NHC Board of Commissioners candidates speak at town hall forum

New Hanover County Commissioners speak at town hall forum
Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 10:52 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The candidates running for New Hanover County Board of Commissioners — LeAnn Pierce (R), Tom Toby (R), Rob Zapple (D) and Travis C. Robinson (D) — spoke at CFCC’s Union Auditorium for a town hall forum on Oct. 12.

The forum was hosted by WECT’s Jon Evans, and moderated by WECT’s Michael Praats, Port City Daily’s Amy Passaretti, and WHQR’s Kelly Kenoyer and Ben Schachtman.

The candidates each expressed differing views regarding previous approvals made by the board, housing authority, and several other topics. A point of consensus from them, however, was the need to rebuild the public’s trust in the county commissioners.

“What I hear from around the county from the citizens is that there’s a shadow of the county commissioners, and they have lost trust, and I think we need to restore trust,” LeAnn Pierce said. “We have to be leaders because we’re held to a higher standard. People look at us every day, they look at what we do, whether you like it or not, when you go in the grocery store, someone’s watching you. When you’re driving down the street and if you have road rage or whatever, they’re watching you. So you’re setting an example everywhere you go because you may not know who they are, but they know who you are.”

Rob Zapple made the following statement when asked why the board had not acted to remove County Chairwoman Julia Olson-Boseman or acknowledge the several allegations against her in a public setting:

“Julia has many, many issues, and she’s unfortunately played it out in the public forum too much to the detriment of our county, I believe, and has brought to question, all the way up to Raleigh, the credibility of our county as well,” Zapple said. “As a county commission, we have very little power to remove her from anything ... unless a commissioner moves out of a county or is convicted of a felony — not indicted, not suspected, but convicted of a felony — they are a commissioner. We found that true during the Brian Berger years and actually spent a lot of money trying to remove him at the time there, so that’s not a path.”

There was also criticism of the sale of the New Hanover County Regional Medical Center to Novant Health, and commissioners differed on what they would do with the proceeds from that sale.

“That is going to go down in New Hanover County’s history as one of the worst things we have ever done is selling our community hospital, that’s it,” Tom Toby said. “The $300 million that’s left, I think, should be invested properly. It could be used in a bunch of different ways to help the citizens of New Hanover County.”

The candidates also discussed the county’s efforts to curb community violence with its Port City United program.

“It’s a matter of them having the rapport and the conversations with the young men and women who are looking for things to do and sometimes get in the wrong crowds,” Robinson said.

The entire forum can be seen below: