County lures young, old

Published 7:04 am Thursday, March 25, 2010

Community Editor

Young professionals and retirees are among the most likely people to move to Beaufort County, according to an American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008.
The survey, the most recent of its kind, tracked geographical mobility throughout the county during that year. Beaufort County had a total estimated population of 45,306 in 2008, according to the survey. Of that population, 992 people moved to the county from a different state or abroad and 1,604 people moved from a different county in the state.
“Regardless of age group, it suggests Beaufort County is a nice place to live, period,” said Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill.
Of those who moved to the county from out of state, 237 were between the ages of 20 and 29, and 210 were between the ages of 60 and 69. Children from the ages of 5 through 17 made up the third-largest demographic at 137. Of those who moved from a different county, 364 were from the ages of 20 through 29, and 514 were from the ages of 30 through 39. Children from the ages of 5 through 17 made up the third-largest demographic at 217.
County officials offered their views on why young professionals and retirees move to the county.
Spruill pointed to quality of life and entry-level employment opportunities for college graduates. Tom Thompson, the county’s economic-development chief, noted the lack of traffic and close proximity to beaches.
“The retirees are moving here because, in large part, they come from the north, where it’s cold, the taxes are high, the traffic is terrible and the people aren’t always that friendly. Down here, it’s just the opposite,” Thompson said.
Twenty-something transplants and recent retirees offered reasons for moving to Beaufort County.
Young, restless
James Byrd, 26, is a math teacher at Washington High School. Before moving to town in August, he taught math in the Currituck County school system for some years. A native of Currituck, Byrd said he chose to move to Beaufort County for its cheaper cost of living and to work in a better school system.
Byrd, an East Carolina University graduate, said he enjoys Washington’s close proximity to Greenville, where he has old college friends. As an avid fisherman, duck hunter and certified small-craft captain, he also likes living close to the water.
Candace Hammer, 26, is a nutritionist at the Beaufort County Health Department. She moved home to Hot Springs, Va., after graduating from Virginia Tech. She held various jobs around her small Appalachian hometown, all the while looking for a job in her field.
Hammer began scouring for job openings in eastern North Carolina after her sister and her sister’s husband moved to New Bern. Hammer found a job posting online, but before applying, she visited Washington and the county.
“I looked around and thought it was nice,” she said.
Hammer, at the health department for more than a year, said the area offers many perks.
“Shopping is not that far away. There’s easy access to the beaches,” she said.
Hammer said she does miss is snowboarding, “but I do like the mild winters.”
Byrd and Hammer are among the 16.5 percent of the county’s work force employed by the government, according to N.C. Department of Commerce figures compiled in 2007. Nearly 2,500 people, or 14 percent of the work force, were employed in the health-care and social-assistance field.
Golden years
Paul Coakley, 70, is a retired Marine. Years of time and travel in the Corps have taken a toll on his heart. Still, Coakley and his wife, Pat, enjoy rounds of golf at the Cypress Landing Golf Club and are active in the community.
He takes comfort in the fact that the East Carolina Heart Institute at East Carolina University, as well as other nationally renowned facilities, are a short drive from his Cypress Landing home.
“We have the ability here, at our age, to continue to do things — get involved in the community, sports. It’s not the same in other areas of the country,” said Pat Coakley.
The Coakleys were born in Massachusetts. They met and married there in 1969, before moving around the country to Hawaii, San Francisco, Michigan, Virginia, New Jersey and North Carolina, where they settled. They did a lot of work out of Camp Lejune and Cherry Point.
As a civil servant, Pat Coakley, 63, traveled for work between the two eastern North Carolina bases and Marine Corps headquarters in Washington, D.C. To break up the monotony of her commutes, she would stop in towns and cities along U.S. Highway 17, including Washington and Chocowinity.
“I came through many times and liked it,” she said.
When it came time to retire, the Coakleys narrowed their choices to Cypress Landing and Pinehurst. Cypress Landing prevailed, thanks to the warm welcome the Coakleys received from the locals.
“The people I had an opportunity to meet were outstanding. They were willing to sit down and talk to you,” Paul Coakley said. “It kind of reminded me of being with my Navy family.”
Jeff Brundage, 68, found his way to Washington thanks to his wife, Fran, who was born and raised in Charleston, S.C., but moved to Washington with her first husband.
When they met, Jeff was living and working for Weyerhaeuser in Philadelphia. Shortly after they wed in 1991, they moved back “home” at Fran’s request.
“She wanted to come home,” he said. “And she was very patient with me while I dragged her around the country.”
The couple built a home in Cypress Landing, before moving into Washington’s historic district.
Brundage said a lot of his neighbors in Cypress Landing told him they moved to the area for the water and low cost of living.
“A lot of people I talked to thought it was the best value,” he said.
Personally, he enjoys the slower pace of life.
“I’ve always lived in big cities,” he said.
Like Jeff Brundage, the Coakleys are set on staying for a long time.
“We have no intentions of leaving anytime soon,” Pat Coakley said.