BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Robert G. Greer,  May 27, 2009 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Title:
Interview with Robert G. Greer,  May 27, 2009
Date:
May 27, 2009
Description:
Bobby Greer is a native Wilmingtonian, graduated from Wilmington College (now UNCW)with a degree in business in 1966, entered the Coast Guard serving on both active duty and reserve assignments until 1976. While working in the family business was asked to fill a vacancy on Board of commissioners in 1988, again in 1990, and has been elected five times and served twice as Vice Chairman of Board, three times as Chair. Mr. Greer discusses a wide range of duties from Public Utilities, Local Emergency Planning, Economic Development, Industrial Development, and Homeland Security Task Force are just a few. This is a very informative interview answering a number of possible questions referencing our county government. Some interesting comments on Homeland Security, business incentives, and county/city taxation.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Greer, Robert G. Interviewer: Jones, Carroll / Boyle, Erin Date of Interview: 8/27/2003 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length 44 minutes

Jones: Today is Wednesday, May 27, 2009 and I'm Carroll Jones with Erin Boyle for the Randall Library Special Collections Oral History Project. We're in the Helen Hagen Room, Special Collections, UNCW. Our guest this afternoon is Robert G. Greer, better known as Bobby. He's a Wilmington native, a graduate of Wilmington College in 1966, now at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Bobby entered the Coast Guard, served on active duty and reserve assignments in New Jersey and North Carolina until 1972, is that correct?

Greer: Yes, I was in the reserves. I wasn't active duty all that time.

Jones: Okay, well.

Greer: Some of both.

Jones: Bobby was appointed to fill a vacant position on the County Commission in August, 1988 and has been an elected commissioner since 1990 and a three time county commissioner, chairman of the county commissioners right?

Greer: I had been chairman a few times. I'm really not sure how many, five or six years I would say.

Jones: Okay.

Greer: And actually I was appointed two times before I was elected which is pretty unusual.

Jones: I'm going to get to that.

Greer: Okay.

Jones: I can't figure out how you do that. Anyway, we're glad you're here and want you to start talking about growing up in Wilmington first of all, some of the changes that you've seen take place or what was it like? Was this a sleepier little town? You only had one theater at that time or was there two and was there a bus line down Market Street that kind of stuff, Bobby?

Greer: Okay. Well, I am a native, grew up on Country Club Road, which is out near the Cape Fear Country Club and back when I was growing up a few blocks beyond Country Club going east was almost the end of civilization almost as I knew it. The only other thing was Wrightsville Beach. There wasn't much built in between the two. But I grew up there, went to Forest Hills School, which a lot of folks have reunions there from time to time and it's kind of fun going back there. And then I went to Chestnut Street School, which is now Snipes School. And then I attended New Hanover High School and then left there and went to Wilmington College, which as we all know now is UNCW.

Jones: Uh huh. What was it like then?

Greer: The university here or the college then was only three buildings. You'd enter off of College Road. That road is not there now. I t used to run directly into that circle and it's blocked off. It's kind of the center of those buildings and you'd come into that circle and then a building straight ahead and one on the right and one on the left and that was all that was here.

Jones: There were no buildings for overnight guests then?

Greer: No.

Jones: They were just day students?

Greer: Just day students right. And then it grew and grew and grew to what a beautiful campus it is today but it's hard to believe it was just those three buildings to start with. And, of course, back then you just about knew everyone that was on campus.

Jones: I was thinking, yeah. I've heard that. What an amazing, amazing situation.

Greer: So it was fun.

Jones: What did you major in?

Greer: Business. And I'll tell you another funny story.

Jones: Okay, yeah please do.

Greer: I got a B.A. degree and I have a sister named Caroline who had a next door neighbor Anne and my dad said, "You didn't get a B.A. You got a C.B.A., Caroline, Bobby, and Ann" because they would all help me do my assignments so that was a big joke. He said, "You got to give them credit too."

Jones: Yeah, tell us a bit about your dad. He owned a business or he was in business with somebody else.

Greer: He was actually from Maryland and moved down here with Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and was eventually hired by MacMillan and Cameron.

Jones: Gosh, everybody worked for them.

Greer: They did back then and worked for them for awhile and then he and another man that worked there started their own business. It was a tire and auto parts business. And then when I graduated from school I went in that same business and worked there longer than my dad was in that business, so it's kind of scary to think that I had been there that long. And then I got out of the business in the late '90s.

Jones: Did you sell the business?

Greer: We did. Another person was coming into this area from out of town and we worked up a deal.

Jones: Good for you.

Greer: They were glad to get in and I was glad to get out.

Jones: I have one question for you.

Greer: Mm-hmm.

Jones: You say you grew up on Country Club, was that the house that you lived in even after you married, the same house across from our friend Ann?

Greer: That's a whole nother story.

Jones: Oh, okay.

Greer: I grew up on Country Club Road, got married in the late '60s, and my wife and I lived in a garage apartment for a while and then we bought a house over on Devon Park Extension.

Jones: Oh, yeah.

Greer: And lived over there for a few years and decided we would like to try to build a house somewhere. So we started looking for a lot and there was always this lot across the street from where I grew up but I never thought there was supposed to be a house there. As a kid it was just a lot. At about that time, someone had put a for sale sign on that lot, so we started looking and said, "Well that's a good place. I know the area." So to make a long story short, we ended up building the house on that lot across the street from where I grew up.

Jones: You never left home.

Greer: So I tell people I haven't gotten very far in life, I just gone across the street, even though we don't live there now but I lived there for a long time.

Jones: Well that was a charming house from what I remember, okay. How did you come to be appointed? You must have been very young. What year was it that you were appointed?

Greer: It was 1988.

Jones: Oh, was it?

Greer: Yeah.

Jones: That's still pretty young so you were appointed. What had you done that caught the eye of somebody who says, "We're going to appoint him to fill a vacancy?"

Greer: Well I was in the tire business trying to make a living and I knew one of the county commissioners and at that time, we've got five county commissioners in New Hanover County and one of the five had passed away. So at that point in North Carolina the remaining commissioners appoint a replacement to fulfill that term and it has to be from the party of the person who left.

Jones: Yeah, right.

Greer: So the person that I knew that was on the county commission called me one day and said, "Well why don't you put your name in the hat? We might like for you--or I might like for you to be a commissioner." I never really thought a whole lot about it so I didn't do anything. A few weeks later he called me back again and said, "You know, I'm serious about that. Why don't you consider that?" Well I still didn't do anything and then a couple weeks later he called me back and said, "Now look if you have any interest at all"--

Jones: Did you feel like you were being begged?

Greer: Well he said, "If you have any interest, you need to go to the meeting tonight." And I said, "Well what kind of meeting is that?" And he said, "The Republican Executive Committee is going to have a meeting and they're going to elect someone to put their name forward. Even though they do that that's not a binding thing. It's just a recommendation. It's still up to the county commissioners." So I went to that meeting, found out where it was and there were three or four people in the room and the chairman would get up and say, "Okay, I understand that Joe Smith over here is interested and, Joe, get up and say something. I understand Bill Jones is over here. He needs to say something," two or three people. And they said, "Is anybody else interested?" I raised my hand and they said, "Well who are you" because I was not active at all?

Jones: That's a vote of confidence.

Greer: That's right. So they let me say my two cents worth. They went ahead and did not vote for me and voted for someone else but for some reason the remaining commissioners decided that I would be the better choice so I was appointed. So the process in government always takes longer than you think. So it went on for some time so after I was officially appointed at a county commissioner meeting, the newspaper called me a few days later and said, "Well you know you're not going to be able to run next time don't you?" And I said, "Well no, why not? I thought I would." They said, "Well in order to run you had to have filed by a week ago" or something like that. I don't remember the exact time. So I missed out on that. I wasn't aware of all the ramifications. I anticipated I'd just be able to run in the next election. So I served out about, I don't know how long it was, five or six months. Then the term ran out in December so I went off the board and that kind of got me interested in what was happening. So I said, "Well maybe next time I'll run again." So the next election cycle which started about a year later I filed to run and that was a primary and I ran in the primary and was successful. In the meantime, the same person who had gotten my interest for personal reasons had to resign so then the remaining four commissioners appointed me again to fulfill his term. So I fulfilled that term and then luckily enough I was reelected in the general election. So actually I think I've been through four general elections now.

Jones: That's every four years?

Greer: Each one of them had a primary so there was a lot of election cycles there.

Jones: What was the population of Wilmington at that time or New Hanover County for a county commissioner?

Greer: I don't remember exactly. I'd say probably somewhere around 120,000.

Jones: For the county itself?

Greer: Yeah, which includes everything.

Jones: And the City of Wilmington--at that time were the boundaries for the city the same as they are now or have they been broadened?

Greer: No, they have been extended. Every time the city annexes of course their population increases. It doesn't affect the county. In some states the cities aren't part of the county. In North Carolina cities are part of the county. So when the city annexes it increases their numbers but it doesn't do anything to the overall population of the county. Unfortunately, what it does to the county it takes revenue away from the county.

Jones: Really? Yeah, okay.

Greer: That's a whole story in itself.

Jones: Yeah we're in that district that is just going to be annexed and I don't understand all the hullabaloo, I mean whatever. It's going to happen.

Greer: Okay.

Jones: Excuse me. What do you feel have been some of the most important issues that you've had to deal with in the last let's say 18, 20 years as a county commissioner?

Greer: I guess the main issue that we have is growth. In my opinion, we have to grow. We can't just stay where we are, yet at the same time we want to try to preserve the quality of life that we have so it's a real balancing act to have growth and not just become stagnant but have growth and at the same time keep everything like we like it, the environment, the pretty water, pretty air, all those type things, clean air.

Jones: What are the biggest problems in tackling all this?

Greer: Well I think it's changed over time. Now I think a lot of people have come to the area and a lot of them are saying, "I'm here now. Don't let anything else happen." In other words, "Here we are."

Jones: Close the gate.

Greer: "Close the gate. Here we are. That's enough." That's kind of a tricky situation to deal with.

Jones: Obviously we have the pleasure of having a wonderful, wonderful medical center. I guess that's grown tremendously. I had someone tell me recently and I feel this way myself that there's no longer a need to go to Duke or to go to Chapel Hill or to go down to Atlanta, Georgia for a second opinion because the doctors and the services they have here are wonderful. I think shopping is just as good as anywhere. Entertainment is just as good as anywhere. I guess the big issues that people are concerned with, for this area, in the way of homeland security, what were the biggest issues discussed? We seem kind of isolated being down here in the southeastern corner and yet I suppose we're close enough to Camp Lejeune or waterways and so forth that should anything really serious happen we'd be probably in the middle of something.

Greer: I don't disagree with that. Yes, we're in a strategic location, as you say, military bases close by.

Jones: Right. Fayetteville, etc.

Greer: We have a nuclear power plant not too far away. We have the military ocean terminal at Sunny Point which is a big munitions depot and those type things that make us vulnerable. But not only that, when something happens they usually call the local government. They don't pick up the phone and call Washington and say, "Hey there's something going on down the street from my house" or whatever so local governments play a major role in homeland defense as well. And after 9/11 there needed to be a connection there between the federal government and the local governments to try to figure out the best ways to deal with those things and a lot of money has flowed down from the federal government to the states and to the counties and cities to try to help coordinate that a lot better.

Jones: Is there a preparedness plan in place, Bill? I'm not asking you to tell us what it is but we don't hear about this. The average citizen doesn't hear about this.

Greer: Right.

Jones: The average citizen probably doesn't think about it until it's maybe too late. The news we get in the newspaper or on the local TV are stabbings and drug deals and the movie industry and riots downtown at two o'clock in the morning. I mean that's about it, you know.

Greer: Well, believe it or not, we are very well prepared in this area. We have an emergency management section in New Hanover County, a department that deals strictly with this. The reason we're pretty good at it is because we've had so many hurricanes that have come through this area.

Jones: I was going to come to that, yeah.

Greer: The same activity comes into play. A few years back the county built a new facility at the government center to house all this emergency management department and when there is an event then people come in from all segments that you can think about and we have all the municipalities come in, Red Cross, Coast Guard, the police department, highway patrol, sheriff's department, Salvation Army, anybody that they all get in this room together and man this center while the event is going on. A lot of people you don't realize that a lot of government employees being city and county they don't get to go home to be with their families during these events. They have to man these centers and try to keep things going and take care of whatever the emergency might be at that time.

Jones: Well that's good to know. That's really good to know.

Greer: They're working hard.

Jones: This is also put into practice. You brought up something I was going to bring up anyway during hurricanes, for example. When you go out of town on vacation, you or any of the others, do you have to leave, I guess you have to leave a way to be contacted immediately in case of emergencies, right? Are you expected to return home?

Greer: They usually know where we are so they can get up with us. Normally if an event happens and they can't get all the commissioners or a majority of the commissioners together and they law states that the chairman can take over some of these powers on his own, so that is in place if that needs to happen. Normally they are. I haven't been to an event yet that we all weren't available. Sometimes, if nothing else, we would have walkie talkies that we could communicate back and forth with as needed. But normally one of us or several of us are in the command center following along with whatever is going on. The main things that we have to deal with then are evacuation issues.

Jones: Going back to a few years when we had that horrible scene, was it 2000?

Greer: Well I'm not sure what year it was.

Jones: There's two ways to get out of here.

Greer: And all that is worked on constantly, not only getting out of here but evacuating the beaches and other local areas. You run into quite a few people that say, "I'm not leaving. I'm going to stay here." As a county commissioner I don't want to make a call and shut everybody's business down on the beaches and restaurants and hotels and all that if it's really not needed, yet on the other hand I don't want to not make that call if I'm going to put lives in danger so it's really a situation that you have to think carefully about. And then if you do this where are all these people going to go?

Jones: Right.

Greer: You have to open shelters in some low lying areas, hospitals, nursing homes or whatever. Those people have to be evacuated with special needs, pets, all kinds of things you have to consider.

Jones: That's a big responsibility and there again I think that's something that's missed with the average individual.

Greer: Probably so.

Jones: Yeah, they don't stop to think about it until it happens.

Greer: Right.

Jones: So do the county officials and let's say this takes into consideration people who work at the hospitals, et cetera, the retirement homes and so on, do they have drills?

Greer: Yes.

Jones: You do that.

Greer: They all have drills and coordinate with each other and who's going to come in and who's going to do what. All that has been planned out and they have had drills to see how it works. And as I've said unfortunately, knock on wood, now not in the last few years but ten years ago we went through quite a few events right in a row.

Jones: We sure did.

Greer: So it wasn't a drill. It was the real thing and so we kind of got our ducks lined up and found out weaknesses that we had and tried to address those and we're much better at it now than we used to be. It used to be we'd send groups up to Emmetsburg in Maryland.

Jones: Oh yes, I know where that is.

Greer: And some of these other places. The whole groups would go up. We'd go to exercises just like the event was going on and have the players up there.

Jones: But that's needed. That's a good idea.

Greer: That's right. They're what's needed.

Jones: I hope it never has to be put in place. Of course you don't either. And that's the other thing having been even though it was reserves in the military and the Coast Guard is certainly military do you have--does it change--is there a schedule for someone who is supposed to be in town and able to be contacted? I know that we hear a day, two days ahead of time about a possible hurricane as an example. But in the event of some kind of attack I don't know what the procedure could be, but is there somebody in county government and city government who is supposed to be on deck or available to put into effect these warnings or track what's going on?

Greer: As I've said, most of the things need to be done by a major of the boards but in certain situations within the county the chairman can take over and issue those, whatever it might be.

Jones: Well that's a big job. You know I don't think most people, and I know I'm one of them, ever stop to think what county commissioners do except run for reelection and show up for dinner parties.

Greer: The biggest part of that I don't think people understand is the difference between city government and county government.

Jones: Right.

Greer: County government is an extension of the state government. We are mandated to do certain things. The Department of Social Services, courts, the jails, the health department, the schools. We are mandated to take care of their needs where cities aren't mandated to do anything. You don't have to have a city. They do do things like fire and police and other good things, but they're not mandated to do anything, so a lot of times people will say, "Well, why are we--being the county--spending all this money?" Well because we have to. We're told. There's only a small part of our budget that we can actually decide what to spend our money on that being things like parks and libraries and museums and those are our elective things to try to enhance the quality of life but the other things we're mandated to do, whereas the city does not have mandates.

Jones: I read here where you have been or you still are on the Southeastern Economic Development Commission as well as the Industrial Development Commission. What is the difference between the two?

Greer: The Southeastern is a group based out of Elizabethtown that covers a wide range that Wilmington Industrial Development is basically, we'd like to do more, but basically it includes: Wilmington, New Hanover County, Pender County, and Warsaw. Those bodies support industrial development through dollars and that group tries to attract businesses to come to our area. They don't play favorites. It could be Wilmington. It could be Pender County. It could be wherever in that group or if there's not a need, Wilmington Industrial Development will say, "Well there's something over here in Brunswick County or Columbus County," so it actually enhances the whole area but mainly Wilmington, New Hanover, Pender, and Warsaw.

Jones: Well are you the people who are involved when somebody wants to build like the cement plant, which has been on and off or when PBD first came to light that they wanted to build that big building there or the convention center, all these changes to our skyline or to the outlying districts that may provide jobs, some don't maybe, but is that part of your economic development plan that you have to take into consideration?

Greer: It is. Each one of those that you named actually are done.

Jones: Well I know that. I know that. They are but it's all development.

Greer: It's all economic development. Unfortunately in our society today most businesses want some sort of economic incentive before they'll come.

Jones: Yes, I understand the film industry being one.

Greer: I'm not one for economic incentives but I vote for them because I know if you want to play the game you have to do it. A lot of people think that when you talk about an economic incentive that the county opens a checkbook and writes a check and gives it to somebody so "Here's X number of dollars to come to our community." That's not the way it works. We in the county say, "Okay, ABC Corporation, if you will invest $100 million and employ 300 people once you're here and make that investment and employ those people, we'll give you X number of dollars over a period." So there's never a deficit in the monies going out because if they do what they say they're going to do and hire the people--

Jones: I'm glad you explained that.

Greer: --we'll be collecting all these taxes so maybe their tax revenue in the counties will be maybe $500,00 a year that we wouldn't have if they didn't come so we might say, "Okay, for the first five years we will give you $300,000 back" so we've always got positive cash flow, never going to be a negative cash flow. And then after the five years we get all of it. That's the way that works.

Jones: Well it does seem sometimes you have to spend a little to get something but it's providing jobs too.

Greer: Right.

Jones: If it's not polluting the air, the water, et cetera, et cetera.

Greer: There's a lot of misconceptions. Now you mentioned the cement plant. Being a native the last thing I would want to do is ruin my hometown, my home county, so if I thought for a minute that they were going to pollute something I would never allow it to begin.

Jones: I assume.

Greer: So what we have done is we have offered them an economic incentive if they will invest so much money. I'm talking about a half a billion dollars.

Jones: That's a lot of money.

Greer: And hiring a lot of people.

Jones: Which is a plus.

Greer: Once they do that then we'll start this economic incentive package, but they have to meet all the environmental concerns of EPA and everybody else that's involved.

Jones: Haven't they tried to do this?

Greer: Well it's a long process.

Jones: I understand.

Greer: But people come to me and I don't have any idea what those restrictions are or how many pounds of this or ounces of this is permitted. So when people come to me I say, "I'm sorry, I don't have any idea. Let's let the professionals that deal with that handle that." If those regulations aren't what they should be, then we all should get these regulations changed. But as long as we have the rules then everybody has to play by these rules. If we don't like the rules then we go back and change the rules. People are getting those things mixed up right now. They want to change the rules in the middle of the stream or whatever and I just want it to be a good economic investment for our community, pollution free, and then I'll be happy. Everything is in moderation. They say if you drink too much water and it'll kill you. If you take a couple aspirin it's good for you or you take a pile of aspirin and they'll kill you.

Jones: That's right.

Greer: So it's all in moderation.

Jones: Well there you are, absolutely. How about the Regional Film Commission? I read, I'm one of these that reads the paper cover to cover and then I go and get sick to my stomach.

Greer: It doesn't take you long to read it.

Jones: Doesn't take me long--not anymore, huh uh, okay. But anyway where we've just lost, we, Hanover County has just lost a nice lucrative, allegedly lucrative film deal. They're moving somewhere in Georgia, wherever, South Carolina and how it's going to affect the film industry. But I'm thinking they went ahead and built this humongous new sound stage complete with a water tank. They wouldn't do that if this industry was really, really floundering would they? I know they bring a lot of money into town.

Greer: That is a private investment in a local company to make that decision to expand their sound stage and put this new tank in the ground.

Jones: They can lease that out to other people.

Greer: Oh, sure. I mean that's actually what they do.

Jones: Sure.

Greer: That's their business. They provide the space and someone makes a movie, they come in and say, "Okay, here's the space we'll give you and we'll arrange the lighting and the cameras and all that." We have built up quite a large industry in our area for filming but those folks have to work so if there's no work here then those groups of individuals will go wherever the films are a lot of times and leave our area. As long as they're based here and living here then it gives us an economic advantage to have them here. But if we go through a long enough dry spell pretty soon all those folks will move somewhere else and then we'll lose our edge. What's happening is different states are offering different incentives for the film industry and they keep changing the height of the bar. Right now we're not at the right level and they're going elsewhere. Hopefully that can be worked out somehow with the state legislature that would make it more competitive for people to come here. I don't think we should ever be the cheapest. I don't think we have to be the cheapest but I think we have to be in line if we want to keep that industry going. And it's quite interesting, I'm sure as you've seen, you'll see somebody and, "Oh, Wilmington, yeah that's where One Tree Hill is filmed" or that's where so and so and so and so. So it's quite an attraction for our area just so that we have the movie business here.

Jones: I know this. Our oldest son has lived in Los Angeles for a number of years. It's where he was born. He decided to go back there and try his hand at script writing and so forth and he's belonged to several groups out there. He said people love Wilmington. They love to come to Wilmington, Wilmywood or whatever it is.

Greer: Willy wood.

Jones: When he tells them that his dad is from there and that he used to live here, "Why did you leave?" Well, obviously he couldn't make a nickel here. I'm thinking well yeah they come and they play. You find them downtown at all these places talking about the last thing they did. That's it.

Greer: Well that's right.

Jones: That's it. Anyway, it's kind of interesting because it really is another edge that makes this place unique. We've got, as you pointed out succinctly, we've got industry. PPD really was a great boon. You're soon to have a place where people can come and have big time conventions, high school graduations without waiting for space available here.

Greer: Right.

Jones: There's certainly enough theater to last anybody all year long. You can go out for dinner every night of the week for a year and a half and not hit the same place twice.

Greer: Most of them are very good too.

Jones: Yeah, and a couple of beaches and golf courses, et cetera, et cetera. It seems almost idyllic and you wonder why are people complaining?

Greer: Well, we have a lot.

Jones: But it's all fun.

Greer: We have a lot going for us and you mentioned the hospital earlier and I agree 100 percent. We do have a wonderful facility and you don't need to travel elsewhere.

Jones: No.

Greer: But you think of a young doctor trying to make a living for his family, if he has a nice facility to work in, has a good environment to live in, a place to raise his family or her family, why not come to somewhere like Wilmington and New Hanover County? So therefore we do have some of the best doctors around.

Jones: You do. You really do.

Greer: That's not mediocre. They have been some of the best that they can be and we're very fortunate to do that and hopefully one of our loved ones doesn't need those services but if they do it's mighty nice to be able to be taken of locally rather than having to--

Jones: I think your wife is the greatest advertisement in the world I've learned.

Greer: Right.

Jones: Just a short time after I saw her at Christmas she's gone and had all this done and she says, "Oh, it didn't hurt a bit. It was great." I'm thinking ugh.

Greer: She had that new, the DaVinci procedure with the robot.

Jones: Right that's what she was saying yeah.

Greer: The doctor was over here and the patients over here.

Jones: It's just amazing.

Greer: It's remarkable.

Jones: And she was in the new wing, the women's wing, yeah that's wonderful.

Greer: She had a very good experience.

Jones: Well I've seen her picture in the paper about it, but she needs to get out and just go to some of these meetings and say, "Oh, you just all come and love it." What are the big issues now, Bobby, in 2009 what are really our concerns aside from the fact that the whole country is experiencing a lot of economic problems? There are a lot of people who probably aren't experiencing them because they never had the wherewithal to invest let's say or own a business or a house or whatever. But New Hanover County, my understanding is, has the highest or one of the highest income levels in the state and we have people here who have been mid and upper level executives elsewhere. They come here to play and then get involved, really involved in making things happen as volunteers, et cetera. But we can't keep taking people in all the time. There's not going to be any space except swamps. You can't live in the swamps.

Greer: Right. We've been fortunate to have a lot of people move to our area. Not all are retirees.

Jones: No.

Greer: We've had some growth in our industries which is wonderful. We mentioned several. GE has a tremendous plant here, the headquarters of GE, Hitachi nuclear energy world headquarters is here and that business is expanding so not only are we bringing retirees. We're bringing some very high paying jobs and people into our community. The retirees or even some that aren't retirees live here and commute to places. I know an individual that works out of New York.

Jones: I do too.

Greer: I know someone that works in Bermuda each week and flies back and forth from Bermuda.

Jones: Jon Rosborough said that their private plane traffic is just as heavy if not heavier at times than the commercial.

Greer: A lot of people like to come through our area. We have a nice airport. We have a good customs facility. A lot of people that are going to the islands or wherever this is very convenient for them to stop over, clear customs in a hurry and get in and get out. We have a beautiful airport.

Jones: It is nice.

Greer: Not many places you can go up there and they have someone to greet you at the curb to help you with your bags and welcome you. At most airports there is someone there to say, "Get out of here. You're in the way."

Jones: "What piece of luggage?"

Greer: That's right. So we have a lot going for us in that regard but there are a lot of retirees that have moved in. A lot of them want to give back to the community and are giving back to the community.

Jones: They are.

Greer: A lot of them have a whole lot of expertise that we need and you mentioned the hospital. We have a few executives there that are very highly talented and know the bigger business which our hospital is one of the biggest businesses there is around and they do a great job there helping run that and our hospital is always receiving high marks and is able to stay alive, so to speak. Hospitals in today's society are being forced to do more with less and less and less and as there are more people that aren't paying, that burden falls on the hospitals. I don't know what the outcome of all that will be in the nation but we're fortunate to still have a strong hospital here.

Jones: Yeah. Can you project or would you like to pretend that--what do you see in other words down the road, another three, four or five years or is it just sort of undetermined? What would you like to see happen here?

Greer: Well I think we need to maintain an orderly growth pattern not too fast, not too slow, a balance of industries. We can't have all PPDs or we can't have all Titans but we have to have some of both. Some of them are blue collar workers. Some of them are white collar workers. We have to have a mix. We need to maintain that and maintain the environment. We have to have a good environment to continue to attract people. Right now, as you mentioned, we've got to survive this economic downturn. I mean not only is that affecting everyone. It affects our government. We have a lot of our revenue from sales tax. If people aren't spending any money, there's no sales tax.

Jones: That's right.

Greer: A lot of our revenues come from fees and other things, building permits and register of deeds so all these revenues are down. And then unfortunately what the state of North Carolina does, which I guess other states do as well, when they have a shortfall they usually take the money away from the counties. The only way the counties can get the money is to raise the property taxes and that is very aggravating to me to have to unload that burden just on somebody because they have some property somewhere.

Jones: Right. Unfortunately the ones most affected are those who have lived in their homes the longest.

Greer: Right. So we don't know how bad it's going to be on the counties next year because they haven't adopted a state budget yet but it doesn't look good. We've already had to lay people off. We're furloughing people. We're doing all these things, cutting back, cutting back just about everybody we have any relationship with so we're trying to do what we can and it's tough. My opinion is the government can't keep marching forward if everybody else is going the other way.

Jones: I wish it couldn't be that way particularly in the education fund which is really getting hit in this state at least.

Greer: That's right.

Jones: Perhaps elsewhere, well is there anything else you'd like to add to this before we let you off the hook here? This has been interesting. Nobody stops to think, I can't say nobody, I would say the majority of people do not stop to think what people like you and the city council, of course they are a different entity, what you deal with, what your concerns are for, and it's always pot shot, pot shot, pot shot. Of course you got to place the blame somewhere. When you stop to think you're living in a place that possesses what we have, every little piece is part of that puzzle.

Greer: Well now that you mentioned it, I normally wouldn't say this but I think it's a very true fact is that I think it's harder and harder for elected people to do their job because so many people are shooting at them.

Jones: Yes, you're right.

Greer: Not everyone is a crook in the political office. There are some, the majority I would say, of people holding elective office are trying to do what they think is the right thing.

Jones: I think you're right.

Greer: And someone is going to be in those offices, whether it's local county commissioner or whatever, somebody is going to hold those offices so you don't want to make it where people that you want to be in those offices are afraid to even run for that office. So that's something we need to deal with I think as a society is elect the people you want to elect in those offices and don't make it so that no one is willing to even run for the office. Don't scare them away before they even have a chance because you're going to miss a lot of good people. A lot of people say, "No, I wouldn't subject myself" to those whatever.

Jones: I think the time has come to end taking a look at that designation after someone's name, R or D. Take a look at the individual.

Greer: That's right. That's right. We lose track of what we're all supposed to do and that's to look out for the welfare of the citizens and it doesn't make a difference the color of their skin or Republican or Democrat or whatever.

Jones: That's exactly right.

Greer: We just need to do what's right.

Jones: Well you're a good man there, Bobby Greer.

Greer: Thank you.

Jones: And I thank you for coming to talk to us.

Greer: I've enjoyed it. Thanks.

Jones: Good.

Greer: Appreciate it.

Repository:
UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign