Frank Quis thinks the current Moore County Board of Commissioners have done a good job — a good job he’d like to continue. And, with eighteen years in municipal government, he has considerable experience to back up that judgement.
Times Editor Greg Hankins interviewed Quis on Monday, February 8. He’s one of two candidates vying to replace Randy Saunders on the Board. No Democrat has entered the race, so the result will be decided in the March 15 Primary Election.
Asked why he decided to run for Commissioner, Quis said: “Because we have two county commissioners that have decided not to run, there will be a void in leadership. The five commissioners have done a very good job, and my reason in running is to continue that. I feel like my experience and business and municipal government will be valuable.”
Quis, a native of Statesville, moved to Moore County in the late 1970s after graduating from the University of Tennessee. He ultimately joined the family business, a company that sells sophisticated woodworking equipment — much of it computer controlled — to various types of manufacturers, from upholstered furniture to boat building.
Quis served on the Southern Pines Town Council for eight years, from 1989 to 1997, before being elected Mayor, a post he held from 1997 to 2007.
Asked whether there are significant differences in county and municipal government, Quis said a major difference is that the County has responsibility for school funding — “which is a much more important part of someone’s life, when it comes to their children. Are their children getting a good education? And are they going to school in a safe and secure building? As opposed to dealing with sewer and garbage and some of the things that are typical of a municipality.”
“The County also manages things like social services, service to the aging, and a host of other responsibilities that a municipality does not. So it is very different.”
Quis said the biggest challenge the County faces is raising the funds to pay for school construction.
“Four schools have been identified this far, but there are six others right behind them that need improvement today,” he noted.
“Also, the courthouse has been deemed by some to be inadequate and in need of construction. That carries a large price tag.”
“The total costs for all the ten schools and the courthouse are approximately $250 million,” Quis said. “That’s real money.”
“The opportunity [for Moore County] is that we are a very desirable place to live,” he added, “and I think it is incumbent on County officials to work with the municipalities in identifying the areas of growth and development and make sure we can grow wisely.”
“In my opinion, we don’t have the workforce here to attract a large business, and should focus more on smaller businesses,” Quis said, when asked about the County’s role in economic development.
“When I was Mayor, we worked to keep the businesses that were already in place. A good example is Ingersoll Rand. I visited the manger of the plant and offered to do what we could to be of assistance. And there were a couple of things.”
“We saw the value of keeping existing businesses in Moore County,” Quis said.
“A couple of weeks ago, I visited Sandhills Community College,” he said, “because I heard they were developing a program for CNC manufacturing and training that is geared toward Ingersoll Rand and companies like that.”
“They will train machinists — which are very good paying jobs. I applaud Sandhills for working with local companies.”
During his tenure as Mayor, Quis was also able to assist The Wexford Group — a military consulting company — in relocating to Southern Pines.
Quis said the County and its municipalities currently work well together, adding that he would hope to see that continue.
Finding the money
Quis said he supports the proposed quarter cent increase in the sales tax to support school construction — and the option for another voter-approved quarter cent increase that is included in legislation pending before the General Assembly.
Quis said he applauds the Commissioners for doing something to raise the revenue needed for school construction, “but it’s not enough. It’s going to be left to the next group of Commissioners to take the next step.”
Acknowledging the fact that the Commissioners have been able to run a surplus and save that extra cash for school construction, Quis said; “It’s great that they have saved that money and found efficiencies and been very good stewards of taxpayers’ resources.”
“I am running to replicate what they have accomplished,” Quis said. “Hats off to them. I wish Saunders and Picerno would run again.”
Commissioners Picerno and Saunders have both served on the County’s budget team for the past few years. Their retirement from the Board raises the question of who will fill that role.
Quis said he could bring not only eighteen years of municipal finance experience to that task, but also the knowledge gained in eleven years as a director of Crescent State Bank, now Yadkin Bank.
“I gained knowledge of macroeconomic activity and how our banking system works,” he said. “And, on a more down to earth level, dealing with businesses that were starting up, seeing some succeed and others fail, was quite an education for me.”
Asked whether Moore County needs to expand its funding of Moore County Schools’ operational budget to pay for teachers and textbooks and other needs — in addition to building schools — Quis said he would want to know more before answering that question.
“Having endured the Great Recession, all of us have cut back, squeezed our budgets, lived within our means as a necessity,” he said. “County and state government have taken steps to do that. Our local schools have made significant cuts too.”
“So, it’s now time to evaluate how we want to go forward. When I am able to gather good information, I’ll be able to talk about specific priorities in a much more informed way.”
Quis is somewhat skeptical of the current drive — spearheaded by the Convention and Visitors Bureau, Partners in Progress, and the Town of Aberdeen, to rely on a doubling of the occupancy tax to build and operate a regional sports complex.
“I believe the effort to develop a sports complex needs to have a significant private funding structure and should not rely on the taxpayer,” Quis said. “
“Presently, I don’t see a significant amount of private funding commitment.”
As Moore County continues to grow, Quis said, close cooperation between the County and its municipalities to manage that growth will become more and more important.
“It’s a complex effort to balance quality of life and economic vitality,” Quis said. “That’s the challenge that Moore County faces.”
“It’s really important that the municipalities and the County government work together to develop sensible, logical plans for development and take a long term view of that development.”
Appetite for public service
Quis said he has both the appetite and the skills to help the County continue to move forward — and to continue the spirit of cooperation that has characterized the work of the Board of Commissioners over the past few years.
“I find it interesting and fascinating dealing with these issues, on a personal level,” he said. “I feel like I can help solve some problems that will be facing Moore County.”
“I feel as though I am a consensus builder. It’s one of my leadership traits. I think that will be important to continue to have the Commissioners work together in positive and constructive ways.”