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Out of the gate: Candidates address Camden GOP

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Camden Deputy Sheriff Rodney Meads, a candidate for Camden County sheriff in the May GOP primary, speaks to about 30 Camden Republicans during a meeting of the Camden GOP at the Paradiso Restaurant, Monday.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

CAMDEN — Area Repub­li­cans who’ve filed for the May pri­mary got their first chance to ad­dress the pub­lic as of­fi­cial can­di­dates Mon­day night at a meet­ing of the Cam­den County Repub­li­can Party.

Among those ad­dress­ing about 30 Cam­den Repub­li­cans at the Par­adiso Res­tau­rant were state Rep. Bob Stein­burg, R-Chowan, who filed ear­lier in the day for the open seat in the newly drawn Se­nate District 1, and Eddy Good­win, the for­mer ferry di­vi­sion di­rec­tor and Chowan com­mis­sioner, who is seek­ing to suc­ceed Stein­burg in the newly drawn state House District 1. Cam­den County is in­cluded in both Se­nate District 1 and House District 1.

Also speak­ing were Rod­ney Meads and Kevin Jones, the two Repub­li­cans who filed Mon­day to suc­ceed Demo­cratic Sher­iff Tony Perry, who is not seek­ing re-elec­tion, and Clay­ton Riggs, an in­cum­bent county com­mis­sioner who rep­re­sents Shiloh on the county board.

Also ad­dress­ing Repub­li­cans was Chris Pur­cell, a lo­cal busi­ness­man who said he plans to be a can­di­date for the Cam­den Board of Ed­u­ca­tion. Be­cause school board seats are non-par­ti­san, Cam­den school board can­di­dates don’t file un­til July.

Riggs, the com­mis­sion board’s cur­rent chair­man, touted the county’s suc­cess in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment over the past four years. He noted that he and Sandy Duck­wall, a for­mer county com­mis­sioner and now the chair­woman of the Cam­den GOP, were on hand in the spring of 2016 for the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Hardee’s restau­rant at the cor­ner of U.S. High­way 158 and N.C. High­way 343.

“I think we’ve done good for the county and the county is grow­ing. We’ve brought in some eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” Riggs said.

He said county of­fi­cials are work­ing hard to bring a cou­ple more busi­ness prospects to Cam­den. He said of­fi­cials are keep­ing their fin­gers crossed about bring­ing a gro­cery store to the county.

Dur­ing their chance to ad­dress the group of Cam­den Repub­li­cans, Meads and Jones both cited their ex­pe­ri­ence and back­ground in law en­force­ment.

Meads noted he served in the Air Force from 1975-99 before joining the Camden Sheriff's Office when Jones' late father, Joe, was sheriff. Meads, who rose through the ranks to become chief deputy under Perry, said he would work to keep the county safe if elected.

"I want people in this county to be able to go on vacation and not worry about their home — and to be able to sleep at night and not worry about their home," he said.

He said while he and Perry haven't always agreed on everything, he respects him because he’s the sheriff’s office’s elected leader.

"But, that's going to change soon. So, that's going to give a chance for new ideas and things to take place," he said.

Jones noted that his father had served as Camden's sheriff and that he himself had worked four years as an Elizabeth City police officer before joining the N.C. Highway Patrol as a trooper 24 years ago.

While he said the patrol focuses mainly on traffic enforcement, he has also been involved in investigating serious crimes like murder.

"Murder is murder,” he said. “It doesn't matter if somebody is killed with a firearm or a knife. If a drunk driver has killed somebody, then that's murder. And I've been involved in cases and actually charged people with that — and saw them all the way through the prosecution of it."

Jones said if he’s elected sheriff, he intends to put in place the same kind of strict chain of command that the Highway Patrol follows, adding it should be a good recruiting tool for the office.

"I want to bring to the sheriff's department that esprit de corps that the highway patrol has and turn this organization into a professional organization," he said.

Steinburg, who is completing his third, two-year term in the House, emphasized his connections in the new 11-county state Senate district if he's elected.

Steinburg talked about the importance of economic development, including the future Interstate 87 and the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge. Regarding the latter, long-stalled project, he said, “It's going to happen if we can just get these environmentalists to just move a little bit."

He urged Camden Republicans not to listen to those who say the Albemarle region “has always been this way and things aren't going to be any better. ... It's just the way it is. ... This is our lot in life."

"This area is on the verge of exploding," Steinburg said. "I'm happy to be a part of it."

Goodwin, a former family farmer and Air Force veteran, touted his background which includes past service as both a Naval Criminal Investigative Service agent and nuclear arms treaty inspector. As a Chowan commissioner from 2008-12, Goodwin said he also had helped steer the county’s government out of a financial fiasco. Prior to his 3½-year stint as ferry division chief, Goodwin also served as Gov. Pat McCrory's eastern North Carolina representative.

Recalling a conversation he once had with his father about getting into politics, he said his dad told him “the game I was getting in was ugly, boy" but because of his life experiences, he "could take it better than anybody."

Purcell also spoke at Monday’s GOP meeting. The owner, along with his wife, of Firehouse Subs in Elizabeth City, Purcell said he decided to seek one of three seats on the Camden school board after talking to several GOP officials and doing "some serious soul-searching."

Purcell noted that he and his wife hire a number of high school-age workers for their restaurant, a number of them from Camden. He said he believes, like school board members in Currituck believe, that state officials need to restore a career and technical education track to the public schools.

"We've been preaching for years and years that our kids need a four-year degree — they've got to have a four-year degree," Purcell said. “It's great. It's wonderful to have. ... But there are kids that aren't cut out for it. There are kids that we see in our restaurant that are so technologically savvy, but they don't have the drive to go for four years of college.

"Kids need to be taught how to work with their hands,” he continued. “Not everybody is meant to be in college, and the ones that aren't, they need to have a backup and an option to fall to."

Duckwall said other Republican candidates for the Senate District 1 and House District 1 seats were invited to Monday’s event. Riggs also said Commissioner Tom White, who filed Monday for re-election, couldn't attend because of a scheduling conflict.

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