Craven County commissioner candidates could make history in November

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Editor’s note: The Sun Journal has reached out to candidates running in the May 17 election to participate in a candidate questionnaire.

Beatrice Smith became the first black woman to serve on the Craven County Board of Commissioners, a feat it took more than 300 years to achieve.

Smith, who was first named to the board, is currently running to retain her seat against Craven County resident Dorothea White, who is also a black woman. That means history could be made in November, as Smith or White could become the first black woman elected to the board of commissioners.

Currently, no Republican candidate is running in the race for commissioner of District 3, but he could apply to become a candidate in writing.

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The Sun Journal reached out to Smith and White for their thoughts on transparency, local government issues and how to make the city a better place for all residents to live.

Craven County District 3

After:Craven County Commissioner a trailblazer and role model for black women

After:Voters will see a Republican primary for Craven County School Board District 6 in May

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After:How do the New Bern Ward 2 candidates compare? Here is what they said

After:Incumbent commissioner to run against current New Bern mayor for District 4 seat

What the District 3 candidates had to say

Are you a holder?

Beatrice: Yes

Dorothy: Nope

What is the best way for voters to contact you?

Beatrice: Home phone: 252-633-3724. Email address: [email protected]

Dorothy: I can be contacted by email at [email protected]

What experience do you have that makes you a good candidate?

Beatrice: I have years of experience working with the public and for the benefit of people and children. Currently, I am Craven County Commissioner and have a proven track record in advocating for my constituents. I am a former elected member of the Craven County School Board. I have been honored twice by the All State Board for Outstanding Service. Other experiences include Craven County Superintendent (17), Principal of the Year, Teacher Mentor, Every Student Succeed Act Title I Reading Program Director (5), Past Unit Chair of the Craven County – North Carolina Association of Educators, Director of Youth Ministries, Deaconess, Steward, Trustee, Board Chair, Craven Smart Start Board Member, Craven County Youth Crime Prevention Council , East Carolina Workforce Development Consortium, former local president of the National Association of Negro Women, member and former treasurer of the Pembroke Community Center, Craven Art Council and board member of administration of Gallery Inc.

Dorothy: My experiences include over 30 years on municipal, county and state service boards, some in leadership roles. Retired computer professional for over 30 years, Secretary and Treasurer of the Craven Pop Warner Association, Secretary and Treasurer of the MLK Committee, Secretary of the Craven County Voters League, NAACP, Chief Justice, Vice President, Secretary of the 5th District Board of Elections, Democratic Women of North Carolina Area 10 Assistant Director, trained as a county commissioner and various others including Order of the Eastern Star-PHA, church superintendent, historian and teacher.

What do you read to stay informed about the issues?

Beatrice: The Sun Journal, The News and Observer, North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Week Update Publications, Route/Fifty Connecting State and Local Government Publications, North Carolina School of Government Newsletter, Our State Magazine, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Newsletter, AARP Magazine, National Association of School Boards.

Dorothy: I received information through in-person and virtual events, articles, Facebook, and local and national news sources.

If you are elected, what would you do to remain transparent as an elected official?

Beatrice: I believe we should always strive for excellence. Excellence in local government requires transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility. This should be the central priority of our local Board of Commissioners, and if elected, I will always work towards this end. I am aware that our current board practices these core values, however, I will continually promote and improve this practice. I will promote online and locally televised board meetings with continued citizen engagement on relevant issues. I will encourage the continued review of our web pages, which provide citizens with access to current local government information, including spending, goals and priorities, practices, programs, staff, budgets, resources and other relevant information. I will be open to people contacting me personally for an investigation if they have any questions or concerns. I realize that I may not have all the answers at my fingertips, but I will always follow up and seek out the answers or direct individuals to the appropriate management, office or personnel. I will communicate with my constituents by attending public hearings, using community newsletters and working with community leaders to keep the public informed. This is a big priority for me. I am a good listener and will always listen to the needs of the people I serve and investigate issues to keep myself informed.

Dorothy: Transparency should be second nature to all elected officials when performing their duties involves honesty, integrity and impartial communication.

What do you think is the most important problem for the headquarters you are running for, how do you want to solve it and what do you think of the way the current leaders have solved the problem?

Beatrice: I believe the most important issue for the seat I seek is the recovery in Craven County, which is designed to deal with the ravages of severe storms, hurricanes and the challenges and obstacles amid the Covid 19 pandemic In progress. Many communities in my district are still struggling with recovery, including losing homes, dealing with family health issues, child care, finding jobs that will provide enough income to support their families, loss of student education due to school closures, online learning, and lack of internet service. This issue persists and I will need to work with county management and other county commissioners to resolve this issue. It won’t be solved overnight, however, it can and should be solved. As we continue to study, repair, replace, update, and improve the property and lives of voters, my goal is to take current efforts one step further. I would like to see additional plans and goals that could mean thinking outside the box to harness resources and provide services to communities that may not fit within current guidelines in order to support all communities. I am not advocating breaking the laws, but where possible I would like policies and guidelines adjusted to make them work for the people. I think it would be amazing if no community was left behind and that’s my goal. Craven County Commissioners are tackling resiliency and recovery issues by expanding broadband that provides and/or improves internet throughout the county, making great strides in economic development projects that have brought in nearly $183 million dollars and more than 130 jobs. The county has provided support for industry needs by funding initiatives such as the Volt Center and investments in Craven County. The Commissioners were instrumental in the near-closure purchase of Hatteras Yachts by White River Marine, saving hundreds of jobs and will provide hundreds more in the near future.

Dorothy: I believe there are countless opportunities that require the skills to deliver “today’s challenges with tomorrow’s solutions”. This strength will enhance and secure a vibrant future for our county. One of the biggest issues in this county is relevance. This issue is best resolved by reviewing relevant information prior to community action that is shared in a timely manner.

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