DOBSON — A Democrat in the county’s East District will try to knock off his Republican incumbent opponent in the race for a seat on the Surry County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
Ronald Bowman, 64, of Groundhog Trail in Pilot Mountain, is seeking to unseat Van Tucker, a first-year commissioner, in Tuesday’s general election.
Tucker, 60, who lives on Shoals Road in Shoals, was appointed in February to fill the unexpired term of long-time GOP Commissioner Paul Johnson, who lost his spot by pleading guilty to felony charges related to his travel vouchers.
Bowman is retired from a security position at Northern Hospital of Surry County, and Tucker founded a home healthcare business in Pilot Mountain.
Tucker has had nine months on the job and has served on public boards such as the Surry Community College board of trustees. Bowman, who is making his first run for public office, has been campaigning for the seat since filing in December of 2015.
Both men said their journeys into the public light have been interesting and educational.
“I thought I knew a little bit about county government,” said Tucker. “Turns out it is quite a bit more involved and complex than I had thought.”
Tucker said he quickly discovered being a county commissioner involved much more than two meetings a month.
“I was surprised at the amount of time a commissioner must be willing to give,” said Tucker.
While it’s a lot of effort, Tucker said he’s been happy to step up to the plate. He joined multiple boards, including the county’s property committee and the YVEDDI board of directors.
Tucker noted there are more than 70,000 residents in Surry County, and the county employs more than 500 full-time employees and 200 part-time employees. He drew a comparison.
“The board members are the overseers and stewards in county government,” explained Tucker. “We are a lot like a board of directors for a company, and it’s a big job for five members.”
He said his wife has accused him of spending more time in Dobson than in Shoals throughout the course of the past nine months, but he’s happy he can say he’s worked hard at it.
Tucker said he has been in both the minority and majority on various votes; however, he always votes his conscious.
Tucker pointed to his work during the budget season as accomplishments. He helped broker deals among board members and preserved school resource officer positions in the county district’s four middle schools.
Tucker said he has become a facilitator on the board and has helped to close out litigation, such as a lawsuit regarding the use of grant funds for a sewer and water system which was run to Cody Creek, a Dobson restaurant.
While Bowman hasn’t had the advantage of serving in the seat, he too has learned plenty since stepping into politics. Though he has always enjoyed talking to people, his time spent working election polling places and shaking hands has taught him there are many needs in Surry County.
He noted he has spent many more hours on the campaign trail than he expected to spend when he entered the race, but it’s for good reason.
“The need for people in public service is great,” said Bowman.
Citing concerns regarding economic development, he said, “I’m glad I ran, and I hope I can win. I want the opportunity to address some of those needs.”
Bowman said the greatest need he sees in Surry County is in the area of economic development.
“We need to address bringing better paying jobs to Surry County,” explained Bowman. “It won’t happen overnight, but that’s what I want to be working toward (over) four years.”
He said slowly developing a stronger tax base in Surry County will aid in another campaign goal.
“I would like to see tax cuts for seniors done in a responsible manner,” said Bowman.
Bowman noted he would use tax incentives to encourage new companies to locate their operations in Surry County and to encourage existing businesses to expand.
He also cited security in schools as a concern, noting he would like to see a school resource officer in every school building.
Tucker also said he believes economic development is a concern for the future of Surry County, noting the county has yet to fully recover from the economic recession of 2008.
However, Tucker said the fight to bring businesses to Surry County must take place on many fronts. Businesses consider many matters when opting for a location. The infrastructure must be in place to support businesses, and a workforce must be available.
He said the county’s schools play an important role in making Surry County marketable for businesses.
“We face some challenges here,” said Tucker. “We are going to have to spend a little money on those facilities.”
Ready to work
Tucker and Bowman both said they are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work for Surry County.
“I don’t have a magic wand,” said Tucker. “I can’t fix everything, but I can promise I’ll work at it.”
“If voters are willing to consider a guy who has already gone in and worked as hard as he possibly can, they ought to consider a guy like me,” added Tucker. “I’m willing to take on this task, just as I have for the past nine months, because Surry County is worth working for.”
Bowman said he believes the county board has failed in key areas such as economic development and security in schools. He also believes he can be a voice for transparency on the board and provide clarity to the people.
All of those concerns, according to Bowman, come down to which candidate can get results for Surry County.
“I believe I can do it,” said Bowman. “All of that can be a reality if we all work together.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.