Editor’s note: This story features the two Democratic candidates running for the Swan Quarter county commissioner seat in Tuesday’s primary. A later story will provide information on other candidates running for state and federal offices. Sample ballot and all Hyde County voter precinct locations are below.
By Peter Vankevich
Hyde County Democratic and unaffiliated voters will have two candidates for the commissioner seat in Swan Quarter Township to vote on in Tuesday’s primary election.
No county commissioner candidates are on the Republican primary ballot.
Voting on Ocracoke will be held from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department, 822 Irvin Garrish Highway. Other Hyde County voter precinct locations are listed below.
After representing Swan Quarter Township for many years, County Commissioner Dick Tunnell decided not to seek reelection. Two Democratic candidates, James (Little Brother) Topping and Joseph (Joey) Williams, filed to run for that seat.
Commissioner Barry Swindell of Currituck Township also opted not to seek reelection. Ken Collier filed papers to run as a Republican and Shannon Swindell as a unaffiliate. Both will be on the November general election ballot. No Democrats filed for Currituck Township.
In Hyde County, all commissioners are elected at large so that regardless of where residents live, all residents vote for all commissioners, and candidates must meet residency requirements to run in a township.
County commissioners serve four-year terms which are staggered. So, two county commissioners are up for election this year and three seats (now held by Benjamin Simmons III, Tom Pahl and Earl Pugh Jr.) will be up for election in 2020.
Registered Democrats can vote for one of these Swan Quarter candidates as can registered unaffiliated voters who request a Democrat ballot. Unaffiliated voters may vote in North Carolina primaries but must choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot. They cannot choose both ballots. The Green Party and Libertarian Party are also official North Carolina political parties, but have no candidates in Hyde County this year.
Decisions made by county commissioners can have a major impact on residents’ daily lives, especially because in Hyde County, the commissioners are the only government. There are no incorporated municipalities.
The Board of Commissioners have many important responsibilities such as approving the governmental budget, which includes an annual appropriation for the school district. The commissioners set property tax rates and sets policies and guidelines for land-use changes and development. Monthly meetings are open to the public.
The two Democratic Swan Quarter candidates have provided the following information:
James (Little Brother) Topping, age, 66
I am retired and have lived my entire life in Hyde County. I attended O.A. Peay School and graduated from Mattamuskeet High School.
I worked as a corrections officer at the Hyde Correctional Institution and previous to that as a home improvement contractor.
Why I am running: As a former county commissioner representing Swan Quarter from 1989 to 1991, I know the duties of a commissioner to make the county a better place for our young and elderly to live and work. Since I served on the board, Hyde County has decreased in population, family businesses and no one wants to work or bring a business here. We need to make the mainland a better place to live.
The education school system has failed us, and we no longer have local people as teachers.
I have been a concerned citizen all my life and can’t leave this earth knowing that I didn’t try.
It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with all the citizens and all citizens be treated fairly.
I will work with the islanders in any way I can to help them. I want to represent the entire county, including Ocracoke.
Joseph (Joey) Williams, Age 42
I grew up in Swan Quarter and have lived here most of my life. I did live in Pitt County for about nine years. I have worked in corrections and law enforcement since 1996. I am currently a marine patrol officer assigned to the
Engelhard area. Prior to working with the Marine Patrol, I was a corporal with the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office for six years. I am a certified general instructor, Taser instructor and firearms instructor. I have been married to my wife Nikki for 13 years, and I have three daughters.
Why I am running: I have always enjoyed serving the public. With Commissioner Tunnell not seeking reelection I saw an opportunity to serve the citizens of Hyde County.
The opioid epidemic is crippling many rural areas. School safety for the children of the county (mainland and Ocracoke) is important. I would like to see an animal control program started. Several ordinances need to be rewritten so they are enforceable. I strongly support the Sheriff’s Office, EMS, and the fire departments of the county and would like to see more funding going to them (grant funding would be ideal). The citizens of Hyde County deserve the best and most professional service possible. There are lots more issues facing Hyde County and I, if elected, would always be open to discussing them with anyone to better serve the citizens of Hyde County.