As a service to voters ahead of the 2024 party primaries in North Carolina, SamWalkerOBXNews.com has asked each of the candidates running in Dare County to answer a series of questions on various issues.
Primary Day in North Carolina is set for Tuesday, March 5.
To be as fair as possible to each candidate, the order in which their answers appear has been dictated by the order in which their name appears on the ballot.
Below are candidates running for the Republican nomination for the unexpired term on the Dare County Commissioner from District 1 between Bea Basnight and Michael Burrus.
Basnight was appointed to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Jim Tobin last fall until the next regularly scheduled election, which is this November. The winner of the race between Basnight and Burrus will then serve through November 2026.
District 1 commissioners represent Roanoke Island and the Dare mainland, but are elected at-large and appear on all ballots in Dare County.
Meet The Candidates
I have been a resident of Dare County for more than 50 years, and my love for Dare County is stronger than ever.
I grew up in Perquimans County and spent each summer vacationing in Dare County. During my college years, I worked at The Oasis Restaurant as a barefoot co-ed, and by the time I graduated from college, I knew Dare County was my home.
I married a native Manteo fellow, and began my teaching career at Manteo Elementary School, retiring 35 years later.
After retirement, I was elected to the Dare County Board of Education, where I served for 12 years, the last four as Chairman.
I am very proud of the accomplishments made during my service on the Board of Education including expanded housing for teachers, the Carolina College Advising Corps program for Dare County Schools, and working with the County Commissioners to acquire additional classrooms and land for expansion of our schools.
I have served on many non-profit boards such as the Roanoke Island Historical Association, Hands of Hope and the Virginia Tillett Center Advisory Board.
I am married to Saint Clair Basnight, Jr. We live in Manteo and enjoy attending our “grandchildren’s” sporting events and dance recitals. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Elon University and a Master of Arts in Education from East Carolina University.
I have lived in Wanchese all of my life. My family is from Dare County for over 350 years.
I earned an MBA from Mount Olive University here in North Carolina.
I have worked in flooring, both sales and installation, for 20 years. During that time I have also worked second jobs, mostly in restaurants.
I’m a lifelong conservative Republican, not someone that switches parties. I believe we are public servants and not politicians. This is something we need to get back to.
I hope to be of service to my community and help address the current issues while planning for a sustainable future in Dare County.
Besides housing, what are the biggest challenges the county faces over the next 10 years, and if elected how do you plan to address them?
In the next ten years, one of the biggest challenges Dare County will face will be planning for sustainable growth and a balance between a permanent population and a tourist–based population.
As we grow, we must remain mindful of providing adequate funding for our excellent educational system, keeping our waters clean and navigable, maintaining sufficient healthcare services, and providing opportunities for our youth and adults.
I plan to address these challenges with comprehensive planning and sound financial practices.
We have a lot of aging buildings that have been poorly maintained. We will have to start building new facilities to replace the old and acquiring the property to do so.
Our current growth rate is unsustainable and we will have to improve long-term planning to help counter that or we will be left operating from behind.
As commissioner, how will you move forward in solving the housing issue in Dare County?
Bringing together people representing all areas of Dare County to share ideas and possible solutions is a step toward working as a team.
It will take every town and community to “buy in” to a solution. I will continue to listen to ideas and evaluate the housing needs of Dare County citizens.
We need multiple projects at multiple locations. This may require multiple companies to complete. We can’t dump 300-400 units on any one town or village.
The current group has had two decades worth of attention on this problem and not one project started. The state provided $35+ million and still nothing from our commissioners.
They are only concerned with forcing this to go to their friends with a company with zero experience undertaking this type of project.
It is simply a cash grab on the way out for some of these people as they won’t continue to run after their agenda is served.
Do you believe Dare County has a growth problem? If yes, in what ways as commissioner will you try to bring it in check? If not, explain why you feel the county’s path of development has been positive?
Growth brings new ideas, insight, innovation to any community, and Dare County is no exception.
I don’t consider the growth Dare County is experiencing as a problem, but as an opportunity to expand our knowledge and culture.
With vigilant and comprehensive planning, Dare County can grow in population without sacrificing quality.
We have unsustainable growth. I believe everyone is in agreement with that.
My family has been here for a few hundred years and I don’t see that being the case moving forward. The cost to live here is growing at too fast a rate. Soon only big money from out of town will be able to make it and the old Outer Banks will be gone.
We need to acquire land and leave it as green space and beachfront. No more 25 bedroom “houses” and some of these businesses are too much. We don’t need the same store on every corner.
We will have to make the hard decision to exclude the building of similar type businesses in close proximity. That’s hard to do because people should have a right to build what they want if it is zoned that way.
Towns need to look at zoning and make adjustments based on existing businesses.
What is your view on beach nourishment projects overall, and what steps would you be willing to take as commissioner to nourish the Rodanthe/Waves/Salvo beach?
Dare County’s beaches represent our industry. Our beaches bring our tourists, and our tourists funnel an abundance of money into our economy. Beach nourishment builds the beaches that draw our tourists.
It may not be the only answer or the most lasting answer, but it does help keep our industry alive.
With the Rodanthe/Waves/Salvo beach, certain requirements must be in place to move forward with beach nourishment, and as your commissioner, I will continue to seek solutions to help with the issues facing concerned property owners.
A quarter of a billion dollars has been spent on this project. We need to start looking for a long term solution other than just pumping the sand back up on the beach.
There are projects in other coastal states that have shown to be effective such as breakwaters and seawalls.
There are also federal funds available that we have not tried to obtain.
Do you support/oppose the county joining with the National Park Service on the remediation efforts they have already undertaken in Rodanthe (buying oceanfront properties and removing homes), and please explain why?
I commend Superintendent David Hallac and the National Park Service for their inclination to address remediation in Rodanthe. I have met with Superintendent Hallac, and I am amenable to working with residents and the National Park Service to investigate possible solutions.
I’m ok with it if the people are. Both structures were moved and zero tax dollars were spent.
The National Park Service has taken the reins and they can use the Land and Water Conservation fund to acquire these properties.
Maybe we could partner in a way that these houses be used for workforce housing in the areas they come from with funds generated from rent establishing a fund to help continue the works in the future.
No need to spend beach nourishment money to then pollute those beaches with crashing houses.
As commissioner, how will you work with state and federal regulatory and elected officials to protect the marine and seafood industries of Dare County?
Dare County Commissioners have fought the fight to protect our local fishing industry for years, and I am joining that fight.
Elected officials from Washington, DC to Raleigh will continue to hear protests from Dare County about their unfair overreaching fishing regulations.
I will talk with and/or meet with any officials to preserve our marine and fishing industries and to protect the livelihood of those who fish.
The commercial fishing industry has been regulated to be a shell of what it once was.
The commercial fisherman is one of the most regulated against workers in the United States. A lot of the regulations are nonsensical.
We need way more input from these hard working men and women on the laws regarding their living and less input from landlocked liberals that don’t understand what a hard day’s work is like.
I’ll do everything I can to protect these industries that are the backbone of our area.
Do you support or oppose the proposed expansion of The Soundside Event site in Nags Head, and please explain why?
Nags Head’s Soundside Event site provides an open space for many activities for Dare County citizens. I think the Town of Nags Head should proceed with expansion of the site if it is the pleasure of their residents.
I personally would love to see a passenger ferry operating between the Soundside Event site and downtown Manteo.
That site has been and could continue to be a space that offers opportunities for all citizens of Dare County.
I don’t think it is in the best interest of the community to move forward with that project. We have other things that need to be taken care of first.
From what I’ve heard and read, the people don’t want it either. You have to wonder then, why is it being proposed.
The commissioners are supposed to act for the people they represent and the people don’t want it. When elected officials quit listening we need to replace them.
How as commissioner will you address/improve the needs of residents of mainland Dare County?
As a new commissioner, I have a lot to learn, and I find the best way to learn about all areas of Dare County is to listen to the residents.
I already have plans to meet with citizens in Manns Harbor to listen to their needs, concerns and ideas, and I welcome the opportunity to listen to all residents throughout the county.
This is going to be the area that will expand the most per capita in the next twenty years.
We need to make sure we have services and facilities to provide for them like we do in the rest of the county. This includes planning for that growth with every new project.
Zoning that benefits current residents will need to be put in place so they don’t end up with the same ill-conceived cluster home projects we were forced to accept in Wanchese.
What is one public service the county lacks that you would like to see added, a public service Dare already has that needs improving, and a public service the county excels at?
Dare County’s services are first class.
From Public Safety to Public Works Sanitation to Emergency Med Services and everything in between, Dare County strives to provide services that meet the needs of residents and visitors.
I commend the employees who work in every one of Dare County’s service jobs for their dedication and competence.
Dare County has an active and organized Parks and Recreation Department that provides activities for our youth and our adults.
Dare County maintains several playing fields, and I would love to see a complex built to house several fields for both youth and adult sports…one that would attract tournaments to our area to help boost our economy.
The obvious answer for the one we lack is workforce housing. If elected, that will be started during my two-year term. It will be my number one goal.
A service that needs reworking is public transportation. We can partner with towns better and make this a more available service.
It could help cut down on DUI’s and potentially limit traffic in some areas while cutting the cost for our workforce that don’t have access to a vehicle, or couples that can’t afford more than one. Every little bit helps.
We excel at having a wonderful senior center and community center at the Baum Center and Tillett Center. It is great that older adults can gather and enjoy each other’s company and learn or continue a skill like arts and crafts etc.
What is one thing you want voters to know about yourself that makes you stand out from your opponent?
I am a public servant at heart. The experience I have as a teacher, Chair of the Dare County Board of Education, board member of several Dare County non-profits, and the Dare County Commissioner representing District One gives me the insight and skills to represent all Dare County citizens with a high level of commitment, compassion and integrity.
I’m a Republican with conservative values. My opponent is a lifelong Democrat that only switched to get elected.
I won’t go along just to get along. I will outwork everyone else on that board to ensure I can hold my head high when I meet with the voting public.
I don’t have to run. I don’t need to. I want to because I can be a force for the people and hold those there now accountable for what isn’t getting done.