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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

10 Questions with Jeff Brittain - Candidate 2013 Hickory City Mayoral Election

Jeff Brittain is a Candidate in the upcoming Hickory City Mayoral race. He will first face an October 8th primary against incumbent Mayor Rudy Wright and fellow challengers Dr. Joseph Inglefield, Ernie Masche, Candice Harold, and Terry Revels. If he succeeds in being one of the top two vote getters, then he will move on to the November 5th at large election. The questions posed here are available for all candidates to answer. I have agreed to post them without critique and there will be no critical comments allowed in this article. There will be a "Candidates" Hickory Municipal Elections tab to the Right of this article. It will show anything related to these candidates as we move forward in this process. Anyone who wants to participate is free to do so. Please feel free to contact me at

1) Can you give us some background and a history of yourself? (Where were you born? What is your educational background? Why did you come to or stay in Hickory? Tell us about your professional accomplishments.)

I was born in Hickory and graduated from East Burke High School (1979). I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Appalachian State University (1983). In 2005, I received the Chief Information Officer Certification from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I met Susan Normann when she was home in Hickory during her Thanksgiving break from UNC-CH, and we were married in 1987. We bought a house in Hickory and lived there until after our first daughter was born in 1992 (Megan). In 1994 we moved into our current home, where our second daughter was born in 1995 (Keegan). Over the years, we have considered our options to live other places, but could not imagine calling any place home except Hickory. Since graduating from ASU, I have worked for Shadowline (Morganton), HSM Solutions (formerly Hickory Springs), Corning Cable Systems (formerly Siecor) for 9.5 years, Sarstedt (Newton), City of Hickory for 12 years 5 months, self-employed as an IT Consultant (focusing on local government for 8 months) and now at HITS Tech (Conover) since April 15th. During my career I have been interviewed for several national publications, been Hickory Daily Record's Technology Person in the Spotlight, a guest speaker at multiple IT conferences in NC and SC, received recognition for my innovative projects and was one of the three finalists nationwide for the SearchCIO magazine Technological Advancement Award.

2) Tell us about the accomplishments you are proudest of achieving in your life? Something besides having a family or raising children. We all recognize that those are common goals that we all aspire to. What’s the most exciting thing you saw/did/experienced/were a part of in your personal life? In your professional life?

Since I can't talk about my wife or children, the achievement that means the most to me is putting myself through school. I worked hard in high school and college, and was fortunate enough to earn several academic scholarships. Along with several other need-based grants and working 15-25 hours per week, I completed my BS in Computer Science with less than $1,000 of debt. I also made sure to get my money's worth by taking full class loads and achieved a minor in Business Information Systems, and was only 1 class shy of minors in both Physics and Accounting. The most amazing thing I ever experienced was the birth of my children (way to go Susan!!). I was totally speechless, with tears in my eyes. Wow! Aside from that, the thing that always has, and still does, give me a complete sense of wonder and awe is SCUBA Diving. I absolutely love being in the water, even after a less than pleasant Man-of-War sting where it wrapped around my right hand and up my arm (causing an infection about 1 week later)! The tranquility, the weightlessness, the marine life, the feeling of being a visitor to an alien world - it's amazing! On the professional side, there are several major, exciting projects that give me a great sense of accomplishment. One is the the implementation of a Cisco IP Telephony solution for the City of Hickory (network redesign, new equipment, new cabling, resulting in major cost savings). Designing and coding the Cable Design System for Corning Cable Systems' cable manufacturing locations generated tremendous time and cost savings (from manual to automated process saving approximately 4 hours of labor per new design, reduction of raw materials and more) and gave me a wonderful feeling of satisfaction.

3) If I were to ask people that know you to describe you what would they say?
I think most people would describe me as a leader, friendly, warm, good sense of humor, easy to talk to, sensitive, caring and optimistic. I feel those who know me best would describe me as progressive, a good communicator, practical, open, candid and perceptive. We all want to be remembered fondly, and I hope I have made a difference in the lives of people around me as a parent, a friend, a coach, a mentor, a supervisor and community leader.

4) How much bearing do the opinions of the people around you have on your decisions?
I always consider alternatives. A strong leader does not have to do everything themselves. I use all the data I can collect to make the best decision possible. I have lots of ideas with varying degrees of value! Therefore, I appreciate the input and opinions of others. I am persuasive and persistent, especially if it is something I believe in strongly, but I am also logical and willing to select the best option available (whether it is mine or others).

5) Can you tell us of a professional mistake that you have made that may have had an impact on who you are today? Does it still bother you? Can you share with us how you came to grips with that error?
Trusting people too much. Of course it still bothers me, I was very hurt. But, I try not to dwell on it. I want to trust people to do what they say and not say or do things when they shouldn't. I don't really want to change who I am, so coming to grips with this mistake means living with it and being more careful in the future. I view mistakes as a learning opportunity. Everyone makes mistakes - it's how you deal with them that differentiates us.

6) If you were given enough money to tackle one project (think nearly unlimited) that you felt was important to the Hickory Area, what would that issue be?
Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. The residents of Hickory have struggled long enough. We need to all work together and right this floundering, directionless ship. The EDC works for all of Catawba County, but I want to have a person dedicated to the city of Hickory. We need someone who is solely focused on the recruitment of new business and the satisfaction and retention of existing businesses in Hickory.

7) Let’s say there is no money available for the foreseeable future. What one project (priority) would you push as part of your agenda that can be done with little or no money?
Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. I know, that was my priority for nearly unlimited funds. Well, it's simply that important! My philosophy would not change. We still need a dedicated person for this critical area. The City has continued to fund positions when needed throughout their ongoing hiring freeze. Maybe this means a slight reorganization of exiting personnel or someone totally new. It can and should be done! The residents of Hickory and surrounding areas need someone to step up and lead them out of this stagnated wreckage. We deserve it and need it!

8) What is your overall philosophy of the development of this area? Where would you like to see us in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

Stagnant. I have asked numerous people, "What happens to a body of water that has no movement?" It becomes stagnant. Then, it stinks! No one wants to live next to a stagnant pond that has no new life, is infested with mosquitoes, full of algae and smells. Right now, no one is excited about moving to Hickory either. This area has so much to offer! We need to get our economy moving again. We need progress. To many, change is a negative word. If you ask a caterpillar, I am sure they are in favor of change! Otherwise, they are doomed to a sad life on their belly as opposed to their transformation (change or metamorphosis) into a lovely, airborne butterfly. In 5 years I want to establish Hickory as a growing and vibrant city, with a substantial reduction in the unemployment rate we have today. In 10 years I would want more of the same and even lower unemployment. We should be back to the growth and unemployment we experienced in the 90's. In 20 years, we should not only have completed our recovery from the past 10+ years, but we should be viewed across the state and nation as a model for others. Hickory is more capable than what we are showing at this time. Hickory is the hub of this metropolitan area and it is time we stepped up and acknowledged that role. We need continued, sustainable development. Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum - Hickory's motto - Latin for No Stepping Back (sometimes translated No Steps Backward). We've been stagnant or even losing ground for long enough. It's time for change. It's time for progress.

9) If you could define your Personal Legacy what would you like it to be? What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like my legacy to be, that I made a difference. Whether it is to someone I have mentored, someone I have coached or to the residents of Hickory as a whole. I care and I want to make a difference in the lives of as many people as God needs. Making a difference for one is great. Making a difference for more . . . tremendous!! I hope that when I am no longer on this earth, that I will be remembered fondly as a caring person, someone who made people laugh, someone who got involved, someone who was not afraid to express their opinions, and mostly as someone who made a difference.

10) How do you define Leadership?
Leadership requires someone with charisma and vision, who is not afraid of failure (it is, after all, how we learn). Leadership is the conviction to fight for beliefs (especially when it is not the easy choice). It is someone who readily admits their mistakes. A leader is authentic, not phony. They are someone who sees the value in projects and people, not the cost. Leadership is about confidence and inspiring others to perform at their best. When needed they are persuasive, but are also open to new ideas and thoughts. A good leader is humble and knows when to be candid and when to give praise. People in leadership roles should be practical, prepared and progressive. What a coincidence, since my campaign slogan is "Progress. Well Crafted."

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