Booth: Local entrepreneurs need assistance

Published 8:32 am Friday, April 2, 2010

Staff Write

Incumbent Beaufort County Commissioner Ed Booth believes county leaders could do more to promote job growth and economic development by helping small businesses and local entrepreneurs.
Booth said his childhood spent growing up on a dairy farm at Acre Station in eastern Beaufort County taught him the importance of locally owned small businesses and locally owned farms with strong ties to the community.
He said those types of businesses hold the key to a better future for Beaufort County.
“The days of creating 300 to 400 jobs by recruiting big industries are long passed,” he said in a recent interview. “We need to do more to help small businesses whose four or five jobs are going to make us solvent again.”
Booth, a Democrat, is vying in the May 4 primary to represent his party in the November election, when three seats on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners are up for grabs.
Booth believes that the top priority facing Beaufort County today is “jobs, jobs, jobs.” 
“We have to sit down at the table and figure out ways to save the jobs we have and ways more of our people can go to work,” he said. “People want to work.” 
And during the current economic downturn, Beaufort County leaders need to work to promote jobs even while keeping property taxes as low as possible, he said.
“We need to keep the taxes as low as we can, as long as we can,” Booth said.
He pointed to the recent school-construction bonds as an example of recent success by the Board of Commissioners in promoting improvements in the county without a tax hike.
“We — and I mean the entire board — figured out ways we could absorb that expense and not raise taxes and hurt the people who needed it most.” 
With the continued depressed economic climate, county leaders likely will grapple with tough budgeting choices this spring, according to Booth.
He anticipates that continued across-the-board cuts will be needed “unless we see some drastic changes.”
But of all the county services deserving of funds, he thinks the Department of Social Services should be first in line if any additional appropriations are available.
When asked what county services, if any, need to be funded at a higher level, he said, “With the economy like it is now, the Department of Social Services, because our people are needing those types of services more than ever.” 
He also said he would work hard to avoid layoffs and furloughs of county employees in developing the 2010-2011 fiscal year budget. 
When asked what can be done to spur economic growth in Beaufort County, Booth said county leaders need to make the area more desirable to people and businesses.
“We have to do things to make people come here,” he said. “And we have to do things to make business come here.” 
County leaders should follow a diversified approach to economic development and not rely on just one type of business to lift the county’s economy, he explained.
“Economic development has many arms,” he said. “We need a strategic plan and work toward it.” 
Ed Booth
Age: 57. 
Address: 1122 Van Norden St., Washington. 
Job: Administrative hearing officer, N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles. 
Education: Graduated from Pantego High School, earned Basic Law Enforcement Training certificate from Beaufort County Community College, attended Institute of Government’s N.C. Examiners School; completed additional studies in commercial law through the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev. 
Immediate family: Wife, Ethel; four children; three grandchildren. 
How long a resident of Beaufort County: Has lived in Washington for 35 years 
Experience as an elected official: Two terms on the Washington City Council; appointed to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners in 2004; re-elected in 2006. 
Other relevant experience: Long-time member of the Beaufort County Democratic Executive Committee, delegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, past-master of H.S. Jones Lodge, past director of Knights of Pythagoras, former member of the National Association of Hearing Officers.
Last book read: “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela.