Staff photo by Allison Potter Staff photo by Emmy Errante
Ted Davis Emilie Swearingen
Davis and Swearingen share concerns for NC House District 19
Beach renourishment and inlet dredging are among the top concerns of candidates for the North Carolina House District 19 that includes parts of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach.
New Hanover County Commission Chairman Ted Davis Jr., a Republican and Wilmington divorce attorney, and Kure Beach Town Councilwoman Emilie Swearingen, a Democrat and longtime teacher, are running for that seat in the November general election.
“We have a tremendous problem with not being able to get our inlets dredged like they should be,” Swearingen, 65, said Monday, Sept. 10. “We need to find a long-term solution.”
The federal and state government are cutting back on contributions, Davis said, and inlet dredging unfortunately is not included in the room occupancy tax money that funds beach renourishment. Davis proposed forming a coalition with other state lawmakers from counties with similar coastal issues to develop funding mechanisms.
“The inlets, just like our beaches … they’re one of the biggest assets that we have,” Davis, 62, said Tuesday,
Sept. 11. “They’re an economic engine in the fact that it drives tourism.”
Taking over for Danny McComas
Davis and Swearingen are running for the seat previously held for years by Rep. Danny McComas, R-New Hanover, who recently resigned a few months from the end of his final term after being named a new chairman of the North Carolina State Ports Authority Board of Directors.
Davis, who is married with two adult children, established his own law firm in 1984 and began serving as a county commissioner in 1996. His other services include membership with the Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees and Wilmington Regional Film Commission.
Davis said his father, the late R. Theodore “Ted” Davis, was his hero.
Davis said his own career experiences have helped him learn to reach a consensus with others, prioritize public education funding and better understand the economic -significance of the movie industry.
“We are just doing fantastic, and we don’t want to fall from that position,” Davis said. “It’s going to take work from everyone, and especially the incentives that are offered by the state. Because there is absolutely no question in my mind that if those incentives go away we will lose the movie industry. It is that competitive.”
Swearingen, who named Thomas Jefferson as her hero, started her career as a school teacher for a black school system in Prince Edward County, Va., where textbooks were out of date, teachers had to pay for their own supplies and some students missed school because they had no shoes.
“That was really heart-rendering,” Swearingen said, later adding, “I was fighting really, really hard to give them a quality education.”
That was back in the 1960s, and Swearingen said the experience put her in touch with everyday people and made her realize the needs of the nation.
Swearingen, who raised two sons, has served on the Kure Beach Town Council since 2010. Her career background also included monitoring legislation with the North Carolina Governor’s Advocacy Council on Children and Youth and working with the state to write regulations for nursing homes and coordinate an energy conservation plan.
“We were talking about solar energy and wind energy and geothermal — we thought all of that was going to be reality in 20 or 30 years,” Swearingen said. “Forty years later I find myself fighting for the same things — renewable energy, women’s rights, a good quality public education.”
Economy and the environment
Both Swearingen and Davis said the state should look to attract clean businesses.
Working with community colleges for skilled workers, considering business incentives that provide enough of a return rate and looking at more long-term care facilities to accommodate the area’s retirees can help the economy, Swearingen said.
“I also would like to see us do incentives for small businesses that want to expand,” Swearingen said. “We don’t have the pollution problems (with) small businesses that we would with a large industry.”
A balance must be reached between the environment and business, Davis said.
“I want to see regulations that protect the environment but also regulations that are not over-restrictive, that prohibit our ability to recruit good business,” he said.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, for natural gas is an example of why it is important to find that balance, Davis said.
“You’re looking for something that’s an economic, clean fuel, but on the other hand — look at what you’ve got to go through to get it,” Davis said. “You need to make sure that you have rules and regulations in effect that will help protect the environment and those property owners.”