Mary Rakestraw, District 4 candidate

by Yes Weekly Election Coverage

Residential address: 101 E. Avondale Drive, 27403

Incumbent or challenger? (Open seat)

Age: 61

Campaign website or blog:

Occupation and employer: [Incomplete]

Previous elective experience (including election campaigns): Serving first term on city council, at-large; served two terms on the Guilford County Commission, 1996-2004

Civic and volunteer experience (including service on city commissions and boards): Currently serves as city liaison to the Piedmont Triad Council of Goverments, Friends of the Library Advocacy Committee, Guilford County Agricultural Advisory Board, Summit House Board of Directors, Red Cross Board of Directors, NC Association of County Boards of Social Services State Board, Courtwatch Advisory Board, Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church, Housing Partnership Coalition board member; member, Kiwanis Club of Greensboro; Paul Harris Fellow, Crescent Rotary Club; Leadership Greensboro; Other Voices; adopted a 5th grade class at Cone Elementary

Education (highest degree attained and name of institution): Certificate in French, University of Brussels

Party registration: Republican (nonpartisan election)

What is the city and state of your birth? [Incomplete]

If not Greensboro, what year did you move here? [Incomplete]

Paid consultants working on your campaign: [Incomplete]

Your campaign manager(s): [Incomplete]

Your treasurer: Phyllis P. Gibbs

Remarks from Oct. 12 candidate forum: Introductory statement Can you all hear me in the back? Okay, I won’t use the microphone. I rarely need a microphone. But if y’all need one, you just let me know. I apologize for my voice; a few allergies have settled in my chest, but we’ll move ahead. I am Mary Rakestraw, and I’m asking you to vote for me for District 4. Let me tell you a little bit about my background so you’ll know what I’ve done. First of all, I worked for the Department of Social Services for seven years. I was a caseworker for three and a half years, as well as a supervisor for three and a half years. I’ve worked not only in Greensboro, but in High Point. And I’ve learned how to do so many different things. I learned one of the most important things, being a good worker at the Department of Social Services, is how to ask questions. I have found that, especially not only those folks who were coming through the Department of Social Services but some of our senior citizens, didn’t know how to ask the right questions. So that’s what I do on the city council. I ask questions for everybody. I ask questions that may not be popular. I may ask the questions that you might not like but you ultimately want to hear the answer to. Now, that should not be, by any means, being argumentative. I just need to know the answers to my questions. And I am one of those who has an inquiring mind. I’ve also worked with the Red Cross. And I want to tell you how I used my skills there. When I decided to volunteer for the Red Cross, it was during Katrina. And that was a very important time. People were coming from all over the Southeast, and the Deep South, to come here, to seek some kind of help and aid. I talked to people who sat there before me and told me stories of heartache and heartbreak that you had to listen to each and every one. And every time you finished with that family you had to go back and get another family and listen to an even more tragic story. With my background in the Department of Social Services, I was able to help those people there, too. Everything that I have done, from the Red Cross to the Department of Social Services, from Court Watch to also Summit House has been involved with people who have had a hard time getting maybe a fair shake in life, or didn’t make the right decisions. As a Guilford County commissioner, I spent nine years on the Department of Social Services as well as the board, and I chaired the board the last year. Now, people say, “You don’t have a social services at the city.” But you do have issues that are the very same. And once again, you have to ask and answer questions for people. Let me tell you this: We do need jobs in Greensboro. This is a great place to live. It’s a wonderful place to live. But we’re asked to go in the back room, and listen to people bring all kinds of projects into our city. We have to make a decision on who can come in and what we can do. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I generally don’t — well, let’s just say I’ve never voted to give a cash incentive to a business, but what I have done is to work for the infrastructure. Infrastructure, when you have that in place, you can bring anybody into Greensboro, and they’ll want to move here. Do we have a problem with our police department? Yes. We have some problems with our police department. But we do have wonderful men and women who put that badge on and strap that gun to their hip everyday to protect and serve. And sometimes it’s just like in the classroom when I was growing up. There might be a few people who are disruptive and give the entire association a bad name. But we’re trying to change that. We’re trying to work with that. And with our new city manager coming in on — well, I’ll be meeting with him on Friday, I look forward to discussing some of these issues with him. We need jobs, yes. We need people who want to work, who want to volunteer. And you all can say in your neighborhoods: “Well, you don’t understand.” Well, if you don’t let us know what you need in your neighborhoods, you’re right. Laura Jackson, I’ll use her as an example. And I hope she won’t get upset about this. She would come to the city council, and she would talk about the SuperJam and the problems that they were having. All I want to say is that I went and viewed that firsthand from a neighbor’s front porch. And ladies and gentlemen, if you don’t talk to us we can’t help you. And we’re going to do the very best that we can. I appreciate your vote on November the third. For District 4, Mary Rakestraw.

The question relates to the situation with police Officer AJ Blake. What can we do now to prevent a repeat occurrence of this, where we have the city manager very publicly overruling the chief of police on an issue and upsetting dozens of police officers to the point that they would come out to a city council meeting in a silent show of protest? When this decision was made by our interim city manager I did ask for a meeting of our city council with our mayor, my colleagues, the city attorney and the interim city manager. The police department has standards in place. They know what’s expected of them, but for some reason — and I cannot tell you this — they’re not being enforced. And these are the types of things we need to have enforced. Because we want it across the board. We don’t want special rules and regulations for different people. Everything should be across the board in the police department. We did have our meeting. We went into closed session. I can tell you that I am still feel somewhat concerned with this because I feel that Chief [Tim] Bellamy has been under fire, and a review board made this decision for the termination of Officer Blake. And then it went to Chief Bellamy who also upheld that recommendation. Now, when this was overturned, or his decision was overruled it concerns me because he looked like, well, who’s running the police department? And it looks like his credibility was compromised as well as his decision-making ability. I’m hoping that — we made a couple of resolutions and we passed them, but we’ve got to make sure that all police officers understand the rules and regulations. They already have them at the police department. They just need to be enforced. Pretend you are Greensboro’s lead economic ambassador for one day. You’re on a visit to Silicon Valley, and you’re meeting with a high-tech company there. What would you tell them to convince them to relocate a major facility with 500 good-paying jobs to the city of Greensboro? Well, it’s easy enough to sell Greensboro: Greensboro sells itself. It’s got a wonderful environment to live here. People are business friendly. We have colleges and universities. We have businesses that relocated here. My husband worked for a small company that relocated here, and it’s called Vanity Fair Corporation. Now, they’re still here and they’re doing business. We have arts, we have parks, we’ve got it all, ladies and gentlemen. But we’ve got to have the infrastructure, again; we’ve said, site-ready places. We’ve got to have an airport that’s ready to take us anywhere and everywhere all over this world. We’ve got to be global, and we’ve got to be able to do all this. And we have it. We have it here in Greensboro. Now, if you want to come to a college town, you get more than just a college town in Greensboro. You have all kinds of businesses, small and large. If you want to come and be an entrepreneur, this is the place to come. If you want to learn how to raise a family, where people are friendly and they look after one another, this is a good place. Do we have crime? We do. But we don’t have crime like you probably do in Silicon Valley. I can’t even say it, much less go there. But this is the place to be. Greensboro is the place to be. When my husband and I, we got out of the service, this is where we came. We started working with Blue Bell, and now we went through and retired through Vanity Fair Corporation. This is a great place to be. People want to come here. People pass through here, and they want to retire here. So we’ve got it all. We’ve got it all. All you have to do is spend one day with us and with Our State magazine, and that’s fine. That’s all they need to do. Thank you very much. Should we be concerned that our population in this city is stagnant or dropping, when Raleigh and Charlotte are increasing? Should we be concerned that we’re ranked the 37th smartest city compared to No. 5 in the Triangle and 14, Charlotte? Is our community stagnating, in light of some of our indicators? I think a memo needs to be sent out to all the colleges and universities and the communities colleges to ask them this question: Are you feeling smart today? All right, good. You’re feeling smart today. We do have the educational system here. And I want to tell you one thing right now. Not only do our public schools and our private schools and our charter schools and our home schools schools, we’ve got a lot of well educated people who know how to do things with their hands that they’ve gone to community colleges to learn, to get their GED, to get whatever degree they want. We have people in this community that can take any kind of course anywhere in this city, and be happy. Now, I don’t know how they arrived at these statistics, and it really doesn’t matter. It’s how smart are you feeling today? If you’re not feeling smart, then we need to talk to our local colleges and universities. But I will say this: With all the bonds that fail and pass, I don’t think a community college like GTCC has ever lost a bond. Ever. I had the opportunity to sit on the stage with these students from 16 years old to 70 years old walking across, getting whatever degree they wanted. So this is very important to us. And so I don’t think we should put a lot of emphasis on that until we find out where those statistics are. And again, when we’ve got annexation, I don’t vote for forced annexation because we don’t have the infrastructure to support it. And that’s something we’ve got to do when we consider annexation. The city has made an effort to communicate better with city residents in the creation of an assistant city manager position for communications and other steps. Comment on the city’s efforts to communicate better with its citizens and what more can be done to improve communications and transparency. In this wonderful world of tweeting and twuttering and whatever you want to do, blogging and e-mailing and faxing and calling, there’s no reason why people shouldn’t be able to get information. Now, having said that, let me you a little probably I have with sometimes the city staff: Some times it’s hard to get information. Sometimes maybe it’s not convenient, or maybe they don’t want to make it available. Maybe. I’m just saying maybe. Maybe they don’t want you to have the information right then. But if we want the city council people to make the best decisions that we can make we have to have the facts before us. We’ve got to have the information. We do have Channel 13 and we have the website. And I tell you: I think one of the best things we have is called 373-CITY. Those are some of the nicest people I’ve ever talked to. And tell them what you want, and they can help you, put you in the right direction. Now, again, sometimes people have not been able — citizens who wanted information — to do reporting — we’ve been sued by the News & Record, we’ve been sued by The Rhinoceros Times, I think. We’ve been sued by about everybody, y’all — to get information. So there is a problem there. And we need to have that information. Now, I don’t know, I can’t go as far as Mr. Boyett says about the closed sessions. Sometimes we have to have them for personnel issues. And if we want to have economic development people aren’t going to run up to us and start singing what they, you know, can do for us right there in public. I’ve always been transparent. I’m accessible and I’m available. I’ve never had a person who said, “I can’t get in touch with you.” Wherever I am, there’s the public, and that’s the way it should be. That’s what a public official is all about. And you should always be available to the public when they call you. There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the removal of the public-art Five Points bench placed on the Downtown Greenway in the Warnersville community. Do you support the city’s decision to remove these benches? Why or why not? What would you propose as the best long-term solution to the problem of drugs, prostitution, public intoxication and loitering at this location so that users of the greenway and neighbors feel safe? Would you support the replacement of the bench back at its original location? Thank you. When I got the call from Andy Scott saying that they had made the decision to move those benches one of the reasons was some of the neighbors had come and had spoken before the city council. And that they were concerned because they felt like, it was right in the direct vision of some of the neighbors and they were complaining about the prostitution and the drinking and everything else that was going on over there. Now, I don’t know that if by removing the benches we’ve removed the problem. I haven’t heard anybody say. So, what else are we going to do? We’re going to need more police officers on foot. We need something else to do. Now, at some point I feel like the benches will be restored, but when I don’t know. But we’ve got to have some kind of agreement with the folks that are affected, the council person that represents that area. And I think it’s best that we monitor this because I think people have just really had — the neighbors are upset. The city now is upset. Look at the person who created these benches. He’s upset. So let’s see what we can do to have some kind of a win-win situation with this.

Stories about this candidate:

Greensboro primary election endorsements

Rakestraw wants to continue to clean up police department

Blog posts about this candidate:

Republican rallying cries

Joel Landau and the ghosts of ’79

Landau goes on the offensive

Nancy Vaughan leads at-large polling in Greensboro

Greensboro council to discuss officer’s reinstatement

D4 and D3 campaign finance update

Missing Rakestraw expenditures surface

Greensboro election money race

Guilford Unity forum tonight

Vaughan leads money race for Greensboro council

Rakestraw identifies donors

SBOE: Rakestraw must amend reports

Murphy on campaign finance letter

Did Mary Rakestraw violate campaign finance law?

Greensboro city manager receives no raise