Two run for Smithfield’s District 4 town council seat

pseligson@newsobserver.comOctober 11, 2013 

Only one Smithfield Town council seat is contested this year; District 4 represents west Smithfield.

Two men are running for the seat, and each has a different vision of how Smithfield should grow.

Andy Byrd III

Andy Byrd III also wants to attract business to Smithfield, but he thinks the council should focus more on improving quality of life here.

“There’s a little bit of area to grow but not like the surrounding towns in the county,” he said.

Byrd said Smithfield is trapped by its geography. The town is surrounded by Interstate 95, the Neuse River, the U.S. 70 corridor, swampland and the towns of Four Oaks, Selma and Clayton.

“As long as you’re growing, everything’s rosy,” Byrd said. “But as soon as you slow down or stop growing, they act like it’s everybody’s fault when in fact it’s just the lay of the land.”

So instead, Byrd said Smithfield should work on improving quality of life. “First, lower the light bills,” he said. Byrd plans to try to do this by examining the current budget and looking for places to save money.

“When you’ve got that kind of money ... to lay away for $14 million projects, they’ve got a little room to make a difference on the rates,” he said of Smithfield’s electric department.

Byrd also wants the council to support community groups with resources rather than money. For instance, the town council recently gave the Shriners free police support for a parade, he said. “You don’t have to base everything entirely on money,” he said.

Byrd added that the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center has helped improve quality of life.

Byrd said he hopes to bring a more commonsense approach to solving town problems, such as the sludge in Smithfield’s water system. Instead of hiring outside consultants to examine problems, Byrd said Smithfield should swallow its pride and ask other towns what they’ve done when faced with similar situations. “Seems like everybody is more worried about covering their own butt than they are trying to get the job done,” he said.

Byrd also wants to continue the town council’s focus on increasing its cash reserves. He said the current reserve is too low, and the $300,000 sludge fix at the water plant could take it even lower.

Except for a few years in Clayton, Byrd, 50, has lived in Smithfield his whole life. He graduated from Smithfield-Selma High School and went to Wayne Community College for a degree in aviation maintenance. He has studied plumbing, welding and refrigeration at Johnston Community College. He is president of the family business, Byrd’s Wholesale, and is a former assistant scoutmaster.

Byrd said his experience in the building industry and business would allow him to make good decisions. If elected, he said, he would make conservative choices “that would still get the end results but wouldn’t be so expensive.”

Roger Wood

Roger Wood, whose nickname is “Chubs,” said he has three chief goals.

One is economic and residential growth. Wood aims to attract employers and people by promoting the town’s assets, such as nearby Interstate 95 and the Johnston County Airport. “We need to make sure we’re promoting the town of Smithfield as a positive, growing area,” he said. “The goal is basically to make sure we’re economically sound.”

Wood said he wants to work closely with Chris Johnson, the county’s new economic-development director who until recently ran the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp. He also wants to use tax breaks to attract businesses.

Wood thinks the town council needs to look for new ideas to grow the town. He gave an example from a recent town council meeting; three councilmen recently formed a committee to look at what similar towns do to attract business.

Second, Wood wants to improve the morale of town employees by providing better communication and feedback. “I feel we need to engage the employees and listen to their needs and concerns more consistently,” he said. “I feel like it is important to have a strong bond not only with our taxpayers but with our employees. This type of behavior will help sponsor an environment of trust and dependability between the taxpayers, employees and the town council.”

Wood plans to meet quarterly or more often with department heads, supervisors and employees. He wants to be an ear to town employees and a liaison between them and the council.

Wood’s third goal is to foster teamwork on the council, which will have four new faces this year. He wants to make sure the group collaborates, and he wants each council member to understand how individual goals could impact the whole town.

Wood, 43, is a lifelong resident of west Smithfield. A manager for Coca-Cola, he has been with the company for more than 16 years. Before that, he was a sales manager for JR Tobacco and owned a dry-cleaning business in Raleigh. Wood worked part-time for Smithfield’s Parks and Recreation Department for almost 30 years before resigning in August to avoid any conflict of interest while running for town council. He continues to volunteer for the department as a coach.

“I’m dependable. I take a commonsense approach to things,” Wood said. “I’m devoted to the town’s growth as well as its image, and that’s proven after 28-plus years of being an employee with them.”

Seligson: 919-836-5768

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