Voters in the Northwest Ward of Winston-Salem will have solid choice between strong Democratic and Republican candidates in the general election in November.
The seat became open when Councilwoman Wanda Merschel, a Democrat, announced her retirement last month. Jeff MacIntosh, a realtor who shares a common history with Merschel of community leadership to revitalize a core neighborhood, filed early.
Today, Republican Lida Hayes-Calvert filed for the seat. Out of eight wards, only the West Ward is currently represented by a Republican council member. Of the remaining seven, the Northwest Ward is the most competitive for a Republican, with a breakdown of 31.1 percent registered Republicans, 40.6 percent Democrats and 27.9 percent unaffiliated voters.
"I'm a conservative; I want lower taxes," Hayes-Calvert said. "I want a safe community, not just the Northwest Ward but all across the city. I want us to be able to create more jobs. I've been able to create more jobs in Winston-Sale, and I know how to do it."
As the owner of S&L Painting & Decorating, Hayes-Calvert has received widespread recognition as a woman entrepreneur who built a successful business in a traditionally male-dominated industry. She comes to the race with experience as a member of the Citizens Organizational Efficiency and Review Committee, which recommended $4 million in cost savings in the city's annual budget.
Hayes-Calvert has strong institutional support in the GOP considering that her campaign chairman, Bill Miller, is a former chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party. And as an indication of potential financial support for the campaign, the candidate has hired Todd Poole, a former staffer for US Rep. Virginia Foxx, as a consultant.
Hayes-Calvert said she decided to start her own business in the 1980s because she believed her opportunity for advancement would be more limited in the corporate world.
"It's a little different making your check rather than someone paying your check," she said. "You've got to really want it. I've been doing it since 1986. Especially at that time being a woman in construction wasn't easy. When I'd walk into the office to talk to people in the business the first thing I'd see is a calendar of naked women. That wasn't very fun. But you tell them why you're there, and you move past it. I might not be the smartest cookie on the block, but I work hard."
Hayes-Calvert said she was disappointed that the current council didn't act on more of the efficiency committee's recommendations for cost savings.
"I think a lot of that — I hate to say that — is politically driven," she said. "It's not taking into consideration all of the citizens of Winston-Salem.... We've got to look at the forest, not the trees."
As an example, a recommendation that the city begin requiring doctor's notes from residents who want special backyard trash pickup didn't make it into the final budget. Winston-Salem's per capita rate of enrollment in the special program is about five time higher than most other cities across the state. The efficiency committee estimated the city could save $114,000 by requiring doctor's notes and thereby reducing abuse of the program.
"That is wasteful spending," Hayes-Calvert said. "Anybody can just call in and say, 'Hey, I want my garbage picked up in my backyard,' and the city will just say, 'Hey, okay, what's your address? No doctor's note need.'"
Like Merschel, MacIntosh is a moderate Democrat who became engaged in city politics as a neighborhood advocate. MacIntosh has volunteered with Merschel's campaigns in the past.
"I've known Wanda and her husband for awhile," MacIntosh said. "They were pioneers and early adopters in the West End, similar to me and my wife in the Holly Avenue area. We faced some of the same challenges with people converting properties to offices and multifamily housing. I can't think of any issues as it regards neighborhoods where we differ."
MacIntosh approaches neighborhood stabilization not only from the standpoint of protecting residents' quality of life but also promoting economic development to benefit the entire city.
"Preservation is important as an economic development tool," he said. "It's important from a who-we-are-and-where-we've-been standpoint, but it's also important to expanding the tax base. You can only afford so much preservation because it's cool and old."
MacIntosh also supports many of the downtown revitalization initiatives supported by Merschel during her 16 years on council.
"I'm a huge fan of the conversion of 4th Street from one way to two way," he said. "The Restaurant Row program people saw as risky, but it turned out to be a huge success."
Going forward, MacIntosh said the challenge for city council is to fill in the patchwork of uneven growth in and around downtown.
"We've got a bunch of holes in between that are unattractive to walk past," he said. "They're not generating any tax revenue. We need to entice people to reuse infrastructure that we already have. We can't just give incentives to every business that asks for it or we would run out of money. The key is figuring out how to do it strategically."