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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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7. There has been talk of the Town acquiring the spit of land known as Whittaker Point. The proposal is for the town to obtain grant money to restore Whittaker Point, enabling the Point to protect Whittaker Creek channel. What are your thoughts about this?

David White: The Town is currently in conversations with the owners of Whittaker Point and those discussions should continue. Since the land is privately owned, our help now consists of assistance in identifying grant dollars that may be available, and, if needed, helping the owners apply for grants and assist with the distribution of grant funds. The next step currently planned is for a meeting to take place in the near future between the property owners, the Town and an engineering firm to determine the extent of the repairs necessary. From there the grant processes can be explored and applications can be submitted. This is an important initiative that needs to be a high priority for the Town. As of now, there has been no offer to transfer private ownership of Whittaker Point to the Town.

J. Martin Barrow: The restoration of Whittaker Point is a project whose completion would provide an improved level of protection to Whittaker Creek benefiting both homeowners and business owners alike. There is no public land access to the Point precluding public access except by boat. Without acquiring the adjacent lands, the point would be isolated. Funding for restoring the point may be possible from sources such as NCDEQ, NOAA Habitat conservation, private grant funding, and other state and federal entities. As much as I would be in favor of this initiative, I am not in favor of using general funds for this project and funding sources would need to be identified. I would also be reluctant to accept ownership of the Point on behalf of the Town without first securing funding for the completion of the restoration and a long-term plan.

Gregory Bohmert: This is an excellent opportunity for the Town to act as a “Facilitator” between public, private and business concerns. I have witnessed the rapid loss of land from that point and how greatly it has increased the storm exposure to all the marine business, real estate developments and private homes that line both sides of Whittaker creek. With so many and varied interests with ample skin in what is now a losing game, a coalition could easily be formed to research options and fund the project, with the goal of solving the problem with, ideally, no cost to the Town. In my other life “Up North” I worked in the heavy marine salvage and construction industry for twenty years and witnessed similar undertakings, one in particular called Hart-Miller Island in the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Middle River would be a good example of what can be accomplished when the three entities of Public, Private and Commercial work with each other instead of against each other. The remnants of three small natural islands, Hart, Miller and Pleasure were surrounded and enclosed with vinyl bulkhead sheeting, and then lined with the appropriate filter cloth to prevent any of the dredge spoils put behind this bulkhead to escape. Private, public and commercial dredging projects paid fees to dump their dredge spoils inside this new larger island that encompasses the three smaller islands. The cleanest dredge spoils (sand and rock) was placed outside the bulkhead at various points to create beaches and restore as much of a natural shore line as feasible. Some areas were preserved as primary nursery shoreline etc. When the interior was full it was graded to the local ground contours, top soil added where needed and landscaped with local grasses, trees and vegetation. It was a well thought out project that when finished was turned over to the state as a campground recreational area where the concessions were leased to lower operational cost to the state. Hart-Miller Island was a huge project, but can serve as a blueprint for this much smaller version; everyone has to give up something to make it work. Everyone is going to have to pay something to make it work, but everyone is going to get something out of it, they would never be able to get on their own. The finished project would yield additional land suitable for many different uses.

Eric Dammeyer: Among the many issues we face, we have an emergency on the problem with the Whittaker Point spit of land. After watching the amazing presentation of my geologist friend, Jim Blackerby, about the risk and urgency of the problem, I am convinced this needs immediate attention. Whittaker Creek is having severe shoaling issues. But it is also a “nursery” for aquatic wildlife. The only thing that protects the Creek, the wildlife, and the marina harbors from disappearing is that spit of land. Without it, that entire area of Town would merely become a shore line to the Neuse, shoaling would close it. It is not slowly eroding away, it is rapidly eroding away. I am concerned that one major storm or just the neglect of a few more years will change the creek, and the Town, forever. And those of us who boat from Whittaker Creek beware, our access to the River is now in jeopardy.

Charlie Overcash: If grant money is available we should acquire that land. Jim Blackerby presented a very compelling study on what will happen to Whittaker Creek when, not if, that spit of land erodes away. As a town commissioner I met with the head of the Whittaker Point Association and we discussed the fact that saving the spit was in every ones best interest.

Allen Price: There was a study showing the decline in acreage of Whittaker Point which is contributing to shoaling in Whittaker Creek. This proposal also has several pieces that need to fall into place – A groin application has been denied – Why? This is being looked into and hopefully a new groin application will be approved. The property is currently privately owned and if the only way to get the grant is by donating the land to the town, it should be considered. First the town needs to have a clear understanding of what it will have to do, how the property can be used, any anticipated future cost, yearly maintenance cost if any, will the grant money cover all the immediate needs to stop acreage decline and shoaling in Whitaker Creek, etc.

Dianne Simmons: This is an interesting question and would require some input from the Whittaker Creek residents. Improving and protecting the Whittaker Creek channel might preserve the value of the property on Whittaker Creek and would be beneficial in keeping the marinas operating which rely on the Whittaker Creek channel. This project could also be beneficial for long-term growth and any expansion of the Town of Oriental.

If restoring Whittaker Point can be done with grant money then it might be well worth doing for Oriental. My questions are: 1)what would be the plan for the restoration? 2) who would have access to it? 3) what are the funding requirements for maintaining it?

Sally Belangia (Candidate for Mayor): I am all for protecting our channels and waterfront property. We want our pleasure boats and commercial boats to be able to use our creeks, channels, and river.

8. What life and or career experience(s) of yours could be valuable as a Town Commissioner?

J. Martin Barrow: I am an Eagle Scout, a Navy veteran, and a retired law enforcement officer and manager. My law enforcement management experience included budget, training, equipment, and the application of personnel laws. My experience as an officer, detective, and field supervisor provided me the opportunity to understand the delivery of services as it relates to public safety. This experience will be helpful in evaluating the Town’s police policies and structure as well as evaluating recommendations from the Town administrator including budget, personnel matters, public safety, and emergency preparedness issues.

Gregory Bohmert: Please see answer for question #1

Eric Dammeyer: I have been on the Town’s Planning Board as its chair for 3 years plus. We have revised the GMO to make it a much more clear and usable document. It is getting more effective and balanced. I know intimately the issues that remain to be worked out on the GMO, the Town ordinances, the Town Vision documents and the CAMA Land Use plan.

I am an attorney with 35 years experience in work that requires me to be an effective teacher and communicator. I am a strident advocate for an open political process and I am an enemy of behind-the-scenes governing.

I have served on the board of 4 non-profits for a total of a dozen years. I currently co-chair United Christian Network, a non-profit in Pamlico County, which has the mission to network Christian and civil organizations towards a coordinated effort to aid the people in need in greater Pamlico County, including the issues of poverty, addiction and race relations.

I am an ordained Christian minister. I am familiar with public communication. I apply principles of the gospel of love and peace while in office, but I do not force my religious views upon others. I am not ashamed of the gospel. I hope that my neighbors and friends will respect my rights as well.

Charlie Overcash: I have many reasons why my experiences can be, and are, valuable to be a town commissioner! I’ll state the ones that directly come from my time in Oriental. I have been a town ambassador when the small cruise ships docked here to let passengers walk the town. I have walked with them while Grace Evans told the history of the town and let then know how special it is to be in Oriental. I have learned about town government by being on the Board of Adjustment, almost three years of being Chairman of the Planning Board, two terms on the town board during which we hired an exceptional town manager and have updated much of the town infrastructure which had been neglected for many years. My wife and I, with help from many people, brought the Chinese Parade Dragon to Oriental. This dragon has brought joy to many gatherings as it appears at parades,special events such as starting off the children’s summer reading program at the library and New Years Eve. I am an active Ham Radio operator and, as such, am a member of the Amateur Radio Emergency team that practices every Wednesday night to prepare to be available during disaster events with emergency communications. I host an annual classic sports car event every August which brings many unique sports cars to town and ends up at the harbor for refreshments. As a town commissioner, I have been on the team that brought the cyclists back to Oriental. Also, I have been working with the county and town to develop a dog park that will open in early spring at the Recreation Center.

These are just a few examples of my value to the town as a town commissioner.

Allen Price: In my past job I represented our company calling on customers and dealing with various issues that occur between a supplier and its customers.  It required listening, gathering and analyzing data, and working out the best solutions for all involved.  My 40+ years of listening and working with customers has prepared me to listen and work with our citizens, even when we disagree.  Keeping opposing groups together is needed for future success.

Dianne Simmons: I have a BA and an MA in French Literature and an EdS in Educational Leadership. I was employed by the Atlanta Public Schools for 24 years – as a teacher for 21 years and a school administrator for the last three years of my career. Being a teacher in a large urban public high school is excellent preparation for a local government position. You develop an ability to be comfortable dealing with multiple issues and personalities at the same time. You also grow a thick skin and learn to rely on a well-honed sense of humor. A successful teacher must learn quickly to focus on what is important and what deserves emphasis. Knowing how to listen and maintaining good communication with staff, parents and students is key to school management. Flexibility and open-mindedness are essential in making fair decisions.

Goal-setting – and goal attainment – is another significant part of teaching or leading a school. One has to respond, as well, to changing government regulations and the occasional lawsuit.

School administration requires a great deal of work, study and patience – good preparation for the position of Town Commissioner.

David White: Before becoming a Town Commissioner, I spent four years on the Planning Board gaining an understanding of the Town’s operations and issues. Prior to this, I was with IBM for 39 years in their Public Sector area working with State, Local and Municipal Governments worldwide. I have worked with many Government leaders on infrastructure improvements, best practices implementations and governance models. My current focus areas as a Board Member are Human Resources, Finances and representation on the Planning Board and the Harbor Water Committee. Additionally, I have served on public boards either as Board President or a working Board Member with the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science, United Way of Florida’s Big Bend, Boy Scouts of America, United Way of America and various community outreach programs.

Sally Belangia (Candidate for Mayor): I have learned a lot about the town from the last 2 years as being Mayor. I have 38 years of working at a local bank and 38 years of community service in Oriental and Pamlico County. I think it is important to remember our history of the town and to continue to grow and preserve our town.

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Posted Wednesday October 18, 2017 by Allison DeWeese

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