County moving forward with strategic planning

Published 10:24 pm Monday, March 7, 2022

The Beaufort County Commissioners voted Monday to move forward with the process of developing a strategic plan for the county. The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners will facilitate that process at no initial cost to the county.

The commissioners have been discussing putting together a strategic plan in order to properly outline the county’s short- and long-term plans while providing their municipalities with a tool to keep track of and join in on those plans.

“I think it’s important, again, as we’ve said before, that we’ve got to have a roadmap to our future,” Commissioner John Rebholz said Monday. “Otherwise we’re wandering all over the place and we’re not accomplishing things for the people of this county.”

“With all due respect, Commissioner Rebholz, we got here without a roadmap,” Commissioner Hood Richardson responded. “And we’ve come a long way and done a lot of —“

“We’ve lost 1,800 jobs in the last 10 years, and 3,000 people,” Rebholz interrupted.

“Was that the commissioners’ fault?” Richardson asked. “Was it?”

“Could be,” Rebholz responded.

“You think it is,” Richardson said. “You have a very liberal view of government. I don’t know why we need a strategic plan with all the money that’s being dumped on us, solving every problem that anybody could ever conceive of. Why do we need a strategic plan?

“So you know where to put the money you’re receiving,” Rebholz responded. “And what to spend it on. There’s all kinds of needs.”

Rebholz used potential upgrades to the county’s water system as an example.

“If we don’t know that type of information, you’re not gonna be ready when it happens,” Rebholz said.

“Let’s talk about some of those needs,” Richardson said. “Nobody wants to talk about a better library system in the county. There’s a couple of other things that we put up under these funds that now apparently can be funded with these (federal) funds.”

The final rule on permitted use of federal COVID-19 relief funds was published earlier this year. With those rules now finalized, Richardson suggested that the commissioners revisit how they want to utilize approximately $9 million in funding.

Chairman Frankie Waters said he and several other commissioners and other county officials recently attended an event at East Carolina University in which economic development was a point of discussion.

“This is one of the things that we’re competing with in other counties,” Waters said. “People that do have a plan; they know who they want to attract and how they can create jobs.

Waters said a strategic plan could help the board become “unified” on topics, specifically in terms of which industries they want to focus on for development.

“That all comes with having some guidance and sitting in a room and trying to say where you want Beaufort County to go in the future,” Waters said.

“All those years that I spent in industries, with people telling me, ‘stay away from government, they’re your enemy,’ and now that I’m over in government and I hear people in government telling me that the government was running things all the time and they’re supposed to be making all these decisions for us in the future — it’s scary, and the public needs to wake up,” Richardson said.

“One of the things all of us have to realize is, if you plan to build a house, what do you do? Plan,” Commissioner Jerry Langley said. “If you decide to improve on anything, what do you do? Plan. You cannot accomplish anything without planning.

“It even comes down to your normal household’s budget,” Langley added. “You plan your household’s budget. So it is extremely important that you have a plan. And that’s what we need.”

“Well, government has assumed the right to do this planning for us for our future without our permission,” Richardson said. “The board needs to also keep in mind that government-private partnerships are a form of fascism.”

The commissioners voted 5-2 in favor of moving forward with the strategic plan, with Richardson and Stan Deatherage dissenting.