Dean favors common-sense approach to public service

by Keith Barber

Inspiration can come at the most unexpected times. As the president of a local youth lacrosse league, Stan Dean had his first face-to-face encounter with Forsyth County government last year. Dean, a lawyer for a Winston-Salem firm, attempted to reserve playing fields for his sons, John and Michael, to play with their teammates. Dean, who is running for the Forsyth County Commission District B seat against Republican incumbent Debra Conrad, said the more he learned about the county’s parks and recreation facilities, the more interested he became in how the county spends its revenues and allocates its resources.

“It kind of grew from a small idea,” Dean said.

Dean knows a little something about politics. Upon graduation from the University of Arkansas School of Law in 1992, Dean went to work as a legislative assistant for former US Rep. Tommy Robinson (R-Ark.) in Washington. In 1993, Dean and his wife, Laura, moved to Winston-Salem. Laura did her residency for anesthesiology at Wake Forest Bowman Gray School of Medicine, while Stan practiced law. Stan Dean has been involved in the community for many years as a board member of Stop Child Abuse Now, or SCAN, and a board member at the Montessori school attended by his children, John, Michael and Martha.

Dean said he believes this is a good time to challenge a conservative Republican like Conrad.

“It’s been 4-3 Republican for a long time and I think there has been more [partisanship] than is necessary,” Dean said. “It’s local county government — the goal should

be what’s best for Forsyth County and how best do we allocate our resources.”

Dean cited the issue over sectarian prayer given prior to county commissioner meetings as an example of partisanship pushing out common sense. Dean identified two components to the prayer issue — the board’s prayer policy and the decision by the commissioners to appeal the Jan. 28 ruling of US District Court Judge James Beaty that the use of sectarian prayer at commission meetings violates the First Amendment.

The commissioners accepted $300,000 from the NC Partnership for Religious Liberty, or NCPRL, to pay its legal fees but the county’s agreement with the NCPRL clearly states that if the county is assessed fees, costs and damages by the US District Court or by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals beyond the total amount of funds guaranteed, the nonprofit group “shall in no way be responsible for any further financial obligation to the county.”

Dean said the board’s decision to appeal Judge Beaty’s ruling is troubling on several levels.

“The county has had several chances along the line to change their course and they have continued to reject it,” Dean said. “This is one of those instances where partisan politics is getting in the way of good judgment.”

If elected, Dean said he would advocate that the commission adopt an inclusive and nonsectarian prayer policy similar to ones that have been successfully implemented by other government entities. The current agreement with the NCPRL has placed the county at financial risk, Dean said.

Dean said he and Conrad diverge sharply on the issue of economic incentives. Dean is a proponent of offering economic incentive packages to attract industry to the area, while Conrad has typically opposed such measures. Dean believes the only way to increase the tax base is to bring jobs to the area.

“If you don’t go out and aggressively market yourself to other companies, you’re not going to grow and you’re not going to have those increased revenues,” he said.

Dean praised the commission for its successful efforts to bring a new $426 million Caterpillar manufacturing facility to the county.

If elected, Dean said he would make education a priority by investing in technology in schools. He lauded the commission for including an element of accountability for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools in its 2010-2011 budget.

With regard to improving government efficiency, Dean said Forsyth should take a page from Durham County by creating a synergy between government agencies and nonprofits to identify overlap of services and cut costs by streamlining county operations.

If elected, Dean said he would fully support the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, which greatly enhances the area’s quality of life.

“I think the arts are vital to Winston-Salem — our symphony, the [UNC] School of the Arts, RiverRun — we should fully support those,” Dean said. “That’s what makes us unique and different. You bring in those partnerships, you bring in those events, and that’s another revenue enhancer.”

Improving the county’s parks and recreation facilities — the initial inspiration for Dean’s decision to dive into local politics — would also be a top priority. With improved quality of life comes an enhanced ability to attract and retain young professionals, and that is one of the keys to future economic growth in Forsyth County, Dean said.

“When I first moved here, people would come to school here and they would leave quickly, but that’s changing,” he said.