Harbert Eddie Moore, county commission candidate, District 4

Moore

1. What uniquely qualifies you to serve as a county commissioner?

My parents, Harbert and Rosie Moore, lived a life of dedication to God, family and community, and I count these as my values also. We learn many of life’s lessons in our youth, and my introduction to political engagement was no different. I remember hearing stories of difficult times and how people found lasting solutions through political action. I grew to understand that sometimes change only occurs when citizens band together and I believe this to my core. My confidence in the good people of Robeson County, desire to find common ground amongst all communities, ability to think critically about the issues and willingness to work with all stakeholders qualify me to serve as county commissioner.

2. The Robeson County Board of Commissioners, at just more than $500 per student, provides funding to the local schools at the second lowest level of the 100 counties in North Carolina. As a commissioner, would you work to provide more funding for the local schools? Why or why not?

Yes, it is important to provide more funding for local schools. Better K-12 education for everyone is part of the long-term solution to poverty in our county. Our children are just as smart, capable and deserving as any students in this state. The missing link between the potential in our county and the success we strive for is substantial investment in meaningful opportunities. As a farmer, I know the most critical stage for crop development is when plants are young. By providing the necessary resources for our children’s education, we can ensure they have the foundation to grow into strong members of our county.

3. Robeson County has a problem with roadside trash. The county has established a Clean and Green Committee, but it appears that as soon as one roadside is clear, a week later it is trashy again. Do you have any unique ideas on how to approach this problem? If so, can you detail?

Robeson County is rich with natural resources and abundant land. Protecting our environment is important to me, whether that be questioning infrastructure projects that threaten our communities or addressing litter along our roadsides. We need strong advocacy and action in these areas. That is why I showed up and spoke out on Atlantic Coast Pipeline issues impacting District 4. It is also why keeping the roadside by our family farm clear of debris is a priority task for our family.

My strategy for this issue is divided into two categories: preventing litter and cleaning up trash. Littering is wrong and most of us know that. I think one priority should be teaching anti-littering values in our schools. Unfortunately, there are people who choose the perceived convenience of littering and treat Mother Nature like their personal trashcan. I appreciate the hard work of individual citizens, businesses and civic organizations who donate their time to keep Robeson “clean and green.” they are excellent examples of the generous spirit that exists in our county. However, I do not believe encouraging more people to patrol the roadsides is our best policy. There is danger in having groups of people (and especially youth) working alongside busy roads. Additionally, the roadside is the responsibility of the North Carolina Department of Transportation; they took control of the land from our residents when roads were built, and should be in charge of maintenance, including cleanup. For these reasons, my priority in addressing litter is to assist the state in seeking resources for sustainable cleanup efforts.

4. The Robeson County commissioners are the best paid and benefited in North Carolina, and our county is among the poorest. This is true when pay, stipend, retirement, and health insurance are totaled up. Do you think commissioners in a poor county are deserving of the best pay and benefits, or should they be scaled back?

Robeson County is on the extremes compared to other North Carolina counties. It is one of the largest by land area, one of the poorest per capita, one of the most violent, and one of the most politically complex. All things considered, I offer to you that Robeson County Commissioners, whose task is to improve our situation, may have the toughest job in the state. The current pay is what previous elected officials have decided is adequate for the task at hand. I see compensation as an investment for the results we desire. Of course, we need to constantly monitor progress to ensure that our investment is returning wealth to the county. I decided to run for office because I believe in the good people of Robeson. If elected, I will work hard to return more value to the citizens than the compensation I would receive.

5. There is a perception among many people that nepotism and cronyism play a role in key hiring decisions for the county. Do you agree with that statement? If so, what would you do to end that?

I agree that there may be a perception of favored hiring practices in the county. However, it is important to remember that perception is not always reality. Robeson County is such a unique place. For many of us, our families can be traced back for generations on the same land we now occupy. The overlapping family and social connections in Robeson are very apparent, and may contribute to the perception of favored hiring. The fact of the matter is I cannot draw any conclusions about this topic without all the details (information that only those in the hiring process can access). My priority in hiring will be to attract a diverse range of talent from which managers can make employment decisions that are the best fit for the county.

6. The Board of Commissioners recently considered the purchase of the Angel Exchange for use by the schools as a Central Office. That talk has died down. Do you think it will be resurrected after the election, and what is your position on its possible purchase?

I do not know whether the voard will pursue this topic again. Establishing a new Public Schools of Robeson County Central Office in a timely manner is essential. It is also important that this investment be cost-effective for the county. In this case, the Board of Commissioners has a responsibility to identify the best financing strategy, outline a clear budget, and provide that guidance to the Public Schools of Robeson County Board of Education. As county commissioner, I would entrust those elected officials to make their own infrastructure decisions so long as the project complies with the predetermined budget allocation.

7. Robeson County’s tax rate, at 77 cents for every $100 of property, ranks in the top 25 highest in the state. Do you have any ideas on how to reduce the rate without a dramatic reduction in services?

In my sight, there are only two ways to reduce the tax rate without a dramatic reduction in services. The first is to broaden the tax base. That happens through economic development in our county: growing existing businesses and bringing in new industry. The second is to deliver necessary services more efficiently. As county commissioner, I would work with county employees to support creative and innovative ways to pursue both.

8. Do you think it is important for the county administrative offices to be located in Lumberton, which has the highest population and is in the center of the county?

Yes, Lumberton has the highest population in the county. However, the center of the county is somewhere between Lumberton and Pembroke. To the point of county administrative offices, my criteria for selecting a location are simple. Offices should be easily accessible with adequate parking. I think elected officials should also maximize taxpayer funds by avoiding prime real estate. As the county seat, Lumberton is home to most county activities, but I am not opposed to considering the resources other places have to offer. The Board of Commissioners should be free to evaluate all reasonable situations and make the best decision for each circumstance.

9. Robeson County’s unemployment rate remains higher than the state and nation. Also, many of our jobs, especially in the service industry, don’t provide a livable wage and are without benefits, with the result being about 40,000 people in the county depending on food stamps. The lack of jobs also drives our crime rate, the highest in the state. What new ideas, if any, do you have that can be implemented to try to bring more jobs to the county?

This question gets to the heart of the Board of Commissioners’ most important job: to make Robeson County a more prosperous place with a higher standard of living. How do we bring jobs to Robeson? Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet or easy fix. We have to go back to the basics. We must team up with the law enforcement community to reduce crime. We must partner with the Board of Education to strengthen the public school system. We must create fertile ground for economic development. That means destroying the weeds that threaten new life. One invasive weed in Robeson County is our image. People new to Robeson look at our statistics and form negative opinions. Now, numbers do not lie, but they do not tell the whole story, either. They do not measure compassion, creativity and talent, all areas where our communities excel. As we implement policies to improve, we need to tell the story of a county with rich heritage, hospitality and honor. We are all ambassadors for the place we choose to call home, and we can change the narrative one story at a time. My strategy for achieving these goals is simple: let’s all work for the common good. Instead of playing tug-of-war amongst our towns and communities, let’s all pull together for safer communities, better schools and a stronger economy.

Question to myself: How did we get here and where are we going?

Think of this. If Robeson County was a bus, and our elected officials were the people on the bus, the fight for the last 60 years was to have everyone represented. That was a worthy and necessary accomplishment for representative government. I am not naïve, and I know there will always be a struggle for different seats on the bus. The good news is we can change seats while the bus is moving.

The fight for the next 60 years has to be about moving the bus down the road of prosperity, leaving poverty in the rearview mirror. If you are committed to Robeson and willing to work together to advance our county, join me in planting seeds of opportunity.

Moore
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