Two for the Show

by Brittany Mollis

Veteran educators vie for seat on county commission

Commissioner Mark Baker is nthe principal at Salem Baptist Christian High School. He believes in then importance of education, and during his 16-year tenure at the school, nhe has learned a lot about leadership and what qualities are required ton be at the head of a community.

“Asn principal, you learn a lot about not only leadership, but you also nlearn a lot about the education system, budget and finance,” Baker said.n “You also learn how to listen to people.”

Appointedn to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in 2013, Baker worked withn his fellow commissioners to create an online survey to listen to the npublic. The purpose of this survey is to receive feedback from the ncitizens of Forsyth County when they interact with county staff. This ncan include anything from social services to animal control, and it nincludes all county offices.

“Wen work for the citizens of the county, and we wanted them to have a way nto let us know if we, as a whole, are doing a good job,” Baker said. “Wen have to listen to the people because that’s who we work for.”

Donn Martin was the superintendent of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County nSchool System for 19 years. During his tenure, he led the school system nduring a $23-million budget cut over a three-year span. This budget cut nhappened around the time of the recession, when people nationwide had nless money to spend. Like Commissioner Baker, Martin says that his time nspent in a leadership position in a school system has prepared him for an commissioner role.

“Onen of the most important things I’ve learned, aside from budget and nfinance, is how to listen to the public,” Martin said. “It’s also nimportant to ask good questions.”

Martinn and Baker both value education. They both know how to be a leader, and nthey both understand how important it is to listen to the citizens.

Commissionern Baker is a Republican. He considers himself to be a “common sense” nRepublican because he believes in the core ideology of the Republican nParty.

“I have been ncalled a Tea Party Republican, and I don’t understand what is bad about nthat,” Baker said. “They believe in less government, less taxes and moren personal responsibility.”

Don Martin is also a Republican. He considers himself to be a “moderate” Republican.

“Peoplen criticize me for saying that, but all it means is that I am more ninterested in working with constituents for the good of everyone rather nthan just stick to ideology of the Party,” Martin said.

Bakern also believes in both parties working together for the common good of nthe citizens, and he thinks that the biggest difference between his nviews and Martin’s regards taxation.

“I have people that come up to me and say, ‘you are a friend of the tax payer,'” Baker said.

Commissionern Baker believes in working for the people of Forsyth County in a way nthat will cost them the least amount of money. He is against raising ntaxes for the people of Forsyth County.

“The taxpayer is not an endless supply of money for the government,” Baker said. “We need to find ways to do more with less.”

Martinn agrees that he and Baker do not see eye-to-eye on taxation. “I do not nbelieve in just throwing people’s money around,” Martin said. “I also nwouldn’t say that I would never raise taxes because once you say n’never,’ you’re dealing with an absolute.”

Martin’s approach is to be creative with budgets and to find ways to maintain efficiency while working with less.

“People think that I am a tax-and-spend guy, but that’s not true,” Martin said, “not if there are other ways to finance things.”

Baker and Martin also have different ideas about Forsyth County’s Library bond that is now four years in the making.

Commissionern Baker is proud of the fact that the downtown library will go through nrenovation instead of building a new library because it saves the ntaxpayers of the county more money.

Martin doesn’t agree that saving the taxpayer’s money is always the best solution.

Martin believes in the importance of county projects, such as the ecofriendly landfill in Forsyth County.

Itn did cost taxpayers money, but he believes that it is effective, safe nand worth the money. Martin also wants to see the library projects in nKernersville, Clemmons and Winston-Salem move forward.

“These things have to get done,” Martin says.

Another difference that the two candidates have is ideas of economic development.

“In am against bringing in outside businesses to the county because I thinkn that is an unfair way to use the taxpayer’s money,” Baker stated on hisn website.

Commissionern Baker meets regularly with local business owners to figure out how to ncreate more jobs and expand business in Forsyth County without looking nto spend money on things like incentive packages that could cost the ntaxpayers. He says that he is open and willing to work with these nbusiness owners to see what government regulations may be in the way of nexpansion and growth.

Ton generate interest in the area for new businesses, more funding would nhave to be given to Winston-Salem Business Inc. so that they would be nable to “better sell” the community to potential companies. The budget nfor Winston-Salem Business Inc. was cut over the past year.

Whilen Baker is against incentive packages, Martin believes that they play an nimportant part in the economic development of Winston-Salem and Forsyth nCounty.

As of Dec n2012, an estimated 70 city and county incentive packages were given to nbusinesses since 1990. The cost of those incentive packages was about n$112 million.

Martin does admit that giving incentive packages to new businesses can be risky at times nbecause you don’t know if they will succeed, but usually these companiesn have to pay an “upfront” cost that must be paid back, even if the nbusiness closes.

“An nincentive package for a new business is just postponing taxes until theyn meet a certain criteria,” Martin said. “Once the criteria is met, they nwill pay them.” !