Southern Pines 2011: handicapping the races


Pinehurst is not alone with its silly season.  Southern Pines has one that has geared up as well.

The Town has two council seats up for election — one vacant — as well as its mayor post — which is also being vacated.  Mayor Mike Haney and Council member Mike Fields are each stepping aside, to make way for ‘new blood.’

This year’s election appears to have the same theme as the one two years ago:  NIMBY, environmentalist, left-of-center  interests vs. Establishment, conservative, pro-business, pro-growth interests. 

Mayor:   This race pits two incumbent council members — David McNeill and Chris Smithson — against each other.  (Smithson lost the last race for mayor to Mike Haney.  McNeill is serving his first term on the town council.)  Smithson is backed strongly by the NIMBY forces, and he voices a lot of their concerns in council meetings.  The more conservative, pro-business  sectors of the community appear to be gravitating toward McNeill.

It’s often been said that great leaders speak little, and listen a lot.  McNeill is quiet and unassuming, while it’s often hard to get Smithson to stop talking (as evidenced by his MANY postings on his personal web site, the message boards on The Pilot web site, and other blogs) .   Smithson may have committed the first big gaffe of the campaign, by ticking off prominent and respected Southern Pines resident and businessman (not to mention Moore County GOP chairman) Bob Levy.

On his web site, McNeill mentions that he is a retired county manager with 31 years of experience in Edgecombe, Transylvania, Moore, and Guilford Counties.  Smithson grew up in Southern Pines and manages his family’s business.

On his web site, Smithson cites his motives for running:

I’m running because I believe it’s time for a different type of leadership: more open, transparent, inclusive, and participative- one which empowers Southern Pines residents to be the true governing body of the town.
I believe I not only represent that type of leadership, but have continuously advocated for it.
The citizens are the heart of Southern Pines. Council members are stewards entrusted by the people to conduct the Town’s business in a way that will best serve them and protect their right to influence the Town’s policy direction and have an effective voice in the decisions the Town considers.
Throughout the development of our Comprehensive Long Range Plan, the citizens of Southern Pines were clear they have no desire for a paternalistic town government, which merely pays lip service to minimum legal requirements for citizen participation and then makes decisions as if in a vacuum.

I not only recognize that the residents are the true governing body of the town, I agree and advocate for it.

In politics, there are those who represent some of the people all of the time…

Others represent all of the people some of the time…

Very few represent ALL of the people ALL of the time…

McNeill also puts in his two cents about his motives for running:

Our current Mayor, Mike Haney, has decided not to run again for the position. Like many of you, I am grateful for his service to the Town over the past 14 years.

It is for this reason that I have decided to offer my name as a choice for Mayor of Southern Pines. I pledge to work hard in this leadership role utilizing 31 years of planning and management experience.

Working to see that our reservoir is completed; keeping our area attractive; providing a favorable business climate; keeping our neighborhoods safe; and working cooperatively with the other governmental jurisdictions in our area; all are priorities of mine.

Here is a copy of a questionnaire Smithson completed when he ran for mayor in 2007.

Council:  Councilman Fred Walden, who has ably represented the town’s west side for many years, has thrown his hat in the ring to seek another term.  Walden has been praised throughout the town for his efforts to work with the ENTIRE community to keep Southern Pines strong.

Incumbent councilman Mike Fields, who was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Abigail Dowd and won reelection two years ago, is not running this year.   Fields, also a former mayor of Southern Pines, is openly and enthusiastically endorsing the candidacy of  Jim Simeon  to fill his seat.

Two familiar faces to Southern Pines politics round out the field for the council election:  David Woodruff and Marsh Smith.   Smith ran unsuccessfully against Fields for a council seat two years ago.  He is a local attorney best known for representing environmental interests and filing complaints to block developments in town and around the county.

Woodruff is a longtime council member who ran for mayor in 2007.  He lost his bid for reelection to the council in 2009.  Here is a copy of a questionnaire he filled out for The Moore Chamber when he ran for mayor in 2007.