County commissioner candidates Asciutto, Mills debate

Peter Asciutto and Billy Mills will square off in the March 5 election

ALBEMARLE — Incumbent Peter Asciutto and challenger Billy Mills are squaring off for the District 5 seat of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, and both were among those speaking at the GOP Local Candidate Forum here on Feb. 12.

With the March 5 primary election less than two weeks away, the two Albemarle residents fielded questions from a moderator on county growth, the local school district, healthcare and other topics during the debate at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center.

In his opening statement, Mills, an engineering instructor at Gray Stone Day School, spoke on his Christian faith and how his desire to promote his personal values influenced a preference for teaching creation instead of evolution inside the classroom.

“I’m teaching that this world is only 6,000 years old,” Mills said. “If you have a kid who thinks the world is 200 million years old, they’re just a number. But if this Earth is 6,000 years old — and say everyone lives to be 100 years old because people used to live longer — that means there’s only been 60 generations from the beginning of time.”

He also shared his belief that the promotion of evolution in schools could lead to low self-esteem, causing children “to get on TikTok to try to get attention.”

Asciutto, an educator at Anson High School and former business owner, spoke in his opening statement about what he has accomplished as a commissioner.

“I love Stanly County and this is my home,” he said. “As a county commissioner, I helped settle the dam problem we were having with ALCOA. I partnered with Gene McIntyre, Josh Morton and Justin Burr as we got together to help settle the lawsuit that was going on for six or seven years.” Asciutto also touted his contributions towards the county’s new livestock arena that will open in the spring.

When the discussion turned to urban sprawl and responsible county growth, Asciutto said the county should aim “for slow and steady growth as our infrastructure catches up” by successfully utilizing the county land use plan with sensible zoning regulations.

“My concern is that there’s a strong anti-growth movement that is pressuring commissioners to create regulations to make it more costly for first-time homeowners to build and buy homes in the county,” Asciutto said. “We talk about freedoms and property rights, yet the same folks are trying to limit what a person can do with their property.”

Mills went in a different direction, giving support to zoning laws that would preserve the rural nature of the county.

“The number one industry in Stanly County is farming and we need to respect that, always. These guys put the food on our tables. Industry — instead of subdivisions — can bring a lot more money in,” Mills said. “Many times, the developers come in from Charlotte and out of town and they don’t care about Stanly County.”

Asciutto said he favors school consolidation rather than the status quo, and reiterated his support for the Consolidated Human Services Board and county health department.

Later, Mills brought up the subject of immigration.

“In the short amount of time that we’ve been here tonight, 250 illegal immigrants have come into North Carolina. By them saying they want asylum, they receive full welfare and they receive the full medical treatment,” he said. “Even our own people can’t get into the emergency room sometimes. These are the illegal immigrants that are breaking the law and they’re getting your tax money.”

Asciutto challenged Mills on that in his closing argument.

“It just disturbs me that you talk about Christianity and then you talk down about people,” Asciutto said. “If people come here and ask for asylum, they’re here legally at that point.”