The six candidates for New Hanover County Board of Commissioners sat down last night for a forum hosted by WHQR. Sara Wood reports candidates were asked how they would ensure unity on the board.
The question was sparked by the present board’s tumultuous relationship with Commissioner Brian Berger. The three Republican and three Democratic candidates were asked how they would deal with internal turmoil and work together as a board. Most of the candidates agreed with each other on the fact that they’d agree to disagree, but not be disagreeable. Republican Derrick Hickey says he would offer his support to help bridge the gap.
“You know, as a physician I would like to sort of take the approach that we help people through their personal problems and we raise people up to do the best that they can do. I’ll be ready to disagree with the rest of them. But at the end of the day when I see someone hurting, I will try to help them be the best commissioner they can be.”
Chairman Jonathan Barfield, Jr. told the story of the tough decision he had to make last year when he asked Berger to resign on the board’s behalf. Barfield says a commissioner’s role is all about leadership and the welfare of the citizens.
“And our role is to represent all the citizens of our community. Not Republicans, not Democrats, not black, not white, not rich, not poor but all the citizens. And what I find on our board is folks that are really concerned with a party. I’m the only Democrat on a Republican board. So I’ve got to find ways to make things work for everyone.”
Republican Beth Dawson says there’s no time for unprofessional behavior on the board if the commission wants to move the local economy forward.
“Other parts, other companies and other businesses are not going to want to invest in New Hanover County unless they know they have a functioning governing board that can build consensus and work hard together.”
Four of the five commissioner seats are up for grabs in November. Berger is the only commissioner not up for re-election.