Goldsboro residents had the opportunity to hear from city council and mayoral candidates during Wednesday evening’s candidates forum hosted by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce at the Maxwell Center.
The forum, moderated by Chamber of Commerce President Scott Satterfield, featured mayoral candidates, Charles Gaylor and Raymond Smith Jr., along with city council District 1 candidates Hiawatha Jones, who currently serves on the council, and Yvonnia Moore, District 2 candidate Chris Boyette and District 3 candidates Jamie Taylor and Myelle Thompson. District 2 candidate Kal Butt was not in attendance.
The forum continued on Thursday evening at the Maxwell Center with candidates for city council districts 3-6, along with Gaylor and Smith.
The format for the forum included an opening statement from each candidate, followed by four questions from Satterfield, with candidates given an opportunity to comment on each question. The candidates were given the questions prior to the forum.
Each candidate was given two minutes for their opening remarks, as well as the same amount of time to answer each of the four questions.
The first question was in reference to the current 37 vacancies within the Goldsboro Police Department, and the steps each candidate would take to ensure their commitment to a safe and secure community.
“Goldsboro like any other city has shortages of policemen, it’s a global thing, so we’re no different,” Jones said. “The mayor just swore in two policemen and as of today we have 35 uniformed policemen, and we currently have 12 applicants currently under review. The council has constantly been defining annual funding for training, new equipment and technology in order to ensure the police are ready to perform their job. Additionally, we have provided additional funding for salaries to keep up with inflation and to remain competitive with cities of our size. In the 2023-24 budget, we have both fire department and police department raises.”
Boyette, who has a background in law enforcement in Wayne County, offered his thoughts on the forum’s opening question regarding the Goldsboro Police Department and the safety of the citizens of Goldsboro.
“One of the things that is unique and that is going to make or will make a body people of unique is each person brings a different perspective to a particular problem,” Boyette said. “In my particular case the police department as well as all public safety is near and dear to my heart. I graduated in 1993 from the basic law enforcement academy. I was in the 16th graduating class right here at Wayne Community College, and started a career in law enforcement. Every citizen deserves to feel safe in their home and we can’t do that if we don’t have adequate staff. And I can tell you in one short sentence that this candidate is committed to filling those positions in whatever means necessary with salary, etc. to make sure our department is fully staffed and our citizens are safe.”
Satterfield’s second question asked the candidates what role city leadership plays in supporting and retaining Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and its mission.
“The City of Goldsboro plays the lead role,” Smith said. “The city has the luxury of using the population at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as part of its population for the purpose of receiving federal government and the state government, so the city has the lead role in this. Seymour Johnson Air Force base generates approximately a billion dollars worth of revenue for this community each year. Well, it’s incumbent upon us to create opportunities to collaborate. And one such opportunity is the Wayne School of Technical Arts, which I”m very proud to say I had a lot to do with that. We need to create incentives for them to want to stay here. That’s how we keep the base here.”
Gaylor offered his thoughts on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base saying, “The mayor of Goldsboro is a little unique compared to other cities nationwide, that are about our size, and that’s because of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. “The direct ties to D.C. and Langley that this community has, that this mayor’s office is expected to be able to work as a relationship is absolutely critical. The future of not just Goldsboro, and not just Wayne County, but of our region, hinges on ensuring the right relationships are in place at the federal level, the state level and the local level, to make sure we have everything we can do done to protect the mission of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.”
The third question posed to candidates dealt with the housing issues in Goldsboro, and the 7.1 percent increase in the average costs of homes in the city over the past year.
“There are many different things that we can do that have shown to have a substantial impact that have shown to have a substantial impact on the affordable housing crisis,” Taylor said. “Instead of rent, one of my goals is to incentive home ownership over rent. I would host home ownership seminars, as well as debt counseling and credit improvement classes, and allow my constituents to leave a legacy for their family as I have.”
Moore also shared her insight on Goldsboro’s housing issue by saying, “I used to sit on a board in Virginia, and this was the very issue we used to tackle was obtainable housing for our residents as well as our homeless veterans,” Moore said. “In District 1 and throughout the city we have a huge stock of houses that are just sitting abandoned. There are houses that the city actually owns that there was a time that they looked like they were in good condition, that a family could have moved in there, but they didn’t. Now, they have vandalized. We had our city government that actually sent money back to the state. My question is how do you send back grant money, and why do you send back grant money?”
Thompson, who has experience working with federal and HUD grants in his profession on a daily basis, shared his thoughts on Goldsboro’s affordable housing shortage.
“This is a very important topic for me because I deal with federal and HUD money every day,” Thompson said. “When it comes to affordable housing we have to know exactly what is affordable housing. When you say affordable housing that can be several things. There’s a lot of developers that want to come to Goldsboro. Some private investors decide there going to charge a certain amount for rent and there’s nothing anybody can do about it. We have to be able to partner up with these developers, and say, ‘Hey, is there a way that we can cap this?’ Right now, a developer can charge for a three-bedroom almost $1,700. Even with low to moderate income, that is not fair to our residents.”
The final question dealt with Goldsboro’s aging infrastructure and what candidates would do to improve the issue.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem,” Smith said. “One of the things I have helped do when I was in the general assembly, we sent through the American Relief Plan millions of dollars to Wayne County and the City of Goldsboro. During that time we were dealing with Covid, so the restrictions on the use of those funds were loosened. We sent a tremendous amount of funds here for infrastructure needs. There was even a grant that I recall was somewhere around 2.5 or 3 million dollars that we sent to the city of Goldsboro for an infrastructure study. I would like to know where all of it is, and what was done with it.”
Gaylor also commented on Goldsboro’s infrastructure saying, “Let’s be clear this is not a future council problem, this is a current council problem. This is a problem that the current council, at least in my experience, has taken very seriously. This has to be a larger conversation with county stakeholders and other municipalities to make sure that we’re going through each layer of the problem. The current council has been going through an asset study to make sure we know the current condition of every pipe because we know this is an issue the next council is going to be handed a lot of work that has happened over the last couple of years.”