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Wallace C. Harrelson wants ``to restore some sanity' to Guilford government.


Wallace C. Harrelson has accepted the gauntlet.

Even though it is a four-way race for two at-large seats on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the Democrat has been singled out by Republican Walter C. Cockerham for one-on-one competition.And Harrelson, who for nearly 23 years as public defender has made a career of defending poor people accused of crimes, is now defending himself against Cockerham - and attacking some, too.

At forums and in joint interviews, they have shifted the spotlight of a four-way contest to their two-way feud. And having been fired from the area mental health board by the Steve Arnold-led GOP commissioners' majority, Harrelson has focused on Arnold.

Harrelson, 55, is ``violently opposed to Mr. Arnold's voucher proposal' to help send children to public or private schools on a tax-supported voucher system. He calls it ``absurd,' noting that County Attorney Jonathan Maxwell has advised the commissioners' board it is illegal to use tax money to support private-school vouchers.

As for appointments and operations, Harrelson said the current commissioners' majority believes ``no Democrats should serve on any boards.' Harrelson, though, was appointed by the GOP majority, and later removed by that same leadership.

Harrelson said he was fired because the commissioners wanted to micro-manage area board members. Harrelson said appointive boards should not be stacked with any one party or philosophy and should have a racially diverse membership.

To enhance governmental cooperation - something Harrelson said the current board hasn't improved upon - he advocates involving the business community and every city and community in Guilford in discussions.

If the commissioners can't cooperate with the governments within the county's boundaries, Harrelson said, Guilford won't be able to effectively promote economic development.

On another issue the board will face, Harrelson said residents of the unincorporated areas should decide by referendum if they want mandatory garbage collection.

``I'm of the opinion that if everybody in Guilford County had garbage collection that it would be far cheaper than the fees we are paying,' Harrelson said.

Voter mandates already have clinched two issues for Harrelson: watershed acquisition and redistricting the Board of Commissioners.

Because voters overwhelmingly endorsed a watershed referendum four years ago, Harrelson advocates an accelerated purchase plan for buffer land around area water supplies. He would support hiring additional staff to get the job done.

Voters last year also endorsed the 11-member districting plan under which the 1992 election is being held, and Harrelson opposes pursuing another plan favored by the GOP majority.

``I don't know why Arnold and company want to continue pursuing something when the voters have spoken,' Harrelson said.

``The only people who would want to pursue it are people like Cockerham and his (crowd) ... if they happen to lose.'


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