MONROE — Gary Anderson still has a passion for local politics.
Anderson, who previously served on Monroe’s City Council (2015-2019), is campaigning again for a seat. He’s not doing it alone either. He is part of a group campaigning together that is “all for Monroe.” The group consists of Marion Holloway (running for mayor), Anderson, James Kerr and Julie Thompson. Anderson and Holloway served on council at the same time.
When looking at council’s leadership in the two years since Anderson was a member, he said it has done “a very good job” — especially when considering the COVID-19 pandemic. To him, a very good job means that residents felt safe and services continued. Services such as law enforcement, emergency services, water and sewer and electrical.
One thing Anderson would like to see council do differently in the future is to eliminate Zoom meetings. Since the spring of 2020, City Council has met virtually through Zoom and he agreed that it was effective and necessary in the beginning; however, it’s time to step away from that method, he says.
He sees a downside to Zoom meetings — that public comments have to be emailed to council. With in-person meetings, council could see residents and hear their concerns directly. Candidates for council, Anderson included, say having public comments emailed cuts into the communication and personal connection between council and city residents.
In addition, Anderson would like to see council meetings and committee meetings live streamed. Currently, council meetings are filmed and uploaded to the City of Monroe YouTube page. Anderson believes it would be more engaging for residents if they could watch meetings as they happen from the comfort of their home or from their office if they are working late. He said having live stream council meetings and video recorded committee meetings would keep members “accountable” for the amount of times they are present at meetings in addition to keeping them accountable for their words.
“If there’s nothing to hide, if everything that’s being talked about is in open session so to speak, put it out there for people to see,” Anderson said. “I think people are a little more accountable if they know people are watching.”
When asked about his prior term on council (pre-COVID), Anderson said he was proud to have moved the public comment section from the end of the meeting to the beginning. Therefore, residents who wished to make a comment didn’t have to wait for a meeting to be over — a meeting that could last two or three hours. In addition, he was glad to have spent time riding around with police officers and firefighters. That first hand experience gave him the opportunity to learn how the city could better support police and emergency services by providing things they needed like lights that would attach to officers’ guns.
As far as regrets, Anderson did not have any directly tied to his term. He does wonder what would have happened if he challenged the election in 2019 when he ran for council, but lost by 32 votes.
Anderson is a member of the general services committee and the public safety committee.
His campaign agenda includes a balanced budget. He believes that if the budget were reviewed, it would be easy to see where the city can eliminate expenses that would help save money that could be used later to hire more police officers, emergency personnel service members or even revitalizing projects for downtown like the Dowd Center Theatre and Monroe Science Center both of which Anderson voted for when on council.
Anderson teaches English 4 at Central Academy of Technology and Arts. From an education perspective, he believes the City of Monroe should interact more with the Union County Board of Education. He said when he was on council, they would have joint meetings with the Board. City Council and the Board of Education are separate bodies and neither has authority over the other. Anderson would like to see more collaboration between Council and the Board. “Even though the school board is ultimately responsible for schools and for education, but if you’re on city council, you still to me, want our city schools to be the very best they can be. You want them to be safe, you want the education to be sound. I think it would be great if we could partner more with our schools,” Anderson said.
One way to collaborate, he said, is by having City employees talk to seniors about job opportunities with the City in an effort to persuade seniors to work in Union County as opposed to Mecklenburg or surrounding counties.
The last thing Anderson wants voters to know before voting day on Nov. 2 is that he loves the City of Monroe, he loves the residents of Monroe and appreciates the hard work and energy City of Monroe employees put into their jobs.