There are several issues to consider throughout the election year in NC, especially in New Hanover County: House Bill 2 and LGBT rights, economic growth, community relations, and the list goes on. In the weeks leading up to Nov. 8, election day, encore will publish Q&As with candidates running for local and state offices. Candidates for NHC’s Board of Commission were all sent the same questions. This week meet candidate Patricia Kusek.
encore (e): Why do you want to serve in public office?
Patricia Kusek (PK): New Hanover County is my home and where I plan to live for the rest of my life. Government at all levels is in need of leadership with common sense, business experience and civic involvement. I watched the last several election cycles and looked with amazement at who we actually had to choose from … and my goal is to provide our voters with a better choice than some of the choices we’ve had in the past.
e: What is your leadership philosophy? How does it apply to government service?
PK: We need a strong, diverse economy, composed of a variety of business and industries that can bring good jobs to NHC. Tourism and trade are vital, but we need to move beyond our base, and encourage brick-and-mortar manufacturers and high-tech entrepreneurs to call our county home. This will increase our tax base, which will provide the funding we need for our schools and public safety.
e: If elected, what priority issues will you address in the next two years? Five years?
PK: The board will be following the guidelines of the unanimously approved comprehensive plan, which sets the stage for a strong and vital NHC for the next 30 to 40 years. That comprehensive plan will help us be prepared for the growth that is coming to our community.
The biggest priority, however, is to bring good jobs to NHC for our citizens. Jobs provide our citizens the opportunity to earn a good living for themselves and their families. We can attract businesses and industries that balance care for the environment, along with employment opportunities for our community.
e: In your opinion, how strong are community relations with the board? Explain how you would maintain or improve them.
PK: NHC County Commission should have an ongoing dialogue with our citizens. That dialogue is paved with citizen input on all levels, from advisory committees, various county board service, public hearings, and community involvement. In many cases, I feel, our citizens don’t feel their elected leaders really listen. That is why we have two ears and one mouth: to listen twice as much as we speak. Improved community relations starts right there.
e: What actions or incentives should the board pursue to encourage economic growth, while protecting the environment, property values and tourism industry?
PK: In the end the best incentive for economic development is a favorable tax climate. That said, the county should use every tool in its tool box to attract and retain good business and industry. Our permitting process should be clear, transparent and predictable. We should work with all of our economic development partners to recruit new business to our area. And we need to move to the top of the recruiters’s lists for consideration when new locations are sought. Finally, I believe we need to work more quickly and with a sense of urgency in our government, at all levels.
e: How should the Special Use Permit continue to change or come into play in the aforementioned growth?
PK: The SUP is part of a long overdue overhaul of all development ordinances and zoning districts, which is now underway as a result of the unanimously adopted comprehensive plan. These ordinances have not been updated since the 1970s. From a public policy standpoint, we should follow the comprehensive plan and try to fulfill its vision through updated ordinances, including the SUP. The SUP should provide transparency and predictability.
e: Wilmington is ranked as the number one city nationally for opioid abuse. What can the county do to combat this issue?
PK: Drug use is certainly a cancer in any community, not only NHC. So much of the drug problem can be traced back to crumbling families, lack of good jobs and a sense of pride and self-esteem in ourselves and each other. I believe we need to support the efforts of our local law enforcement who work around the clock not only to enforce, but to work on the front side of this issue to build relationships, trust and confidence. Law enforcement’s involvement in intervention is helping. We have to realize that an issue like this simply cannot be “arrested away.” The solution includes county leadership, law enforcement, citizens groups, clergy, and other social service groups, all working together.
e: Where do you stand on HB2 and how do you think it’s impacted NHC?
PK: Discrimination in any form is wrong. In my opinion, the legislation was passed too quickly, without enough consideration of the portions of it that stepped on the rights of a segment of our population. That created unintended consequences. I am confident that after the election the new legislators will reconsider this and make modifications to improve it going forward.
e: During a divisive time in politics, how might you help find middle ground on the board?
PK: Personal agendas provide nothing constructive, in politics or in life. All opinions count and should be heard. The very definition of compromise is where an agreement is reached as the result of each side making concessions. Nothing works if we don’t work together.