By Catharin Shepard
Hoke County Commissioner Jean Powell will run for another four-year term on the board.
Powell, a Democrat, is one of 12 candidates who have filed to run for one of three seats on the county board. The candidate said she decided to run for reelection because there are still matters she would like to address as part of the Hoke County local government.
“I still feel like I have something to offer to the county and there’s certainly plenty of work to do as a commissioner,” she said. “I would like to continue figuring out what needs to be done for Hoke County to be able to meet the future, so to speak.”
Powell was born and raised in Sampson County and earned a bachelor’s degree and law degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She came to Cumberland County to work with the District Attorney’s office when Hoke and Cumberland were a single district. She served as an assistant DA for 11 years, assigned to Hoke County during that time. She ran for District Attorney in Hoke after the districts were redrawn and spent 12 years in that position. After retiring, she ran for commissioner and has served on the county board for 12 years.
If reelected, Powell said, some of the biggest things she would like to work on include continuing the wastewater plant and other utilities work.
“It will allow commercial development in the eastern part of the county, which we sorely need,” she said. The service lines will provide utilities for the two hospitals and hopefully the hospitals will encourage additional development in the area. Having that development is important because it helps increase the tax base in the county, Powell said.
“It helps take the tax burden off the private residents, the taxpayers, and shifts it to a commercial source for revenue,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t shift it all but it helps alleviate some of the tax burden.”
Looking at the needs in the county and separating them from the wants is an ongoing issue for the commissioners, and something the candidate will continue to work toward in dealing with budget concerns, she said.
The county has spent the last several years “catching up” thanks to the growth from Fort Bragg and the Base Realignment and Closure, Powell said. If reelected, she hopes to continue working to get the county caught up on additional needs or improvement possibilities.
“We had a lot of catching up to do. Schools, we just didn’t have the capacity. Law enforcement, the health department, all sorts of needs and you can’t catch up everything at one time so you have to prioritize and do what is necessary, not necessarily everything you want,” she said.
Addressing the school system’s needs is another big area of concern for the incumbent candidate, as those needs are “significant,” she said.
“I think we’ve worked well with the school board in trying to figure out ways to deal with the growth in a economically responsible way,” Powell said.
If reelected, Powell said her first priority would be to continue working on the wastewater treatment plant project as it moves into the construction phase.
“We need to do that for a variety of reasons. We’re obligated to do that, we’ve promised to provide that service to the hospitals, to other businesses, and to developers who are waiting to develop properties in that area,” she said.
The schools are one big issue the county faces, and another matter Powell said she hopes to address if reelected.
“If reelected, I’d be very interested to see what the school board, the superintendent, come forward with with their request. I suspect it will involve something at the high school, so I think that is important,” she said.
Another big issue facing Hoke is the growth management, the candidate said.
“Being able to deal with the growth that has come our way, I think there may still be some to come, dealing with it in an effective way so that we end up being the county we would like to be, not regretting that the growth came our way but hopefully retaining those things that people value about life in a rural way with our agriculture,” she said. “I think people are really concerned about the cost of living and the tax burden that they face, and I think they want commissioners who will be very conscientious and careful with taxpayers’ money and public funds and not spendthrifts.”
Citizens should vote for Powell because of her experience over the last decades of working in Hoke, she said.
“I hope that after 11 years as an assistant District Attorney in Hoke and 12 years as District Attorney and 12 years as a commissioner, that people know me, they know that I’m conscientious and will work to do a good job as commissioner and that I will be a watchdog as far as the budget is concerned, and yet will try to do things that are beneficial for all the citizens of the county,” she said.