The Macon County News traditionally provides our readers with profiles of candidates running for office in the weeks prior to the election. This week the focus is on the candidates for the District III seat on the Board of Commissioners.
Bobby Kuppers – District III
Bobby Kuppers is the Democratic incumbent candidate for the District III seat on the Board of Commissioners. Kuppers has been a resident of Macon County since 1960, when he moved here with his family at the age of six years old. Kuppers attended Franklin High School, graduating in 1971. He went on to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. “I entered the Naval Nuclear Program, completing that training in 1977 when I elected to enter the U.S. Submarine Service,” said Kuppers. “For the next 23 years, I served on six different submarines, including a tour as Commanding Officer of USS Key West (SSN 722). Following my time on Key West, I finished my 25-year career with two years as the Chief of Staff for NATO’s Submarine Force Eastern Atlantic (in Northwood, United Kingdom), and one year as the Commanding Officer of Trident Training Facility in Kings Bay, Georgia.”
After retiring from the Navy in 2000, Kuppers began teaching for Macon County Schools at Macon Middle School and coaching football and JV basketball. “After one year I moved to FHS, where I taught Algebra I and Civics & Economics,” said Kuppers. “ I am now in my 13th year with Macon County Schools, still at FHS, where I teach Civics and AP Government. I coached varsity football for 11 years, before stepping down after the 2011 season.”
Kuppers has been married to Peggy Cabe Kuppers, daughter of Leon and Jessie Cabe of the Rose Creek community for 37 years. “We have three daughters Amanda, Lauren, and Susannah, and one granddaughter, Alora,” he said. “We are members of Snow Hill United Methodist Church, where I serve as Lay Leader. I also serve on the Board of Directors for the Burningtown- Iotla Fire Department.”
In 2008, Kuppers was elected to the Macon County Board of Commissioners, where he has served as liaison to the Planning Board, the Airport Authority, the Health Board, the Library Board and several others.
“I have always had an interest in politics and government and as a high school Civics teacher, I have tried to encourage my students to be active in their local government, including running for office when they were eligible,” said Kuppers. “One of my classes asked me why I hadn’t run for anything, if I thought that they should. They made a very persuasive argument, so in 2008, when both open seats on the Board of Commissioners were unopposed, I decided that my students were right and that it was time to run and try to give something back to the community that has given so much to me throughout my life.”
After being in his current seat for the past four years, Kuppers believes his reasons for running are still the same, but the experience he has gained has prepared him to be a more effective voice for the people of Macon County. “I wouldn’t say that the campaign has changed my reasons for running, but certainly serving in the office for four years has sharpened my focus as to why I’d like to get re-elected,” said Kuppers “In four years, I have worked with seven different commissioners; I have served when my political party was in the majority and when it wasn’t, and as a board we have battled through four of the worst budget years we have seen in some time. What I learned from that experience is that the commissioners’ job is to solve real problems, not just create partisan issues that they can fight about.”
Kuppers believes that the current Board of Commissioners have a unique relationship that sets them apart from state and national partisan politics. “We have seen firsthand how that works in Raleigh and Washington and we don’t need that approach at the local level,” he said. “Over the past four years your Board of Commissioners has engaged in open honest debates on big issues and has shown the ability to put partisan politics aside and work out solutions that are in the best interest of all Maconians. To work with commissioners of this quality has been a true privilege and I would love to have the opportunity to continue that work on behalf of our citizens and our children.”
Across the spectrum, financial uncertainty remains the driving factor for industries across the county, and politics is no different. “I believe that the problems facing the county will be driven by our fiscal strength which we must maintain,” said Kuppers. “While I firmly believe that we must maintain our commitment to Macon County Schools both as an investment in our children, and as an economic development investment, that we must continue to foster economic development by investing in the Business Development Center and in infrastructure improvements, that we must continue to maintain our recreation facilities, and that we invest in preserving our cultural heritage, the extent to which we will be able to invest in any of these areas will be directly driven by the strength of our fiscal position.”
Last year, a topic of debate throughout the state was found in conversations about what commissioners should do about the property evaluation, a decision Kuppers wants to see through to the end. “The county will also face a state mandated property re-evaluation which will directly affect our fiscal strength,” he said. “Solving these problems will require cooperation, compromise, and real leadership if we are to get to the best possible solutions for the county. It will require us to listen to the people and to each other, making sure we enter the discussion with open minds and not preset agendas. It will, in short, require the type of cooperation and leadership that have been the hallmark of the board for the past four years, and I would welcome the opportunity to work with my fellow commissioners to confront and resolve these issues.”
According to Kuppers, the main difference between him and his challenger lies in experience. “My challenger and I probably agree on many things and disagree on many others. For example at the NCAE forum we agreed on several issues, but I think we may disagree on the basic role of local government,” said Kuppers. “Ideology aside, I think what sets us apart is my four years of experience as a commissioner – four years of grappling with budgets and budget cuts, four years of fielding the concerns of citizens and trying to resolve them as best we could, four years of learning every day that it’s not about you or the people who agree with you, but it’s about the welfare of all Maconians. You don’t learn those things by reading a paper or attending a few meetings, you learn them by doing them. Experience matters and it’s those four years that are the biggest difference between us.”
Regardless of the outcome in November, Kuppers plans to continue doing whatever he can for the families in Macon County. “If I am not elected, I will continue to teach Civics at Franklin High School as I have for the past 12 years,” said Kuppers. “I will continue to try to generate enthusiasm for politics and public service among my students, because they are our future. And who knows, maybe if a spot opens up I may return to sidelines and coach football – lately I’ve found the sidelines to be safer than the press box,” he joked.
Paul Higdon – District III
Paul Higdon, 63, is the Republican candidate vying for the District 3 seat on the Macon County Board of Commissioners. He is facing Democratic incumbent Bobby Kuppers.
Married to his high school sweetheart, Linda Stanley for the last 41 years, the couple along with their two children, all graduated from Franklin High School. Higdon currently resides on his great grandfather's land on Upper Burningtown Road and attends Oak Dale Baptist Church, where he is a lifetime member and serves as a deacon. “I am a U.S. Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock with degrees in Environmental Health Sciences and Biology,” said Higdon. “I am pro God, pro life, pro traditional marriage, pro gun and believe the two greatest documents ever penned are the Holy Bible and the Constitution of the United States.”
After living in Little Rock to attend college, Higdon moved back to Franklin and worked for the health department for nearly 10 years as an inspector and Environmental Health Supervisor. “For the last 16 years, I have been self-employed with Sewer Solutions Inc. as a consultant on land development and a contractor in the wastewater industry,” said Higdon. “I am a N.C. licensed sewer and water line contractor, a N.C. licensed septic system installer and a N.C. licensed real estate broker. I have served on the local Board of Health and the N.C. Board of Certification for septic system installers.”
According to Higdon, he decided to run for county commissioner to add diversity to the election. “I wanted to give voters a choice in one of the the open seats on the board of commissioners and to add another conservative voice to the board,” said Higdon.
Higdon says he does not have a predetermined agenda to implement if elected to office. “I have no set agenda and as only one of five votes on the board, I will oppose any new fees, rules or regulations that further hamper private businesses,” said Higdon. “Realizing we have many great small businesses here, the construction industry has been hit hard during this recession. We need to be proactive and think outside the box as to how local government could help to improve this situation. One plan I would submit to the full board for review would be to waive all building related fees for anyone willing to start new construction within a certain time period. Factored into the total construction cost, this amount may be insignificant but the concept of trying something different might pay off.”
When asked what sets him apart from his challenger, Higdon noted the difference the two have on recent policy decisions made by the board of commissioners. “I am a social and fiscal conservative and will oppose any rules, regulations or ordinances that further restrict individual freedoms or personal property rights,” said Higdon. “My opponent has supported ordinances that restrict personal property rights. In the 2010 budget, my opponent voted with the majority to raise property taxes 1.5 mills with this money going into the fund balance which has a current balance of $23 million while the state recommends a reserve fund balance of around $3.6 million. Then county commissioner Jim Davis cast the opposing vote and I would have opposed. Most recently, my opponent, who lives in the Cowee community made the board motion to spend $70,000 to refurbish the old Cowee school and hand picked an individual to oversee this project with a $3,000 monthly salary. I thought saving all the community schools was a worthy cause but that era has passed and the county should not be using tax dollars to pick winners so I would have opposed this action.
And finally, the most visual difference between the two of us are the location of our campaign signs as none of mine are next to Obama/Biden signs.”
Higdon, who plans to continue being a good steward of the people of Macon County regardless if he is elected in November, said, “This local election will not affect my future plans as I will continue to get up every day, put on my work boots and try to provide for my family and be a good neighbor to my friends,” said Higdon. “I will always be a strong, outspoken advocate for individual freedom and liberty.”