N.C. Rep. George Graham had never been to the Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft maintenance and repair facility at Cherry Point.
The newly elected representative for Craven, Lenoir and Greene counties came away impressed.
"It’s awesome. Our capability is just unbelievable," the Democrat said after a tour on Friday. "More of our citizens need to take the time to come out here and see the work being done here. We need to keep supporting Cherry Point and keep it viable and protect our base. It was a day well spent in Eastern North Carolina and our future."
N.C. Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, and N.C. Sen. Norman Sanders, R-Pamlico, were already familiar with FRC East but joined Graham and Havelock city leaders and officials on the tour. They saw MV-22 Osprey engines, AV-8B Harrier airframes and an array of replacement aircraft parts manufactured by computer numerical control systems "This place is a jewel of North Carolina," Col. Mitchell Bauman, FRC East commanding officer, told the legislators. "We’re a hospital for aircraft. We take them apart and put them together so they can fly better."
Bauman said that there are plans to bring the first F-35B Joint Strike Fighters to FRC East for maintenance this summer.
"We have artisans now in Yuma (Ariz.) training on the F-35," he said.
The tour was just part of a meeting the legislators had with the Havelock Board of Commissioners and city leaders in which a full menu of issues facing the municipality in the coming year were put on the table.
"Everybody in this room knows what an economic driver the military is in North Carolina, and Havelock is the gatekeeper to Cherry Point," Sanderson said. "What’s good for the military is good for Havelock and good for the state and vice versa.
"We’re really excited about working with the military. There’s a lot of good groundwork that has already been laid. I do think there’s room for improvement. We’re often called ourselves the most military friendly state in the country, and I think it’s really time to step up and do some things to really solidify that."
Sanderson said work needed to be done to get ready for potential defense cuts.
"You never know from day to day what is going to come out of Washington, D.C. We have to just take it one day at a time," he said. "I think there are some preparations that we need to make in the state to get ready for the next BRAC. I think it will be here before we know it. We’re here today to try and come up with a strategy and a plan and we want to do most of the listening and y’all do more of the talking."
Speciale said he appreciated the chance to meet with the city leaders.
"You’ve all had to listen to me for years. The bottom line is I’m here to listen to you, and here what you’ve got to say," he said. "It’s a learning thing for me right now and I’m glad to be here."
Graham said that William Wainwright, the late representative who held his seat previously, was a friend and he looked forward to serving.
"Being a freshman going into the assembly in these times, I really don’t have a quote agenda or a sheet of things I plan to do or accomplish at this time," he said. "I think the most important thing that I can do at this time is to listen, learn, try to understand the rules and try to be supportive of those issues that are close and dear to your heart. I will try to be in contact with the constituency and try and vote for what is best for this area. I plan on being as good a supporter of Craven County as I can."
Havelock officials presented its legislative agenda to the elected officals during the meeting and urged the legislators to support efforts to:
-- loosen municipal bidding processes to allow for more local companies to receive contracts
-- allow for electronic notification of official city notices
-- support the Local Government Employees’ Retirement System
-- reconsider new laws prohibiting forced annexation
-- protect state collected municipal revenues
-- provide relief for municipal utility relocation costs
-- support funding for the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund
-- increase Clean Water Management Trust Fund funding
-- assist in funding Havelock’s new courtroom construction costs
-- assist with military spousal employment
-- support efforts to restrict wind turbine construction around military bases and airfields