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Meet Your Candidates: Gastonia




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 Gastonia, 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.

Join us for an evening of networking and community engagement at "Business After Hours: Meet the Candidates," sponsored by CaroMont Health and hosted at The Optimum Result Fitness.
Date: Wednesday, October 11th
Time: 5:00 PM
This event provides a unique opportunity to meet and greet with all the candidates running for the City of Gastonia, Lowell, Ranlo, and McAdenville. Your participation matters as we shape the future of our community together. Click here to register.

 

Candidates for Mayor of Gastonia

  • Joseph Elliott

  • Richard Franks

  • Walter J. Hart Jr.

  • Robert Kellogg

  • Walker Reid

Candidates for Gastonia City Council

  • Donyel Barber

  • Reese Barnett

  • Jim Gallagher

  • Charles M. Odom

  • Reece Shirley


 

Robert Kellogg - Running for Mayor of Gastonia

As a Council member I have 20+ years of retail management experience and 8 years of Governing experience. I'm the Chair of the economic development and downtown revitalization committees.

  • I worked with our NC Attorney general on the opioid crisis as well as have held roundtable discussions with small business owners.

I was inspired to run by the great people who call this city home and the small business owners who open their business doors in our city.

  • Their stories of hard work and determination motivate me to help make this city a better place to live, work, and play. I was also motivated to run by a desire to see greater proactive leadership that champions working on our challenges as well as celebrating our wins. I believe we are in the midst of a renaissance and how we move forward could determine if we succeed or fall behind.

  • My background, temperament, strong work ethic, collaborative spirit and deep understanding of the issues, make me a great choice for mayor.

  • I was part of the original council that purchased the land for FUSE, championed the Transportation bond referendum, fought for better pay within our Police department and for other city workers, led the fight for the implementation of the Social District, and have advocated for greater downtown development.

My top three priorities involve helping Gastonia have a healthier economy, lower crime rate and a healthier community. Gastonia has a lot of great growth occurring and with that growth, there are also many challenges.

  • We will work on economic development and job creation, by diversifying our industry base and luring more better paying jobs to the area.

  • This will also have the desirable effect of lowering residential property taxes, while raising our standard of living. I would love to see this City embrace our entrepreneurial spirit even more and be a regional partner and a destination as a technology hub. I envision Gastonia becoming a hub for creative types, small business owners and tech savvy individuals.

  • We can create a tech community that utilizes our positives such as location, labor, proximity to the airport and infrastructure to make this happen.

  • That combined with vocational training centers can rebuild our economy into a diverse and powerful force. Gastonia is more than a collection of roads and buildings.

  • It’s a community.

  • We are going to make Gastonia the startup city in our state.

A place where people can start a business, start a family and start a life.

  • In addition, I will continue to work on creative ways to make our infrastructure dollars stretch by utilizing grants and matching dollars from other governing bodies.

  • And we will work on collaborating with our State and federal partners on commuter rail, an additional bridge over the Catawba and implementing an on-demand public transit system.

Public Safety- The ability of any city to thrive economically is tied closely to its image and crime statistics.

  • Over the past couple years, Gastonia has seen an increase in violent crime among our young people.

  • The rise in homelessness as well as the opioid crisis are also aiding in the rise in these numbers.

  • I have fought for law enforcement raises and additional funding for recruitment and will continue to be a champion for our public safety sector.

When elected Mayor of Gastonia, I will immediately seek a Council vote to take steps in joining efforts across the nation by Mayors who have taken a pledge to end Veteran Homelessness in their cities.

  • This is achievable. It can happen and has happened in hundreds of communities.

  • The VA as well as other organizations have well developed programs to help cities end Veteran homelessness.

  • We will partner with the VA, our local faith community, and other community partners to make this happen. Recent Point in Time counts suggest that we have a little less than 50 homeless veterans in Gastonia.

  • We can tackle this and end the shame of veteran homelessness in Gastonia.

  • That is only the beginning as we will also look at affordable housing solutions, such as a public/private trust that leverages raised dollars to bring affordable housing developers to the table.

We will also implement a Mayor’s Youth Safety Task Force, consisting of experts in various fields working together in a collaborative and proactive manner, to address youth violence.

  • We can model the efforts happening in the Highland community by the parks and rec department there and replicate that all over the city.

  • By providing mentors, honest dialogue about violence/gangs and drugs, programming designed to build self- esteem and challenge unhealthy behavior we can eat away at the root causes of our youth crime challenge and set these young people up for a life of success.

 

Donyel Barber - Running for Gastonia City Council

  • Director of Equity Initiatives for Kintegra Health.

  • Promote community engagement to identify social drivers leading to poor health to achieve health equity and improve the health of the community.

  • Mother of 1 son and certified in: The North Carolina Leadership Forum, Facilitative Leadership for Social Change and Community Leadership Essentials Program.

I am running again because I feel my perspective and voice is critical to the decision making process as an elected leader in our community.

One of my top priorities is creating and shaping a community professionals and skilled manufacturers would be proud to call home.

  • To continue attracting successful businesses, skilled laborers must reside in the community to occupy the existing and future positions we desire in our community.

  • This translates into higher wages that would allow residents in our community thrive.

Economic Development- A strong focus on economic development is critical to the vitality of Gastonia.

  • It will attract and retain residents and allow the city to maintain and improve the level of amenities residents expect to receive as a member of our community. I strongly feel economic development is the spark that will ignite improvents in public safety, transportation and infrastructure.

  • Gastonia deserves positive and balanced growth and making the right decisions regarding economic development will help our community grow and flourish.


 

Reese Barnett - Running for Gastonia City Council

I am a lifetime resident of Gaston County, grew up in the Highland community, graduated from Hunter Huss & attended UNC Chapel Hill. I am a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Supervisor, own a private practice and non-profit and work as a Regional Lead in School Based Therapy for Kintegra.

I have a passion for people, a heart for community, and have always been a community activist.

  • While our city must continue moving forward, we must be forward thinking.

  • My expierence has allowed me to see the underlying cause to some of our community’s most prevalent issues.

  • My hope is to improve the quality of life by identifying needs before they become crises so we can be proactive instead of reactive by addressing social prosperity, economic stability and environmental wellness.

I have worked with Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, and been employed with the Gaston County School System, Gastonia Housing Authority and Phoenix Counseling Center.

  • I served on the Community Development Citizens Advisory Board and Early Literacy Collaborative.

  • I am on the board for the Release Foundation and have volunteered at With Friends, Promised Land Ministries, Above & Beyond Students and held various leadership roles in corporate, private, non-profit and public sectors.

Health & Wellness - Mental health impacts community wellness on multiple levels including substance use, crime, community health (ER visits), labor force, unemployment, homelessness, poverty level, city cost and gross profit margin.

  • Seek opportunities/sources to locate free mental health resources, build/expand emergency crisis shelter.

  • Help/support rehabilitation center and treatment for substance use/abuse.

  • Raising awareness and making sure emergency personnel/1st responders receive support for compassion fatigue/vicarious trauma.

  • Supporting programs for veterans and the elderly such as a day program.

  • Continue minimizing /eliminating food desserts with community garden, food co-op, and/or stores or farmers market within neighborhoods not located close to a grocery store.

Economic Stability Sustainability - Gastonia can attract business, but seems to have a challenge sustaining business. Many have left or shutdown.

  • Suggest implementing a business needs assessment, conduct annual business surveys and offer exit interviews for businesses that leave or shutdown to provide support and prevent closure.

  • Offer to meet with the small business association on a regular basis.

  • Look into trade schools or some type of trade certification program to improve unemployment.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Review/implement Safety/Disaster Recovery Plan covering food, shelter, staffing, data recovery and emergency personnel to avoid long term shutdown.

  • Community Safety-Develop community programs and extracurricular activities for youth to deter violence and create sense of belonging and connectivity.

  • Advocate for police to have proper equipment, training, treatment and support to effectively do their job.

Affordable Housing

  • Pursue & implement options recommend by housing study including, but not limited to: emergency shelter, gap transitional housing, investment property, affordable housing trust, rental assistance, land disposition, community land trust, housing resource center, zoning incentives, and housing programs. Meet with realtors to determine ways to limit the number properties investors can purchase to improve local real estate market and prevent over pricing.

Diversity, Inclusion & Equity

  • Focus on cultural humility instead of cultural competence.

  • Initiate trainings and programs to minimize/eliminate social disparity.

  • Host town halls and community think tanks, events, and projects to promote greater cultural exchange.

  • Have cultural ambassadors and form committee that has quarterly meetings to monitor need and get feedback.

  • Ensure work culture implements processes and infrastructure that create a safe space and support cultural humility.

Education

  • Ensure teacher back pay is current.

  • Provide necessary support staff to assist in the classroom.

  • Make sure staff pay is competitive.

  • Support school safety, encourage school-based therapy in all schools, and promote measures that set realistic academic performance expectations due to loss of social skills and academic growth caused by COVID shutdown.


 

Charles M. Odom - Running for Gastonia City Council

I am a General Electric retiree, Ashbrook and Gaston College graduate and a Licensed General Contractor, Electrician, and Plumber.

  • I served as a City of Gastonia Planning Commissioner, and Board Member for the Gastonia Housing Authority.

  • I presently serve on the Highland Neighborhood Association Board, and Gaston County Habitat for Humanity.

What made me run for office was seeing diverse needs in the community I resided in. I saw problems firsthand being a Highland Neighborhood Association member, and President, advocating for community change.

  • And with some success, I felt a call to advocate on a higher level for all citizens of Gastonia.

I feel that my service to community, care, and love for people, my professional career, as well as my tenure as the Fourth Ward Representative makes me a suitable candidate to continue serving in this role.

My top priorities for businesses, if I am reelected are to show an interest in and support for the newest businesses that have moved into the city. I will continue visiting these establishments and look for ways to connect them with the Gastonia communities to foster business growth, and a chance for making a successful contribution to our business community.

  • I will listen to their concerns and hurdles to success and lead them to right areas of city and county government that will be able to address their problems and concerns, even if that means working with our other council members , and commissioners to address business related challenges.

EDUCATION

I strongly feel like we could change our communities as they are now known if we would challenge our school system to offer career diplomas in addition to general diplomas for graduates.

  • What does that look like?

  • It would be realized in each high school in our system offering different career paths.

  • For example, schools would not only be college preparatory for those who want to go to college but it would have schools of technology or trade.

  • This leads us into a variation of school choice. I recognize that school choice can be problematic in that it could create segregated and substandard education.

  • We must carefully ensure that school choice is a good option and that every school has the funding and the tools they need to produce successful students.

  • I feel this type of change to our school system could further benefit the city by lowering exposure to drug addiction, crime, homelessness and could start to create generational education, training, and wealth, with immediate livable wages offered for students straight out of high school.

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