Wednesday, July 24, 2024

2022 Primary Election: Incumbent Marty Cooke runs for Brunswick County Board of Commissioners

JM “Marty” Cooke is a District 2 candidate for the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners. (Courtesy photo)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY ⁠— Incumbent JM “Marty” Cooke is running to keep his seat in District 2 for the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in local elections in the tri-county region. The paywall is also dropped on profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of casting their ballots.

As a reminder, the early voting period runs from Apr. 28 to May 14. The voter registration deadline is Apr. 22. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period (check if your registration is active at your current address).

Primary Election Day is May 17. Voters will choose which candidates from their registered party they want to move forward in the formal election. Those who are registered as unaffiliated can choose which party’s primary they want to vote in.

Cooke’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

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Port City Daily: What is your top priority and how would you address it? 
Marty Cooke: My top priority has been one we’ve been continually working on all along, and I feel it’s been foremost on the mind of each county commissioner, that of staying ahead of the curve and being as proactive as possible for all of our citizens as we are the seventh fastest growing county in the nation. This is addressed from a multi-faceted approach, ranging from working with the 19 municipalities, those as the state and the federal levels. 

This also means we work closely with public and private entities, which include the NCDOT, law enforcement, emergency management, the school system, community college, economic development, and the non profit organizations who are associated with Brunswick County. 

PCD: In what ways does Brunswick County need to manage population growth?
MC: I don’t believe it’s accurate to say we manage population growth but as the seventh fastest growing county in the nation, we prepare for it. We do this through having sound infrastructure that includes continually working with the NCDOT to improve our roadways, having a robust water and sewer system ready to accommodate the growth, a strong law enforcement and emergency management perspective that provides public safety for all who live and vacation here. We also have a strong planning and zoning department that helps oversee development throughout the unincorporated areas while also working with our municipalities.

In many respects this is our number one concern and growth has constantly been monitored with actions taken on an ongoing basis. Brunswick County does everything possible to work proactively vs. reactively. 

PCD: The current slate of Brunswick County commissioners unanimously opposes offshore wind within view of land. What are your thoughts? 
MC: I believe that wind power is a very expensive proposition, and the decision to place turbines with sight of land was done by those who don’t live here. If turbines are being placed where they can be readily seen by those who live and pay taxes here, they should be able to make such decisions, yet this has not been the case, and the commissioners feel that our citizens should have a voice in this decision.  

PCD: The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is due for a replacement. What options do you think need to be explored? Are you for or against a toll?
MC: We need a new bridge due to the area growth, as well as the age of the existing bridge. In Charleston they were able to replace an old bridge (actually two) with a newer one using existing roadways. This perhaps could be done here versus creating an entirely new roadway system and possibly disrupting many areas of both Brunswick and New Hanover counties. 

Regarding tolls, I have lived where tolls existed and I found some people liked them due to less congestion and the expediency of getting the new roadway in place. Others didn’t like them and preferred existing roadways. What is more important is to let our citizens make this decision through a vote. It should be their choice. 

PCD: What role should the county have in attracting companies and spurring economic development? How can Brunswick attract young workers?
MC: We’re constantly working with our economic development team (Brunswick BID) to attract new industry to our area and have been successful doing so. We want to do all we can to help provide good jobs for those in our area. We have two economic development areas, where we have brought in businesses in the northern end of the county, and we work closely with Brunswick Community College to provide available training for specific trades coming to the area.  

PCD: How well do you think the county balances development with “livability” (i.e. moderated traffic, preserved green space, etc.)?  
MC: I believe the county is doing well with these aspects. As most would know, North Carolina counties don’t have oversight with respect to the development (or maintenance) of roads throughout the county, but we work closely with NCDOT through our three transportation committees, GSATS (Grand Strand Area Transportation Study), as well as the MPO (Municipal Planning Organization) and the RPO (Rural Planning Organization) in the continual development of road systems serving our area. We also have numerous parks ranging from a nature park on Highway 133, to recreation and sports areas throughout the county. This is also the case with municipalities, such as the Riverwalk Park at Belville and the waterfront park in Shallotte and the park at Dutchman’s Creek. There’s a lot to enjoy in Brunswick County from our beaches, waterways, to parks to golf courses and other recreational opportunities.  

PCD: How appropriate is the counties’ supplemental funding to the school district? 
MC: We work closely with the Brunswick County School system and with Brunswick Community College. We have a liaison group consisting of county commissioners, school board members and members of both administrations to ensure we have not only a strong relationship but stay ahead of the curve with regard to educational concerns in the area. We provide a strong funding perspective of 36 1/2% of our taxes going to the schools. We have also helped with the development of bonds and other resources when needed. 

With the community college, Brunswick Community College, we developed a means where every student graduating from a high school in Brunswick County (public, private, Christian, home school, etc.) can get an associates degree at virtually no cost through the Brunswick Guarantee, which all of the present commissioners worked to help develop and implement. This was probably the first in the nation to do so, and Brunswick Community College is the number one community college in the nation two years running. 

PCD: What do you think of the current tax rates? How will you balance taxes with identifying funding for top-of-mind issues? 
MC: Brunswick County has the 11th lowest tax rate in the state and we haven’t raised taxes in 10 years. We hope to continue this trend. 

We also have a strong fund balance, used for non-reoccurring projects, issues and emergencies. It takes a lot of work, research and collaborative teamwork to achieve this. The budget process takes several months and we work as hard as we can to be effective in the effort. We have also developed a pay as you go perspective, which saves the county money and we have a very conservative mindset in working to provide the best service possible while keeping taxes low.  

PCD: Is there an additional issue or issues you think needs to be addressed during your term, should you win? 
MC: We are blessed to live in an incredible place that many call home or just like to visit. We feel it is our mission to provide the very best and most effective county government possible. We have a very cohesive team of commissioners working closely with the county administration, and with other entities which include law enforcement, the courts, the municipalities, federal and state agencies as well as non profit organizations. We have developed a collaborative, synergistic and comprehensive approach to government to provide the very best service possible to our citizens. We have created a means to have issues addressed often in hours vs days and we’re constantly making access to county government services user friendly and customer service oriented. We constantly work to make the entire process better and more effective.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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