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Meet the 2017 Oriental Town Candidates
3 incumbents and 4 newcomers vie for 5 Commissioner seats
October 18, 2017
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arly voting begins Thursday, October 18. There are seven candidates for five Town Commissioner seats. The Mayor is running unopposed for her second term.

Three of the current five Commissioners are in the running: Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, and David White. Four residents are running for Town Commissioner for the first time: J. Martin Barrow, Gregory Bohmert, Eric Dammeyer, and Dianne Simmons.

TownDock.net asked ten questions covering issues or concerns brought before the Board or raised by the public over the last year. Candidates received the list, by email or letter, on October 11th. All had their answers in by the October 17th deadline.

Candidate responses are grouped by question so a reader/voter can see the range of answers.

The candidates are listed in alphabetical order of last names and then staggered so that a different candidate’s response starts the subsequent rounds, just as is done at live forums.

As Mayor Sally Belangia is running unopposed for re-election, her answers appear at the bottom of each question regardless of order.

How and Where to Vote
Early voting for the Oriental Town Commissioner races starts on Thursday, October 19. Hours will be 9-5 weekdays thru November 3. Voters may also cast ballots on Saturday – November 4 – the final day of early voting. All early voting takes place at the Pamlico Board Of Elections in Bayboro at 202 Main St. Bayboro, NC 28515.

Election Day, November 7, 2017, you can cast your vote at the Oriental Fire Department at 6398 Straight Rd, Oriental, NC 28571.

1. Why do you want to be a Town Commissioner?

J. Martin Barrow: I filed for the Commissioner’s position to partner with others to continue and improve the positive direction for the Town of Oriental. As Commissioner, I will work to ensure fiscal responsibility in managing the Town’s operations and promote safe streets and secure neighborhoods. I believe we should maintain and develop strategies to promote a ‘business friendly’ environment while maintaining the ‘village charm’.

Gregory Bohmert: I want to fulfill my responsibility to the town of Oriental, because I am a citizen of Oriental and have benefited greatly from living here the past twenty-two years. I am deeply invested in Oriental as my business and my home are here; God willing and the Creek’s don’t rise, I want to spend all my remaining days here, in the company of my friends and neighbors, in a town I still recognize. I consider myself a stakeholder in Oriental and feel an obligation to contribute to the town in other ways than just paying my taxes, which have increased 700% since 1994. All the current town commissioners have displayed a similar deep concern for the town in the meetings I have attended, and they bring an impressive assortment of life skills and talent to the towns business. I believe that my life, business, and people skills would be a unique addition to the team, in that I am a working man, in what used to be a workingman’s town. My talents that I feel would be most helpful to the town are my business efficiencies, my large project management and construction skills, along with exceptional troubleshooting skills. My community spirit and my people skills have been honed by thirty years of strong volunteer commitments, mainly in our jails and prisons, but also extending to individual community members and their families.

Eric Dammeyer: After serving three years as the Town’s Planning Board Chair, there are some changes in the Town’s government that I would like to pursue. There are still major, progressive changes to our ordinances I would like to see continued, preserved and strengthened. I feel that we have an excellent planning Board, Town staff and the right Town Manager.

We have made so much progress. All these who have served are friends and neighbors, who are willing and experienced enough to make a careful and balanced progression in the quality and fairness of our GMO and ordinances. They need to be prepared to respond to the pressures and issues of future growth. We need support of the Town through a Board of Commissioners made of people who will vote and say yes to doing what is right, above-board and in the open. We do not need single-issue Board members.

The people of the Town need to retain the experienced commissioners who are now running for re-election, but adding others who fill the vacancies now open who have the same intentions to balanced progress as we have seen in the last three years.

Charlie Overcash: That is an easy question. I care for Oriental and want to continue to be a part of Oriental’s growth and town administration.

Allen Price: I have enjoyed my two years on the board and I would like to continue serving the town. I worked for 40+ years and most of my time was spent traveling so I had very little time to give back to a community in a meaningful way. Now I am retired with only part time work so it’s time for me to continue to give back to the community.

Dianne Simmons: I have given a lot of thought to what constitutes good government and I realize that participation of citizens is essential. Political offices in local governments are of primary importance; from these governing bodies proceed the workings of state and national government.

I decided that it was time for me to move from observer and voter to fuller engagement, so when two positions were vacated on the town board I decided to run for commissioner.

I believe that my experience, temperament and willingness to learn and work qualify me for this position.

David White: Oriental is an outstanding place to live. My wife Jean and I have found a wonderful community here and we are proud to call Oriental our home. We have been property owners since 2000 and started construction of our home in 2002. If there is something I have found to be true over my life, it is that change is inevitable, and I very much want to be a part of helping to manage change (whatever it may throw at Oriental) and to ensure that Oriental maintains its sense of community and quality of life for all.

Sally Belangia (Candidate for Mayor): I love Oriental. I am a native of Oriental and I love all the people that live in our town along with our businesses. I have seen the Town of Oriental change during my lifetime through land development and along with many new residents moving in. I think we have done a good job of growing our town. We must make sure that we continue.

2. Is there an issue you think deserves more attention than it is currently getting?

Gregory Bohmert: Our town roads have been aging quickly in certain areas, along with the flooding at Broad and Hodges Street intersection, which has been going on since I moved here in 1994 and is now the worst I’ve ever seen it. Our Street deterioration and our poor drainage issues, in various places around town, are in many ways very interrelated with the poor drainage causing accelerated road failure. Almost all of us have notice while walking on our rain soaked lawns; how quickly it turns to muck while wet; the same happens to the ground under our secondary roads when the water gets under there from poor drainage. Also as we address our own home grown road issues, there are many new state storm water regulations and requirement’s that will need to be implemented in the near future and should be integrated with our road concerns so ideally, we can use one to make the other better, not worse, if we aren’t paying attention to the opportunities and / or problems before us.

Eric Dammeyer: There continues to be a need for education of the Town’s people as to the issues we face in advance of a crisis. The Town’s people by and large do not understand the GMO and feel frightened by its implications. We need to continue to expand the Town’s efforts of explaining and advising the people on various issues. An informative newsletter should continue and be even more frequent. Public comment and Public hearings should be held with Town’s people who can come to the meeting informed, so that they can voice their concerns more effectively.

I also feel strongly that we need to keep the spirit of the Town’s CAMA Land Use Plan and Long Range Vision balanced with the details. I know the planning board will update these documents, since a lot has changed since their last drafts. But there are competing, well-meaning views on several different points of view, all of which need to be respected and considered. But the era of doing nothing, for fear of some debate, should end and action needs to be taken that will lead to a balanced and fair outcome. We need to keep what is the essence of the Oriental we love, while resisting pressures that will turn us into a “metropolitan suburbia” or a neglected and abused back-water. Priorities should be set, as we have been striving to do these past three years – and then we need to stick to them!

Charlie Overcash: Yes, I would like to see Oriental have more green way area. Especially along the waterfront.

Allen Price: Attention to issues is a moving target. From a high level I believe the town is well managed and the attention to issues is well planned out. The town reacts to peoples request the best they can. Unexpected issues are addressed as they arise. The town does a great job trying to keep in front of the aging infrastructure but it is difficult to predict the next issue from an aging system until something breaks. When something goes wrong it can require a lot of time that is not scheduled. This can change the town’s priorities. When Bay River completes its project, we can take another look at our roads and sidewalks.

Dianne Simmons: The protection of our resources is an issue that deserves a great deal of attention and our constant vigilance. I am confident that those of us who moved here from somewhere else did so because of the river environment and the opportunities for fishing, boating and the sheer enjoyment of the natural beauty. Maintaining clean air and water are of prime importance, as well, to the local residents, businesses and tourists who choose to vacation here. Preserving the local wildlife and vegetation is also essential.

Unpolluted air and water are vital to local fishermen and to the businesses which rely on tourists. Taking care of what we have been given is good for all of us.

David White: As with many small cities or towns, Oriental is faced with a limited budget from which it needs to fund all Town activities, such as: current and future infrastructure; hurricane and storm preparation and recovery; storm water drainage issues; Town employees; day to day administrative work; the Water Plant; and debris, recycling and waste pick up services, just to name a few. It is very important for the Town to rank and pick the right set of activities to focus on in order to ensure that Oriental continues to function as effectively as it has done in the past. There has been excellent work done on Oriental’s Long Range Plan developed under previous administrations that needs to be referenced when discussing budgets to ensure the Town is on the right track. Additionally, each year the Town engages in a planning session, which is open to the public, to review the Long Range Plan and budget considerations and to set the Town’s priorities. I urge all to attend and participate in these meetings and all of the Town Meetings to make sure the policies and processes reflect what is in the best interest of the Town.

J. Martin Barrow: The attention to any issue varies based on urgency, impact, probable solutions, and reasonable execution.
I believe our streets are a priority. Some of our streets would benefit from permanent repairs that would replace the temporary gravel patches in several places. We need to be able to make timely repairs and improve the safety of those streets. Poorly maintained streets pose a risk to safety as much as a poor driver. Exploring all resources available for the cost of street improvements including both private and public grant funding should be a priority.

The recent annexation request by the Piggly Wiggly identified an absence of a Town annexation policy. I would like to see the Planning Board and the Commissioners address this issue.

Sally Belangia (Candidate for Mayor): No.

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Posted Wednesday October 18, 2017 by Allison DeWeese

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