By Adam Smith
With five candidates vying for the Limestone County Commission District 2 seat in the March 13 primary election, there was little surprise the results would lead to a runoff.
Steve “Ned” Turner garnered 40 percent of the vote in that race, while second place finisher Richard Lauderdale picked up 33 percent. Because there is no Democratic challenger, the winner of Tuesday’s runoff will take office in November.
Though both candidates are Republicans, Turner and Lauderdale have differing opinions on issues related to debris cleanup and how the county can best capitalize on reining in expenses while promoting economic growth.
Their similarities include an enduring love of the East Limestone community, which is represented by the District 2 seat. And both recognize that being elected to the commission won’t mean an easy ride attached to a $52,498 annual salary. Turner and Lauderdale, however, are no strangers to hard work. Lauderdale has operated Lauderdale & Son Painting, a commercial and residential painting business, since 1975. Turner is working toward a college degree while driving to Spring Hill, Tenn., to work on a General Motors assembly line. Both men took time Friday to answer these questions:
Q. What have been the biggest issues voters have addressed with you during the campaign?
Turner: “Whether or not (the county) is going to clean the (March 2) storm debris up. Outside of that, they’re just making sure the county is not wasting their money and doing what they can to improve the quality of the roads and making sure the grass is cut and trash is picked up.”
Lauderdale: “The biggest issue has been the water flow and ditches that need to be cleaned out. Part of it was caused by the storms. Of course, everybody talks about the storm damage, but there’s not a whole lot you can do.”
Q. What’s your opinion on the county’s decision to fund debris removal operations following the March 2 tornadoes?
Turner: “I’d love to be able to say I’d load up every man and piece of equipment and clean that stuff up, but the county will be paying the bill. I sympathize with (storm victims) because I live in the same area. I’m just not sure it’s the county’s responsibility because it drags you into the problem of where does the county stop and private property begin? I really would like for the county to stay off my private property, but you can’t have a two-way street.”
Lauderdale: “I understand why (the county) did it, and if (debris) is on the county rights-of-way, I have no problem and it’s the county’s responsibility. I’m sure the money was put to good use and I know the people of East Limestone are proud they did it for them. There’s much more cleanup to be done, though a lot of it is building materials and (property owners) need to take care of it themselves.”
Q. After the recent windfall of good economic news, what plans do you have to keep the development momentum going in Limestone County?
Turner: “It will be a goal of mine to make (the county’s) appearance better, because it adds to the attraction factor when you start recruiting new businesses to the area. We’ve had some success over the last few months and if other companies see us as a favorable spot, that will be a huge draw for other companies. I think we’re heading in the right direction and the more businesses we can attract, the better off we’ll be. The commission needs to encourage small businesses to locate here, too. The more jobs you can create, the more it benefits the community.”
Lauderdale: : “I would just keep the communication open with these big companies. I know the (Athens-Limestone Economic Development Association) has done a good job with getting leads and following up on them. I just hope they keep up the good work.”
Q. What specific plans do you have to increase fiscal responsibility at a county level?
Turner:”I don’t know specifically what I can do because I haven’t been in the job and I don’t know what I could do to save money. If we’re going to be awarding contracts, I plan to look at those to ensure the details are right and there aren’t any loopholes that may end up costing us more. I’m going to be the kind of person that will make sure (the contractor) sticks to their deadlines. We need to offer benefits to contractors for meeting their deadlines or finishing ahead of time as opposed to (imposing) fees once they pass their deadline.”
Lauderdale: “I think we must be on a pretty good path because we’re not deep in debt like so many people are. We just need to keep a tight hold on it and don’t need to go off in some wild direction spending money we don’t need to spend. I’m going to do everything I can to keep it in check.”
Q. How will your real-life work experience aid you in serving on the County Commission?
Turner:”I worked as a supervisor at ConAgra for eight years, so I understand managing people, and we can’t have a surplus of guys without something to do. I’m going to school now and my major is human resources management, and I plan to apply what I’m learning.”
Lauderdale: “I plan to listen to what people say and keep my cool. I don’t get too torn up over things that happen because most of the things are small situations that take care of themselves. I don’t get too excited about things. You’re going to be dealt with the way you deal with people. If you want to be ugly, that’s the way you’ll be treated.”
Q. What sets you apart from your opponent?
Turner:”I’ve tried to put a personal touch (on my campaign) and make sure people know I’m available. I’ve told people I would be accessible, and I started trying to live that as soon as my article first came out in the paper. If that means I have to meet with you whenever or wherever, I’ll be there. I’m trying to be the guy next door to everybody, and I want them to know my name.”
Lauderdale: “I’ve been out working in the public for the last 40 years and when you own your own business, you have to take orders and give orders to get things done. I’ve been doing it so long it just comes naturally. You just have to work with people, and I think I’m capable of doing that.”