Fayetteville, N.C. — Election Day is next Tuesday, Nov. 5, and four-term Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne is not running for re-election. The two people vying to replace him share two priorities in common but promise different approaches.
In a public forum Tuesday at Fayetteville State University's Seabrook Auditorium, Val Applewhite and Nat Robertson agreed that crime and economic development will be the focus of the next mayor.
"Crime in our community has to be a priority," said Applewhite, a real estate agent and member of the City Council since 2007. "It's about inclusion and opportunity – safe families, safe streets and making Fayetteville a community of choice."
"Economic development is a huge priority right behind crime," Robertson said. "It basically boils down to quality of life, and that's why I'm running for mayor – to improve the quality of life."
A doctor, Robertson served four terms on the City Council and challenged Chavonne in 2011.
He talks about targeting high crime areas with more officers in temporary substations. Applewhite focuses on underlying social problems and a newly created crime task force.
Applewhite says the city economy can be improved by using tax dollars to put more residents to work.
"There are contracts that come through here," she said. "We should keep tax dollars here."
Robertson says rules and regulations are keeping investment out, and Applewhite agrees.
"The UDO (Fayetteville's Unified Development Ordinance, adopted in December 2010) is over-reaching, hurting development everywhere," she said.
The collegiality extended even when questioners brought up accusations that Applewhite had enticed voters with limo rides and restaurant meals. Robertson refused to get into the mud.
"I think the newspapers sensationalize a lot," he said. Val is a good person and we talk a lot."
What could have been a heated political back-and-forth instead ended up sounding many of the same notes.
"It's about who can serve the city the best," Robertson said. "I've got eight years' experience. I was very proud of my voting record on the City Council."
"I'm a 20-year Air Force veteran. I have significant leadership experience. I understand the military community," Applewhite said.