Four candidates with name recognition and experience will compete March 15 in the Republican primary for District B seats on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners.
Current Commissioners Richard Linville, Dave Plyler and Gloria Whisenhunt and former Commissioner Bill Whiteheart are running.
The top three will advance to the general election in November, where they will face Democrats Trent Harmon, Selester Stewart and Bob Stitcher for the three District B seats. District B encompasses suburban and rural parts of the county, and some neighborhoods in western Winston-Salem.
The November ballot also may contain bond issues for public schools and other county projects. Commissioners have more than $550 million in bond requests and potential projects to consider for the ballot.
Plyler said he is running for re-election because the county has an opportunity to improve the schools — which will be a major factor for the next several years — and wants to be part of that. He said there are critical needs.
Plyler, who was first elected commissioner in 1994, also said there is the opportunity to bring more jobs to the county. He is the current chairman of the board, a post that Linville and Whisenhunt also have held.
Whisenhunt has served as a commissioner since 1996 and said there are projects that she would like to see come to fruition, such as the Stepping Up Initiative to reduce the number of individuals in jail with mental illness.
She said that she still would like to voice her opinion and work on the school bonds, and that the effect on taxpayers must be considered. She said it is important to have conservative representation on the board.
Linville, who has served on the commission since 1980, said that he still likes serving citizens and that he has a conservative record. He said he thinks the county primarily needs to focus on the traditional things for which government is responsible, such as the public health and safety of citizens.
Linville said that with other bond projects proposed in addition to school bonds, the commissioners will need to prioritize projects to avoid significant tax increases.
Whiteheart, whose most recent term ended in December 2014, said he was asked by numerous friends, business acquaintances and Republicans to consider running again because of the makeup of the current board.
The seven-member board has a Republican majority, but Plyler and Don Martin and the board’s three Democrats have voted together on some key issues.
Whiteheart said he has a conservative voting record and is fiscally responsible, and he wants the board to restore its former 15 percent debt-service limit.
Last year, the board voted to amend its self-imposed debt policies, raising the debt-service limit to 18 percent from a hybrid rate of 15 percent to 16.5 percent. That increased the percentage of the budget the county could spend on debt payments each year, opening the door for more capital projects.
Linville and Whisenhunt, who voted against the policy change, expressed concerns that it would lead to increases to the property-tax rate. Plyler, who voted for the policy change, has highlighted facility needs and the costs that can come with delaying projects.
Whiteheart was not on the board at the time. Whiteheart won a District B seat in 2004 and was edged out of the 2008 race by Plyler, who had lost his at-large seat to Democrat Ted Kaplan in 2006. Whiteheart defeated Kaplan for a seat in 2010, then lost to him in 2014.