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Stroud: Education is ‘key to success’
Candidate supports EDC, says city needs different types of industry
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Education is the key to success for the community and its residents, according to Martinsville City Council candidate Mark Stroud.
That is why the council must support the city schools and local institutions of higher education as much as possible, according to Stroud, one of two incumbents among the four council candidates in Tuesday’s election.
He and other current council members “believe education is very critical to our citizens to provide them the tools they need to get gainful employment,” he said.
Stroud wishes he had realized that as a teenager, and he now often relates his experiences in pursuing an education to people he meets, especially ones he thinks need to be convinced to go to college.
Stroud attended Martinsville High School. He dropped out, though, because at the time he thought he “knew everything I needed to know,” he recalled.
But “all of a sudden the light came on” and he realized he needed a good education if he was to get a good job.
He then earned a GED certificate, the equivalent of a high school diploma. He went on to earn two associate degrees from Patrick Henry Community College, where he graduated with honors and was recognized as Male Student of the Year in the 1994-95 academic year.
Stroud spent many years in emergency services, retiring as a master deputy with the Martinsville Sheriff’s Office.
His first four-year term as a council member is nearing an end.
“I’m very serious about my service” on the council, Stroud said, because “this (Martinsville) is my home. I’ve lived here all my life.”
“It’s very important to me to be in a position to help Martinsville move forward” to better economic times, he said.
Ultimately, Stroud said he hopes city residents think he is a good council member because he was “raised to care for my fellow man and respect all people, and I try to do that.”
Stroud said the biggest issue facing Martinsville right now is its consistently double-digit unemployment rates, which are the highest in the state.
For new jobs to be created, he said, the city must continue supporting the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp. (EDC), which takes the lead role in recruiting new businesses and industries to the community.
Although the EDC has been successful in its mission, “we need more jobs” and the city should provide incentives to recruit businesses, Stroud said.
He said the city should keep partnering with the county to share revenues from certain industrial sites developed in the county. He called it a “win-win” situation for both localities.
One of those sites, he noted, will be the Commonwealth Crossing Business Centre being developed off U.S. 220 near the North Carolina line. Like other local officials, he is frustrated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not approved a permit necessary for the industrial park’s development because they say the project is speculative with no companies committed to it yet.
He remains optimistic that officials eventually will change the corps’ mind.
Companies are “very much interested in the site,” but they do not want to make a commitment until it is graded, Stroud said. “It’s a terrible catch-22.”
But “I don’t know how you take on the Army Corps of Engineers,” he admitted.
Stroud said efforts continue to market the Rives Road Industrial Park and Clearview Business Park, both of which are graded. He said, however, that officials hear more interest in Rives Road than Clearview, where Henry-Martinsville Social Services has moved.
Amid efforts to lure high-tech companies, Stroud said the community still must try to attract traditional types of manufacturers that can supply jobs for older residents who may have a hard time being trained for new, heavily computerized types of manufacturing.
To grow the local tax base, he said the city also must work to attract new residents, including retirees from northern states where the cost of living is much higher.
Stroud does not want to see the city cut services to improve its finances.
“The main thing I hear from our citizens is they like the services they have and would rather pay a little more” to continue them if necessary, he said.
But if budget cuts must be made, Stroud does not want to see personnel cuts. The city’s payroll has dropped from more than 300 employees a few years ago to about 240 now, and the remaining employees are “all doing jobs of several people and are stretched about as far as they can go,” he said.
For services to continue to be effective, “we can’t cut personnel further,” he emphasized.
Stroud noted that the city basically has been under a hiring freeze for the past several years. Yet when a job becomes open, he said, “the city should hire the person ... best suited to do the job efficiently and effectively.”
He said city administrators are mindful of some residents’ desire for the city and its schools to hire more minority applicants. He said they are “working to improve those numbers” but “we don’t have a lot of turnover” among employees.
City jobs should be advertised in “sources that reach out” to minorities, he said.
The city is an equal opportunity employer, Stroud said, but as a councilman “I’m not going to set a quota” for hiring minorities.
That is not the council’s duty, he said. The council legally is responsible for hiring only the city manager and city attorney, both of whom report to the council. Other workers are hired by city administrators and report to the city manager or a department head or manager.
“The only time” that council members are able to get involved in matters involving personnel other than the city manager and city attorney is when they hear multiple complaints about employees, Stroud said.
Then they can only offer recommendations on how to deal with those employees, he indicated.
But “those instances (of complaints about workers) are few and far between,” Stroud said.