There are seven Republicans hoping to win one of three spots on the November ballot for New Hanover County Board of Commissioners. One of those candidates, Campbell Dodd, is taking his second run at county office. As this Wilmington-based real estate appraiser explains, he has his eye on bringing more industry to the region and quelling the very public divides on the Board.
RLH: What do you want to do as a member of the County Board of Commissioners? What’s at the top of your agenda?
CD: Well, top of my agenda, it’s about bringing industry to Wilmington, the area, so that have good jobs. Good jobs, in turn, help us have a better education system. But we’re lacking in some things. Part of it’s zoning. It’s very difficult as a small business person or a large business to know what they can do, because this SUP, the special use permit, pops up in the middle of it. It’s a distraction. That’s not good.
That, and the other thing: we need to be more cognizant of the fact that, as elected officials, maybe we don’t need to be in the news all the time over petty stuff. We need to be doing what we need to do for the community, because these business people that are looking at our community, well, they’ll do like I do. They’ll look at the internet from wherever they are and find out, hey, there’s this controversy here. They want to go someplace that’s easy to go to. They want less controversy. We have too much of that.
And then the other thing part: I’m a big fan of 421. A lot of land out there. When I first moved to Wilmington, I worked for the Department of Transportation out on 421 and thought, man, this is really great. Got some industry out here. It’s not grown any since 1978 in real terms.
RLH: You mentioned a couple of other points: the special use permit. Do you think that’s something that needs to be amended so that it’s more understandable, the process is more predictable for companies? Or do you think it just needs to be abolished?
CD: I think we need to go back to the drawing board, redo our zoning. I think we need to work with our other local towns that are here and go, “R-15’s R-15. MF is multi-family. Here’s what it is. Here’s what you can’t do. Here’s what you can do. Done deal.” Shouldn’t be any more of this – at the last minute, “Oh, well, you’ve got to do this to do that.” Figure it out. Let’s get it going. It’s so disastrous for us to be able to grow in the correct way.
RLH: You also mentioned the divisiveness that we’ve been seeing on the news on the county Board. What issues are you referring to when you talk about things that are in the news that you’d rather not see in the news?
CD: Well, there’s a lot of things that go on with that. I know that a while back, [they] talked about travel policy, money. If my employer says I’m going to give you $100 a day. If you want to go eat a hamburger at McDonald’s, that’s great. If you want to go the steakhouse and eat a $75 steak, that shouldn’t be a problem.
I understand that they need to follow some guidelines and they need to be monitored. There’s no question about that. However, I think it’s important that if you’re going to a seminar and you’re going out to eat with other people that you’re trying to build a relationship with to get something to go, if your budget is so limited that you can only have a hamburger, you’re not going to look good in their eyes of being strong. Having been in sales in the past, it’s important to be able to look like you’re strong and do those things. So, I think there’s a balance there.
Having the same budget as the employees may not be the right answer. You’ve got to remember, the county commissioners are like the CEOs of the county. The CEOs of any company don’t have the same policy as their rank-and-file workers.
RLH: Campbell Dodd, thanks so much for joining us today.
CD: Thank you for having me.
There are too many controversies winding up in the news, according to Campbell Dodd – making New Hanover County a less attractive destination for new or expanding companies. When prospective business leaders search for information about the area online, he says the issues over the Commissioners’ travel policy pop up -- and turn off potential employers. But there’s a way to handle disagreement, says Dodd, which will always be there.
"That’s the whole idea of maybe not having everybody from the same group on the commission… Maybe you’re missing something and you got to get that – as the Founders did when they put the Constitution together. They were in a room all day. They’d go out to the pub and have some beers that night. But they had the opportunity to change their mind if they kind of started to understand it. Very difficult in our day of social media where you can’t change your mind at all because you’ll be daggummed by your own party and daggummed by the other one."
Dodd also says the County’s special use permit is an obstacle to growth, and the County should go back to the drawing board with its zoning plan.