Richardson looks to keep win streak alive

Published 12:30 am Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hood Richardson has never lost an election as an incumbent Beaufort County commissioner.

A member of the county board since 1996, the self-described conservative Republican has often been the top vote getter in local commissioner elections.

“I really don’t keep track of it,” he said of his status as a first-place finisher. “I’d just as soon share some of those votes with some of my more conservative friends so we can have a true majority on the board.”

Asked to account for his success in re-election, the longtime office-holder declined to stray too far into speculation.

“I must do a lot of things that a lot of people like to get me re-elected,” he said. “I’ve been a watchdog. … Government is no different than business. You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it, and there are not a lot of elected officials who are willing to put anything into their elected positions simply because there is no direct, day-to-day supervision. They get supervision every four years or so whenever they’re elected.”

Richardson is one of four Republicans working to capture four available positions on the county board. The other three Republicans who have filed or announced they’re in the race are Larry Britt of Blount’s Creek, Tony Keech of the Washington area and incumbent Jay McRoy of Chocowinity.

A land surveyor and engineer by profession, Richardson is known for devoting untold hours of his private time to board and committee meetings. He serves as chairman of the former Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners.

About a decade ago, he became part of an ultimately effective, resident-driven lobbying and legal effort to ward of the Navy’s proposed outlying landing field in Beaufort and Washington counties.

“I put a lot of time into that,” he said of the OLF fight. “The other accomplishments have been just to, if you will, put a little bit of fear into the liberals that the public was going to know about their missteps.”

Asked to talk about failures during his tenure, Richardson pointed to the sale of what was known as Beaufort County Medical Center and its affiliated practices to what was called University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, now Vidant Health.

“We lost a hospital,” he said, referring to the county’s ownership of hospital and medical-practice buildings and the money he contends the community lost by not entering into a partnership with an out-of-state health-care provider.

Richardson also touched on another of his favorite themes: the U.S. Highway 17 bypass around Washington — a road he argues was built on the wrong side of the city. He has long advocated construction of a bypass and bridge east of U.S. 17.

“We’ve got an almost $200 million road that has been built in the wrong place in Beaufort County,” he said. “Now that it’s built, I think most people can see that it serves no one. It does what a lot of people described to begin with: it bypasses everybody around Washington, and that’s not good for Beaufort County and Washington.”

Richardson is a former candidate for state House and Senate, but has never held a legislative office.