Speaking before a packed room in the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse Monday night, County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Beth Dawson delivered a nearly hour-long speech touting the accomplishments of the county in the last year as well as taking note of what issues still need work.
Dawson touched on several areas of importance to citizens, such as the strength of the economy (the county has a Triple A bond rating, according to Dawson, and wages are slowly going up), schools and public safety, among others.
Improvements at the beaches, which the county heavily relies on for tourism, were mentioned by Dawson.
“New Hanover County is the best county in the nation at getting sand on the beaches,” Dawson said, noting that shoreline protection projects are always in the works.
Dawson said this in front of a crowd that included several officials from Pleasure Island, where a current coastal storm damage reduction project (also known as beach nourishment) is currently underway. Kure Beach Mayor Emilie Swearingen and Mayor Pro Tem Craig Bloszinsky were in the audience, along with a strong delegation from Carolina Beach that included Mayor Dan Wilcox, Councilmembers Tom Bridges and Steve Shuttleworth, Town Manager Michael Cramer and Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin.
County money was poured into the reconstruction of the boardwalk that once lined Carolina Beach decades ago. The unveiling of that project last spring was a county highlight for 2015.
“If you haven’t gone down there yet, I encourage you all to check it out,” said Dawson, praising the boardwalk’s ability to draw locals and visitors alike.
Another of the region’s important industries, film, also saw a return to the county in the past year.
“Films mean jobs,” said Dawson, echoing a statement often heard and seen around the area in the form of stickers and signs. “Since getting film credits back, two productions have set up offices here locally.”
Dawson thanked state Rep. Susi Hamilton, Rep. Ted Davis and Sen. Michael Lee for fighting for the tax incentives that would bring productions back to the area. She stressed the importance of partnerships, not just between county and state officials, but also among neighboring counties.
“What’s good for New Hanover County is also good for Brunswick County and Pender County and vice versa,” said Dawson. “A lot of people that work here live there, and a lot of people that live here work there.”
Working together with the New Hanover County Schools Board of Education, the Cape Fear Community College Board and UNCW Chancellor Zito Sartarelli are also for the future of the county’s youth and its growth, according to Dawson. Reaching the county’s young people is also paramount to public safety, and Dawson said the county will continue to work with the community, Sheriff’s Department and court system to try and curb gang violence, which has seen a uptick in recent months.
In an area surrounded by several military bases, Dawson said taking care of veterans, many of whom currently serve in public office or as civil servants, is also important for the county’s well-being.
“They are one of the most important aspects of this county,” said Dawson. “They help make this county work.”
Overall, Dawson, was enthusiastic about the future of New Hanover County and promised to do her part to help the county continue to grow.
“My fellow commissioners and I will continue to do what’s best for New Hanover County and continue to make it the best place to live,” said Dawson.