The five candidates to fill two seats on the Havelock Board of Commissioners say they bring a diverse set of experiences plus new ideas to the table.
George Corbin, Matthew “Sugarbear” Jones, incumbent Jim Stuart, Peter Van Vliet and Brenda Wilson are running for the seats in the Nov. 5 election.
Corbin, 68, a 30-year career Marine, moved to Havelock in 1989. He has been a member of the Masonic Lodge and Knights of Columbus, and a volunteer member of the Havelock Fire Department since 1991. He also has also served on the city’s adjustment, unified development ordinance, stormwater and brownfields boards.
“I believe in Havelock and I believe I can do a better job knowing the background and being involved with the city for the last 20 years,” he said. “I’ve got an idea of what’s going on in different areas.”
Jones, 61, has lived in Havelock since 1971. He served eight years in the Marine Corps and has worked at Cherry Point since 1980. He is a longtime member of Craven Corner Missionary Baptist Church. He has been the district president for the Moose Lodge and governor of Havelock Moose Lodge twice.
“What I would do is represent the people,” he said. “I will do what’s good for the people, not what’s good for me or some special interest group. I don’t have anybody else’s agenda. I don’t owe anybody anything, therefore I can work with my conscience and work for the people the way they want me to vote and not kneel down to special interest groups. Some people have had concerns that I am running as ‘Sugarbear,’ but they have to realize that half the people in town know me by that name.”
Stuart, 69, a Vietnam veteran, retired from the Marine Corps in 1982 and worked at Cherry Point as a quality assurance specialist for 22 years. He has been a homeowner in Havelock for more than 30 years and is now retired. Stuart has acted as curator of aircraft for the Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation for several years and is seeking a third term on the board.
“The City of Havelock is a business with an approximately $9 million budget,” he said. “I have been involved in the budget process the past eight years and will apply that experience if re-elected.
“I have a proven track record in respect to being of service to all the citizens. The only special interest groups I represent are the citizens of Havelock. I will not sway from that position. I hope these past experiences shaped strong conservative values matched with humility. I am long-familiar with hard work and self-discipline.”
Van Vliet, 36, has been in Havelock since 2006. He joined the Marine Corps in 1997 and served at New River for five years. He started working at Cherry Point in 2002 for a defense contractor, and since 2004, has worked in civil service at Cherry Point as an aircraft engine mechanic and an evaluator/examiner. He has been a member of Toastmasters, Cherry Point Masonic Lodge and Trinity Presbyterian Church, and a coach for Havelock Youth Lacrosse.
“I will bring youthful exuberance to the board,” he said. “The commissioners and the mayor, they sometimes have good ideas, but they get stagnant. They don’t have that drive and motivation and desire, and they sometimes fall off to the side, so there’s some energy that I will bring and the board needs to be reinvigorated. The fire needs to be reignited in how they aggressively pursue their decisions.”
Wilson, 65, has been in Havelock since 1978. She has been a real estate broker since 1982. She has been a member of the Havelock Chamber of Commerce since 1982 and is a past board president. Wilson is past president of the N.C. Association of Realtors, is a member of the Committee of 100, a member and past president of the Havelock-Cherry Point Rotary Club, past president of the N.C. Certified Residential Specialists, member of the N.C. Advisory Committee on Military Affairs, on the Havelock Military Affairs Committee, on the board of trustees for the Craven Community College and is a member of Cherry Point Baptist Church.
“I think I bring to it longtime knowledge of our community. I bring to it business experience,” Wilson said. “I think I have always been a strong supporter and advocate for Havelock. I care about our schools. I care about our parks and recreation. I care about our city and promoting it. So being an advocate I think is my strongest forte for the city.”
Corbin said his top concern for the city is the environment and economic development.
“In order to develop, you’ve got to have a clean area and I would like to see some of these places on Main Street and some of these older houses hit the road,” he said. “Some of these old gas stations have got to be cleaned up so that they can build something new. We need to get rid of some of that trash on Main Street and what we don’t get rid of, get cleaned up in accordance with the UDO. We need to get rid of some of these dilapidated houses we have here.”
Jones said his biggest concern for Havelock is growth.
“I want Havelock to not be a sleepy town,” he said. “I want it to have more restaurants and more places to take people, more places to go and stuff like that. I’ll introduce stuff to the board about how to advertise and about how to get new businesses in here to fill the industrial park out, to get more people in here to spread the taxes out and get the taxes down. There’s nothing for people to do around here hardly. I want to increase big business and for us to be more business friendly to outsiders instead of keeping it like a sleepy town. We need to advertise for people and businesses to come here so we’ll have a broader tax base.”
Lack of sewer capacity that has stymied growth has been Stuart’s concern.
“An analogy could be that Havelock was like a living organism that simply could not breathe and was always on a respirator. As it could not breathe, it could not grow,” Stuart said. “The new outfall sewer line running across MCAS Cherry Point to the Neuse will put that issue behind us. The latter was a result of sound business decisions, establishing working relationships with the necessary entities and relentless pursuit by elected officials with vision. Now that the capacity will be sufficient in the very near future, plans are already under way to review previous economic studies and initiate action to bring additional growth to the city.”
Van Vliet said Havelock needed to develop its own identity away from Cherry Point.
“Our motto is ‘Gateway to Cherry Point.’ We need to have an identity for our city outside of Cherry Point,” he said. “If the worse should happen and Cherry Point closes and FRC East goes away, Havelock is going to have a very difficult time. There is no economic engine for Havelock. As soon as we can develop a strategic economic plan that will allow us to put our new identity out there and our new image, it will allow businesses to see who we really are. I’d like to see us nurture and build the small business community and create opportunities for the local citizens to grow their businesses.”
Wilson said her focus would be on preserving Cherry Point.
“I think my biggest concern is the downsizing of the Marine Corps because that not only affects businesses, it affects rentals,” she said. “It affects so many pieces of our community. Even the churches in our community and their budgets are affected when the military downsizes.
“I want to continue to show the strong support of the base and to be knowledgeable so that if there is anything we can do, we can sustain not only the base but our community. I think it’s the strongest piece as we do look ahead to possibly fewer numbers of the military and their families.”
Early voting runs through Nov. 2 with times from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 2 at the Craven County Board of Elections in the county administration building at 406 Craven St., in New Bern.
Election Day is Nov. 5, with Havelock voting precincts at Tucker Creek Middle School and at the Havelock Moose Family Center.
For more voter information, call the Craven County Board of Elections at 636-6610 or go online to the elections website at www.cravencounty.com/departments/elc.cfm.