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PINE LEVEL — Not that long ago, Republican office holders in Johnston County seldom faced primary challenges.
“Primaries are a way of life now,” said District 6 County Commissioner Tony Braswell, who faces two primary challengers on March 3. “This will be my third primary in my fifth election.”
But primaries don’t change the way he campaigns, Braswell said in an email response to questions from the Johnstonian News. “I do not intend to do any changing from the past,” he said. “I will tell my story, meet as many voters as I can, and at the end of the day, the voters have an opportunity to chose whom they think will be the best commissioner.”
Braswell said his story was one of experience in both the private and public sectors. He is owner of Holt Lake Gas & Grill in Four Oaks, a principal in Legends Real Estate and president of Legends Investment Group. A former Pine Level mayor and commissioner, he won his first election to the Johnston County Board of Commissioners in 2004.
“This past year, the commissioners had a very aggressive agenda,” Braswell said. “I believe my experience as an owner of two small businesses, my experience in corporate management and serving as a town commissioner, mayor and three terms as a county commissioner equips me to help Johnston County in the future.”
Last year’s agenda produced a number of accomplishments, Braswell said:
• A two-cent cut in the property-tax rate after revaluation.
• Incentives that will bring an Ashley HomeStore distribution center and retail outlet to Four Oaks and a mixed-use development, Eastfield Crossing, to Selma. Together, Ashley and Eastfield will create more than 3,000 jobs when completed.
• The hiring of the county’s first recreation director.
But last year also produced frustrations, Braswell said. “I would maybe say we just didn’t quite get there,” he said. “We have not moved the solid waste discussions into any action, and it’s taken almost a year now to get stakeholder meetings and take come action in growth management.”
If reelected, Braswell wants the county to:
• Remain financially strong while easing the tax burden on Johnstonians.
• Update its land-use rules.
• Manage growth in a responsible manner.
• Continue to bring jobs to Johnston, especially the Interstate 95 corridor but also across the county.
• Create recreation opportunities for Johnstonians, including parks and open spaces.
Braswell is among the commissioners who want to scrap the requirement that Johnstonians purchase a decal to use the county’s solid waste convenience centers. “We need access for every citizen to the convenience centers,” he said. “The decal program does not provide that, and unless we do something, the decals could cost $150 to $200 in the coming years. That is not acceptable to me.”
Among commissioners, Braswell has been the most aggressive in offering alternatives to the decal program. “I have presented numerous plans, but so far, none has been adopted,” he said. “I am confident that this has to be a priority this year.”
Braswell is confident too that Johnston can manage growth without stifling development and without leaving Johnstonians with congested roads and crowded schools. “We need to revise the land-use-developmemt codes,” he said.
That will take time, but Johnston should take steps in the interim, Braswell said, calling for minimum lot sizes in rural Johnston and the steering of high-density development to the county’s towns. “High-density developments should be close to municipalities, as there is infrastructure in place there,” he said.
Going forward, Braswell said, “we must have the courage to make the tough decisions with more changes in the codes.”
About Tony Braswell
A graduate of Pine Level High School, Braswell attended Hardbarger Business College and what is now Johnston Community College. He and his wife of 26 years, Nobie Tench Braswell, have five children and seven grandchildren. More recently, they adopted two children, Aidan, 12, and Khloe, 10.
Braswell’s three years in the U.S. Army include one tour of duty in Vietnam. He spent 32 years in the farm insurance industry, retiring as division manager for 15 states. He is now owner of Legends Real Estate and Holt Lake Gas & Grill.
Braswell is a member of Pine Level United Methodist Church, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America. He is a past chairman of the N.C. Veterans Affairs Commission, and he has served on the boards of the Pine Level Fire Department, Pine Level Lions Club, the Johnston County Council on Aging and the Tobacco Farm Life Museum.