County leaders, candidates are facing tough issues

An open letter to Wilson County commissioners and commissioner candidates:

I am writing because from my perspective, Wilson County is in a crisis situation. As reported by the local media, Director Joey Cooper said, “in his 33 years with WEMA (Wilson County Emergency Management Agency), the county has never been in this bad of shape.” In addition, the county jail is lacking enough correctional officers to match the number of inmates. It has been reported that Chief Deputy Mike Owens considers this a safety issue. Between both agencies there are over 24 vacancies. These Wilson County government agencies exist to meet health and safety needs of its citizens. Given the current circumstances, they are unable to do so because of a lack of staffing. The leaders of these agencies are saying the reason is because of a lack of offering a competitive wage, which will meet the needs of potential staff members.

You, our elected county commissioners, are the ones who set the direction. The data shows that the current population of Wilson County is 156,000. The projected rate of annual growth is 2.44%, which means close to 3,800 people a year will move into Wilson County. With the increase of various industries building and moving to Wilson County, the population will continue to grow at a rapid pace. This is a good thing. However, strategic long-term and short-term planning must be done now. This includes a realistic financial analysis for the long and short term.

For example, below are some of the issues before you:

• Funding for Wilson County school district to cover the much-needed pay increase for teachers and support staff for 2022-2023 school year and beyond

• Funding for providing current WEMA staff a pay raise to bring them to the level of their peers who work for other districts

• Funding to recruit and pay for staff for WEMA and the sheriff’s office

• Funding to cover the debt service for the new jail and two new fire stations to be located on Central Pike and Clemmons Road

• Planning to open and staff the two new fire stations in 2023-24 fiscal year

• Planning to build and open three new schools within the county

• Planning to assist meeting the needs of the homeless and of those who live in poverty within Wilson County

In closing, I want to thank you for running for office and for your desire to serve us, your constituents. However, in doing so, please think about the concept of being a servant leader, putting your needs and desires aside while recognizing the needs of those you serve.

Under your leadership, Wilson County can grow and yet be a place which meets the needs of those of us who live here.

I look forward to following your progress in tackling these difficult issues and in keeping us informed on your progress.

Byron A. Kamp

Mt. Juliet

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