NHC Commissioner Majority Changes - Does It Matter?

Dec 4, 2018

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners now has new leadership. The Board voted unanimously for Jonathan Barfield Jr. to replace Woody White as board chairperson, with newcomer Julia Olson-Boseman winning a split vote for vice-chair. The majority has changed. What does that mean for the county? 

“Good evening everyone, I’d like to call this meeting of the New Hanover County Commission to order. Please silence your cell phones and electronic devices. ….”

Woody White opened the county commissioners meeting, his last as chairperson. That’s because for the first time in decades there is a Democratic majority on the County Board of Commissioners.

Democrats Julia Olson-Boseman and Rob Zapple were elected last month. Both took their oaths Monday afternoon. Each will serve four-year terms and join Commissioners Jonathan Barfield, Jr., Patricia Kusek, and Woody White on the board.

Olson-Boseman thanked her family after taking the oath.

“I want to thank my wife, Angie Olson-Boseman, and Hollis Briggs, and everyone else who supported me and even those who didn't because I'm confident that we're going to do some great things together. Thank you…”

Rob Zapple spoke of the critical work to be done on the UDO.

“Continuing the work of revising our Unified Development Ordinance, untouched in most cases for almost 40 years. Absolutely vital work as we look to the future. This revised UDO will be a companion piece to the 2016 comprehensive future land use plan and provide the enforcement to allow the vision of the comp plan to become a reality.”

But will the commissioners reach noticeably different decisions, with the majority moving from Republican to Democrat?  Republican Patricia Kusek doesn’t think so.

“I think that we have the capability with the leadership that Jonathan Barfield is going to provide as chair to pull this board really together. And you know, so many of the issues that we deal with and the good of this county, have nothing to do with politics. They shouldn't be Republican, Democrat issues. For the past two years we're proud of the fact that we lower taxes and had a good budget funding the schools, and kept our community safe with the sheriff's funding, and I can't imagine that this new mix of county commissioners wouldn't want to do it exactly the same thing. That's what I'm hoping for.”

Jonathan Barfield, Jr. agrees with Kusek’s sentiments, and says he expects great things from the new board.

Affordable housing is at the top of his list.

“I think focus on infrastructure for sure. You know the fact that we have a shortage of affordable housing in our community and Hurricane Florence really exposed that to us very clearly. There are so many folks that are trying to find affordable rentals in our community and they're just not there.

I sell real estate. I was doing a search today for young man looking for a condo and there are not many homes under the $150,000 mark that people can go out there and buy. So when you're looking at a firefighter, a school teacher starting at $33,000 to $35,000 a year, they're not many homes that a person could afford on their own.”

The Board unanimously approved Commissioner Jonathan Barfield’s return to the chairman’s position. But the Board was split on Olson-Boseman for Vice Chair; Barfield nominated Rob Zapple but the two Republicans and Olson-Boseman took the 3-2 vote. For WHQR News, I’m Vince Winkel.