Out of the gate: Candidates address Camden GOP
By William F. West
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
CAMDEN — Area Republicans who’ve filed for the May primary got their first chance to address the public as official candidates Monday night at a meeting of the Camden County Republican Party.
Among those addressing about 30 Camden Republicans at the Paradiso Restaurant were state Rep. Bob Steinburg, R-Chowan, who filed earlier in the day for the open seat in the newly drawn Senate District 1, and Eddy Goodwin, the former ferry division director and Chowan commissioner, who is seeking to succeed Steinburg in the newly drawn state House District 1. Camden County is included in both Senate District 1 and House District 1.
Also speaking were Rodney Meads and Kevin Jones, the two Republicans who filed Monday to succeed Democratic Sheriff Tony Perry, who is not seeking re-election, and Clayton Riggs, an incumbent county commissioner who represents Shiloh on the county board.
Also addressing Republicans was Chris Purcell, a local businessman who said he plans to be a candidate for the Camden Board of Education. Because school board seats are non-partisan, Camden school board candidates don’t file until July.
Riggs, the commission board’s current chairman, touted the county’s success in economic development over the past four years. He noted that he and Sandy Duckwall, a former county commissioner and now the chairwoman of the Camden GOP, were on hand in the spring of 2016 for the official opening of the Hardee’s restaurant at the corner of U.S. Highway 158 and N.C. Highway 343.
“I think we’ve done good for the county and the county is growing. We’ve brought in some economic development,” Riggs said.
He said county officials are working hard to bring a couple more business prospects to Camden. He said officials are keeping their fingers crossed about bringing a grocery store to the county.
During their chance to address the group of Camden Republicans, Meads and Jones both cited their experience and background in law enforcement.
Meads noted he served in the Air Force from 1975-99 before joining the Camden Sheriff's Office when Jones' late father, Joe, was sheriff. Meads, who rose through the ranks to become chief deputy under Perry, said he would work to keep the county safe if elected.
"I want people in this county to be able to go on vacation and not worry about their home — and to be able to sleep at night and not worry about their home," he said.
He said while he and Perry haven't always agreed on everything, he respects him because he’s the sheriff’s office’s elected leader.
"But, that's going to change soon. So, that's going to give a chance for new ideas and things to take place," he said.
Jones noted that his father had served as Camden's sheriff and that he himself had worked four years as an Elizabeth City police officer before joining the N.C. Highway Patrol as a trooper 24 years ago.
While he said the patrol focuses mainly on traffic enforcement, he has also been involved in investigating serious crimes like murder.
"Murder is murder,” he said. “It doesn't matter if somebody is killed with a firearm or a knife. If a drunk driver has killed somebody, then that's murder. And I've been involved in cases and actually charged people with that — and saw them all the way through the prosecution of it."
Jones said if he’s elected sheriff, he intends to put in place the same kind of strict chain of command that the Highway Patrol follows, adding it should be a good recruiting tool for the office.
"I want to bring to the sheriff's department that esprit de corps that the highway patrol has and turn this organization into a professional organization," he said.
Steinburg, who is completing his third, two-year term in the House, emphasized his connections in the new 11-county state Senate district if he's elected.
Steinburg talked about the importance of economic development, including the future Interstate 87 and the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge. Regarding the latter, long-stalled project, he said, “It's going to happen if we can just get these environmentalists to just move a little bit."
He urged Camden Republicans not to listen to those who say the Albemarle region “has always been this way and things aren't going to be any better. ... It's just the way it is. ... This is our lot in life."
"This area is on the verge of exploding," Steinburg said. "I'm happy to be a part of it."
Goodwin, a former family farmer and Air Force veteran, touted his background which includes past service as both a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent and nuclear arms treaty inspector. As a Chowan commissioner from 2008-12, Goodwin said he also had helped steer the county’s government out of a financial fiasco. Prior to his 3½-year stint as ferry division chief, Goodwin also served as Gov. Pat McCrory's eastern North Carolina representative.
Recalling a conversation he once had with his father about getting into politics, he said his dad told him “the game I was getting in was ugly, boy" but because of his life experiences, he "could take it better than anybody."
Purcell also spoke at Monday’s GOP meeting. The owner, along with his wife, of Firehouse Subs in Elizabeth City, Purcell said he decided to seek one of three seats on the Camden school board after talking to several GOP officials and doing "some serious soul-searching."
Purcell noted that he and his wife hire a number of high school-age workers for their restaurant, a number of them from Camden. He said he believes, like school board members in Currituck believe, that state officials need to restore a career and technical education track to the public schools.
"We've been preaching for years and years that our kids need a four-year degree — they've got to have a four-year degree," Purcell said. “It's great. It's wonderful to have. ... But there are kids that aren't cut out for it. There are kids that we see in our restaurant that are so technologically savvy, but they don't have the drive to go for four years of college.
"Kids need to be taught how to work with their hands,” he continued. “Not everybody is meant to be in college, and the ones that aren't, they need to have a backup and an option to fall to."
Duckwall said other Republican candidates for the Senate District 1 and House District 1 seats were invited to Monday’s event. Riggs also said Commissioner Tom White, who filed Monday for re-election, couldn't attend because of a scheduling conflict.