Some of the lessons Commissioner Jeff Neely learned from his first town board campaign in 2011, which saw him miss a seat on the dais by 47 votes, were conventional.
“The more you get out there and the more you talk to people, the more well-known you’re going to become,” Neely said.
A less conventional lesson Neely learned relates to how he goes about being well known to voters.
“I’m using the signs from the last election, so that’s one less expense,” he said with a laugh.
Neely served on the planning board from 2008 to 2012. He was the second commissioner, behind Mayor Pro Tem Sarah McAulay, to file for the 2013 election and the first to roll out a campaign website.
Commissioner Ron Julian, who has won all three races he’s entered, said he won’t change his approach to campaigning. Julian will put up signs for his campaign and maintain a website, but there’s a line he won’t cross.
“I don’t raise money and I never have,” he said. “I feel that if you get the word out verbally and go meet people, it works. I don’t want to be tied to anybody but Huntersville citizens.”
Commissioner Danny Phillips decided in mid-July to run for town board again. Phillips said his campaign will be much of the same as last time, with meeting people and discussing his priorities – including road and infrastructure improvements – with townspeople.
Julian has some advice for prospective candidates, regardless of what elected office they’re seeking.
“It’s about using your time,” he said. “As a commissioner, I spend 20 hours a week doing town business (including) meetings, talking with residents and just working with the public and supporting the public.
“Time is important with the campaign and the job.”
First-time candidate Rob Kidwell echoed Julian’s sentiment. Kidwell has never run for office but worked on campaigns for other politicians.
He’s not the only new town board hopeful with political experience. Franklin Freeman is a member of Huntersville’s planning board.
The town’s other two newcomers in the election, Nick Walsh and Lawrence Brinson, will attempt to earn seats on the dais with no prior political experience.
Kidwell said he’ll use signs and meet-and-greets at local businesses to get his name out to the public. Another method, he said, will be social media. Kidwell opened Facebook and Twitter pages devoted to his campaign.
“In this day and age, people are on social media and smartphones a lot,” Kidwell said.?“I intend to use that to my advantage.”
Kidwell, Freeman, Walsh and Brinson will run against all six sitting board members.
McAulay, who earned more votes – 2,023 – than any candidate in the 2011 election, is one of the town’s most seasoned politicians.
She served as mayor from 1979 to 1991 and has been a commissioner since 2001.
Commissioner Charles Guignard was elected to the town board in 2011 for the first time since 2001.
Fellow commissioner Melinda Bales, who is finishing her first term as a commissioner, said experience is helpful in a campaign. It isn’t the most important thing, however.
“You’ve got to know the issues and be able to offer solutions,” she said. “It’s also important to be an active part of the community.”
Bales plans to spend money on her campaign, but she won’t go over the $1,000 limit placed on candidates.
“I feel strongly about being able to stay within that limit,” Bales said. “It’s important to work hard on a campaign while being fiscally responsible.”
Huntersville Board of Commissioners
Residents will choose among 10 candidates for six available seats. Candidates are as follows:
• Melinda Bales
• Lawrence Brinson
• Franklin Freeman
• Charles Guignard
• Ron Julian
• Rob Kidwell
• Sarah McAulay
• Jeff Neely
• Danny Phillips
• Nick Walsh