Robert Cordell and Lige Daughtridge are vying for the Ward 5 City Council seat being vacated by Tom Rogers.

Cordell, 69, is a retired educator who says he has a “30-point plan” to spark progress in the city. A divorced father of four adult children with five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Winston-Salem University and a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Virginia State University.

Daughtridge, 49, is president of Daughtridge Sales Co. Inc. and a partner with Top Dog Waste Solutions. He and his wife, Annie, have been married for 21 years and have a daughter, Lillie, and a son, Ellis. Daughtridge earned a bachelor’s degree in urban studies in 1993 from the College of Charleston.

Shortly after the candidate filing period ended, the Telegram emailed a questionnaire to all of the candidates for City Council. Here are the responses from Cordell and Daughtridge:

Why are you running for City Council? What do you hope to accomplish?

Cordell: I am running for the heart and the soul of Rocky Mount. This is the City on the Rise and I would like to keep it on the rise. I would like to keep Rocky Mount attracting businesses and promoting businesses within itself. I hope to oversee vast accomplishments at the Event Center and the Rocky Mount Mills. In Ward 5, I want the crime rate severely reduced and people empowered to live happier lives.

Daughtridge: I love our city and I’m concerned about the lack of fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability with our current leaders. Rocky Mount needs leadership that will ask tough questions of management and respect the diversity of viewpoints. I look forward to working with a City Council that respectfully discusses policy with a desire to find common ground to keep Rocky Mount moving forward.

What sets you apart from other candidates?

Cordell: I was born and reared in Rocky Mount. I know the desires and the needs of its citizens as well as the culture of our city. As an educator I taught, administered, counselled, coached and tutored to over 21,000 students expanding over a 40-year period. I have worked in the Nash-Rocky Mount Schools as well as the Edgecombe County School System for several years. I have grown to know the generations of families here.

Daughtridge: As a business person and active member of our community, I facilitated the organization of Reach Out Rocky Mount that was the catalyst for raising $2.2 million for local nonprofits, served as chairman of the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce and served as an elder at First Presbyterian Church. Currently, I’m a member of the N.C. Rural Center and Thread Capital, which provides capital to qualified entrepreneurs with a focus on underserved communities. I’m a founding member of the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority, which awards grant funds for rural, Community Development Block Grants and utility funds. This along with my constant demand for responsible government sets me apart from others.

What is the greatest challenge facing Rocky Mount and your ward and how do you propose to fix it?

Cordell: Health care is a challenge. By composing a committee to help the uninsured to sign up for Affordable Health Care. Many citizens in Ward 5 are disabled; as a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Disability, I would like to continue the programs and activities for our challenged citizens.

Daughtridge: Our greatest challenge is how our budget is allocated. At a minimum, we have not budgeted the $62.3 million needed to repair our water and wastewater system. The City Council only allocates $5 million to maintain the 283 miles of streets in our city. We need to reallocate funds to adequately finance our police and fire services. Our citizens must take an active role in reporting all suspicious activity. Management needs to support the police in addressing criminal issues without overzealous political pressure and blocking enforcement of criminal activity due to pressure from political connections within city government.

What do you enjoy most about your ward?

Cordell: The people are friendly and helpful.

Daughtridge: The people who reside in Ward 5 and all of Rocky Mount are what make our community a great place to live. Ward 5 is the home to many residents and includes a great concentration of the tax base in Rocky Mount led by retail, hospitality and the health care industry. Ward 5 and Rocky Mount is destined for growth due to these industries and the addition of the Sunset Avenue/I-95 interchange in 2023. I look forward to being a part of this exciting time in our city.

How do you think the city of Rocky Mount can improve the quality of life for its current citizens, those who are moving here and those who visit?

Cordell: I have a 30-point plan. If elected and implemented, every single citizen would eventually benefit from the plan.

Daughtridge: First impressions are the most lasting. We can improve perception by removing the litter from our streets and interchanges. The City of Rocky Mount has great assets that are underutilized such as the Imperial Centre, Sunset Park, Best Friend’s Dog Park and our great public transportation system, Tar River Transit. The quality of life could be improved for everyone if we just advertise and promote these along with other existing assets.

Former longtime department head Rich Worsinger told the council if they didn’t fix the city’s water and waste system infrastructure that Rocky Mount would be the next Flint, Mich. How will you handle this possible problem?

Cordell: Plain and simple, this infrastructure must be fixed. Regardless of costs, time structure, etc., we can never risk the possibility of poisoning our people for the years to come. All seven council members and their families are living in Rocky Mount. This is a no-brainer. There should not and will not be a Flint, Mich., in Rocky Mount.

Daughtridge: The citizens need the results of the $180,000 Jacobs Engineering study that was scheduled to be completed this past December. This study will assess the needs along with projected cost for our water, wastewater and stormwater. Properly funding the maintenance and upgrades of our system will likely result in higher costs due to inaction by our elected officials. We must end the practice of transferring funds to the general fund to balance the budget. We have identified a minimum of at least $62.3 million in unfunded infrastructure needs that need immediate attention. This is likely a small fraction of the overall infrastructure cost.

How do you envision the future of Rocky Mount over the next few years?

Cordell: I envision Rocky Mount as a city where people would want to move to and to live in for a long period of time. We have the restaurants, hotels, entertainment and the opportunities of employment here. I envision our crime rates and utility rates will decrease. The CSX hub and the DMV Center will be prominent. The current City Council members over the past few years have done a marvelous job for our city. I certainly would love to be part of this progress.

Daughtridge: The next City Council will spend time on how to adequately fund city services with a tax rate our citizens feel offers value. We need to balance the budget through prudent spending and increasing our tax base, not through raising tax rates. Rocky Mount is destined for growth due to the new and expanding industry along with the Sunset Avenue-Interstate 95 interchange. My hope is the new Rocky Mount leadership will welcome input from residents on how to best handle and prepare for this growth.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series about this year’s upcoming City Council races.