This article was published in the Lenoir News-Topic; part of a series introducing candidates for city/town council in mayor in the eight municipalities in our county. To put the series together, I interviewed 45 candidates by phone.

In Lenoir, eight candidates are running for four seats on the city council. Three of the eight are incumbents; incumbent Lewis Price is not running.

Ike Perkins

Perkins, 67, has not previously served in a local elected office but has served on the Lenoir planning board.

Perkins said he wants to use his experience as a pastor and community activist to benefit the city. He said he’s most concerned with taxes, and with revenue cuts and other state actions that affect local governments.

“I see a lot of activities and a lot of things that are going positive,” he said. “I just want to be a part of a city and a part of an organization that’s really doing positive stuff and try to add what little expertise I can.”

Perkins is a full-time pastor and is the founder of the Learning Investment Network for Kids organization in Lenoir’s West End neighborhood.

Merlin Perry

Perry, 77, has served on the Lenoir City Council since 2005.

Perry said he considered not running for re-election, but he’s involved in several city initiatives he’d like to see completed. If elected, he said, he probably will not run for another term. Perry said he’s most concerned with improving the city’s aging infrastructure and with economic development.

“We’re not going to have the economic development if we don’t have good infrastructure,” Perry said. “They go hand in hand.”

Perry is retired and serves as a member of Caldwell County Pathways, the Friends of Wilson Creek board and First Baptist Church of Lenoir. He always serves on three National League of Cities committees and as Lenoir’s representative to the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

Jonathan Rogers

Rogers, 44, has not previously served in a local elected office. He was born and raised in Lenoir and spent 18 years serving in the U.S. Marine Corps.

He said he loves Lenoir and would like to bring a fresh perspective to the city council, saying many on the current council were first elected years ago.

“I want to take this chance to give this town more business and more jobs,” Rogers said.

Rogers works at Google’s Lenoir data center.

Ned Sanders

Sanders, 70, has not previously served in a local elected office. He said he has seen many changes to Caldwell County and Lenoir over a lifetime of living here and wants to be a part of meeting the city’s challenges.

Sanders said he wants to see Lenoir continue to build on its assets and its unique character to attract businesses and new residents.

“Lenoir has done a pretty good job of realizing our uniqueness, our character, our flavor, and that has to continue,” Sanders said. “We have to continue investing in Lenoir, in a community that attracts business and creates in them the desire to invest in Lenoir and in our residents.”

Sanders is retired from Sanders Communication Services Inc., the business he started in 1986. He is a member of the Lenoir Exchange Club, the Lower Creek Investment Club, the Unifour Trail Bike Club and Yadkin Baptist Church.

David F. Stevens

Stevens, 52, has served on the Lenoir City Council since 2003.

Stevens said he initially ran to bring a new perspective to issues facing the city. As a certified public accountant, he said, he felt his experience dealing with financial issues would benefit city residents. Now, Stevens said, he’s concerned about the economy and the need for diversified industry in Lenoir, reduced state funding for municipalities and the development and funding of a new street-resurfacing plan.

“Lenoir is very important to me and has been very good to me,” Stevens said. “I believe over the past 10 years we have made great strides in making Lenoir one of the best places to live and work, and I want to continue to be a part of this process and progress.”

Stevens works as a CPA and is a deacon and treasurer at First Baptist Church of Lenoir, chairman of the Centennial Foundation, a founding board member of the Harper School of Performing Arts and chairman of the Caldwell Railroad Commission.

Ron Stilwell

Stilwell, 68, has served on the Lenoir City Council since 2009 and has also served on the Caldwell County Board of Education.

Stilwell said he initially ran to do his civic duty. After serving on the council, he saw an opportunity to learn more about the workings of the city and about its people. He said he is most concerned with finding ways to provide jobs and income to residents of Lenoir, and ways to keep taxes low.

“There’s no politics involved in city government, there’s just a lot of good things going on,” Stilwell said. “With the difficulties of our economy over the last five to 10 years, having had a chance to work for four years with the city and get to know it better, I think it just gives me a little bit of an edge to try to help make our economy better and to serve the people.”

Stilwell is president of the Caldwell County Humane Society, vice chairman of the Helping Hands board and a deacon and chairman of the Dental Bus program at First Baptist of Lenoir. He works as a designer for his company, Stilwell Associates.

Crissy Thomas

Thomas, 45, has not previously served in a local office. She is a native of Lenoir who was recently transferred back to the area by her employer, Wells Fargo, after 15 years in Maryland.

Thomas said she wants a platform to make a difference and serve the community. She’s concerned about schools, jobs and ways to be more efficient with local tax dollars.

“I see great things happening here, and I feel like I could be a part of the progress that the community’s been working on,” Thomas said. “I’m from here, I was born here. I have roots.”

Thomas is a manager at Wells Fargo and a member of Caldwell Rotary, Communities in Schools, the Education Foundation and the Helping Hands board.

Gary Whisnant

Whisnant, 46, has not previously served in a local elected office, but he ran for city council in 2009. He said he is anti-tax and is focused on economic development, jobs and retaining businesses.

He said he also feels strongly about strengthening local businesses and reducing spending in order to lower taxes. He said he’s concerned for people like his neighbors – elderly people living on fixed incomes.

“I just believe that, with the way the economy is and everything, we should be looking at things a lot different,” Whisnant said. “I want Lenoir to be a place where people want to live, work and play.”

Whisnant works as a shipping coordinator, a volunteer firefighter and serves as second vice chair of the Caldwell County Republican Party.