Butler cites determination to boost fund balance

Harriette Butler is running for re-election in response to encouragement from a lot of supporters, the Ward 2 City Council member said Thursday afternoon.

Because she has been so busy balancing business and her family and personal life, Butler said, she hesitated to listen to those friendly advisers for the first three weeks of the filing period. After five years on the council, “I felt like maybe somebody else would step forward and do a better job.”

She said she talked to several people about running for Ward 2’s ward seat, but no one was willing to commit the time and effort required.

Monday night’s City Council meeting convinced Butler she still has work to do as a council member. The key moment, Butler said, was when she joined the mayor and the rest of the council in signing the letter to the state’s Local Government Commission. That letter explained the city’s improved financial position, with a fund balance estimated at 8.13 percent June 30.

“We … pledge ourselves to continue working as diligently as possible to improve the City’s overall financial strength,” the letter reads. “Obviously, the work is challenging, but we are firmly committed to that primary goal.”

“I have to take the responsibility of proving what my signature said,” Butler said Thursday. “I have to help improve the fund balance.”

Although the general fund balance exceeds the LGC’s 8 percent minimum standard, most of the money in savings has restrictions on it, either for law enforcement (drug seizure money) or road maintenance (Powell Bill funds).

In addition to the fund balance, Butler cited the new library, the “wonderful” new Henderson-Vance Economic Partnership, the expansion of the water plant, and citizen initiatives such as the mayor’s housing task force, the Vance Organization to Implement Community Excellence and the Clean Up Henderson Committee as important projects she supports and wants to be involved with in the next two years. Butler was an original member of the cleanup committee but stopped attending meetings after a year or so.

Butler said she is 100 percent in support of the new library and the continued 50-50 funding formula with Vance County. “I don’t know any other way that it’s going to work unless the city and county step forward as we’ve done in the past.”

One thing that has not changed for Butler is her housing situation. Although her residence of record is in Ward 2 on Woodland Road, she continues to live at the offices of her business, Village Square Rentals, on Belle Street in Ward 3. A black mold problem chased her out of her house in 2001, and Butler won election in 2001 and 2003 while living outside Ward 2.

By law, the Woodland Road house remains her legal residence because Butler intends to move back as soon as she can. After winning a lawsuit in November against a contractor at fault in the mold mess, Butler said she is optimistic that she can get the house cleaned up and that she will be able to return to Woodland Road soon.

“I love Henderson. I want to do anything I can to help. I want to see things through,” Butler said. “I’ll find the strength somewhere to get in there and do a good job.”

Despite the residency questions, Butler faced no opposition in 2003, but Robert Gupton announced this morning that he will challenge her.

With a week left in the filing period, Henderson could have as few as three other contested council races when voters go to the polls Oct. 11: incumbent Mary Emma Evans against Glean Henderson Jr. for the Ward 1 ward seat; sitting council member John Wester against incumbent Elissa Yount for the Ward 3 at-large seat, for which Yount has said she plans to file next week; and Garry Daeke against Marty Gister for the Ward 3 ward seat Wester is vacating.

All eight council members have filed or announced plans to run. Mayor Clem Seifert is expected to announce his intentions early next week. The filing period for the municipal elections in Henderson, Kittrell and Middleburg ends at noon Aug. 5.