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Hester opts against reelection

CONWAY – Northampton County Commission Chairman the Rev. James Hester will not seek a third term on the board.

Wednesday afternoon, Hester said he had decided to spend more time with his family and be able to free to pursue other interests.

Rev. James Hester is currently serving his second term as a Northampton County Commissioner.

“I feel like it’s time,” he said. “I hate to leave the board because I have a lot of friends there. I will miss the fellowship I’ve had with each one. It’s sort of sad, like when you leave a church you’ve pastored for a long time. Still, I think it’s time. I have no regrets.”

Hester said there were several reasons he decided not to run for a third term. He said there were health issues from the previous year as well as other time matters.

“I had some health issues the middle part of last year and I hope we are over those,” he said. “Mrs. Hester and I would like to have a break. I was pastor of churches for a little over 50 years and have been on call 24 hours a day seven days a week.”

Hester said he felt the people of District 1 were still supportive and that he could have run served another four years had he chosen, but felt like he wanted to step away.

“I feel like I had the support to run again and probably run again unopposed and for that I am humbled,” he said. “When it comes to politics, it’s a whole different world.”

Hester originally ran for the seat which encompasses Conway and other portions of eastern Northampton County upon the retirement of then Commissioner Jennings White.

“I was literally talked into it,” he mused. “Jennings White was leaving the board and he came to me and asked me to consider running. I also had some gentlemen in Severn that asked me to consider it.”

Hester said he was introduced to Bennett Taylor, the head of the Northampton County Chapter of the NAACP, and Ronald Johnson, who at the time led the Black Caucus in the county.

“I talked with them and they encouraged me,” Hester said. “They have supported me 100 percent.”

After giving careful consideration, Hester filed for the office eight years ago and ran with no opposition. No one filed against him when he ran for reelection four years later.

During those eight years on the board, Hester said he had learned a great deal and that he was proud of the accomplishments of the commissioners.

“I am really proud of the completion of NC CAR and of Enviva coming to Northampton County,” he said. “While the commissioners didn’t have anything to do with it, I am also proud to see the school board take action that will help them financially and will help students receive the opportunity to take subjects that haven’t been offered.

“We are a Tier 1 county and to watch the budget the way we have to is a task,” he continued. “My only regret is not being able to give a cost of living raise to county employees for the last four years. We’ve tried to give them bonuses, but I regret we haven’t been able to give them a raise.”

Hester said he was particularly proud that the county has raised taxes only once in his eight years on the board. He said the county also lowered taxes one time, but the state and federal mandates caused the commissioners to have to raise taxes.

The current chairman of the board, Hester said he was proud to have served under several capable chairs in the past.

“I’m proud of the work of the board,” he said. “Each one has been very cooperative. I’ve worked under some excellent chairs – Mr. (Robert) Carter, Mrs. (Virginia) Spruill and Mrs. (Fannie) Greene. I look forward to serving this year as chairman. I think it’s quite an honor.”

Hester said he believed even more would get done before he leaves office in December. He hopes that includes beginning work on the construction of a new building for the Northampton County Department of Social Services.

As for the future, Hester said he believes Joe Barrett, who has filed to take his post, is an excellent choice.

“I’ve known Joe since I moved here in 1979,” Hester said. “He’ll help you in any way he can. He’s a fine Christian man. He’ll make a fine commissioner. He’s very fair.”

Hester’s term will continue until the first Monday in December when his successor will be sworn in. Filing for the District 1 seat will remain open until Feb. 29. Barrett is the only person to file for the post thus far.