Political newcomer Mike Burrus of Wanchese is challenging incumbent Ervin Bateman of Kitty Hawk for the Dare County Board of Commissioners at-large seat in the upcoming May 17 Republican primary election. Democratic candidate Heather Euler of Buxton will face the winner of that primary in November.
Burrus, 38 and a native of Wanchese, works as a sales representative and installer at LL Flooring in Kill Devil Hills. Bateman, 67 is a sixth generation Outer Banker and the owner of Sugar Creek Restaurant in Nags Head. He is seeking his second term on the board of commissioners.
In separate interviews with the Voice, both candidates discussed some of the local issues facing the county, what they would bring to the position and their priorities, if elected.
Burrus said that if elected, he would make being proactive and accessible a priority, with a focus on long-term planning and representing the entire county, regardless of political affiliation. He said that he’d like to see more proactive solutions to county problems, such as affordable housing, the overregulation of commercial fishing and the badly shoaled Oregon Inlet.
Speaking of the current board of commissioners, he said, “They’ve been reactive for years and they wait until the last minute. We’ve had some of these problems for decades, and then now it’s, ‘We’re going to do something about it because people are going to get mad and vote us out.’”
On the key issue of affordable housing, Burrus said he’d like to see the county pursue a rental program that provides a tax incentive for property owners who provide year-round housing rather than spending money on centrally located housing units to address the problem.
“Affordable housing has been something we’ve needed for twenty years. It’s been talked about time and again, and there’s been zero movement…and then all of the sudden, we’re going to spend money on studies,” he said. “I don’t need a study to tell me that it’s a problem. I don’t need a study to tell me that teachers don’t make enough. I don’t need a study to tell me that our current county employees don’t make enough and that their benefits package is worse now than it was twenty years ago.”
Burrus also said he’d like to see the county reinstate its own home health and hospice operation, which was sold to BrightSpring Health Services for $2.9 million last year.
“I was so disgusted to see them sell that because the price was right…It doesn’t have to be profitable, it’s a service we’re providing for the elderly of this community who are maybe entering the last stages of their time with us and need assistance and not all of them have the insurance that can qualify with a private company,” he said,
Burrus also cited the issue of Bateman changing political parties in 2021. “If his reasoning is something along the lines of, ‘Well, [the Democratic party] no longer represents me’ …when did they change, and what was the change?”