For Election: The Daily Advance endorsements


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Voters are already turning out at the polls for early voting in numbers that could make this election one of the most significant in recent memory. While those who have voted – and many others who have not – are already set on candidates who they believe should be elected on Nov. 8, The Daily Advance offers its endorsements to undecided voters yet to make their election decisions. Our endorsements today are for offices and issues being decided in our area counties.

Pasquotank County

Board of Commissioners, at large: Jeff Dixon

Unlike some past elections, this year county voters don't have a large slate of candidates vying for several open seats. In fact, only one seat on the Pasquotank County Board of Commissioners is being challenged this election cycle. That's the at-large commission seat currently held by Democrat Jeff Dixon. Dixon, 58, a businessman and owner of City Beverage Co., distributorship, is seeking a fourth term on the board. He is being challenged by unaffiliated candidate Sean Lavin, 37, a production supervisor at Weeksville's aerostat manufacturer TCOM.

Both candidates bring strong qualifications to the position, and both have in recent political forums and other political appearances, demonstrated the skills and temperament to serve the public well as a commissioner. Dixon, however, already has provided sound leadership and decision-making from the position of commissioner, and as chairman of the board. He requires no breaking-in period or getting up to speed on county issues. He is dutifully managing the public's business and handling the responsibilities of guiding the county in a progressive and thoughtful way. That experience and our belief that he will continue to do the right thing for all residents as a commissioner earns Dixon our endorsement for re-election to the at-large seat.

Board of Education, Inside City: Sheila Williams

Public education will continue to be a priority focus of county residents wanting to insure their schools are doing the job of providing the best education for local students in a rapidly changing world. This year's vote finds only one contested race: That, between 12-year incumbent Harvey Beasley, 69, a retiree with a career that included the military, accounting and teaching business classes at Elizabeth City State University, and Sheila Williams, 51, current director of teacher education at ECSU.

Where experience and record in elected office are typically good indicators of future performance, Beasley's long tenure has produced few moments demonstrating leadership on issues affecting local education. On the other hand, Williams, in her capacity as a molder of future teachers, is in a better position to recognize and act on trending influences in education. Williams also has demonstrated through her own experience of moving up the educational ladder, that she is focused and engaged in the service of education, not just as a potential public official, but as a life-long calling. Gaining her experience and skills would be a step in the right direction for the school board and worthy of voters making a change this election.

Pasquotank sales tax referendum: For

In addition to their choices for candidates seeking public office, Pasquotank County voters will also approve or reject a quarter-cent increase on the local sales tax. The referendum was added to the ballot by the county board of commissioners who have resolved to use the additional revenue – estimated to be about $1 million a year – for the needs of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools. The commissioners opted for the schools funding mechanism after it approved an allocation to local schools more than $2 million short of this year's budget request from ECPPS. The shortfall will mean cutbacks in operations and critical technology upgrades – all affecting the priorities that citizens and officials have agreed are important to the mission of preparing local students to compete on both a national and international level in the future workforce. Also, the sales tax increase would raise revenue from a wider source – consumers from near and far who shop in Pasquotank – thus, taking much of the burden off of county taxpayers.

Local schools need this funding to do what residents want their schools to do – provide a credible and valued education for students. The small tax increase – effectively, 2.5 cents on a $10 purchase – is a simple and nearly painless method to achieve that. We urge voters to vote “For” the sales tax increase.

Camden County

Board of Commissioners, at-large: Sam Shaw

Camden leaders face obligations to residents such as insuring local schools have the resources needed and the challenges of building a more vibrant economic base to take the taxation pressure off property owners. New ideas and options are needed, but residents also want to proceed, confident in the individuals making the key decisions that may affect their lives. They have a choice this year for the board's at-large seat, for which two capable candidates Democrat Sam Shaw and Republican Ross Munro are competing.

Both candidates support public education and want to maintain local school quality.

On economic development, Munro, 54, a retired Navy SEAL who now works as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor, likes the idea of reinvigorating the green industrial park in northern Camden as a way to grow the tax base.

Shaw, 43, the in-school suspension program coordinator at Camden County High School and Camden Early College and pastor of New Sawyers Creek Baptist Church, also supports economic development efforts to support education and local services. His view is that stimulating small business growth will create a stronger local economy and add jobs. While both candidates' ideas have merit, local experience suggests that Shaw's tack toward small business stimulation works over the long-term. Of course, landing a large industry that offers hundreds of jobs would be welcome, too, but those opportunities are becoming rare and rarer still in Northeastern North Carolina. The choice in this race is difficult with two good candidates, either of whom would make a capable commissioner, but our endorsement goes to Shaw.

Board of Education, At-Large: Christian Overton, Beth Strecker

Incumbent Christian Overton, 43, a sales representative for an agribusiness firm, and three other capable candidates – Tiffany R. Bounds, 31, a stay-at-home mother, Kevin Heath,35, manager of engineering with Albemarle Electric Membership Corp., and Dr. Beth L. Strecker, 49, professor of library science at East Carolina University – have emerged for two seats on the school board. All candidates agree that a key challenge for local education is funding – being able to find the resources that will maintain Camden's good public schools.

While all of these candidates would bring unique and useful perspectives to the responsibilities as board members, two standout as good fits among the current board make-up. Christian Overton, has served eight years, two terms, on the board since first being elected in 2008. He also is highly involved with other organizations, both educational and professional, that contribute to his knowledge understanding of the county and state and education issues. During his time on the board, Camden schools have progressed, while student performance has continued to excel. Also, though a newcomer to public office, Beth Strecker's experience, success and professional credentials in education add a needed level of expertise that would benefit this board. On the key issue of finance, both candidates called for grant funding for school projects – an avenue for finding dollars to do what is needed, rather than writing off projects on the excuse that Camden does not have the resources. That type of thinking is needed in Camden. We endorse Overton and Strecker for the two seats.

Mixed beverage referendum: For

While the sale of mixed drinks is not going to change the economic landscape in Camden, it is one more attribute that economic developers and planners can put to use when trying to woo business and industry toward the county. Used in the same quiver of offerings as lifestyle, available land, water, schools, etc., the option appeals to those businesses that depend on mixed drinks, such as restaurants, motels, etc., to justify financial investment. It also helps existing restaurants grow their business. Camden is surrounded by Pasquotank and Currituck counties and Tidewater, Va, where mixed drinks are available. It makes little sense to believe the county is avoiding the impact of mixed drinks simply by not allowing them to be served in Camden. The only impact the county appears to be avoiding now is the potential benefit to economic development. Voters should vote “For” in the mixed beverage election.

Perquimans County

Board of Commissioners: Kyle Jones, Joseph Hoffler, Charles Woodard

Perquimans County has a long and proud tradition of elected officials who’ve been fiscally conservative and professional. Perquimans County also has a rather unique system where residents can vote for just one person even though there may be three seats open.

Four candidates are vying for the three openings this year. Just one, Republican Kyle Jones, is an incumbent. While the youngest of the four at age 31, Jones, an assistant district attorney, has shown he is capable and fair, and as such he’s currently the vice chairman of the board.

The other three candidates, Democrats Joseph Hoffler and Charles Woodard and Republican Alan Lennon are political newcomers. It’s a tough choice, but we believe Jones, Hoffler and Woodard would be the best candidates for the county.

Woodard, 70, a pharmacist, and Perquimans County native, is probably best know for the downtown drug store that he owns. The pharmacy can clearly be consider as a solid anchor for the downtown area. Woodard also has a long history of civic involvement.

Hoffler, 76, another Perquimans County native, is a retired Air Force officer. He’s been active in the NAACP and American Legion Post 362.

Lennon, 40, has also shown leadership for his role in questioning the development of a new wind power project. He and his family moved to Perquimans County by choice and Lennon has shown a willingness to protect the lifestyle many others came here for. We look forward to seeing him involved in the future.

Chowan County

Board of County Commissioners, At-Large: Brian Ferraraccio

For the At-Large seat, we endorse Brian Ferraraccio. In his second bid for elective office – he ran in 2014 for the District 2 seat currently held by John Mitchener – the Republican candidate is again emphasizing the need for transparency in local government and especially for videotaping and televising commissioner meetings. Ferraraccio's push for transparency is enough to give him a slight edge over his well-qualified opponent, Democrat Donald Faircloth.

Board of County Commissioners, Dist. 2: Patti Kersey

For the District 2 seat, we endorse Patti Kersey, who has recent experience on the county's planning board and attends nearly all county commissioner meetings and many other county meetings. The Republican, who retired from the U.S. Air Force, has a good understanding of the budgetary and other challenges the county faces and has practical ideas for addressing them. The Democrat in the race, Derrick Wadsworth, has a vast experience in state government and some strong ideas of his own for addressing the county's needs.

Board. Of County Commissioners, Dist. 1: James White

For the District 1 seat, we endose James “Jill” White, a Chowan County native with deep roots in the northern part of the county. What White, a Democrat, lacks in experience with county government he makes up for in knowledge about his community, its residents and its businesses. He will represent the citizens of northern Chowan County with understanding and wisdom. White also would provide the balance of another progressive-leaning voice on the board, which has a strong tendency toward conservative decision-making.

Currituck County

Board of Education, Fruitville Township: Darnell Gaddis

In the only contested race for the nonpartisan Currituck Board of Education, Fruitville Township incumbent Darnell Gaddis is being challenged in her re-election bid by William Crodick, who’s making his second bid for school board.

We think Gaddis deserves a second term. She knows the biggest challenge facing school districts statewide is funding, and how schools with rapidly growing technology and other needs will afford them without continuing to dip into their own dwindling fund balances. Gaddis also favors the forward-thinking idea of partnering with other school districts on the creation of a regional vocational-technical training high school to meet the needs of students not interested in attending college for a four-year degree.

Crodick, on the other hand, seems more interested in disrupting the consensus of the current five-member school board. He takes issue with what he said are the board’s unanimous votes on all matters, save one, over the past four years. He suggests that consensus is a bad thing, calling it a “disconnect.” We disagree. We see it instead as a sign of a group of adults working together for the betterment of Currituck’s schoolchildren.

Register of Deeds: Denise Hall

The only other contested race on Currituck’s ballot is for register of deeds. While register of deeds races generally don’t provide much controversy, that’s not the case in the race between incumbent Republican Denise Hall and unaffiliated challenger Christine Beaumont.

Beaumont has tried to make records security an issue in the race, noting that under Hall, the Register of Deeds Office no longer keeps hard copies of Currituck’s vital records — property deeds, marriage licenses, birth records — on file. Hall has responded that with the computer technology now available, those records can be digitized. As a result the register of deeds office no longer has to keep paper copies of new records, thereby reducing the cost of the office’s operations. Digitizing the records also makes them less vulnerable, Hall says, from damage from flooding and other disasters.

Beaumont also charged at a candidates forum, wrongly it turns out, that during Hall’s tenure Currituck’s vital documents are uploaded into a third-party vendor’s database and no longer stored in the county. In fact, the Register of Deeds Office has computer servers that continue to store these records. Beaumont quickly acknowledged the error.

Beaumont has also suggested that the increased online availability of the records can lead to instances of deed fraud or foreign hacking. For her part, Hall believes the current processes she has in place have provided much more public access to Currituck’s records while still protecting them from the kinds of threats Beaumont suggests could happen. 

There are a number of other issues on which Beaumont and Hall disagree. But on the narrow issue of whether Currituck’s vital records are being kept in a secure manner and made available to the widest public as possible, we feel the incumbent is doing a good job. Hall should be re-elected.