Left: Jonathan Barfield. Right: Derrick Hickey
The first in a series of three, featuring six candidates vying for three open New Hanover County commissionersí seats, presents the views of vice chairman Jonathan Barfield, a Democrat who is running for re-election, and Derrick Hickey, a Republican who is a member of the NHC Board of Education.
LN: What is your campaign budget? In that budget, what is your largest expense?
Barfield: I have probably raised maybe $8,000 so far. My largest expense has definitely been signs. Itís kind of neat, when I ran the first time I think I raised $21,000 and the person that came in second I think raised about $80,000. I know others have raised in excess of $30,000. This whole thing is not about money. Ö Itís about connecting with the average, everyday person that votes. Ö I raised the least amount of money, but got the most votes.
Hickey: I donít know what my campaign budgeting is currently. Ö Iím having a fundraiser at the home of one of the past presidents of the state medical society. That will, in some part, determine what my budget will be Ö Biggest expenditure to date, Ö I was thinking about putting on a television commercial, but thatís still in the works Ö Including the primary Ö Iím just sort of throwing out a number here Ö maybe $30,000 Ö it would be mailers and radio ads.
LN: What do you see as the most important issues in the county currently?
Barfield: Itís still solid waste. Ö What do we do long term with solid waste? We still have all of our trash going to our landfill Ö every day that decreases the life of our landfill. And we still have to get permitting done to open up the future cells of our landfill, which we havenít started. Ö Itís something thatís going to affect future generations. ÖWeíve got to get a handle on this now.
Hickey: Too many people Ö remain unemployed in New Hanover County. Ö We need to tell the business community that New Hanover County is open for business. We have UNCW. We have Cape Fear Community College. We have an outstanding public school system. We have a beautiful natural environment. We need to leverage all of these assets together. Ö People need good jobs so they can afford good homes so they can take care of their children.
LN: As far as solid waste in the county is concerned, what do you see as the best option for residents?
Barfield: When I came on the board of commissioners in 2009, this was an issue then ó trying to figure out what to do with WASTEC and solid waste. And here we are, three and a half years later, two different companies that weíve looked at. First, R3, which werenít able to fulfill their obligations so that deal fell apart. Ö And then we told this board to authorize our staff to do as much as they did in hiring consultants and talking with the folks at Covanta only to say well weíre not going to do that. To me, itís just something that should have happened.
Hickey: There were several options presented to the board, including one I think was by Waste Industries to transport our trash up to Sampson County Ö The commissioners didnít really discuss that option at length, but I think thatís one of the options going forward that need to be discussed Ö Parts of the community have been very anti-Titan Cement. Without me expressing whether Iím pro or anti-Titan Cement, it was very interesting to me that [Covantaís] waste-to-energy plant would have produced more sulfur dioxide, more fine particulate matter and more mercury pollution than the proposed Titan plant. It was interesting to me that the environmental community didnít really pick up on the amount of these undesirable pollutants being placed into the air by a potential waste-to-energy facility.
LN: Would the county and city working together on issues involved Extra Territorial Jurisdiction, specifically non-contiguous voluntary annexation, be a positive or negative in your eyes? Why?
Barfield: I donít know that there is any collaboration on ETJ. The law says that cities can do involuntary annexation with a city ordinance approval. And I think off of Gordon Road so thatís within the boundaries of what they can do. But I donít know that there has been any future discussion outside of our meeting about ETJ. Ö I would like to see the city and county work together as much as we can in every aspect. ETJ is just one of those discussions that I just donít think is going to be solved, or I guess it is solved. Right now, it is what it is.
Hickey: I see non-contiguous annexation as a negative. Ö It sort of ends up being a patchwork of different ordinances, different jurisdictions, different policing, different fire. I donít think that anyone, whether itís the city or the county, thinks that thatís the best way to go forward in terms of annexation Ö I think what we need to do is have regular meetings between the city and county, identify objectives, first and foremost that we can agree upon to sort of improve our working relationship. And then look at ways that we can really adjust things like the sales tax distribution, in potentially a way thatís viewed more equitably by the city.
LN: What is the key to economic development in the county?
Barfield: When I was chairman of our board last year, I led our county in our first strategic planning session in over 17 years. We identified economic development as one of our core values. In last yearís budget we allocated $300,000 for our economic development. This year, I think it was like $400,000. Ö You put money into that to show that it is something thatís important. Ö We need to find who we are in terms of what type of businesses we want in our community. And then, once we figure that part out, find ways to attract those types of businesses here, which means continuing to partner with our community college, as well as UNCW their entrepreneurship center, as well as Wilmington Business Development and our chamber, too. And youíve got to foster an environment thatís welcome to businesses coming here.
Hickey: The key to economic development in the county is to harness our resources. Again, just going back, we have a great educational system. We have an outstanding public school system. Ö We must not forget about our existing businesses. Ö We have to go to these people that have already made huge investments in infrastructure in our community, and we need to say to these people, ĎWell, what can we do to help you grow your businesses? What can NHC do to make it easier for you to build a bigger plant, to invest in more employees?íÖ Secondly, we have to be open to new businesses coming in. We have to invite investments into the community. And ways that we do that, again we provide low taxes, we try to get rid of unnecessary regulations. We provide a consistent infrastructure.
LN: What are some appropriate solutions for the overcrowding found in schools across the county?
Barfield: The appropriate solution is to adequately allocate students to the schools. Thatís a school board decision. I think they know far better how to distribute students in the school systems than we county commissioners do. Ö I think when we went totally to neighborhood schools, youíve got to look at your population around those schools and figure out can your population overload that building or not. And if it does, then what do you do with those excess students? You canít just continue to put trailers up if you have some schools that are under populated.
Hickey: We actually have a very good public school system and with the downturn in the economy, many people who might have chosen to place their children in a private school have taken a second look at the public school system and have put their children back into the public school system. The most obvious example of thisÖ is Wrightsville Beach Elementary School. Now, weíve known for a long time that several of our schools, including WBES, need a major renovation.
Unfortunately, what weíre going to need in terms of WBE and several of the other schools is a bond issue. In order to renovate WBE to bring it up to types of facilities we have at the other elementary schools, such as a sufficiently large cafeteria, a sufficiently large media area and to have enough classroom space will run about $5 million. Ö. Ultimately, there would be the potential for redistricting. Ö As it turns out the areas of growth are kind of contiguous. ÖWrightsville Beach is overcrowded, but Bradley Creek Elementary School is also overcapacity as is College Park Elementary. So itís not a simple solution where you can move kids to an adjacent school. It would be moving children almost across town, which I donít think anyone wants to do.
LN: What donít people know about you?
Barfield: That I am a nature lover. I love taking photographs of naturist scenes, and my favorite bird is the red-tailed Hhawk.
Hickey: Iím currently the vice president of the Wilmington Road Runners Club. Just this morning I ran 15 miles before going to work. Ö As a runner, Iím especially concerned with air quality, and as a tri-athlete, water quality of our beaches. Thatís probably what people donít know.
LN: How do you make yourself readily available to your constituents? What is the best contact information for the public to reach you?
Barfield: I have a great staff here that has access to my calendar. Whenever someone calls me and wants me to speak at an event or be somewhere, I give them the number to the county. They call our clerk, itís on my calendar and I show up. And I very rarely turn down someone to come and be a part of their event. firstname.lastname@example.org (910) 798-7149
Hickey: Iím available almost continuously by email as well as by cell phone. I have a Google voice account set up to take all calls. ÖIíve dedicated a line for messages in my office where my assistants take messages at my physician office, which is staffed five days a week and then staffed by answering service on the weekends. email@example.com (910) 742-0642