Jonathan Barfield Jr., the new chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, said Tuesday that he will focus on topics such as GenX, the opioid epidemic and economic development with the goal of unifying the now Democratic-majority board
Barfield was elected as the board chair Monday, and Julia Olson-Boseman, the newly elected board member, was elected as the vice chair.
Board members Rob Zapple, who was sworn in Monday after winning re-election in November, and Patricia Kusek nominated Barfield for the chairman position.
Previous board chairman Woody White and Kusek nominated Olson-Boseman for vice chair.
With his new position, Barfield hopes to start the new year by talking to the area's state delegation.
“My first priority would be for us to sit down with our local delegation sometime in January and have a breakfast with them and talk about what our county's legislative goals are, what our priorities are, what we need help with in Raleigh and at the same time ask how we can help them with their journey as well,” Barfield said.
Some of the main issues he wants to focus on will be GenX and the opioid crisis, which he said will require long-term attention.
Job creation is also another priority, he said.
“Continued focus on economic development opportunities here to bring more jobs to our community is always the focal point,” Barfield said. “It was great to see National Gypsum come back
to Wilmington this past year and bring additional jobs paying a very good wage. We definitely want more of those kinds of jobs coming to our community.”
Items to look forward to in the coming year include the county’s Department of Social Services building, a new fire station and a new library, he said.
Another item coming in 2019 is the Unified Development Ordinance, which along with the 2016 Comprehensive Land Use Plan will guide the board in terms of how it is deciding what development projects to approve, Barfield said.
Looking back at the county’s response to Hurricane Florence, Barfield said the county should focus on building smarter and looking at building codes to ensure that what is being built can withstand storms.
Although the board now has a Democratic majority, Barfield said he hopes to find a way to unify the parties.
“What I found over the long haul is that we agree on more things than we don't agree on, and the issues that we face aren't partisan issues,” he said. “When we have a public safety issues, people aren't concerned with your party affiliation; they want to make sure that our community is a safe place to live, thrive, work and grow and so hopefully we will come together as we have in the past and find ways to work in a very bipartisan way to move the county forward.”