11/06/06 — Friends facing off for seat on Duplin board

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Friends facing off for seat on Duplin board

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 6, 2006 1:45 PM

They might both be Duplin County natives and old friends, but that doesn't stop Republican Harold Raynor from thinking he can do a better job on the Duplin County Board of Commissioners than Democrat Arliss Albertson.

"There was nobody stepping up to the plate, and I feel we need some change in the county commissioners," said Raynor, 75. "Every time we turn around they're raising taxes and everything. Nobody in the leadership at the present time is listening to the people."

Albertson, 80, has been in the county leadership for about 20 years, but not all consecutively. He was appointed to the board in 1973 to fill a vacancy and then served for another 12 years. Currently, after taking time out to work as an engineer in a textile plant, he has been on the board for eight years representing the county's third district.

"(Eight years ago) a lot of people, both Democrats and Republicans, asked me to run, and I decided I would," he said. "(Now) I'm pretty much full-time, and I respond to every phone call from every client (district resident)."

Because he's a widower, he explained, he's been able to devote more time to the county government, serving on the county's adult daycare board, the Workforce Development board, the North Carolina Eastern Region board, the East Carolina Council board and chairing the county Social Services board.

"The biggest things I've supported are education, economic development and law enforcement," he said.

Raynor puts the same issues at the top of his list.

"There's a number of things that should be addressed," he said. "There's just a lot of needs in the community that need to be addressed that have not."

For both candidates, it all begins with the schools.

"I guess I would put education at the top of the list. We've increased funding for schools every year," Albertson said.

In their budget this year, the commissioners devoted $6.6 million to the school system, not counting capital outlay and debt services funds. They added another million at their meeting on Monday. Although Albertson voted against the additional funds, he explained that it was because the full board wasn't present to consider such an appropriation -- not because he didn't support the schools. The money will be going to help improve facilities, school safety and teacher pay.

Raynor, though, had another idea for teacher pay -- a merit-based system.

"I'm sure some of the good teachers are not paid enough, but I'm also sure there are some not-so-good teachers who are being overpaid," Raynor said. "Let it be done right. Our good teachers should be recognized and paid accordingly."

But to pay for such needed improvements, he said, the county needs be more financially responsible.

"I don't know (where) until I get up there, but there's just a lot of things I think we can tweak here and there. There's just a lot of corner-cutting we can do," Raynor said.

Albertson thinks budgets are already about as tight as they can get.

"I think we're mighty frugal. I think we run a tight government," he said, adding that the new county resident-staffed fiscal advisory committee will help improve that situation even more.

Another area where the candidates find some common ground is economic development and the need for the county to focus on its agricultural strengths and convenient location.

"It's all changing dramatically. Not all of the manufacturing jobs are gone, but a lot of them are," Albertson said.

What is needed, he continued, are jobs related to agriculture, such as food-processing plants.

"They may not be the highest-paying jobs in the world, but they're jobs and that's what we need. We have people who can fill those kinds of jobs," he said.

Raynor, a former naval technician and employee of the old Quinn Wholesalers, agreed, adding that Duplin County already has the location for such jobs, with U.S. 40, U.S. 117 and U.S. 24 all running through the county and the Kinston airport and the ports in Wilmington and Morehead City continuing to expand.

"We've got an ideal location," he said.

But ultimately, Raynor thinks the race will turn on district-specific issues.

"Every time I go in my district, taxes are one of the big problems. People just feel they're being overtaxed and aren't receiving any benefits from it," Raynor said. "I want to be a people's commissioner, not my own commissioner."

One example is flooding as a result of the beaver dams in the Beulaville, Potter's Hill and Chinquapin areas of the county -- a problem he believes the commissioners aren't taking enough responsibility for.

"He's wrong about that," Albertson said, explaining that the county and the state already have programs in place to deal with those problems and that a new beaver control contract was just awarded by the county commissioners at the beginning of the month.

Still, though, Raynor believes there are significant differences between him and Albertson.

"Whatever comes up I'm going to be a commissioner for all the people, not just for a certain group of people and that's what our biggest difference is going to be," Raynor said. "I don't jig to the beat of Republican drums. I'm my own person.

"I feel like Mr. Albertson kind of goes with the beat of the other side. We have different political ideas. There's nothing wrong with Arliss as a person, we just disagree on what's best for the direction of Duplin County, that's all.

"If I win, or he wins, we'll still be friends."

And while Albertson agreed, the former naval seaman and National Guard staff sergeant, still believes his experience and vision for the county will carry the day.

"There's no animosity between us. We're friends. But I'm experienced and I've got a lot of contacts across the county and the state. I know a lot of people in positions who can help Duplin County," he said. "I enjoy doing this. I feel that I've accomplished something."