Rep. John A. Torbett, R-Gaston, chair of the N.C. House Select Committee on Strategic Transportation Planning and Long-Term Funding Solutions and a fan of Ocracoke, visited the island recently and met with Randal Mathews, right, who will be Ocracoke’s next county commissioner. Photo: P. Vankevich

Editor’s note: Randal Mathews was unopposed for Ocracoke’s county commissioner seat in the primary this spring, is on the Nov. 3 ballot, and will be the next commissioner as of Dec. 7 when he is sworn in during the monthly Hyde County commissioners meeting.

By Randal Mathews
I would like to thank everyone who encouraged me to file my candidacy for commissioner of Ocracoke township. It was not an easy decision for me. So, everyone’s positive input was the deciding factor.
Of course, the most important input was from my wife Marlene and I would never consider it without her agreeing to it. She has been my partner and my rock for 30 years.
Secondly, I have no illusions about the challenges and difficulties I will face.

Ocracoke and its citizens are challenged because of continued rebuilding from Hurricane Dorian. From this disaster we have been dealing with issues that none of us have ever experienced and we can be sure that we will deal in the future natural disasters.

The aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is new territory for everyone here. Many residents have been more than up to the task of dealing with it.  The strength and resilience of our community after hurricane Dorian’s devastation is amazing.

I am humbled by the volunteerism and charity of Ocracokers and the people that have helped and continue to help us. There are many who have put themselves front and center in leadership and decision-making roles and then there are the ones who are completely off the radar. There are amazing people here to say the least. You know who you are, and I am in awe of all of you.

Thirdly, I am a candidate mainly because I feel it is my civic duty, and I have experience as a 37-year resident.
I have had the privilege of serving on the Occupancy Tax board for seven years beginning in the late 90s.

I also served on the Ocracoke Health Center board for three years and did a short stint with the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department in the mid-80s where I learned firefighting and became a certified EMT. 

Many of our older residents know that I worked here as the lone “telephone man” from 1983 until 1998 until I resigned and then returned in 2003 to Century Link. I retired after 37 years.

I have also been in the retail business briefly, having co-founded Ride the Wind Surf Shop, and was the co-owner/proprietor of the Thurston House B&B, which was my wife’s grandfather’s home built in the 1920s. Marlene and I have owned six properties through the years. So we understand the value of real estate on Ocracoke.

Finally, I pledge that I will always work and make decisions based on what I think is best for our community and Hyde County. Ocracoke provides more than half of the tax base for Hyde County and that is both good and bad. It’s a legal fact of life here that will probably not change anytime soon.

I have had the privilege of knowing all the Ocracoke commissioners since our first one, who was Irvin Garrish.

Experience is the best teacher and I know that all our previous commissioners worked tirelessly for the benefit of our community and made personal sacrifices, which I admire. I also know that they all contributed in ways that many of us are unaware of sometimes at great personal and financial cost.

I know that many other boards and or foundations have volunteers who have contributed to the island wellbeing.

Both of our churches and their leaders and boards are critical to the spirituality of Ocracoke, so they and their members deserve great respect.

I plan on representing and supporting the local fishing and hunting community, whether commercial or recreational.

I support our local restaurants and retail establishments. Anyone who invests their time and money here does it at risk and everyone should admire and appreciate them for the jobs they provide.

The taxes they generate provide critical funding for our fire department and health center which are both special to me and the reason I served on the Occupancy Tax board. Our state and federal employees including Tideland Electric, the water department, the post office, the school, and the Park service are all what I consider the pillars of our community, and I know there are more.

I also want to get to know everyone who lives on Ocracoke as I feel everyone should have a voice and everyone’s opinion on local issues is important to me. EVERYONE!

I love meeting new people and I love listening to their stories. Everyone who makes a life here on Ocracoke is special as we face challenges no one on the mainland can relate to. It doesn’t matter if you are a native, a local, a new resident, or a part time. Even the visitors who love our island bring to it the color, flavor and diversity that make it unique.

We are a rural community though more “urban” than the mainland. Please remember that I will be only one of five Hyde County commissioners. I plan to work amicably with the other four commissioners even though I know we will have our differences. My vote will be one of five so I will not always get my way.

I believe that everyone’s opinion and input is important, but I also want to relate something I learned my first year as a resident and telephone man on Ocracoke.

It was from a gentleman named Alex Ely who was the man that originally established the Pony Island Motel and Restaurant. When I told him what I was doing here and that I wanted to make everyone happy he looked me in the eye and stated, “Son, you ain’t gonna do that.”
Despite that, I’m still going to try as I will represent all of you. Please feel free to call me anytime at 252-921-0329, or write to me at P.O. Box 208, Ocracoke, NC 27960.