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Meet the 2019 Oriental Town Board Candidates
Five candidates for election Tues Nov 5
November 4, 2019
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here are six candidates for five Town Commissioner seats… but one of the candidates isn’t really running. But her name is on the ballot. Voting on November 5 will be at Fire Station 19 on Straight Rd.

Four of the current five Commissioners are in the running: Charlie Overcash, Allen Price, Dianne Simmons, and David White. One resident, J. Martin Barrow, is running for Town Commissioner for the third time. The sixth candidate is Sheri Rettew, director of the Hope Clinic.

On October 11, Rettew announced she is moving away from the area. Her decision came after the cutoff date to have her name removed from the ballot. Sherri Rettew explains:

I’ve unofficially taken my hat out of the ring. I can’t officially remove my name from the ballot, but was trying to get out the word to minimize confusion if possible,” she said. “It wouldn’t make sense to continue the run. If I were somehow to be elected, I’ll have to decline to serve.”

Mayor Sally Belangia is running unopposed for her third term.

Town Board elections are held every two years. In 2017, TownDock.net asked the candidates questions about the development and future of Oriental. Two years later, those questions remain pertinent. Responses have been lightly edited to reflect the changes of the past two years.

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
Election Day, November 5, 2019, you can cast your vote at the Southeast Pamlico Volunteer Fire Department at 182 Straight Rd, Oriental, NC 28571.

Two years ago, candidates were focusing on new projects for Oriental: a bike path connecting Dolphin Point to the Village, a grant to address the frequent flooding on Hodges Street, and the restoration of Whittaker Point.

The town has secured approximately $4 million for the restoration of Whittaker Point, however Hurricane Florence sidelined the other projects. In the next two years, what outstanding projects should the Town focus on and why?

David White: There are many plans and projects that are continuing as a result of the recent budget adopted in June for fiscal year July 2019 - June 2020; however, I feel there are three areas that will require additional planning and funding. 1) Road Maintenance – In certain areas our streets and roads need repair and resurfacing. This will be a large cost to the Town and plans need to be adopted to address urgent needs now and others for the future. 2) Continued Drainage Improvement – In heavy rain storms, water puddles in certain areas and plans will need to be developed to address these situations. 3) Continued Improvement of Town Docks & Water Access Areas – The white frame structure at Town Dock #2 needs to be refurbished and converted into a visitors’ center for all. Additionally, water access areas should continue to be updated as needed, for it is these water vistas and access that attract others to Oriental. Anything we can do to encourage visitors benefits the Town.

J. Martin Barrow: Completion of the Whitaker Point Restoration project and the dredging should be a priority. These two projects are on schedule to begin shortly and should be completed within this next year. Due to timeliness of these projects, they should take priority oversight.

However, we can manage additional projects simultaneously. One of those would be the feasibility of a greenway linking the town with White Farm Road. The most direct route will require an easement or right-of-way through at least two pieces of private property. Without it, the greenway becomes almost undoable. I recommend we task one of the town’s existing committees to explore the acquisition of an easement or right-of-way. In the event, we are successful, we can explore funding to build and complete this long discussed project.

Additionally, I recommend moving the repair of our streets to a priority footing. We need to identify those areas requiring the most timely and critical repairs based on traffic volume and the degraded condition of the road surface. Once the areas are identified, the funding and scheduling of those repairs should be undertaken.

The two latter projects should be included in what should be known as our Strategic Plan for Oriental. A Strategic Plan will identify those initiatives we could reasonably anticipate and expect to execute in a one-year, three-year, and five-year period. The Strategic Plan should be reviewed and modified on an annual basis identifying the goals met, the goals unattainable, and those needing more time. The goals unattainable would be removed and new initiatives added to the Plan going forward. If we execute a Strategic Plan properly, it will track our successes and identify the goals we could not meet. I believe if we don’t know where we have been, we cannot know our way forward.

One of the items on the Town’s long-range vision plan was reducing the speed on Highway 55. During the latter part of 2017, I welcomed the opportunity to work with Town Manager, Diane Miller, in convincing the NCDOT to not only reduce our speed limit on Highway 55 but also move the town limits to just west of Town Street. This change facilitates the use of carts to reach the Piglet and enhances the overall safety over that portion of the roadway for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. This is the type of initiative or project identified on a Strategic Plan we can mark "completed".

Other items to accomplish during the next year should include the following: (1.) The implementation of a "My two cents worth" button on the Town’s website that populates an email to the Town Manager and each of the Commissioners. (2.) Develop and Publish an easy to understand line item budget. (3.) Promote the right of citizens to speak publicly and to be heard. (4.) I advocate for Commissioners to establish a delay between a Public Hearing and the vote on changes in the ordinances of Oriental including those in the GMO. This delay allows for the comments and additional information to be considered prior to a final vote.

Dianne Simmons: I would definitely like to see a bike path connecting the village to Dolphin Point. This is a question that will be taken up by the Parks and Recreation committee; I hope some citizen volunteers will offer their time to this committee and will help develop a plan to present to the board. The Whittaker Pointe renovation and the Whittaker Creek dredging projects are on-going and I would like to see them successfully completed. The Harbor Waterfront Advisory Committee for which I am the commissioner-liaison, is working on an ordinance concerning derelict and abandoned boats and this will be one of the issues the board will be focusing on in the coming year. Hodges Street flooding is another matter that I'd like to see addressed. Also important for the board is supporting the special events that help make Oriental the delightful place that it is: The Croaker Festival, The Old Front Porch Music Festival, Cycle NC, the boat show and the Antique Car show are just a few of those.

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’.

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 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 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.

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Posted Monday November 4, 2019 by Allison DeWeese

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