Hooper challenges Woodard for District 2 seat

By on October 19, 2020

Amanda Hooper and Bob Woodard

In their race for the District 2 seat on the Dare County Board of Commissioners, incumbent Republican Bob Woodard and Democratic challenger Amanda Hooper talk about a number of the same issues — from affordable housing to beach nourishment to diversifying the local economy.

But they strike somewhat different tones when discussing their candidacies. Woodard, who served as a Kill Devil Hills Commissioners before being elected to the Dare Board in 2012 and later becoming its chairman, asks voters to “consider my background and history and accomplishments” while ticking off a number of initiatives and projects he wants to continue working on.

That list includes construction of a new SPCA shelter, the major construction and consolidation project for COA’s Manteo campus, the county’s role in developing the Manteo Town Common project, continuing the ongoing beach nourishment work, building a new dredge for the county and working on a long-term solution that would protect NC12 south of the Basnight Bridge from overwash and closure.

“I have a non-partisan board and treat everyone the same way,” Woodard added in an interview with the Voice. “The needs of the community are diverse. It requires thoughtful, careful attention.”

When asked why she’s running, Hooper, a mother of two young girls, cited the issue of “diversity…I think it comes down to diversity in sex, I think it comes down to diversity in age…At some point, it is a benefit to the whole to have people in office who are going to be around to deal with the ramifications of the decisions they make.”

Suggesting the need for putting some new priorities on the Dare County agenda, Hooper added that, “I just really felt that at this point, we needed to have some conversations that we weren’t going to just sort of gloss over. There’s some nitty gritty stuff that we really need to get into.”

Among those priorities, she told the Voice, are working on developing public transportation in the county, focusing on environmental issues like water quality and designing a “buy local” effort that works from the “bottom up” and gets resources into the hands of small businesses.

Hooper said the issue of public transportation had been on the local public policy agenda about a decade ago, but subsequently disappeared off the radar screen.

“I do believe that it is financially feasible, but I also believe that as a community, it’s necessary,” she said. Aside from older residents, “we also have a lot of younger people…that don’t necessarily have a safe way to get around the community.” As for how to do it, she suggests, “a combination of buses and trolleys and bicycles and golf carts and all kinds of things that sort of help us to have a [community] feel.”

In the past few years, Woodard and the Dare Board of Commissioners, with the impetus provided by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, have identified the search for reasonably priced workforce housing as a serious goal for the county. The board has implemented some zoning changes to try and encourage its creation, but both candidates acknowledge that the effort is a work in progress.

“That’s one of the big issues,” Woodard said of the housing challenge. “What we’re shooting for {is] ‘workforce,’ meaning those working in hotels, motels, restaurants, fire, police, teachers. We’re shooting for $850 a month [in rent]. That’s our goal.”

“We’ve got the Bowsertown property that we own, and we are going to do something there,” he added. “We’re still within a few weeks, maybe a month, for our consultant [the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] to bring us back some options.”

Hooper said progress can be made on housing, but “I do, but it I think it’s going to have to be a public private issue…I think tax incentives are going to take us some distance, but there are stretches of land that I know of that are developable with some incentive and some assistance that could be created into some nice apartment complexes.”

“But individual property owners are not going to turn around and say, ‘you know what, I just can’t wait to build something that I’m going sell for half its value,’” she added.

Both candidates are staunch opponents of offshore drilling. Woodard, pointing out that the county commissioners have passed seven resolutions opposing drilling off the North Carolina coast, declared that, “We’re not going to let our guard down on it….The fact that risk is not worth the reward for us…There’s not enough oil out there on our continental shelf to add any significant amount to our petroleum stockpile.”

“I think everybody’s who’s running is going to stand firm together and say that offshore drilling is off the table, but that’s not our only environmental issue,” said Hooper, citing issues of water quality and testing as important as well.

On the related issue of beach nourishment, Hooper stated that “beach nourishment is definitely buying us a little time, but we really do need to be careful about how much of that sand is washing into the inlet…I’d like to really explore the idea of having a jetty or groin or something that could really help us block that sand [and] this cycle of millions of dollars moving it from one place to the next.”

In listing his priorities, Woodard asserted that one “critical thing is to continue supporting our economic engine and that’s beach nourishment. We’ve got to do that. We cannot afford not to maintain beaches that we’ve nourished and spent one hundred million dollars in the last ten years…That’s our economic engine, and we’re got to protect that.”

Hooper cites what she sees as another economic engine for the county. “I would say the commercial fishing industry is as important as the tourism industry…While we’re seeing the number of fisherman decline, we could start bringing back end processing, we can start with processing and distribution and things like that, even value added products.”

The key decisions made earlier this year about when to close and open the county during the COVID-19 pandemic were made by the Dare County Control Group, a body that was chaired by Woodard and included Commissioner Danny Couch representing Hatteras as well as the six Dare County mayors, the county sheriff and the superintendent of the National Park Service. (Woodard says the Control Group will no longer go by that name.)

Those decisions, at times, generated controversy, stirred passions and triggered a lawsuit from non-resident property owners angry that they were temporarily denied access to their Dare County residences. As part of a settlement, the county agreed to treat non-resident property owners the same as resident property owners during future health emergencies.

Reflecting on the experience, Woodard said, “Well it has been very difficult. You have to make tough decisions during tough times, and I really worked very, very hard to be transparent…And I realize it was difficult for a lot of folks.”

“We’ve got 25,000 non-resident property owners. There were probably 200 at the most that were just livid over these positions,” he added. “It wasn’t about taking away their property rights…we did it for them as well.”

For her part, Hooper largely agrees with Woodard’s assessment on this. “I think they did the best job with the information they had,” she said. “Definitely, my heart bled for the Control Group at the time because I know those decisions were very, very difficult…They were getting flack in every direction.”



Comments

  • Joe B

    A lot more than 200 non-resident property owners were livid about being kept out. As a non-resident property owner I wonder how that decision in our interest as well? Woodard only cares about himself and not the 25,000 non-resident owners or the business owners of Dare county. Bob has been a politician for far too long and needs to go.

    Monday, Oct 19 @ 3:03 pm
  • Property Owner

    His handling of the illegal blockade excludes Woodard from consideration for me.

    Monday, Oct 19 @ 11:45 pm
  • John

    Woodard has been bleating about affordable/workforce housing for 8 years and has nothing to show for it. Letting fishermen sell locally has also become this strange hurdle he and the commissioners can’t get over.
    Time for new blood.

    Tuesday, Oct 20 @ 9:48 am
  • Margarette Umphlett

    I served for over 2 1/2 years as a dare county commissioner with Bob Woodard and I fully support him in this election. Since retiring I have kept up with the decisions made by the board. They address every issue that his opponent is raising Chairman Woodard is tireless in his effort to serve the people of DARE COUNTY. We are fortunate to have a man of his caliber reputation and stamina to serve us the people of DARE COUNTY. I hope to see him reelected

    Tuesday, Oct 20 @ 11:50 am
  • Ken Barnes

    Being a resident of Dare County for 20 years I have see the Dare Co. board of
    Commissioners, under leadership of Bob Woodard, bring our county out of financial
    distress. He has addressed all areas of need that his opponent has stated. Bob
    Is a non-political chairman and works for the benefit of all Dare Co. residents. All
    decisions he makes are transparent and he ask for advice from all of the Dare Co.
    Mayors of our municipalities. He is easy to reach to discuss any misunderstanding,
    event, action or policy the board has taken. If needed he will take time to discuss
    any matter person to person with any resident. Bob is a must to keep our Dare
    county headed in a proven correct direction.

    Tuesday, Oct 20 @ 2:45 pm
  • Manteo

    When Bob Woodard and the Dare County Commissioners made the decision to close the County to non residents he was not thinking about himself. He was protecting the people who live and work in Dare County.

    Wednesday, Oct 21 @ 10:02 am
  • Rob Ross

    Bob Woodard is a tireless leader who cares deeply for our county. I have served with him for the past four years and have nothing but the greatest respect for his integrity, energy and leadership. Bob has always focused this board on the top priorities for our county without partisanship. He devotes enormous personal time to pursuing the details of virtually every issue until it is resolved. He and the control board faced an unprecedented situation back in March when confronted with the novel corona virus. No one, and I mean no one, could claim to understand the potential dangers this virus posed to our community. The president, our governor and virtually every neighboring state issued executive orders to remain at home and NOT TRAVEL in order to minimize the dangerof spreading the infection. It is easy to now direct criticism, after the fact, and claim that the control group made the wrong decision. I say it took enormous courage to declare our county state of emergency and secure the fragile health care system we rely on from being overwhelmed. Bob Woodard has my vote. I encourage you to join me and keep Bob as our commissioner.

    Wednesday, Oct 21 @ 7:51 pm