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Two square off in South District race

The Mount Airy News is running question-and-answer articles with candidates leading up to the May 17 primary. We posed the same three questions to candidates for the Surry County Board of Commissioners South District seat.

Eddie Harris

Eddie Harris was born in Mount Airy in 1961 and lived in the Boones Hill section south of Bannertown and went to Bannertown Elementary School and the old South Main Street School for sixth grade. After that, his family moved to Mountain Park where he finished his last six years at Elkin City Schools. A graduate of Surry Community College and Appalachian State University he married Robbin Burchette who taught first grade for 30 years in Surry County and Elkin City schools.

They have two daughters Mary Gwyn and Victoria and two sons-in-laws Alex Ratley and Brandon Cox, as well as two grandsons Harris Ratley and Samuel Cox. He is employed in the family’s business Harris Leather and Silverworks manufacturing equestrian products. “I am a self-taught hand engraver and silversmith in that business. I also do carpentry work remodeling houses on the weekends. I am a member of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church.”

He is the current vice chair of the Surry County Board of Commissioners while also serving the community on a variety of committees. Harris is a self-identified history and genealogy buff who in discussions on J. J. Jones High was a vocal proponent of protecting the history of the building for posterity.

Question: Can you identify an area of concern that matters to you and describe how you may choose to address that issue?

Harris: I am running for a fourth term because I am honored to serve our citizens as county commissioner and appreciate the confidence the good people of Surry County have shown me these last 12 years. My primary focus is making this county a safe and decent place to raise a family, have a good paying job, and hopefully build a county in which our young people can remain.

I will continue to vote to maintain our current tax rate and insist that county tax dollars are not wasted but spent in a conservative common-sense fashion. Our tax rate has remained unchanged, and our unencumbered fund balance has grown during my tenure in office. I met with Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s credit rating agencies to elevate our ratings and put our county’s financial position on a solid footing. We hired some of the best financial advisors in our state. Our financial position is sound having achieved this through commonsense conservative principals.

I will not waver in representing our working people and senior citizens who must choose whether they are going to pay their property taxes, pay their power bill, buy groceries, or their medicine. I will never forget these forgotten Americans. I will also continue our war on drugs and substance abuse that is ravaging many of our families and affecting innocent children in a horrible way. Surry County has led the way in developing a comprehensive prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery approach.

Question: How would you describe your political philosophy and what that means for your style of governance?

Harris: I am a conservative Republican and am very disturbed by what I see taking place in our country today. This includes our federal government, state government, as well as the public schools in our nation. I am pro-life and will fight the intolerant, divisive, disruptive leftist agenda that liberal politicians, the leftist news media, big corporation, and unelected big tech oligarchs are using to usurp our basic constitutional rights. They are dividing Americans young and old in every way imaginable.

When the radical woke left calls the American flag, the English language, Mickey Mouse, Dr. Seuss, meritocracy, and accountability racist, our mothers birthing persons, thieves uninvited guest, and the list goes on it causes me great worry for our nation. We need to look for ways to bring Americans together not tear the fabric of our nation apart.

I am a strong defender of freedom of speech and the rule of law. I believe what is happening at our southern border a disgrace to our people and our national sovereignty. I believe Surry County citizens should know the beliefs of all elected officials, that is why I voted to make our school board elections partisan. Knowledge is power. Our children belong to their parents and not the school boards. Political and social indoctrination have no place in our public schools. The people of this county do not support the destructive woke Critical Race Theory, social justice equity agenda. These beliefs have carried me through my 12 years on the board and I believe they mirror the working people of this county.

Question: What does the future of Surry County look like in five years?

Harris: Looking out five years I continue to see people wanting to move to our county to escape the big cities. I see our taxes low, revenues stable, and an economy that continues to diversify with small business continuing to be the leading employers. Tourism will continue to play a big role. I see a county that is more focused on keeping trash off our roadsides. I see our drug problem continuing to be challenge, but hopefully progress will be made in that area.

I believe our young people will continue to move into trades and technical education careers. I serve as a trustee on our community college board and that has been a primary focus. Surry County will continue to be a special place to live and raise a family. We must continue to offer our citizens and especially our young people the hope and promise of tomorrow. The promise of a forgiving God and a nation birthed by liberty and freedom with endless opportunity. I remain optimistic despite what we are seeing in our nation today because ultimately only God can heal our nation. With warmest regards, I seek to remain your humble servant.

Tessa Saeli

Tessa Anne Saeli of Elkin is a mother of four who along with husband Dr. James Saeli own Beth EL Wellness & Chiropractic in Elkin. Her kids are grown, but an empty nest it is not with four dogs, four ducks, one cat and a bunny to keep them company.

She wants voters to know that she has a great deal of leadership experience and qualifications, “but I am not a politician and do not want to be.

“I am an ordained and licensed minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Certified Biblical Life Breakthrough Coach. I have managed many large budgets and large groups of staff and volunteers. I have served on the North Carolina Southern Baptist Ordination Board, have served in South Carolina and North Carolina in different churches in different roles: youth pastor, associate pastor, worship pastor and children’s pastor as well as education director and missions director.

I served on Marlboro County Arts Council and Downtown Development Board, I’m a former schoolteacher, preschool director of two very large pre-schools in the Raleigh area, community outreach director, former Rotarian, and a former prison chaplain in South and North Carolina; on the Development Board of Stevens Christian Academy in South Carolina; part of the American Renewal Project and Convention of States. Have attended numerous John Maxwell Leadership Seminars to fill myself with good counsel and wisdom.

And let me add, the current elections machines need to be audited now.

Question: Identify an area of concern that matters to you and tell the readers how you may choose to address that issue.

Saeli: An area of concern in Surry County is the substance abuse problem that is truly a plague on this land. I will allocate all of my commissioner’s salary to the Substance Abuse Recovery Team for programs, prevention, etc. I will also work closely with them to establish better programs and the building of new Rehab Centers that are much needed in this area. However, prevention is the number one goal. The churches need to be better educated on how to actually “help” their own congregations. I want to be a connector in that process between the governing officials and the churches. Time to go “upstream.”

Question: How would you describe your political philosophy and what that means for your style of governance?

Saeli: I don’t have a “political” philosophy. Politics is a demonic spirit. Governance, however, is different. This nation was founded upon Biblical principles and should be governed as such. Prayer, the Bible, the Constitution is all we need. We don’t need new laws. We need to follow the ones we have. They work. Surrounding yourself with good counsel that believes in these things is a must. Term limits are a must. Praying over every decision can’t be an afterthought, it needs to be a leader’s first thought.

Question: What does the future of Surry County look like in five years?

Saeli: The future of Surry County depends on the outcome of this election. If we’re going to continue to live on the “merry go round” of the same thing over and over over again, keep the officials we have. But if you want a fresh outlook with new ideas and new breakthroughs for the future, vote for new people to lead. There is a great future ahead for Surry County if we elect new leaders that listen to God and will not compromise. Also, we need news outlets that report truth instead of pieces of the actual story.



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