Harding seeks return to board

Published 1:00 am Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Carolyn Harding, a community activist and former Beaufort County commissioner, is seeking to return to the county board.

Carolyn harding

Harding, a Democrat, said she decided to return to politics, in part, to ensure the county’s women have a voice on the board that governs the county’s operations.

“There should be a woman on that board,” she said.

Currently, no women serve on either the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners or the Washington City Council.

Harding also said, if elected, she would work to ensure that the county board shows “more respect to the public. That is totally lacking now.”

Harding supports the construction of a new Beaufort County Detention Center.

“The main thing that we’ve got to do is build a new jail,” she said. “I know it will not be easy to borrow the money, but I’d rather do that than risk injury to one of the sheriff’s deputies or pay that money in a lawsuit brought by an inmate.”

A long-time member of the Beaufort County Committee of 100, Harding said she would work to support economic development in the county, including industrial recruitment efforts by the county’s Economic Development Commission.

“Beaufort County needs to try to expand the economy of the county,” she said.

But, she said, that economic development should not come at the expense of the county’s environment.

Harding, in recent months, was one of the members of the public who appeared before the county board in opposition of a plan by Martin Marietta Materials to operate a rock quarry in southern Beaufort County. At the time, Harding said she feared the effects of the company’s planned 9-million-gallon daily discharge into the headwaters of Blount’s Creek.

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

Incumbent Jerry Langley and challengers Robert Belcher and Mickey Cochran have filed along with Harding to seek the Democratic nomination in May to face a slate of Republican candidates for the county board in November. As of Friday, seven Republican candidates had filed to earn their party’s nomination in May. Incumbent Commissioner 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.

Harding, who served one term on the county board from 1998 to 2002, was an early leader in the effort to block the Navy’s plans to build an outlying landing field in Washington County and near Beaufort County.

While she was a member of the Beaufort County Board of Health, Harding said, she was a leader in the effort to replace the outdated health department building on Harvey Street with a new building on Highland Drive.

More recently, she was an active supporter of the merger of Beaufort Regional Health Systems with then-University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, now Vidant Health, attending public hearings and meetings in support of the merger.

Harding also said that as a candidate for the county board, she would work to set the record straight regarding the construction of the U.S. Highway 17 bypass around Washington.

With the recent discussion over the possibility of tolls being imposed on riders of the Pamlico River ferry, some local politicians have attacked Harding and other former members of the county board for endorsing N.C. Department of Transportation plans to build the bypass west of Washington.

Harding said the commissioners were told by DOT that a bypass east of Washington was not feasible and the panel’s only options were a western bypass closer to Washington or a bypass closer to Greenville. The panel, she said, chose to work hard for a bypass closer to Washington rather than risk losing the traffic and the business it would bring to the community.

A retired school social worker, Harding, 80, holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from Duke University. She had a 20-year career with the Washington City Schools after several years overseeing her family’s farming operations near Aurora and a stint as an employee in the land operations for then-Texasgulf, now PotashCorp Aurora.

Harding lives in the Washington area. She is a member of the Washington (noon) Rotary and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. She is the widow of humorist Edmund Hoyt Harding.