County commission becomes less male, stale

by Kelly Corbett
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The second African American New Hanover County commissioner since post-war reconstruction in 1898, the seventh woman on the board and a former North Carolina State Senator took their seats for their upcoming four-year terms on Monday, Dec. 3, during the regular commissioners’ meeting.

During the agenda briefing on Nov. 29, outgoing commissioner Jason Thompson mentioned the board’s recent transformation.

He said it was a “PMS” board before — pale, male and stale.

Once the new commissioners were seated, Commissioner Beth Dawson nominated Commissioner Woody White for the chairman seat, seconded by Commissioner Rick Catlin.

White then nominated Dawson to the vice chairwoman seat, also seconded by Catlin. The two nominations passed unanimously.

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr., re-elected to the board, had been serving as chairman since Ted Davis Jr. resigned from his seat in September.

Barfield, the lone Democrat, said he represents all citizens of the county and goes everywhere from Landfall to Castle Hayne and from Wrightsville Beach to Kure Beach.

“And citizens, I encourage you all to be a part of your county government,” he said.

In one of three regular agenda items, the $25,000 budget amendment for the Mason Inlet Waterbird Habitat 2012 Management Plan passed unanimously with a condition made by Catlin to remove the last sentence of the brief summary.

The sentence read, “The expenditures in the Mason Inlet Project Fund will be assessed to the benefited property owners to repay the Room Occupancy Tax Fund.”

The recommendation is to move the property owners’ portion of the funding from 50 percent, or $12,500, back up to 100 percent of the cost, which was the original funding method.

County manager Chris Coudriet said staff is recommending the change in funding strategy, but residents in opposition to the amendment would be able to present their cases.

“This is simply making money available to execute the contracts, and we need to do that either way,” Coudriet said.

As the board continues to transition with two, and soon-to-be three, new members, county strategy and policy manager Beth Schrader presented an enterprise level strategy map to outline the focal points for the board from four perspectives — stakeholder, strong financial performance, internal business processes and organizational capacity.

“The key focus areas of the board were public health and superior education,” she said. 

Coudriet added that the random public input survey, currently in the hands of about 4,000 county residents, is directly linked to the strategy map.

Beginning the meeting, Thompson gave a tearful goodbye, thanking his family for the continued support during his years with both the county commission and Wilmington City Council.

To end the meeting, Catlin referred to his new role in the N.C. House as a transition.

“You personify what it really means to be a city leader,” White said, referring to Catlin’s ethics, honesty and commitment as a public official.

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