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Spence 3rd candidate for MC mayor

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

There's now a three-way race for mayor of Marshall County.

Mike Spence, a local businessman specializing in heating and cooling systems, is challenging County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett.

Two months ago, County Commissioner Scottie Poarch said he's challenging Liggett in the Aug. 5 general election.

Candidate petitions became available Monday at the election office on College Street where Poarch said he "had 20 people show up to root me on" and sign his petition to be named on the printed ballot.

Spence and Liggett attended Marshall County High School at the same time so the August race now includes former classmates who remain friends, both say.

"I just wish Mike the best in his campaign," Liggett said, but he "sure" would like to win.

Another aspect of the good-natured rivalry arose after Liggett donated a country ham to the Chamber of Commerce as a prize at the Christmas Banquet and Spence won it that night when his wife took the reins of the business association.

Because of his candidacy and her presidency of the Chamber, Spence says people have asked, "'What's the deal? Is this a political coup? Are you trying to take over the county?'

"We've got ideas," Spence replies, advocating cooperation between groups so all can "pull together" for the greater good of all.

So, is the Chamber backing Mike?

"I don't know about that," Melody Spence says laughing. "We hope so... The president will be voting for him, but she has to sleep with him."

Still, if he is elected, the chamber president will "be after him to talk to these people to get some jobs" created in the county, she says, turning serious. "He's leaving a job that, yes, he might make more money at, but he feels this is more important."

Spence, 56, operates his Heritage Renovation & Restoration business that's a heating and air conditioning business that started as a renovation business.

The couple purchased an old house that was a flower shop slated for demolition. It's now Victorian Melody. That's her business. He has an office there. He's also bought other houses and renovated them. Many were rental units.

"We did some new construction and light commercial buildings and found there are a lot of people out there who will paint and renovate for a lot less than I was willing to work for," so he focused on electrical heating, ventilation and cooling units. HVAC "was the most lucrative to make a living at instead of knocking out walls," he said.

He's also been a state electrical inspector, the manager of a pencil eraser plant and worked in quality control at the ICP plant.

That background tells him geothermal systems being considered by the school system are "the most economical way to heat and cool (but) the initial cost is high." With economic stimulus money, now is the time to do it. Installation is like drilling a well.

That may stand as some experience for the job, and while Spence hasn't held government office, he notes he was "elected as an elder of the First Presbyterian Church" working with children, teaching Sunday school and serving on the building committee when an addition was planned.

He's volunteered work for the Chamber, GoatFest, and the Downtown Alliance, as well as festivals in October and at Christmas, Spence said.

"I think it's time I focused my energy and go full force into it full-time," he said.

Spence acknowledges losses in the industrial base here, encourages teams working to restore economic growth, endorses aggressive campaigns to attract, keep and develop jobs, as well as a campaign to get residents to patronize locally-owned businesses.

As for the continuing saga of Cedar Ridge Landfill, Spence endorses recycling, says the state will determine what's best for the county, recognizes if the landfill closes something must be done with trash, however he appears to take issue with the incumbent who vetoed county commissioners' 11-7 vote to refer the landfill expansion request to a regional panel, instead of preventing the permit.

"I don't think that's what I, as a mayor, would have done," Spence said. "I live a mile and a half from it (the landfill.) I see the trucks come and go (on West Ellington Parkway where he lives, but) if the mayor knows information that the commission does not, I can see where that veto should be used.

"I could not veto it just because I live a mile and a half from it. I do not know why Joe Boyd (Liggett) vetoed it - wouldn't presume to second guess him."

Back on economic development, he said, "I don't know all the answers. Over the next few months, I'm going to be listening to the citizens to find out what their wants and needs are."