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 running to represent NHC’s Board of Commission were all sent the same questions. This week meet candidate Woody White.
encore (e): Why do you want to serve in public office?
Woody White (WW): I feel called to serve this community because it’s a special place. I have lived in this area all my life. I have owned a small business here for 21 years. Tammie and I are raising our two children here and we want to live here all our lives. Making it the best it can be for everyone is important to us, and motivates me to be a part of the solution to the challenges we face.
e: What is your leadership philosophy? How does it apply to government service?
WW: My philosophy is pretty simple: County government should stick to excelling at its core mission of funding public safety and education, and overseeing the state mandated functions associated with social services. We have a thriving community today, and if government learns to limit itself to its basic needs, we will thrive even more.
e: If elected, what priority issues will you address in the next two years? Five years?
WW: In the next two years, our priority will be to reduce our tax burden on local property owners. Taxes have risen too high in the last two years and have caused an unreasonable burden on our seniors and others on fixed-incomes.
Over the next five years, we must do all we can to ensure that our county plans for our growth. Planning means do whatever we can to make our traffic congestion better, and also continue to fund green spaces and parks for the enjoyment of our residents.
e: In your opinion, how strong are community relations with the board? Explain how you would maintain or improve them.
WW: I hear from people every day, some thanking us, others complaining about something. But no matter the reason, they always appreciate a return phone call or email, and virtually without exception, they love where we all live and comment frequently about how they appreciate the board being in contact with them via the news, emails or phone calls. My experience as a commissioner over the last four years has been humbling in that I have heard from many residents who hold strong opinions about their community. My job has been to listen to everyone and make the best decisions possible.
e: What actions or incentives should the board pursue to encourage economic growth, while protecting the environment, property values and tourism industry?
WW: The best way to encourage economic growth is to work tirelessly to keep taxes low, and run our local government like a business. That way the private sector can do what its best at: create jobs. For the most part, whenever government gets formally involved in something, it turns out worse than before. Of course, this excludes matters of public policy. But in general, we should stick to what we are legally constituted to do, and not much more.
e: How should the Special Use Permit continue to change or come into play in the aforementioned growth?
WW: I am looking for the right balance between protecting our businesses and in protecting our environment. It is a political and policy balance that sets forth clear rules that are easy to understand, and that are transparent. That way, any company looking to move (or expand) here knows what the rules are, and the community knows in advance what is planned. Everybody wins.
e: Wilmington is ranked as the number one city nationally for opioid abuse. What can the county do to combat this issue?
WW: For 22 years, I have worked in the criminal justice system, and have watched as drug use and distribution has decimated families. Legal consequences and addiction lead to horrible places. To solve this problem, we must continue to provide law enforcement with whatever resources are necessary to combat it, and keep our community safe. Secondly, we need to have treatment courts in place and support existing programs that address the problem from the addiction side. That is where lives are lost and where average citizens can have the biggest impact.
e: Where do you stand on HB2 and how do you think it’s impacted NHC?
WW: HB2 is a state issue not a local government issue. Personally, I believe that the entire narrative was driven by politically motivated activists to further their political agenda. But I also believe the legislature should have exercised a more deliberate and thoughtful effort as it addressed the actions of the Charlotte City Council. I do not believe it has impacted New Hanover County at all.
e: During a divisive time in politics, how might you help find middle ground on the board?
WW: Like everyone else, I am disillusioned by many things we have observed on the national level. And on the local level, I have also witnessed self-serving and duplicity in some decisions that have been made. It is tough at times to have a positive outlook about our future when so many people in public office put themselves before the people they represent. But deep down, I know that most people share fundamental values of respect for each other, respect for different opinions, and a desire to achieve great things. If we unite around these generally accepted values—and if we are more judicious in electing honest people that put the citizens first—then I know we can turn the tide.
—Ed Note: encore regrets a misprint in last week’s County Commission candidate profile piece, which identified Patricia Kusek as a Democrat. Kusek is a Republican candidate.