SNOW HILL – Edward Lee made it official Monday – he filed to run for the District 2 Worcester County Commissioner seat.
Lee will challenge long-time incumbent Jim Purnell for the District 2 nomination in the Democratic primary on Sept. 14.
District 2 is the minority-majority district established by court order to give the county’s minority population a greater chance at representation in the county’s highest elected body.
Lee stepped down last week as the long-time president of the Worcester County chapter of the NAACP, a post he held for 10 years to run for countywide office.
“Any time you challenge an incumbent you’re pushing a wagon up a hill. I think my chances of winning are good because of the dissatisfaction in the district,” Lee said this week. “Our commissioner is out of touch with the people. That’s what I’m hearing. That’s what led me to this decision.”
Lee said he wants to be part of the decision making in the county, and moreover that the people of District 2, and all districts, should become part of that process as well.
The community has needs the County Commissioners are not meeting, Lee said.
“They want jobs. How can their government help them get jobs?” Lee asked. “What can we do here on the ground in Worcester County? I believe there are things we can do.”
The people he has spoken with are tired of feeling dictated to, Lee said this week in an interview.
“People feel alienated. They’re not a part of the government. They’re looked down on,” said Lee.
People, he said, want to have a relationship with a politician and not just see that elected official when he wants a vote every four years.
“I think we’ve got to open up to people and listen to them. Make the community part of the process,” said Lee.
The county needs to begin collaborating with residents to solve problems, Lee felt, instead of making decisions separate from the community.
“All politics are local. What we do makes a difference where we live,” Lee said.
To work with residents, the County Commissioners need to embrace transparency, the candidate said.
People cannot currently speak at commissioner meetings, contrary to common practice at public meetings across the state and country.
“There’s no time on the agenda put aside,” Lee said. “It’s a distant relationship.”
Efforts have been made in the past to have a comment period added to the County Commissioners’ meeting agenda and to have the meetings recorded and broadcast, but they have come to nothing.
“It hasn’t gotten anywhere because the people haven’t been behind the issue,” said Lee.
The County Commissioners shouldn’t be making decisions about eradicating county departments behind closed doors, even if they have the power to do so, Lee said.
“It should be out in the open. Decision making and transparency should be a policy, a norm, not something that is an exception to the norm,” said Lee.
If elected, Lee said he would meet with constituents, not just in small groups or in one area, and work together on change.
“We will make the difference. Not me by myself,” said Lee.
He added later, “That’s when you get an energy flowing. That’s when you get excitement on the ground.”
While communities in the long, north-to-south, minority-majority District 2 differ in their specific needs and issues, Lee said the core principles for all are the same.
Jobs, housing, and the need to trust their government affect all people, according to Lee.
One way to help people work and earn is a heritage trail that would boost tourism, enhance current businesses and encourage new businesses to spring up, said Lee.
The Worcester Technical High School (WTS) is a great opportunity to connect skilled workers with businesses, according to Lee. WTS is also a resource that could attract businesses to the county, he said, and should be developed into a world-class tech education center.
Lee also supports controlling growth and adhering to the principles laid out in the most recent Worcester County Comprehensive Plan. County water and land must be protected for future generations.
“Builders and developers must never be allowed to obliterate our farms and land for purely economic gain,” Lee wrote in his official candidacy announcement.
With just four months to campaign before the Democratic primary, Lee has ambitious plans to get out into his district and campaign.
“Door to door. Nose to nose, eyeball to eyeball, and belly to belly. I’m going to go see the people,” Lee said.