CoastLine: New Hanover County Commission Candidate Forum

Oct 7, 2014

FORUM AUDIO POSTED:  The four candidates vying for two open seats on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners came together Monday, October 6th in WHQR's MC Erny Gallery to distinguish themselves from their opponents. 

The Forum aired live on HQR News 91.3 FM and streamed live on 

Moderator Rachel Lewis Hilburn was joined by WWAY Newschannel 3 Anchor Chris Brown to ask questions of the candidates during the first segment.

During the second segment, members of the audience asked questions and previously-emailed questions were read.  

In the third segment, candidates delivered closing statements and participated in one speed round (yes / no answers). 

New Hanover County Commissioners serve staggered four-year terms.   Elections are held every two years.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county population is a little more than 213,000.  81% of the population is white, about 15% is African-American, and 5.5% is Hispanic. 

There are two open seats on the board; Brian Berger’s controversial four-year term is ending – as is Tom Wolfe’s two-year term.  Wolfe was appointed in 2012 to finish out Rick Catlin’s term after Catlin was elected to the State House.  Mr. Wolfe chose not to run for election. 

Now, let’s meet our candidates in alphabetical order. 

Derrick Hickey, a Republican, is a board certified orthopaedic surgeon specializing in hand & upper extremity surgery, microsurgery, and arthroscopy. He is a member of the New Hanover County Board of Education, to which he was elected in 2010.  He opened Port City Orthopaedics in 2006 -- where he currently practices.  Dr. Hickey has served as president of the New Hanover - Pender County Medical Society, as president of the Wilmington South Rotary Club, and he is a former member of the New Hanover County Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.  He is married and has two children.

Patricia Spear is running on the Democratic ticket.  She’s owned Patricia G. Spear Insurance for 14 years and during that time says she’s gained experience working with seniors and the disabled on quality of life issues.  Before opening her business, Ms. Spear worked as a physical therapy assistant for 23 years.  She says community involvement is important to her and she plans to bring new ideas and an open-mindedness that will make a difference.  She and her husband, Preston Spear, have been married for 32 years.  They have two children and one granddaughter.

Skip Watkins, a Republican, has been in the financial services industry for 25 years. He is currently an Independent Financial Advisor with Capital Investment Group. He has taught Economics part-time at the Wilmington Campus of the University of Mount Olive.  He’s served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Board of the Cape Fear Fair and Expo, and he’s been the Fair Manager for over 15 years.  He serves as co-chair of the Azalea Festival’s Circus Committee.  And for the last five years, he’s spoken at UNCW’s Cameron School of Business’ Business Week.   Mr. Watkins is married and has two children. 

Rob Zapple, a Democrat, is a licensed General Contractor and the owner of Rob Zapple Design and Build.  He’s a member of Rotary International, is on the Board of Trustees for the Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, and is on the Board of Directors of the Children’s Museum.  He served on the Board of the Cape Fear Green Building Alliance for six years.  Rob and his wife, Michele, have been married 31 years.  They have three children and one grandchild. 

Disclosure:  Rob Zapple is a member of the Board of this radio station – WHQR Friends of Public Radio.