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Early voting is open and an election will be held on Nov. 5 for four seats on Reidsville’s City Council. To better inform the public, RockinghamNow invited candidates to fill out a questionnaire detailing their backgrounds, eligibility for public office and goals.

Of the six candidates registered with the Rockingham County Board of Elections, two responded. Donald L. Gorham and William C. Hairston, both candidates for District A council seats, did not respond, while James K. Festerman and Hemco Patharkar, both candidates for District B seats, did not submit responses.

Candidates’ unedited responses follow:

Sherri G. Walker

City Council District B

Address: 1929 Belmont Drive, Reidsville

Age: 61

Occupation: Retired from Rockingham County Schools

Highest degree earned: Bachelor’s degree, UNC-G.

Leadership Experience: Held many offices for the Rockingham County Schools’ Food Service Association. Sunday School teacher, Reidsville City Council member for eight years.

Civic involvement: Numerous duties at Main Street United Methodist Church, volunteer at Reidsville Soup Kitchen, liaison for the Reidsville ABC Board, and liaison for the Reidsville Appearance Commission.

Contact Info:


What experience qualifies you to serve in this capacity?

I spent seven or eight years going to council meetings and listening to the issues before I decided to run for office. I was very well informed before I ran for office. When I was elected to office, I tried to let constituents know exactly what is going on.

Why are you seeking this office and why should voters elect you?

I am retired, so I have the flexibility to attend the many events and meetings that occur, pertaining to our city and beyond. I was born in Reidsville, raised here, chose to move back after college and raise my child in Reidsville. I have compassion and a caring attitude and realize that all things cannot be fixed. However, I will listen and do the best I can for the betterment of the citizens of Reidsville.

What are the three most pressing issues facing your community and how do you propose to address them?

My main concern is clean water. We take it so for granted… But if you don’t have clean water, you don’t have city. … I am so impressed with our leadership, we are proactive and looking into the future by changing our water pipes, ice pegging, keeping our water system clean because it’s one of our most valuable assets. We already have plans to 2070. I won’t be around, but children and children of children will be around. And that is one of the most pressing issues to me, keeping our water safe and clean.

The second issue would be safety. I am very fortunate to work with Chief Hassell, Chief Bracken and our public works director. They are absolutely wonderful at keeping our city safe and doing all kinds of things behind the scenes to make sure the citizens and constituents of Reidsville are safe … “

Bringing new businesses to Reidsville. In the last eight years we have obtained more than 900 jobs for the City of Reidsville. Some are smaller, some are larger. That is one of the biggest things we have done in the last 8 years.

What should the next economic growth initiative be for the City of Reidsville?

Jeff Garska has done an incredible job. We are in the works for doing all kinds of things. There are things we can talk about, there are things that we can’t. And so it’s evolving, and hopefully, some things will come through. It’s important to take care of the businesses we have and look into the future and trying to get new business to come in town — a theater complex, a place for young children to go. We are trying to recruit different people and businesses coming in.

Shannon Forrester Blackburn

City Council District B

Address: 1221 South Park Drive, Reidsville, NC 27320

Age: 36

Occupation: Chef/ Restaurateur at The Celtic Fringe and independent yoga


Highest degree earned: Associate’s degree, Rockingham Community College.

Leadership experience: Chef de Cuisine / Partner at The Celtic Fringe, Team

Leader / Project Manager at American Express, Student Government.

Civic involvement: Small business owner in downtown Reidsville, community yoga instructor

Contact info:

Home phone: 336-432-3038


What experience qualifies you to serve in this capacity?

My experience as a small business owner in our community gives me a unique perspective that many of our current councilmen cannot offer. Most of our councilmen have experience working for the city, serving on boards of directors of various organizations, or filling various elected offices. All of these experiences are extremely valuable. We also need the voice of the workers and the entrepreneurs of our community to be represented on the council. I bring the perspective of the entrepreneur. My family and I have worked hard over the last eight years to open and build a successful restaurant in this city, taking advantage of the many resources the city, the state, and the Reidsville Downtown Corporation made available to us. I also bring the perspective of the worker. I work full-time myself and employ several cooks, bartenders, servers, hosts, and dishwashers. I can easily tap in to the heartbeat of our working and entrepreneurial community and bring their perspective to the table.

Why are you seeking this office, and why should voters elect you?

I am seeking this office because I genuinely love this community and want to see it continue to grow and succeed. I believe I bring a new perspective to the council while acknowledging and respecting all the hard work and progress our previous councils have made. Voters should elect me because caring for

our community is my top priority, and I can question the status quo while also respecting and working with those who have established it.

What are the three most pressing issues facing your community. And how do you propose to address them?

I think it’s critical that we attract and keep young people living in Reidsville, develop our economy, and care for our community. Let’s attract and keep young people living in Reidsville by creating a community full of places to

eat and drink, play and exercise, and create and learn. Young folks are looking for opportunities to experience life and make memories. Offering job training and career and real estate opportunities is not enough to attract and keep them here. We must ensure that young, prospective members of our community can build fulfilling lives here. Creating this vibrant community not only supports population growth and economic development, but keeps kids living in Reidsville after high school and brings them back home after college or when they are ready to build their own lives. Let’s develop our economy by strengthening our workforce, attracting large employers, and promoting small business an entrepreneurship. Creating a community that attracts youth grows our population of young people and strengthens our workforce. Young, strong workforces in vibrant communities attract large employers, bringing more jobs and career opportunities. Promoting small business and entrepreneurship creates even more things for people to do and even more job and career opportunities. Youth brings growth, and growth brings even more youth, creating an ongoing cycle of growth.

Let’s care for our community by keeping our city safe, keeping our water clean, and investing in educational programs, parks, and recreation. At the very center of the growth cycle created by attracting youth and developing our economy is the members of our community. Caring for each of you individually by keeping our city and our water safe and clean is critical to the success of our community. Investing in parks and recreation provides even more things to do for you and the young population we want to attract. Investing in educational programs can further strengthen our workforce and promote small business and entrepreneurship. Attracting YOUTH, experiencing GROWTH, and caring for YOU are my top priorities as a Reidsville City Councilman.

What should the next economic growth initiative be for the City of Reidsville?

We need to fill our downtown and our entire business district with things to do, such as restaurants, places to celebrate, gyms and fitness institutions, places to build and create, galleries and museums, etc. Creating a vibrant community full of things to do by promoting small businesses and entrepreneurship is how we simultaneously attract and keep young people living in Reidsville and develop our economy. Our next economic growth initiative should support this youth growth cycle concept by not only providing educational programs and resources to members of the community who want to open these types of businesses, but also by actively seeking out young entrepreneurial investors from other communities who have the education, experience, and resources to open these types of businesses.

James K. Festerman

City Council District B

Address: 1201 Benton Lane

Age: 78

Occupation: Retired Police Chief

Highest degree earned: High School Diploma

Leadership Experience: Police Chief, Business Owner and Operator With 150 employees, Reidsville Mayor and City Councilman, past President of the NC Police Chiefs Asso, Past President of the NC Police Executives Asso, Past President of the FBI Academy Graduates of NC, NC Police Training and Standards Policy Board.

Civic involvement: Salvation Army Board(present), Past President of United Way Board of Directors, Past Board member of the YMCA and Remsco, Active in Main Street United Methodist Church.

What experience qualifies you to serve in this capacity?

I have chosen to spend my life in public service to this community! First as a police officer and then by being honored by you to serve On city council for 3 terms and as your mayor for 2 terms!! My life’s work has afforded me the opportunity to serve Reidsville For 56 years and I still have the same enthusiasm for public service today that I had in the beginning! I feel I have much to offer and I am ready to continue service  to this wonderful city!!! I have Contacts throughout the state ,county, and city that affords me the Opportunities to work with various groups to make Reidsville a better place to live!!!

Why are you seeking this office and why should voters elect you?

In the last 4 years working with the mayor, council members, And city staff we have accomplished many goals and I would like to Continue the work that has been started!!!

Some of these goals that we have achieved:

  1. 945 Industry Related Jobs have been created or are in the process! This does not include commercial related jobs!
  2. In 2017-18 we added 690 new residents based on new Construction.
  3. There was $16 million plus in Commercial Dollar Investment For 2016-17-18
  4. Albaad Expansion moving into the Old Ball Canning Plant with 302 jobs.

I want to continue to put my experience and working with people to work to make Reidsville the very best!!!!We have made great accomplishments but I want to work diligently to make other projects that are in the pipeline come full circle!!

What are the three most pressing issues facing your community and how do you propose to address them?

  1. Economic Development- We must continue to work with the State of NC and Rockingham County to bring industrial and commercial jobs to our community! We are very aggressive through our council and city staff to see this come to an outcome that will benefit the city of Reidsville. With the new 785 this will bring business more access to the Reidsville market as well as the Piedmont Triad International Airport.
  2. We have an abundance of water available to Reidsville and to market to the surroundings areas. We must not take this for granted and continue to protect this vital resource.
  3. I will stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changes in all business needs.  Making the business community aware of all the resources we have to help them be successful such as, Rockingham Community College, Reidsville Industrial Alliance, Reidsville Downtown Corporation, and our own Economic Development Director.

What should the next economic growth initiative be for the City of Reidsville?

While the loss of Commonwealth Tobacco does present problems, our challenge is to make this property a vital part of our community.

The other part of the formula will be to aggressively market Our Industrial Park. Our state officials have stated we have one of the best sites in the state. It is site ready with sidewalks, lighting, and water and sewer in place and poised and waiting for new industry.

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Susie C. Spear is a staff writer for RockinghamNow. She can be reached at 743-333-4101 and on Twitter @SusieSpear_RCN.

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