Belcher to run for commission seat

Published 7:59 pm Monday, February 20, 2012

Robert Belcher, a two-term member of the Beaufort County Board of Education, on Monday entered the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners race as the second Democrat to file for election to the post.

Robert Belcher

Belcher said in an interview Monday that when he announced in January his decision not to seek re-election to the school board, he did so, in part, because he had his eyes on the county commissioners race and, in part, to give someone else the chance to serve on that board.

“I do believe the offices need to turn over every once in a while,” he said. “And that could be the same for the county commissioners.”

Although he has a background in education, Belcher said his top priority as a county commissioner would be to promote job growth and economic development in the county.

“People in Beaufort County are hurting for jobs,” he said. “Growing the infrastructure in the county would lead to us growing the tax base, and you could do more for education and other priorities without having to raise taxes.”

County leaders could work closely to develop incentives for businesses that chose to locate in Beaufort County, with those incentives including a low-interest loan fund or tax breaks for a company’s first few years of operations.

Those incentives could be used not only to help large industries moving to Beaufort County but also to smaller businesses, he said.

“Ten small businesses with 30 employees would be just as good an investment as a large industry with 300 employees,” he said.

Belcher said he would continue to advocate for public education in Beaufort County.

“We’ve got to educate our children, or businesses and industries won’t come here,” he said. “We need to make sure our public-school and community-college graduates have marketable skills.”

Belcher was elected chairman of the school board following the conclusion of funding-related litigation involving his board and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, but he remained a strong advocate for school funding before the county commissioners.

As school board chairman, Belcher was an early advocate of a program, currently under way in the schools that would protect school athletes believed to have suffered concussions during play from sustaining serious injury from a second concussion.

Belcher also helped pick Don Phipps as the replacement for departed schools Superintendent Jeff Moss.

In July 2011, Belcher stepped down as chairman of the school board. At the time, he said his decision to resign the leadership post was influenced partly by the commissioners’ cuts to the school system’s construction budget and a lack of school-board support for renewed legal action against the county.

Four positions are available in this year’s county commissioners race.

Incumbent Jerry Langley is the only other Democrat to have filed for one of the four seats, which had attracted four Republican candidates as of Monday morning. Incumbent Robert Cayton has announced that he will not seek re-election to the county board. He is running for a seat in the N.C. House of Representatives.

A Washington-area resident, Belcher lives with his wife, Mary, a supervisor of the recovery room at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. The couple have two children, a daughter, Emily, who is seeking an associate degree in nursing at Beaufort County Community College, and Matt, a financial advisor with Cardinal State Bank in Durham.

The candidate, 63, is a retired public-schools educator, having served the last 11 years of his career as principal of John Cotten Tayloe School. He holds bachelor’s, master’s and education specialist degrees from East Carolina University.

Belcher is a member of the First Baptist Church in Washington, where he volunteers as Sunday-school supervisor. He is a former member of the Washington Kiwanis Club and the Beaufort County United Way Board of Directors.

News Editor Jonathan Clayborne contributed to this report.