Candidates present platforms at Democratic meeting

By Mary Katherine Murphy

March 7, 2014

LAURINBURG — Three incumbent county officials running for re-election this fall presented their platforms to the Scotland County Democratic Women on Friday.

County Commissioners Guy McCook and Carol McCall will be challenged by Samuel Cribb, Shelley Strickland, and Terence Williams, Democrats all, for the two seats they hold representing the Stewartsville township. Sheriff Shep Jones will be challenged by fellow Democrat Rodney Tucker in May’s primary election. The primary winner will then face lone Republican candidate Ralph Kersey in November.

McCook, a native of Macon, Ga. and owner of Hasty Realty, currently serves on the Board of Commissioners as chairman. He placed jobs, investment, and the county’s level of customer service at the forefront of his concerns as a commissioner. “I truly believe that you hired me, so to speak, and asked me to represent you as your chairman and to work to create jobs in our community and to bring new investment to our community,” he said. “If I can do those two things successfully, everything else will kind of fall into place.”

After receiving his secondary education in South America, where his father served as a missionary, McCook returned to Georgia to attend college. He described his relocation to Laurinburg, his wife’s hometown, as “a conscious decision.”

“One of the reasons I moved to this community is that I felt like there was a lot of potential and a lot of opportunities in Scotland County, and I still believe that,” McCook said.

A retired county social worker, McCall is seeking her second term on the board which employed her for more than three decades. She said that increasing the county’s fund balance to nearly 14 percent from less than eight percent in 2011, as well as promoting transparency within county government have been highlights of her term as a commissioner.

“Our budget process is now a very protracted, tedious, boring budget process,” she said. “It is open and we publicize it. You can come; we want your input — here’s nothing hidden about how we spend our money.”

McCall also noted that the county has grown in recent years in terms of economic development, which cannot always be measured by the number of jobs it brings to the county.

“We’re a very small county and our tax base is very small,” said McCall. “Often times a lot of the recruitment that we’re doing, that you don’t often hear about, doesn’t often bring that high a number of jobs, but it does bring an investment. It’s raising our tax base and it raises the wealth of the county.”

The two incumbent commissioners also fielded questions regarding solar farms, pedestrian accessibility, and the shortage of chain restaurants in the county.

Jones is seeking his third term as sheriff in the hope of continuing a number of sheriff’s office programs implemented during his tenure so far, including the emergency response, drug and addiction, and canine teams, as well as truant court, school resource officers, and an annual gang resistance and awareness summer camp.

Jones said that he could not comment on the State Bureau of Investigation and county inquiries into moneys collected by his office from deputies using a county car for off-duty work, other than to say that “every single receipt” has been accounted for and submitted to the county finance office.

“I can tell you this, I’m a man of integrity,” he said. “That’s the bottom line.”

According to Jones, the office has made 12,000 arrests since he took the reins, and currently 25 people are in the Scotland County Detention Center on charges of murder or rape.

“This is a very violent society we live in and I think we’ve got to have a sheriff in place that’s very aggressive in his approach in dealing with criminals,” he said. “That’s the way I am and that’s in the fabric of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, that if you break the law, you go to jail. Simple as that.”

Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 17. Follow her on Twitter @emkaylbg.