When Edgecombe County voters cast their ballots on Election Day, one of the offices to consider is that of county commissioner.
The seven-member board is the governing body for the county and it adopts policies, ordinances and rules for the residents and employees of Edgecombe County.
On Nov. 3, voters will return four of the seven members for another four-year term — barring a successful but unlikely write-in candidacy — as none of the Democratic incumbents face opposition.
In the Democratic primary, only District 2’s Viola Harris faced token opposition while District 1’s Evelyn Dancy-Powell, District 3’s Leonard Wiggins and District 5’s Ralph Webb ran unopposed.
While Harris, Dancy-Powell and Wiggins have each stood before voters multiple times in a general election, this will be Webb’s first.
Webb was named to replace the late Jonathan Felton following his death in February 2019.
Following their re-election, the newly returned commissioners will join with their three counterparts to govern Edgecombe County.
The biggest challenges facing the board as all of America deals with the COVID-19 pandemic include unemployment, attracting industry and high taxes.
While the county’s unemployment rates pre-COVID-19 were some of the best in the past decade, once the pandemic hit and businesses were placed in the categories of essential and non-essential, the rate soared.
From January through March, the jobless rate ranged from a low of 5.1 percent in February to 6.2 percent in March.
Then, once businesses were shut down, the rate soared to:
- 13.2 percent in April
- 15.4 percent in May
- 11.1 percent in June
- 13.3 percent in July
- 10.7 percent in August
Commissioners have worked with economic development agencies such as the Carolinas Gateway Partnership to both attract new businesses and expand existing ones but face challenges such as a dearth of broadband capabilities and a work-ready populace.
They have supported an effort by CloudWyze to expand internet into the county — but even with that, expansion is slow and existing providers can contest CloudWyze’s expansion into an area.
Commissioners face increasing demands for funds and without additional expansion of industry and the associated tax base, the county revenue stream will be taxed.
Although tax rates have stayed the same over the five budgets — 2016-17 through 2020-21 — the 95 cents per $100 valuation property tax rate is the second-highest in the state.
While the tax rate has remained steady, other fees in the county have risen over that same period.
With the addition of other services, such as the absorption of the Edgecombe County Rescue Squad as a county function, commissioners will be faced with looking for ways to generate revenue in addition to that created by the 95-cent rate.