By Russ Lay on September 24, 2013
Dare County’s newest commissioner is a Republican who moved to the area 13 years ago. He describes himself as a political conservative who will put fiscal responsibilty at the top of his to-do list.
Walter “Wally” Overman of Skyco was chosen by the Dare County GOP leadership over the weekend to the fill the seat held by the late Richard Johnson.
Overman will represent District 1, which covers Roanoke Island and mainland Dare County. Commissioner Virginia Tillet, a Democrat, also represents district 1.
In an interview with the Voice Tuesday, Overman discussed his background and some of his goals as a commissioner.
Overman, one of three Republicans on the seven-member board, is a soft-spoken man maintaining an even tone even when discussing controversial issues.
He has owned property in Dare County since 1998 and moved here with his wife, Ruth, in 2000 from the High Point-Greensboro area. He sold capital equipment in the textile industry, domestically and overseas. His wife Ruth owns and operates a small business, Sleeping In Ltd. in downtown Manteo.
As many readers probably know, American, and in particular, North Carolina’s textile industries have been under stress from foreign competition for over a quarter-century.
So Overman’s employers were continuously in a mode of austerity and he suspects that experience will come in handy during his tenure as a commissioner.
He is, he says, “politically conservative with a strong belief in the principles handed down from our Founders regarding individual freedoms and self-reliance with fiscal and personal responsibility at all levels.”
As a new commissioner, Overman said in the interview, he will obviously need time to “get up to speed” and become educated on the workings of the board and county government.
But Overman has already identified specific areas of concern and staked out some general positions.
Asked about beach nourishment, Overman said his position has evolved since Nags Head’s 2011 project has been put to the test, and he is now more open to the idea than he was several years ago.
His number one priority is to practice fiscal responsibility and the long-term sustainability of the county by implementing “cost savings that are commensurate with spending programs.”
Citing the high cost of living here, Overman wants the county to explore attracting new jobs that could diversify employment opportunities beyond those of the tourism industry, which he acknowledges “will always be the most important engine” in the local economy.
Regarding Oregon Inlet, Overman is supportive of achieving a “permanent stabilization” of the inlet “by whatever means necessary, including, but not limited to, jetties, groins and dredging.”
He believes the recommendations from the Oregon Inlet Task Force should be closely reviewed and adhered to, and that “county, state and federal governments” should support keeping the inlet at its prescribed depth.
Overman wants to see construction of the new bridge over the inlet “move forward immediately” and says “it’s past time to apply a common sense solution to this issue and get it away from the delays imposed by the environmentalist agenda.”
Regarding Hatteras Island, the new commissioner says, “our beaches should remain open beaches” and “levying excessive fees for the privilege (of driving on the beach) is counterproductive and deters tourism, especially in the fall and winter surf fishing season.”
Turning to the National Park Service, Overman believes the State of North Carolina “should reclaim ownership of the seashore from Oregon Inlet to Hatteras.”
“Federal oversight and control has long since lost its luster and the punitive nature of the Park Service has seemingly become overbearing,” he said.
Finishing on an emphatic note, Overman says, “if a legal process exists to make this happen, it should be used.”
Turning to issues specific to District 1, Overman wants the county to continue to actively support the commercial fishing industry here, and “through resolution and proclamation, denounce any and all efforts to unduly regulate, constrict, or ban any legal form of providing the people of North Carolina with a viable and sustainable public trust resource.”
Finally, he wants the board to “work tirelessly to reduce property tax assessments on the residents of the county.”
When asked for specifics, Overman suggested achieving better efficiencies through the use of private sector bidding wherever applicable and using outside studies to assess “every county operation to determine if potential efficiencies can be realized that will reduce costs to the taxpayers.”
Overman will be sworn in on Oct. 7.
Although Richard Johnson’s term was not scheduled to expire until 2016, state law requires the seat to be contested at “the next election.”
This means Overman will serve about 14 months before a new election is held in November, 2014.
Overman has not yet decided if he will run to keep his seat on the board.