Forum a chance to get to know candidates, participate in politics

Published 6:50 pm Friday, September 29, 2017

The public is invited to get to know the candidates running for Washington City Council.

Oct. 5, at 6 p.m., the 11 candidates running for five seats on the council have been invited to share their thoughts on city issues at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality regional office at Washington Square Mall. Though the event is jointly hosted by Beaufort County Indivisible, a progressive organization, and Beaufort County NAACP, the general public is invited.

“It’s basically to find out what their feelings are about the city, what their plans are, how they can enhance the quality of life in the city — essentially, a ‘get to know the candidates,’” said Bill Booth, president of Beaufort County NAACP. “We’ll have several questions, and we’ll ask all the candidates to respond, and from that we’ll get some ideas of where they stand on various issues and how they might represent the community.”

According to Attila Nemecz, head of Beaufort County Indivisible, hosting the forum and members taking an active part in municipal elections is a natural progression in the organization’s goals. Beaufort County Indivisible formed early this year to bring progressives together and teach them political organizing skills, according to a press release about the event.

“People can get involved with this and make a difference and see how their involvement can make a difference, so they can feel more empowered to get involved next time,” Nemecz said. “This is just people learning the basic skills of politics and political involvement.”

The 11 candidates running for city council include incumbents Richard Brooks, Virginia Finnerty, Doug Mercer and William Pitt. Councilman Larry Beeman is not seeking re-election. Former council member Gil Davis, William “Bill” Clark, Robert Sands, John Butler, Roland Wyman, Gil Alligood and Gerald Seighman also are vying for council seats. The council members serve two-year terms.

According to Nemecz, though municipal elections have historically low turnout, it’s a good opportunity to effect change.

“I think the more mundane things gets decided on a municipal level: the things that do affect your pocket book and what you can and can do with your house … They fall less in a clean, left/right perspective. Sometime we talk about the big issues and those get blurred on the local level, Nemecz said. “It’s a little less glamourous. You’re not going to get in a Facebook war with your aunt as to whether the city buys a new firetruck or not, but it does affect us. Sometimes it’s about performance. It’s not even about where they stand ideologically, but how they’ve served their community.”

As an organization, the NAACP cannot make endorsements, but Booth said he’s expecting a full house for the event and encouraged the general public to attend.

“I’m excited about who’s coming and what they have to say,” Booth said. “We, as voters, will be able to have more of an understanding of what their feelings or concerns are and get a better idea of who to vote for.”

The Department of Environmental regional office is located at 943 Washington Square Mall, Washington. For more information, visit Beaufort County Indivisible on Facebook.