Daily News and Chamber co-host candidate forum 

Published 3:12 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

On Monday, Oct. 17, Washington Daily News and the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce co-hosted a candidate forum featuring candidates for Board of Education districts two and eight, candidates for Beaufort County Commissioner and candidates for Beaufort County Sheriff. Every candidate was given two minutes to answer questions. 


Kellie Hopkins, Director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections, moderated the forum. 


The first candidate to speak was incumbent North Carolina House Representative Keith Kidwell. Kidwell, a Republican running unopposed, gave an opening remark where he noted a number of awards he has received as an elected official. He encouraged voters to take into consideration which candidates share the same values and if the organization(s) candidates are members also match individual voters’ values.


 After Kidwell, candidates for the Board of Education districts two and eight gave opening and closing remarks and fielded questions prepared by The Daily News and the Chamber of Commerce. Candidates participating in the forum were; Charles Hickman III, Donald W. Shreve and John Lacava. 


(E.C. Peed was not in attendance; therefore, his opening remark was read aloud. Candidate for District 4, Terry Williams and candidate for District 6, Gary Carlton are running unopposed.) 


Candidates answered “what is the Board of Education’s role in safety and security“ then “what is the single most important issue facing the school board and how would you address it?” 


Shreve started the question portion by saying a safety assessment for county public schools should be completed immediately instead of after the winner of the race for Sheriff is declared. He proposes adding an extra School Resource Officer to secure each school. Also, he proposed that schools should keep doors locked at all times and conduct active shooter drills. He answered the second question last. He, like Hickman, believes school proficiency should be improved; however, he thinks another large issue facing the school board is safety. 


Lacava began by saying he believes some teachers should have a concealed carry permit and a sign posted at each school notifying visitors of armed and certified faculty members. Lacava answered the second question first. Noting his experience as a substitute teacher, he said the biggest issue is students’ poor behavior and lack of self-discipline. He said students need to find what they can be successful in which can help them develop self respect and respect for school authority. 


Hickman noted his military experience as a physical safety inspector saying entry and exit points need to be controlled which means to him each school having an intricate safety plan that can be implemented. Hickman was second to answer the second question. He brought up local school’s poor proficiency data provided by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. He said the school board should make it a mission to improve school proficiency. 


Next to make remarks and answer two questions were candidates for Beaufort County Commissioner. Present at the forum were incumbents Frankie Waters, Ed Booth and Stan Deatherage. Candidate Tandy Dunn was not present because he was on a business trip planned before the forum. His opening remark was read aloud. 


Dunn listed his platforms which include placing Beaufort County Sheriff deputies back in public schools as School Resource Officers, reducing county government spending and reducing residents’ taxes in addition to equal services for the county and improving county-wide recycling. He does not believe the county needs a new jail. 


Candidates for County Commissioner answered “what approach should the County take when it comes to economic development and job creation” and “what one part of county government would receive more attention if you are elected and why.” 


Deatherage began the question portion denouncing Socialism. He believes in streamlining county government, lowering taxes, offering good schools and having a merit based society. He answered the second question last. He answered by saying climate change should be addressed through planting more, reducing trash in the ocean and recycling. His attention would go to solid waste management. 


Waters answered the first question by saying economic development is about location, skilled labor and about money. He noted how Beaufort County not only competes with surrounding counties and states which means providing tax incentives and improving access to broadband internet. Waters began the second question by saying he is passionate about public safety, economic development and solid waste management. 


Booth answered the first question last. He too noted that Beaufort County competes with surrounding areas and needs to improve job creation. He answered the second question after Waters. Booth said he would invest in county employees, education and public safety. 


Candidates for Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office concluded the night by answering two questions. Corey Rogerson and Scott Hammonds answered “how do you view the sheriff’s responsibility for working with local schools” then “what is the biggest threat to public safety in Beaufort County and how would you address it?” 


Hammonds responded to the first question by saying deputies should be placed back into schools as School Resource Officers to protect students and faculty as well as gain students’ trust. He added that schools have unique safety needs; therefore, schools need tailored safety assessments. Hammonds said one of the biggest threats to public safety is a staffing shortage at the sheriff’s office. He believes staffing shortages could be resolved with more recruiting of students in BLET programs at community colleges. He also mentioned that the only thing that should divide the county is the river and he will work to earn residents’ trust by being honest. 


Rogerson said he would work to place deputies back into schools as school resource officers by working with the school board and county government. He agreed with Hammonds, saying deputies in schools would offer protection in addition to gaining students’ trust. Rogerson then answered the second question saying staffing issues at the sheriff’s office is the biggest threat to public safety. He proposed recruiting students in Beaufort County Community College’s BLET program and students from other community colleges.