Shamseldin: Some county taxpayers are underserved

Published 8:56 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

Community Editor

Sonya Shamseldin believes the taxpayers of Beaufort County living outside of Washington are being underserved.
Indeed, five of the current Beaufort County commissioners — Chairman Jerry Langley, Al Klemm, Stan Deatherage, Ed Booth and Hood Richardson — have Washington addresses.
This uneven ratio, in Shamseldin’s opinion, compelled the Pinetown resident to run for one of three seats on the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners up for grabs in the Nov. 2 general election. The May 4 primary will determine which three of the four Democrats seeking seats on the board advance to the general election.
“I see the efforts of these little towns, but they have no voice on the board,” she said. “These areas need representation, and I want to be that representation.”
Shamseldin said that as a commissioner, she would be accessible to her constituents. Even now, she said, a great number of people from the northeastern part of the county come to her with questions.
“I have a lot of people that ask me questions about a lot of different things because they know I’m active in the community,” she said. “As a county commissioner, you need to be an ambassador.”
Shamseldin is in favor of changing the way county commissioners are elected so each commissioner would be elected from a district. She said that the current limited voting plan, in which a county voter is permitted to mark a ballot for just one commissioner candidate, though several may be on the ballot, puts candidates outside of Washington at a disadvantage.
“We need to go back and look at this again,” she said.
She believes that commissioners should be able to represent their own communities.
“You’re going to get more people involved if you have districts,” she said.
She said the state might need to get involved with the county’s Department of Social Services. Shamseldin, chairwoman of the local DSS board, has seen the rise of food-stamp applicants at the county’s DSS headquarters first-hand.
“There are more new applicants coming in every month. People that have never applied for social services,” she said.
Shamseldin, who has served on the DSS board for four years, said, “This has been the most new applicants we’ve ever had.”
She said she is not at liberty to say if any other county departments need money from the state because she hasn’t looked “at the numbers.”
“With a new budget coming in, I don’t really know what to say,” she said.
Shamseldin said she doesn’t know what effects the opening of the new U.S. Highway 17 bypass will have on the local economy, but she expects there to be some. According to her, the current commissioners have failed to address that issue.
“Now what do we do? How do we attract people to get off the bypass when we couldn’t attract people coming through?” she said. “I have never heard the commissioners say anything about that, or the Committee of 100, except for some billboards.”
Shamseldin said she can help with marketing the community to tourists and travelers more than a couple of billboards.
“It’s about marketing, and that’s what I go back to. That’s my strength,” she said.
Shamseldin majored in economics at Old Dominion University, and she is a small-business owner.
“You have to think of the county as a business when it comes to that,” she said. “You have to make sure your schools are right. You have to make sure your roads are right.”
Sonya Shamseldin
Age: 42.
Address: 5063 Free Union Church Road, Pinetown.
Job: Small-business owner.
Education: Graduated from Old Dominion University, majoring in economics and minoring in criminology; studying to become a certified computer examiner.
Immediate family: Husband, Mo; four children.
How long a resident of Beaufort County: 18 years.
Experience as an elected official: no experience; ran for seat on Beaufort County Board of Commissioners in 2008.
Other relevant experience: chairwoman of the Beaufort County Department of Social Services; chairwoman of the Belhaven Recreational Advisory Committee.
Last book read: “Taste of Home’s Light &Tasty.”