Two political newcomers are competing for the Democratic nomination in the race for the District 4 seat on the Nash County Board of Commissioners.
Bert Daniel, a retired independent sales professional, is running against Gerald “Jerry” Harris, a retired logistics manager and former teacher.
The winner of that race will face a Republican opponent in the November general election.
Daniel, 67, said his goals include promoting transparency and more citizen involvement in county government. He said he also would like to promote a customer service attitude among county employees and leaders. If elected, he said he would be a voice for the people.
“I will be involved with the citizens and represent their views and values,” Daniel said.
Harris, 63, said he hopes to become the first commissioner from Nashville during recent history. Addressing educational issues and finding ways to retain quality teachers would be among his top priorities, Harris said. The county needs to work to broaden its tax base, Harris said. One way to do that, he said, is to find ways to put more people back to work.
Harris said one of his strengths is his willingness to listen to people’s needs.
“I have an ability to sit down and talk to people and understand the things of interest to them,” Harris said.
The candidates have a variety of goals and ideas, including opposite views about a proposed chicken processing plant, which Daniel opposes and Harris supports.
Harris worked for 25 years at Abbott Laboratories. He served as logistics manager before he retired. Before working at Abbott, he worked for seven years as a teacher and a coach. Harris is a member of the Carolinas Gateway Partnership Board of Directors and the Nash County ABC Board.
Daniel worked for 32 years as an independent sales professional for Jostens Inc. He is co-chairman of the Nash County Landowners’ Association, a group that has fought a proposed Sanderson Farms chicken processing plant.
He also served nine years on the Nash Health Care System’s Board of Commissioners. He was chairman of the board his last year.
Daniel currently serves on the Nash County Health Board.
Daniel said he believes in using recognition and reward as motivational tools. He also said he would like the county to review how it recruits economic development. Nash County has many great assets, including an airport, access to several major highways and a river, Daniel said. He said county leaders need to take stock of those assets and look for ways to build from them.
“What we’ve got is good,” Daniel said. “We just need to make it better.”
Having an innovative school system and a skilled work force is key to economic development, Daniel said.
Community service is important to his family, Daniel said. His father is a former county commissioner.
If elected, Harris said his top priority would be representing the people of District 4. However, Harris said sometimes he might have to make a decision based on what is best for the county as a whole.
He said he would like the county to look at ways to retain quality educators.
“We have excellent teachers,” Harris said. “We don’t need to be losing them.”
The county also needs to do everything it can to broaden its tax base and avoid putting additional burden on residents, Harris said.
He said unemployment is the biggest challenge facing the county.
Harris said the proposed Sanderson Farms chicken plant would help the county reduce unemployment rates.
“I think it’s a tremendously positive first step for this county,” Harris said.
Not only would the plant employ more than 1,100 people, Harris said, it also would put to work others in the community, including construction workers, plumbers and electricians. Those workers would then be able to spend more in the community, which would help boost the local economy, Harris said.
But Daniel said the type of jobs Sanderson Farms would create would not be good for the area. Nash County should set its goals higher, he said.
“We can do better,” Daniel said.
Even if someone was elected to the District 4 seat who opposed Sanderson Farms, the board still would have a majority of members who support the proposed project.
But Daniel said he is hopeful that fresh and new leadership would be able to influence other members of the board.
“I take ownership in the issue,” Daniel said. “I’m very proud of my position, but it’s not my issue. It’s the people’s issue.”