SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners has approved a six-figure retainer for a federal lobbying operation. Ward and Smith, the county’s firm of choice, is well-known to counties and municipalities across the state, both for its arsenal of lobbyists and land-use attorneys who represent developers in public arenas.
At a board meeting last week, county leaders pushed forward on hiring Ward and Smith “to assist with obtaining federal governmental assistance and project management regarding federal issues,” with special reference to water and sewer infrastructure projects, according to the board agenda.
The retainer is scheduled to last until the end of April 2023, and will cost the county $250,000 at minimum, not including expenses.
Mike McIntyre — longtime Congressman-turned-lobbyist — authored the proposal of services. A Blue Dog Democrat, McIntyre served in the House of Representatives as New Hanover County’s delegate from 1997-2015.
Then he retired and walked through the revolving door.
McIntyre will be the point man for the contract with Brunswick County, according to county manager Randell Woodruff. His clients at the state level have included New Hanover County, Carolina Beach, the Fayetteville Public Works Commission, Southport, Robeson County, Shallotte, Surf City, and a few private companies.
“With new funding for infrastructure- and pandemic-related issues becoming available and changes to discretionary spending rules, there may be future opportunities to fund water and sewer infrastructure or other essential projects for the benefit of Brunswick County’s residents,” Woodruff wrote in an email.
Randy Thompson, the chairman of the board of commissioners, said the decision to hire a lobbyist was made after it became clear the current Congress might show generosity in the realm of infrastructure projects.
“We realized that infrastructure projects are probably going to be the number one thing that will be discussed with the current decision-making processes going on in Washington right now,” Thompson said.
With a surging population and coastal areas in need of funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Brunswick County could capitalize on the additional influence in Washington to secure funding for much-needed infrastructure projects.
“They’re multi-million dollar projects,” Thompson said. “So the amount of money that we’re spending to have someone advocate for us at a federal level would truly pay for itself by us acquiring approval for one project.”
Also included in the retainer are costs for The Ferguson Group, a D.C.-based firm that can help local governments obtain federal funds and grants.
The engagement letter sent by McIntyre identifies “grant research and analysis and/or legislative monitoring/research” as the services in the wheelhouse of The Ferguson Group.
“It was a pretty good deal for us, if in fact things follow the course that they’re currently on, with the projected path for allocations at the federal level,” Thompson said.
Ward and Smith also lobbies for Holden Beach, a quaint beach town in Brunswick County, but according to the engagement letter, that does not pose a conflict of interest.
“Our work for this engagement will be on the federal level so long as such work does not conflict with Ward and Smith, P.A.’s work on behalf of the Town of Holden Beach,” McIntyre wrote in the engagement letter. “Any work on the state level will be subject to separate agreement.”
McIntyre told Port City Daily that Ward and Smith’s policies prohibit him from addressing the media regarding client matters.
“If you put a good team together and you put a good package together,” Thompson said, “then hopefully you’ll have a great outcome.”
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