On Ocracoke, the dates for early voting are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 2 and 3 in the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, 822 Irvin Garrish Highway. This is the same location for the general election from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8.
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By Peter Vankevich
Although candidates for state offices were unable to attend the OCBA candidates’ night rescheduled because of the Hurricane Matthew evacuation, several local candidates attended.
House District 6 candidates Beverly Boswell (R) and Warren Judge (D) and Senate District 1 candidate Brownie Futrell (D) had a prior commitment for a similar forum that took place in Dare County at Waveriders in Nags Head. You can watch them discuss education, Medicaid, taxes and jobs by clicking here.
Islanders on Oct. 24 heard from three candidates for Hyde County commissioner and one for the Ocracoke Sanitary District Supervisor outline their views.
Tom Pahl-D, who defeated incumbent John Fletcher-D in the March primary and who is unopposed Nov. 8, began by thanking all those who are running for office and serving on boards on Ocracoke.
“I have great respect for those that get involved in the community,” he said. He added that whereas he did not agree on a lot of issues with incumbent John Fletcher, he thanked Fletcher for his service.
Pahl stressed the importance of working with the state and federal partners such as the NC Ferry Division, the National Park Service and NC Marine Fisheries, to name a few.
“Love or hate them, they are here to stay and I think it is an important role of the Ocracoke commissioner to establish a good working relationship with them,” he said, adding that all of these agencies are vital to the economy of the island.
Pahl stressed how Ocracoke is a unique place that is very different from the Nags Head area and this essence should be preserved.
The vitality of the economy is a very important responsibility of the commissioner representing Ocracoke, he said.
As he had said at a spring candidates’ night, he reiterated that he would like to form a citizens’ advisory committee to advise him on finding the right people to serve on the governmental boards for the island.
Incumbent Earl Pugh Jr-R of Fairfield Township is the chair of the county commissioners.
First elected in 2012, one of the important issues to him is the ferry system, and he said the commissioners have a good working relation with the N.C. Ferry Division.
“The ferry system is the lifeline to Ocracoke, especially the Hatteras line,” he said. “If we did not have a ferry system we would not have an Ocracoke economy.
“I will always be against the ferry tolls. I am also opposed to having fee for a priority pass which could come back in the next [General Assembly] session and I will also oppose that.” He would like to see the short route between Ocracoke and Hatteras restored.
Pugh said the commissioners need to continue to work with and have an open relationship with the National Park Service.
“We have one of the most beautiful beaches in the world which is why people come to Ocracoke,” he said. “We need to provide access to the beach and to the sound.”
Since commercial fishing is a vital part of the economies of Ocracoke and the mainland, he said commercial fishermen should not have to deal with undue regulations.
Regarding the two evacuations on Ocracoke this fall, he noted that the commissioners relied on the input of islanders to help with a plan.
He stressed the importance of education, noting that for the last four years the commissioners have funded the school system as the Board of Education requested.
“We have also had the school board come back later looking for funds for teacher assistants, which I have supported,” he said.
He is pleased that Beaufort County Community College has established a satellite campus at the Davis Center in Engelhard so students in Hyde County can still live at home or not have to make long commutes, and that adults can also takes courses.
“On the mainland we have a lot of land under water and the mainland needs a better flood plan,” he said.
Pugh noted that Lake Mattamuskeet is a main tourist attraction and said he has put together a task force on restoring the lake to ecological health.
His opponent, Thomas Midgette-D, started by the saying he wasn’t running against Pugh, but was running for the same office. He said that the county needs another perspective on the board, which he could bring.
“We need an ear in every segment of the community and my voice and community isn’t heard,” he said. “We often hear about things after-the-fact. We need to know where the disconnect is.”
For Midgette, the main drivers of the local economy are farming, fishing and tourism.
“We need to have them work together rather than seeing one group pitted against another,” he said. “Ocracoke will always sell itself as a tourism attraction but the mainland is not doing enough for tourism.”
Midgette worked for the school system for 29 years and now works with three- and four-year-olds in the Hyde Head Start Center. One of the education problems he noted was that students on the mainland were going to college but not graduating and he wants to work with the school system to find out why. Improving education and having a better workforce can help bring more jobs to the county he said.
He also spoke about the need to revive Lake Mattamuskeet to bring in more tourist revenue.
“The lake is sick and we need to know why so we can make it a healthy lake,” he said.
Both he and Pugh noted the drastic reduction in birds on the refuge and that many of the fish have disappeared.
Scott Bradley, president of the Ocracoke Sanitary District board of supervisors which oversees the operations of the water plant, provided an overview of the responsibilities of the agency and the challenges it faces in the near future. The plant has six employees.
He and Regina O. Boor are on the ballot as Ocracoke Sanitary District supervisors. Voters may vote for two candidates or elect to write in a name.
The water plant provides about 50 million gallons of water per year for the island serving 1,100 residential and 172 business customers.
Built in 1977, the plant has 40-year-old equipment, so they are seeking to get a grant to set up a plan to upgrade. Additionally, he said the water tower will have to be replaced in about eight years.
The supervisors are responsible for setting the rates and handling the finances.
Bradley said that they will work with the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department to increase fire hydrants in the village, which should lower homeowners’ insurance rates.