Primary 2020: Republican Candidates For NHC Commission Focus On Jobs, Water, Health And Education

Feb 21, 2020

There are nine Republican candidates vying to be a New Hanover County Commissioner. The top three vote getters in the primary will move on to the November Election. 

Former County Commissioner Skip Watkins – he served from 2014 to 2018 – points to a trio of issues he says need more attention and management. 

”Well, the hundred pound gorilla is the hospital, and I think that is a very important issue. But I think the recurring issues such as how do we handle development? How do we deal with the opioid crisis? How do we deal with GenX? I think they're in different categories. So, personally, we accomplished a lot in my one term, and I want to get back into the fight against GenX. I think it's an insult, it's a horror to our community and, gone on far too long. The opioid crisis currently is not top fold news in the area because of other issues, but you know, annually, over 50,000 people a year die, more American soldiers died in Vietnam over those several years. So we were forgetting or we're not paying enough attention and resources to that.”

Watkins also mentioned he was on the Board when it implemented the only property tax decrease in decades for the County.

For candidate Joe Irrera, it’s the economy.

“My top priority is the economy. New Hanover County is doing very well currently. And I hope to continue that and even expand upon it. Working in collaboration with some of our business development entities and various other stakeholders, you know City and countywide. And just make sure that job creation is always a very hot topic. We have two incredible institutions locally with Cape Fear Community College and UNCW. We also have a couple of other satellite universities, but we also have a variety of other industries, you know, national and international industries. So I would work to retain what we have here and expand.”

Irerra retired as a Colonel after 30 years in the Marine Corps. 

Deb Hays served over eight years as Chair of the City of Wilmington Planning Commission, and is a realtor with Intracoastal. She looks to education as a key priority.

”I'm very focused on education and not because of all the recent news, but because I believe that to be the core of almost everything that we do. I also believe that job growth is critically important to the success of our community. Our infrastructure. We need to make sure that we have an ongoing plan for that infrastructure and to take into account the increase in population that's going on. And I am very, very strong on housing affordability. And I choose that word very carefully and with great thought because I truly understand all the assets, all the different variations of what affordable housing is.”

Hays also spent more than 12 years as the Chair of the Wilmington Housing Authority.

Vince Winkel, WHQR News.