More than just admirable

Published 5:17 pm Saturday, March 15, 2014

One can debate whether the decision by a split Beaufort County Board of Commissioners to give $2 million — provided specific conditions are met — to the effort to save Belhaven’s hospital is a wise use of taxpayers’ money. And it will be debated.

But no one can question Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal’s determination and tenacity in his fight to keep the hospital open. O’Neal’s effort, supported by others, began as soon as he learned last year that Vidant Health planned to close Vidant Pungo Hospital, which has been serving the Belhaven area for more than 60 years.

O’Neal has been tireless in his contributions to the effort to save the hospital, from talking with Vidant Health officials and asking them to reconsider their decision to close the hospital, seeking support from local governments and getting organizations like the NAACP involved in the struggle. O’Neal, on several occasions, has made it clear he believes the closing of the hospital will cost lives. The mayor has made it clear he’s fighting for those lives — and the life of the town. The hospital is the town’s largest employer and utilities customer. Closing the hospital will damage the area’s economy, the mayor contends.

O’Neal has gotten the support he sought from the county. That’s just the beginning of a new chapter in the hospital saga.

“I’m excited. Now, we’ve got some more work to do,” O’Neal said moments after the vote. “Now we have to go back to the LLC and see if we can get them to realize how important this is and to help us. Let’s all start talking about how we can do it.”

As an elected official and Belhaven resident, O’Neal saw a challenge and took on that challenge. He’s doing what he thinks is best for Belhaven and its people.

That’s what elected officials are supposed to do.

Belhaven’s mayor is fighting for his town and its people. He’s put action behind his words.

That’s more than just admirable, it’s inspiring.