Candidates eye growth in Conover

Candidates running for Conover City Council point to growth โ€” both in jobs and services โ€” as a key to the city's prosperity in the future.

Six candidates are competing for three open seats on the city council as early voting begins Thursday. Most of the candidates say the economy's impact on businesses and residents is the biggest issue facing the city and its board in the next four years.

After councilwoman Penny Corpening withdrew from the council race last month, Kyle Hayman and Don Beal are the only two incumbents running for re-election.

Bruce Eckard, a former Conover mayor and councilman; Kim Cline, a current Newton-Conover City Schools Board of Education member; Jeff Byrd; and Lew Waddell form a foursome of fresh faces on the ballot.

"The biggest issue, not just in Conover, but everywhere, is the economy," Eckard said.

"Something I'd like to do is look at all the rules and regulations to make sure we're not overburdening our local businesses and industries."

Eckard said the city should create an easy process to allow businesses to locate in Conover.

"We can also ask every business to try to hire one new employee during 2012," he said. "There's a possibility of creating several hundred jobs right there."

Cline also said that Conover should make it easy for businesses to locate in the city. She said solid marketing practices can help lure industry.

"We need to promote businesses coming into Conover that will increase the tax base and give jobs to people," said Cline, who has served on the school board for two years and moved her Family Health Care Practice business to Conover last year. "We do not need to increase taxes. If that comes up, I will vote against it."

Jeff Byrd said he believes in giving tax credits to businesses that move into the area.

"I also think we need to work with Hickory and Newton to bring a state university to this area to educate our young people and bring new 21st century industries into this area," said Byrd, who is seeking his first public office position and said he believes the city would benefit from fresh elected and employed leadership. "I've noticed a disturbing trend of young adults leaving this area. I think a state university would help in revenue with more jobs and keep young adults here."

Cline said Conover also needs more activities for senior adults, young adults and families to make the city an attractive place to live.

Leaders can make the city a good place to live, Eckard said, by continuing to provide efficient residential services โ€“ including police and fire, water and sewer, streets and sidewalks.

Homes in Conover would also benefit from a balanced city budget, said Beal, who is completing his first four-year term on the board.

"The biggest issue is our budget," he said. "We're facing deficits in revenue. Some people aren't able to pay their taxes because of foreclosures. Inflation's affecting every city, and every city is sharing this burden. People are struggling to survive and we need to be sensitive to their needs."

Hayman, who is also finishing his first term, said Conover has met the needs of businesses like LEE Industries that have located in the city.

"I think that's an example of Conover working with industries to try to make it favorable for them to come to Conover," Hayman said. "The biggest issue is the economy and jobs. The way I see to get out of this is putting people back to work. That's key to getting ourselves out of the economic situation that this area and the country are in."

The city must make progress with new industries and job creation, said Lew Waddell, who is running for his first public-office position.

"Conover cannot just be deemed to stand like it always has been," Waddell said. "The city council should operate under the control of the citizens, and the city manager operates under the control of the city council. When I first moved here, Conover was known as the bedroom of Catawba County. I've watched Newton grow. I've watched Hickory grow.

We're got to increase our tax base, and Conover needs to grow."