During the upcoming primary election, voters will select three candidates for New Hanover County Board of Commissioners on the Republican ticket. Derrick Hickey, former Board of Education member, is one of seven potentials.
He says his top three concerns for North Carolina’s legislative agenda include beach renourishment funding, insurance reform, and microbrewery ordinances.
Each year, local representatives for North Carolina’s legislature push for beach renourishment funding for the Cape Fear region. Derrick Hickey says it’s an important and ongoing issue, but that some less obvious items, such as insurance reform, shouldn’t be overlooked:
“On the coast here, we’re getting hit with exorbitant rates for wind and hail insurance, and actually, when you look at the actuarial tables, it’s simply not justified how much more we’re paying than the inland communities.”
Hickey also says one of the bright spots of this region’s new economy is the rise of microbreweries. He says limits on microbreweries should be loosened:
“Because of the limits of how much microbreweries are allowed to produce, some of these breweries are actually running up against these limits.”
The primary election will be held on March 15th.
Isabelle Shepherd: So, what do you see as the largest struggle for New Hanover County?
Derrick Hickey: Currently, I think the largest struggle is public safety. The people I talk to don’t feel safe in this community. There’s a hierarchy of needs. The first hierarchy, for everyone—from, you know, children to adults—is safety, and I think that’s the first thing we need to address. There’s an epidemic, essentially, of youth and gang violence in New Hanover County. People keep talking about addressing that, but almost every day, there’s something on the news about someone being shot somewhere. As an orthopedic surgeon, I actually end up treating some of these people. It’s really criminal that the commissioners are not dealing with this issue.
IS: How would you address crime in the county?
DH: First and foremost, you know, we need to speak to community leaders but as well as the people who, unfortunately, have been convicted of these crimes and ask them, “What could we have done earlier to make a difference in your lives?” We need to speak to the sheriff candidly and ask him what he needs from the commissioners. You know, if we can’t identify the problems and speak candidly about them, we really have no hope in fixing them.
IS: How would you work with the school board to increase the quality of education in New Hanover County?
DH: I spent four years on the Board of Education, and I will tell you there’s really no interaction between the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education. Everyone talks about how they’re going to work for education, but simply, the Board of Commissioners has not taken an interest in our local public school education. I have a great working relationship with the current Board members and the superintendent. You know, I understand the issues. I understand the funding issues, the infrastructure issues. When I was on the Board of Education, we started talking about doing job training for students, getting them into businesses. They’re continuing to make this effort. I understand it. I understand the issues, and I’d be able to work effectively with those people.
IS: So how would you attract new businesses and jobs to New Hanover County?
DH: Two years ago, there was a much celebrated Garner Report that looked at competitive advantages in New Hanover County, which industries we already had a stronghold in—you know, the pharmaceutical industry, the aerospace industry. And this report also gave us a blueprint to move forward and attract these type of industries to New Hanover County. We have the blueprint, we just actually need to move on with it. We need good, high-paying jobs. We have a wonderful community college and a wonderful university at UNCW, but then when these students graduate, there are no jobs, good-paying jobs here. You know, the kind of jobs that people take, unfortunately, who graduate UNCW, are the kind of jobs that you and I held as summer jobs, you know, waiting tables. These are not the kind of jobs where you can buy a home and raise a family. And as a result, you know, New Hanover County, we see growth, but we see growth in retirees and then apartment living, sort of a transient existence. I think we need to attract, you know, grow the pharmaceutical type research industry, like PPD and AAIPharma, but we also need to—again, the Garner Report pointed this out—to look at the aerospace industry. We have GE here, but we also need to get the community college involved for the type of training to bring this, to make this possible.
IS: Thanks so much for speaking with me today.
DH: Thank you for having me.