Patricia Kusek is running for one of three seats in the Republican primary for New Hanover County Commissioner.
As Chair of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority for the last two years, Kusek says she’s most proud of the reduction in the number and volume of sewage spills plaguing the county. And running her own financial services company has helped to reinforce her respect for fiscal conservatism.
RLH: You are running as a part of trio. And the three of you had delivered a Republican response to the recent State of the County Address. Why run as a trio and why not run as an individual candidate?
PK: Well, we actually are running as individual candidates but we do share the common values and common vision for New Hanover County. And so we felt like it made more sense to be able to present a strong slate of people who did have the conservative values and the fiscal wherewithal to get things done in the County. So that was the reason. We respect each other. We know each other.
RLH: Are you completely opposed to ever raising taxes? One of your fellow candidates has said, "I signed a pledge that I would never raise taxes.” Is that something you would do?
PK: I think that to sign a pledge like that or to make an overarching statement that you’ll never raise taxes is just not a responsible statement to make. I think that it boils down to how hard we are willing to work to bring new business and industry here. That will help us from continuing to raise taxes. And we need to, Day One, if elected, first thing, we need to get to work on that special use permit. We need to get our name back on the list, and we need to have that welcome mat out, and that will keep us from having to raise taxes.
RLH: What is the welcome mat? Is the special use permit an obstacle to that?
PK: Yes it is. The County commissioned – I think it was a little more than a year ago – the Garner Group to do a Garner report. And it has clearly been stated, time and time again, if anyone wants to read that Garner report, that our special use permit should either, at a minimum be amended, and at the best, be completely done away with to get us back on the list of sites where recruiters go to try to locate new businesses. And we just have not done that.
RLH: If you could change the travel policy and you didn’t have to get consensus; you could just wave a magic wand and put a travel policy in place that suited conservative principles, what would that look like?
PK: First of all, any travel policy for the county commissioners should not be any more lenient or broad than what the county employees are asked to abide by.
But personally, I feel like if someone is running for elected office that they should be able to – I know this is going to sound a little crass – but foot their own bill. I have to make my own decisions in my business on what kind of seminars and training things I attend because I can’t go to everything. I try to make sure that what I’m going to is appropriate and it’s going to be the best bang for the buck for me. And I stay at hotels where I can afford to pay my own bill and I just don’t think those travel policies – period -- should be on the taxpayer’s dime. That may not be popular with all the other Commissioners but it’s the way Patricia Kusek feels about it. And in terms of eating, and that kind of thing, I have to pay for it when I eat in Wilmington; I should have to pay for it if I’m in California.
RLH: Are you saying that if you travel as a commissioner that you should pay your own expenses?
PK: Yes, I am.
RLH: That would not be on the New Hanover County dime even though you’re doing the business of the County?
PK: No, ma’am.
RLH: Patricia Kusek, thanks so much for joining us today.
PK: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.
Patricia Kusek gives the current Board a C grade for financial stewardship.
Over the last five years, Patricia Kusek has served on the Board of the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority; for the last two, she’s held the title of Chair. She says part of fiscal responsibility means working harder to grow the tax base in the County and avoid tax increases.
Step one on that road, says Kusek, is to lay out the welcome mat for business by doing away with the special use permit. At the very least, she says, amendment is key:
"The special use permit needs to give concrete timelines and a process so that we can abide by the rule of the law, not by the rule of politicians. Right now that special use permit is too open-ended and too ambiguous. The way it’s in place is more government overreach, more government control. And it should be – like any business would be able to know if they were coming here exactly what they’re required to do, and so that they would know. They can put dollars and cents to that."
Kusek also says that as a County Commissioner, she would pay her own travel expenses – even when doing the business of the County.