Candidates for commissioner discuss priorities, SRO funding
By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Tuesday’s primary election features three contests for the Pitt County Board of Commissioners.
The District 2 race features first-term Democratic incumbent Mary Perkins-Williams and challeger James Tripp. No Republican has filed for the seat so the winner of Tuesday’s election likely will be seated. District 2 covers all of Pitt County north of the Tar River and a portion of western Greenville.
The District 4 race, also a Democratic primary, is between Alex Albright and Henry Williams II. The winner faces Republican Benji Holloman in November. The district encompasses all of western Pitt County east to MacGregor Downs Road in Greenville and N.C. 11 South in Winterville. Incumbent Mark Owens Jr. is not seeking reelection.
The District 3 race is a Republican primary between Richard Allsbrook and Cynthia Marcus. The winner will face Democrat Christopher Nunnally in November. District 3 extends from Rotary Street in downtown Greenville to the Pitt-Beaufort county line. It’s bordered by the Tar River in the north and Portertown and Mobley’s Bridge roads in the south. Incumbent Charles Farley is not seeking reelection.
Polls open countywide at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7:30 p.m. Early voting ends today at 1 p.m.
Following are answers to questions put to the candidates by The Daily Reflector this week. Henry Williams II, who does not have an email address, could not be reach via telephone and did not immediately respond to a note left at his home.
Q. What do you consider your No. 1 job if elected to the Board of Commissioners?
Perkins-Williams: “My No. 1 job is to be a better bridge or a bigger bridge between residents and government. I want to be receptive to residents. That is our job, we are service agents.”
Tripp: “The No. 1 job on the Board of Commissioners is to be a good steward of the county’s money, working with various departments about their budget and the various projects they might be involved in.”
Allsbrook: “To serve the citizens of District 3 and Pitt County through citizen engagement by listening to concerns and working together to solve problems. It is my job to be the voice for the issues and concerns of the Pitt County Citizens.”
Marcus: “To work for the citizens of Pitt County and hold those people of power accountable for their actions and decisions.”
Albright: “Helping keep the county in good fiscal condition.” It’s important to maintain a healthy fund balance so it could be used in coming years for special projects.
Q. Why are you the better candidate for the job of county commissioner?
Perkins-Williams: “I have one term of experience. The training is there and it should make a better candidate. I also provide constituency services. I am willing to address any resident in Pitt County who reaches out to me.” She calls herself a people person.
Tripp: “It’s not so much I am a better candidate but I am a change for what the county needs now and for future growth. I don’t compare myself to another person, whether I’m better or not, I just try to perform to the best of my ability the job I am required to do.”
Allsbrook: “I am not a politician — I am public servant. My motivation to seek the District 3 seat comes from a heart and place of service.”
Allsbrook said his 27-year career in law enforcement has given him the ability to listen, problem-solve and advocate for all. He said he knows what resources are available in the community and local government and their limitations. He supports education, economic growth opportunities and safe community initiatives.
Marcus: “Because I am a fresh set of eyes on the county commissioners after being a resident of Pitt County for 33 years.”
Albright: “My experience is helpful. By that I mean both my professional experience and my time on the (Fountain) town board.”
Albright said he is open to hearing the arguments of others and, if persuaded, he will change his mind.
Q. Pitt County Schools wants to add 25 school resource officers so every school in the county has security. The cost would add nearly $2.15 million to the school system budget. Yes or No, would you support a tax increase to add the positions? Please explain your answer.
Perkins-Williams: “Yes. We must secure our children. They don’t need to go to school afraid. Even high school students are concern. I would lean more for it than against it.
Tripp: “No, without knowing more than that, no.”
Tripp said he wanted to see if other funding, such as grants, would be available. He also would want constituents to weigh in on a proposed tax increase for school security.
“I don’t believe in increasing taxes to fund one part of county government.”
Allsbrook: “Yes, but only as a last resort.” Local government should see what existing monies can be reallocated and consider hired SROs in phases, with law enforcement providing supplemental service. The county also also explore what, if any grants are available.
“The tax increase would only be as a last resort.”
Prevention, by addressing bullying, conflict, disenfranchised, depression and mental illness, should also be pursued.
Marcus: “No! We should review the Pitt County School budget, the police and sheriff budget and find out ways to save money. We need to find out where and what the lottery money is being used for.”
Editor’s Note: Pitt County's share of the lottery revenue is used to fund school construction projects.
Albright: “Yes, if it’s the only way to get school resource officers into schools I would support tax increases.”
Albright said given the size of the county’s budget — about $245 million — It’s difficult to believe savings can’t be found in other areas.
“Our tax rate is plenty high, so I would do everything possible to find other ways to cut to hire the officers.”
Editor’s Note: The county’s $245 million budget includes federal and state monies that are recorded in the county finances. The general fund, the amount of budget that effects the tax rate, is $174 million.
DISTRICT 2 DEMOCRATS
Position: Retired information research specialist at East Carolina University.
Political experience: Completing first term on Pitt County Board of Commissioners
Social media: “I don’t like Facebook. I want to spend my time with people face to face, one on one.”
Job: bishop and pastor of Holly Hill Original Free Will Baptist Church; retired chief deputy, Pitt County Sheriff’s Office.
Related experience: 30 years on Juvenile Crime Prevention Council; currently chairman.
Social media: None
DISTRICT 3 REPUBLICANS
Job: N.C. Wesleyan College instructor, retired police officer
Previous political office: None
Campaign website: None
Social media: Facebook-Elect Richard Allsbrook Pitt County Commission District 3 firstname.lastname@example.org
Job: owner, Italian Village Pizza
Political office: None
Campaign website: None
Social media: None
DISTRICT 4 DEMOCRATS
Job: retired ECU professor
Political experience: Currently serving third term on Fountain Board of Commissioners. He is mayor pro tem and commissioner of recreation and the library.
Henry Williams II
Job: Former trucking company owner and retired Greyhound bus driver
Political office: None
Social Media: None