Name as it appears on the ballot: Joe Phelps
Full legal name, if different
Date of birth: 3-12-1950
Home address: 1806 Patrick Henry Lane
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign website: www.joe-phelps.com
Occupation & employer: self-employed, real estate
Spouse’s occupation & employer:
Years lived in Orange County: 59
Home phone: 919-732-6541
Work phone: 919-732-1199
Cell phone: 919-451-4322
1, What are the three most important issues facing Orange County? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
1. Economic development
2. The continued rising property taxes
3. How the county spends the taxpayer dollars
As a County Commissioner, I would support The Economic Development Department being more aggressive in pursuit of bringing sound economic development to the county. During a period of the most robust economy in years and years, Orange County officials did very little in trying to attract any economic development to the county.
The rising tax bills that homeowners receive every year and the amount of spending the county does need to be addressed in the same discussion.
I think there has been too much wasteful spending such as paying outside consultants to “educate” the citizens on issues and paying consultants for studies that are then not used by the commissioners. I would streamline
any money being spent for outside consulting.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the Orange County Board of Commissioners? This might include career or community service; be specific about its relevance to this office.
I have served on numerous boards both in the private and public sector. I have served on numerous Orange County boards and Town of Hillsborough boards.
I was Mayor of Hillsborough from 2001 to 2005.
For 30 years, I have attended at least some of County Commissioners meetings a few times each year.
As mayor and being at Commissioners meetings over the years, I see that the citizens want to have their voices heard. My experience has taught me to listen to all sides of an issue before deciding what the best way to proceed is.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I do not think of myself as a politician and I do not have plans to seek “higher offices”. I don’t want to be a County Commissioner just waiting for another political opportunity to become available.
My campaign platform is to be a voice for the people. In the past few years, some of the commissioners have not listened to the citizens and pursued their own agenda while being a Commissioner.
I work in Orange County and meet many of the citizens each day. I would like to be that commissioner for the citizens that can’t take time from their families to attend Commissioners meetings.
4. Provide a candid assessment of the county’s waste transfer site location process, what went well, what didn’t and what can be learned from the debate? Do you agree with shipping trash to Durham? How ultimately should Orange County dispose of its trash?
First of all, Orange County and also the towns in Orange County, should be responsible for disposing of their trash and not expect our neighbor to do it for us.
Whether we have a waste transfer station or a landfill or some regional landfill, we need to move forward with this decision. This discussion has been going on for almost 20 years and the current commissioners still can’t make a decision. Orange County just spent $500,000 for an outside consultant to help decide what to do with the trash and then the Commissioners just decided to ship the waste to Durham. I think that decision could have been made without spending $500,000.
5. The county is culling, combining and eliminating some of its advisory boards and commissions because of overlap and inaction. What types of advisory boards and committees are productive and useful to the board? Which boards should be eliminated? How will you work with these groups in office?
I have served on several advisory boards and am now a chairman of one of those boards. In many cases, the boards can be very helpful to the Commissioners but at the same time, some of them require a great deal of staff time. Staff is usually requested to be at the meetings that sometimes are just a good roundtable discussion. I think some of the boards could be merged, the amount of meetings could be reduced, and unless a recommendation is needed or requested by the Commissioners, I would suggest that staff not be required to be at every meeting.
6. What your position on library services in Orange County? To what extent should the country pay for the Chapel Hill Public Library and how much money can the county reasonably afford to commit to this effort?
Library services are a vital part of any community. I think we need to make every effort to provide that good service. With the financial situation that the county has gotten itself into, it seems that the county is not able to fully staff the library. This is unfortunate but spending money elsewhere recklessly will probably mean that this service, along with others, will have to be curtailed.
I feel strongly that the county should help fund the Chapel Hill Library. At this time however I don’t have all the info I need to determine at what level the county can reasonably afford to help fund the Chapel Hill library.
7. Do you support the half cent regional rail tax? How do you envision regional rail working for Orange County. Where will it connect? When and how?
At this time of hard economic times, I would not be in favor of that tax.
For regional rail to work well, all the connecting points and services would need to be in place at the connecting points.
Some points to consider: If Orange County continues not to have economic development, we need to more actively pursue regional rail because citizens have to go outside the county to work.
Everyone seems to want economic development that brings jobs to the county so perhaps we need to work on inter-county transportation.
8. As a commissioner, how will you provide effective oversight of the many county departments, sheriff’s office, etc. while in office?
It is the county manager’s responsibility to oversee county departments. As a Commissioner, I would provide direction and oversight to the county manager. As an Orange County native, former mayor, and involved citizen, I see the needs of our citizens. As the owner of numerous small businesses in Orange County, I have and continue to see what small business owners need in order to be successful in our county.
9. The Independent’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
Having operated three completely different types of businesses in Orange County, I have worked with people from all aspects of life. I am not a member of any special interest group of any sort. I am a member of a non –profit, non- paying Board: the Orange County Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau stands up for the concerns of farmers.
In my present job, I work with people from many different states who are interested in moving to our county. In working with those clients, I gain valuable knowledge and experience that would carry over to being a Commissioner.
10. Identify a principled stand you would be willing to take if elected, even if it cost you popularity points with voters.
My goal on being a County Commissioner is to serve the citizens of Orange County. I do not have a personal goal that I am trying to implement in the County.
I think to serve as a good public official, you have to listen to everyone and when there is a difficult decision to be made you have to consider what is best for the citizens and the future of Orange County and not what your personal goals may be.