for three Hyde County commissioner positions talked about issues
affecting the county at the October Ocracoke Civic and Business
Association in the Community Center.
attendance were John Fletcher, who’s running unopposed for Ocracoke
Township; Sharon Spencer, incumbent and board chairperson, and Earl
Pugh Jr., both of the Lake Landing district, and Anson Byrd, incumbent,
and Lindsey Mooney, both of the Fairfield District. Incumbents
Dick Tunnell, Swan Quarter, and Barry Swindell, Currituck Township, are
not up for re-election and did not attend.
Candidates relayed their views via a question-and-answer format, moderated by Carol Pahl, OCBA treasurer.
said he wants to be commissioner to cut down on government. Although he
said he has e-mail, he “doesn’t pay much attention to it,” and told the
more than 30 people who attended that he’d rather talk in person or on
Spencer noted that it has been hard to maintain the governmental services that are already in place.
struggled not to go backwards,” she said. “We have spent a lot of time
fighting the ferry tolls and to keep the state and federal regulations
from infringing more on us.”
seem like an impediment to business and making a living,” noted
Byrd. “Making a living today is hard and there are a lot of
challenges when it comes to government.”
Mooney said the county needs to be economically frugal. “If we spend more than what we take in we’re in trouble,” he said.
who was the Hyde County attorney for 15 years, said he believes in
keeping a lean budget. “If someone asks for a dollar, we need to
have it. We all have our tricks to getting money, like our former EMS
director who tried to get money from another place when it was in the
to the greatest challenge facing the county, Byrd said ferry tolls will
still be an issue. Also, combining fish and wildlife resources is a
“disaster.” Tourism is our lifeline, he said. Pugh
concurred about the ferry tolls and noted that fishing regulations are
killing the commercial fishing industry.
hurts my feelings when I have to pay to go out to the beach and watch
the sunset,” Mooney said. “We have to keep our tax base low enough so
people will come here.”
Fletcher said the tax rate is a chief challenge. “The county has to be run efficiently because Ocracoke bears the brunt.”
Pugh said challenges he sees are regulations killing commercial fishing and ferry tolls.
Spencer noted that she has been to a lot of regional meetings to drum up support for the ferry toll issue.
(people in the rest of the state) don’t get it unless someone is out
there talking to them,” she said, adding that water on the roads is
another issue. “We’ve done a lot, but changes don’t happen
overnight. When you’re a commissioner you find out there’s a
procedure and a process, and these take time.”
the differences between mainland and Ocracoke, Fletcher noted that “you
have to have balance,” and he’s not in favor of Ocracoke voting for its
All county voters should vote for all the commissioners, Pugh said.
said he thought three commissioners for the entire county should be
sufficient. Currently, the county has five elected commissioners.
said the key to working on a county board of commissioners is
cooperation and that might not happen if commissioners represented only
elected to serve everybody,” said Byrd. “If each district elected
its own commissioner it would be divisive.” Mooney concurred.
Carolina Bank will be sold to another bank, Pahl noted. He asked
whether this depress Hyde County to the point of non-viability and
should the county reach out to other counties for cost-sharing?
said he did not know how the pending sale will affect the county
economically, although Fletcher said the sale will be a blow to the
county and, he added that “someone who knows,” predicted that at
least 25 and no more than 80 jobs would be lost. Pugh noted
that other businesses are showing interest in locating in Hyde County,
such as RPA, a remote-controlled aircraft testing company and a cement
“There are opportunities for growth,” Pugh said. “I’m not sure merging with another county is the right way.”
said that any time the county has seen fit to share services with other
counties it has done so. “We have been doing that,” she said.
responded that the county has had more mandated costs passed down from
the state in recent years that had to be funded. “We’re trying to be
the areas that could be looked at financially are EMS services, law
enforcement and the school district, Fletcher said. “We’re running a
school system for 650 students,” he said. “The overhead gets excessive.”
boards, such as Mosquito Control or the Sanitary District (water
board), are set up for certain things and probably can’t be combined
with other boards, Spencer said.
the Sanitary Board just wants to do water, we can’t tell them to do
otherwise,” Fletcher said. As for a water drainage system, that
cost would be $2 to $4 million, which would probably require a special
assessment of taxpayers and a yearly assessment to maintain, although
Hyde might get federal grant help, he said.
not sure this is a legal thing,” Pugh said about combining
authority-type boards. “If it’s working, maybe leave them as they are.”
One of the questions asked how the candidates feel about the current county manager Mazie Smith’s performance.
“She has been a hard worker,” Byrd said. “We’ve supported her in what she’s trying to do.”
made some decisions I’m not in favor of, but she’s got a board to
answer to,” said Mooney. “Maybe there would be a change with a
said he always finds Smith responsive and cooperative, however,
“There’s some friction between her and some of the department heads on
said that any action Smith has taken has been at the direction of the
board and that she has tried to be transparent in her management.
“Mazie is a resident and loves Hyde County. We put someone in place we
can trust to do what’s best for the county.”
Ocracoke resident Jim Pierson, after this exchange, told the group he thought this question was inappropriate.
of the Ocracoke Planning Advisory Board’s development ordinance sparked
an exchange between Fletcher and Realtor B.J. Oelschlegel, who is the
planning board chair.
ordinances should be studied and then drawn up by an off-island,
unbiased professional, Fletcher said. “I don’t like ordinances drawn up
by the caprice of the populace,” he said. “You start with the bare
bones first, then have a local group come in.”
“We’ve done that,” Oelschlegel said.
have married this (ordinance) and now you don’t like it,” Fletcher
said. After a bit of argument between the two, Pahl stopped them.
ordinance that’s written poorly should be redone,” Pugh said.
Byrd concurred, saying if an ordinance is not enforceable, it doesn’t
do anyone any good.
Mooney suggested the burn ban needs to be rewritten.
good to have a cross-section of people on the island on a board,”
Spencer said. “Then it’s up to the county to make sure the ordinance is
viable. You always have to do these (ordinances) or the state or
federal government will come in and do it for you.”
Pierson asked the candidates what they would cut if they reduce the size of government.
can’t cut down on government without getting rid of services,” Fletcher
responded. “If you have people who can’t do their job, like our
building inspector, you should get rid of them.” He suggested
having employees do multiple jobs, such as combining the EMS and fire
departments, but others noted that the fire departments are
have a hard enough time filling the EMS positions we have,” Byrd said,
noting that Hyde is a rural county that may not pay as well for these
positions as other counties.
for accomplishments the county has made, Spencer noted that her
attendance at sea-level rise meetings to dispute studies projecting a
32-inch rise in the near future made had an effect. “They based
this on one set of data,” she said. “We need to get more accurate data.”
also said the county has tried to be more transparent with its
governance and cited the beefed-up county website; telecommunications,
for which the county received an award; keeping money in the general
fund (as mandated by law), and passing a balanced budget and
maintaining the status quo in this hard economic environment.
Byrd cited the new solid waste program, and “the EMS service is better than what we had when we started.”
Fletcher noted that the county has kept up with its buildings.
for battling citizen apathy in meeting attendance and participation,
Byrd noted that the commissioners have heard great ideas from citizens
during the public comment portions of the meetings, and he encouraged
people to attend.
“People need to stand up and voice their opinions,” Mooney added.Early
general election voting on Ocracoke is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on
Saturday, Oct. 27, in the Ocracoke Community Center. Election Day is
Tuesday, Nov. 6.