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Seven vie for four seats on N.C. commission

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

When New Castle residents cast their votes Nov. 4, the result could be an entirely new commission — just one incumbent seeks reelection this year.

Candidates for New Castle City Commission are Dennis W. Benham, Donna Gatewood, Linda Golden, Anthony Pierce, Tommy Lane Pollard, Charlie Sevier and incumbent Wanda Thurman.

• Dennis W. Benham, 60, graduated from Henry County High School. He married Kathy and they have two children, Tina, 35 and Wesley, 29. Benham is the store manager at Shelby Supply in La Grange. This is the first time he has run for public office.

“I just wanted to get into a little bit of politics,” he said. “New Castle is the county seat and I don’t want to see it go backwards.” Benham said the main issue facing New Castle is growth.

He said the town needs businesses like grocery and hardware stores so residents will shop locally. “We’ve got to maintain the status quo or grow and get more business back in New Castle,” he said. “I’d like to see it come back like it was 30, 40 years ago.”

• Donna Gatewood, 39, and married to Damon. Both are physicians. Donna is a family practitioner in Jeffersontown while Damon’s family practice is in Campbellsburg. They have two sons, Aubrey, 7 and Samuel, 5.

Gatewood attended Centre College in Danville and got her medical degree at the University of Louisville. She also served in the Peace Corps. This is her first run for public office. Gatewood said she wants to be a part of New Castle’s future.

“We’ve lived here almost six years,” she said. “We love it and we’re never leaving.” Gatewood believes the development of downtown New Castle is a major issue.

“We need to bring in more businesses and increase the tax base,” she said. Gatewood said it also is important to keep the flavor of the community. “We don’t want to change it into a suburb of La Grange,” she said.

• Linda Golden, 61, is a graduate of Shelby County High School. She attended Spencerian, Bellarmine and Jefferson Community College. Her son, Spencer, is a resident of Eminence. Golden resides with her daughter, Becky Poe, and 14-year old granddaughter, Kris Poe. Golden retired after 19 years with Eminence Speaker.

This is Golden’s first time as a candidate for public office. She said she wants to get the peoples’ opinions across to the city’s commission.

Golden said one issue is to get new business in New Castle, but take the time to do it right. “We need to think small starting out,” she said.

Golden said the city infrastructure needs to be rebuilt for the right reason — to benefit the community as a whole. She would also want the ordinance for cleaning up blighted properties enforced.

Golden wants Henry County residents to shop in Henry County. “I want to encourage residents to patronize businesses we have to keep tax money in the county,” she said, “to put the money back into the county.”

If elected, Golden hopes residents will feel free to contact her with concerns and ideas. “If they don’t want to come to meetings, I’ll convey their message,” she said.

Golden also sees recreational facilities as an issue. She said she would like to see a county-wide effort. “I think the county should join together and come up with a plan,” she said, “to make it more affordable.”

Golden said she comes from an honest, hard-work-ing class of people. “My slogan is ‘Let’s work as a team, take the crook out of the line, and make it straight,’” she said.

• Anthony Pierce, 40, has a master’s degree in divinity and is Senior Pastor at New Castle Christian Church. He is married to Jan and they have two children, Brannon, 9 and Anna, 8. Pierce is president of the New Castle Lions Club and chairman of the Henry County Care Team-Coalition.

He said he is running for the New Castle commission because he believes residents should be the city’s focus. “We’ve spent too much time on buildings and not enough on the people,” Pierce said. “They are the voice for the future.” He said business development is an important issue for the city, but resident safety is paramount.

“A big one for me is that folks don’t feel safe,” Pierce said. “There are people who don’t feel wanted or protected in this community.” He said a better and more visible police presence would be desirable.

• Tommy Lane Pollard, 49, has been married to Debbie for 30 years. They have one daughter, Cari who is 26 and a son Daniel, 13. Granddaughter Kailey Evans is five.

Pollard was New Castle’s police chief for 12 years, 1982-1994, and lost his eyesight when he was shot in the line of duty.

He said he is now a stay-at-home father and enjoys taking care of the home. “I take care of the house, the yard, the dogs, and my son,” Pollard said. He attended two years of college at Eastern Kentucky University.

Pollard said joining the commission is something he wants to try. “I want to see if I can do it as a blind man,” he said. “I miss serving the community.”

Pollard would like to get new family dwellings in New Castle as well as clean up existing properties. He said some of the issues facing New Castle are blighted buildings and a lack of new businesses.

“We’ve got run-down buildings that could be updated for new businesses,” he said. “We don’t have any convenience stores, a hardware store or gas stations.”

• Charlie Sevier, 39, is a 1987 graduate of Henry County High School and a 1991 graduate of Jefferson Community College. He is single and operates the Pearce Homestead Crafts and Gifts Store in New Castle. Sevier has not previously held public office. He said his experience as president of the spring and fall festivals would be beneficial on the commission.

“I have attended and understand what goes on at meetings,” Sevier said.

He said the main issue facing New Castle is business development. “We need more businesses to extend the tax base,” Sevier said.

• Wanda Thurman, 76, said she is retired “for about the fifth time.” She has one son, Steven and two grandsons. Thurman said has served on the New Castle Commission at least six years. “I like this little city,” she said. “It’s where I’ve lived a lot of years.”

Thurman said she and her husband had an IGA Grocery Store in New Castle many years ago, then owned a hardware business in another town. “We always came back home to New Castle,” she said.

Thurman said the issue that concerns her is downtown revitalization. “I’d love to see the buildings filled back up,” she said. Thurman said New Castle needs grocery and hardware stores, another gas station and other retailers.

“It was just a quaint town,” she said, “but this was a main thoroughfare for cross-country travel. I’d love to see it take shape again.” Thurman said doing the sewer work and open-ing the new park are good steps. She would like to see sidewalks extend from New Castle to the site of the new park. “That is in our vision,” Thurman said.

She also wants to see a restaurant in the Locker building. “We’re trying to move forward on that,” Thurman said.

E-mail us about this article at news@hclocal.com.