest levels of training and equipment for our first responders. I’ll continue to put all of our staff in positions to serve us with the best.

Learn more at houstonhelms.com


 

Joshua Julian - Running for Cramerton Town Commissioner

A North Carolina native, I live in Cramerton NC where I am the Regional Manager for an American Manufacturing company based out of Texas. I currently travel throughout the

East coast working with HVAC wholesale distributors and contractors. I have worked in the HVAC industry for 23 years.

The lack of, in my opinion, fiscal responsibility inspired me to run for town council. Typical Gaston families are having to pick and choose what streaming channel they are going to keep while town officials write checks in the millions and fail to demonstrate responsible, mindful resolutions to the town’s dilapidated infrastructure problems.

  • My history working with small business puts me in a position of understanding the complexities of managing payroll, retention, growth, and human resources.

  • My experience working in the HVAC industry which is governed by the Department of Energy in many regards will be an invaluable resource for the town as we navigate more energy regulations in the future.

My top priority for Cramerton will be to make sure proper planning with Regional partners is occurring to eliminate any future traffic problems with the Charlotte Metro expansion along the Catawba river (River district). Working with the DOT to find solutions that will not need to be updated every 20 years but every 50.

Transportation & Infrastructure – As we continue to see rapid growth and the analytics pointing to more growth coming, updating our existing, century old water lines should be a priority.

  • Traffic along the Gaston corridor along HWY 74 and surrounding roads has become unbearable and taxpayers expect to see their taxes going towards things that affect them on a day-to-day basis.

  • In many neighborhoods, roads have gone 20-30 years without anything more than a band-aid.


 

Jennifer Ramsey - Running for Cramerton Town Commissioner

I am a graduate of Appalachian State University. July 1, 2023, I retired as an Academically Intellectually Gifted Education schoolteacher, serving the students and parents of Gaston County for 33 years.

  • In 2021- 2022 I was named Belmont Central Elementary Teacher of the Year.

I am a lifelong resident of Cramerton. Serving the students and parents as a teacher in my community has been a wonderful experience. Running for Town Commissioner allows me the honor to serve in a different capacity. Teachers have a commonsense approach to solving problems every day. We research, listen, evaluate, and create the best solutions for success and prosperity. My inspiration began with the property evaluation in Gaston County. Cramerton had the opportunity to substantially reduce the tax rate for our citizens and they failed to do so. Residents work hard for their money, and it should be spent responsibly. They should know where their tax dollars are being allocated and be afforded the opportunity to voice their concerns and needs as to where this money should be spent.

Reducing taxes will provide the opportunity for them to invest back in their businesses.

  • The town’s responsibility is to ensure that the infrastructure provides a safe, clean, and inviting environment for all living in our community.

  • Holding special events, farmers markets, music, and art will potentially bring residents together to enjoy each other while supporting local businesses.

  • As a commissioner I will work diligently with my colleagues to give them the support they need.

  • Small businesses are vital to success in our community.

Public Safety

Cramerton Fire and Police Departments are first-class organizations. I would like to enhance public safety in our downtown area, parks, and trails.

  • This could be accomplished by assigning a police officer for community engagement.

  • In addition, we need sidewalks that connect as many of our communities to the business district.

  • Cameras should also be installed in all business districts with added lighting.

  • We are a growing community and need to expand our fire and police services down the New Hope Road corridor.

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