By Catharin Shepard
Longtime local businessman Richard Byrd announced he will seek one of the three seats up for election on the Hoke County Board of Commissioners.
Byrd, a Democrat who owns and operates Byrd’s Alignment auto repair shop, said he decided to run for office for the first time in his life to bring new leadership to the county.
Byrd’s family moved to Raeford from Red Springs when he was a child and he has lived here ever since. He said he got started working early in life to help pay for his own school clothes and other necessities.
“When I was old enough to work in tobacco, I started picking up leaves in barns, started driving the tractor,” he said.
As a teenager, he went on to work at McDonald’s Tire in Raeford, then went in together with some family members to open up his own auto shop in 1985. The first shop had a three-bay garage, and Byrd’s Alignment has now grown into an 11-bay garage business that serves thousands of customers each year.
Byrd served on the Parks and Recreation Board from 2004-2010 with the goal of encouraging the county to build a new central park. He worked with the board to update several parks in the area and supported what eventually became the new recreation center on Highway 211. Byrd, a single parent, left the board in 2010 to spend more time with his teenage daughter.
The candidate said there are important issues that need to be addressed, particularly in the area of education.
“Instead of bickering and arguing over the one-stop voting, why aren’t they working on figuring out why the teachers aren’t staying?” he said about the county commission. “Why do we have so many turnovers on teachers, and what’s the problem, so that we can address that and fix it?”
“The kids, they’re our future and that’s what counts, getting them a good education, get them off on a good start, so when they go to apply to a college or go somewhere you’ve got a good foundation there for them,” he said.
Additionally, if elected, Byrd said he would like to work with the county on building an indoor recreation facility for the public.
“I’d like us to be able to get that indoor facility they’ve been talking about since 2010,” he said.
The candidate said he would also like to work closely with state government and Fort Bragg to seek support for local infrastructure like the schools. As the population continues to grow, there should be greater connection between Raleigh, Fort Bragg and Hoke County, Byrd said. Better teamwork among local officials would be a priority too, he added.
“To be able to work together as a team instead of arguing and bickering over stuff, there’s just too much of that going on up there,” he said.
The candidate also said he would like to see county public facilities’ rental oversight remain under the Parks and Recreation domain instead of falling directly under the commissioners.
If elected, Byrd said his first priority would be to address the local teacher turnover rate and examine the student dropout rate in the county. The dropout rate is “alarming,” he said. Both of those issues “need to be addressed, find out what’s causing it and see what can be done to fix it,” he said. “I know we’ve got some other issues, but right now I think that’s one of the biggest issues, because if you want to draw a factory in here to work, you’ve got to have kids that are able to run computers or have some education under their belt. So that way, when they apply for a job, they get it.”
That’s why education is also important to economic development, Byrd added.
“If you don’t have the workforce, (businesses) are going to go somewhere else,” the candidate said. Looking at incentives for businesses is also something the county should consider, he believes, as well as finding ways to keep residents shopping in Hoke County instead of crossing county lines to spend their money.
Voters should consider casting a ballot for Byrd because he’s been a hard worker all of his life and is ready to work for the people of Hoke, the candidate said.
“It’s all about Hoke County. It’s not all about me, it’s not all about the county commissioners. It’s about doing what’s right and best for Hoke County, and that’s what we need to concentrate on,” he said.