Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bowden gets proper send-off

While opinions have varied from time to time about his views, his level of service and dedication are unquestionable. Mr. Bowden has provided a level of effort to the community that we wish could be seen by many others. 30 years rolls of the tongue with ease, but working for the Currituck community for 10,950 days offers better perspective. First class Mr. Bowden, Thank you.

Photo and article provided from the Daily Advance:
Bowden, 84, served county 30 years
Staff Writer

Thursday, December 04, 2008

CURRITUCK — Wearing a grey western style suit with camel-colored cowboy boots, the 84-year-old outgoing Currituck Commissioner Ernie Bowden strolled through his send-off party looking a little bit country, and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll.

The catered reception, held at the historic county courthouse Monday night, was held to honor Bowden’s three decades of public service to the county.

Attended by more than 30 guests, including all seven board members, County Manager Dan Scanlon, Planning Director Ben Woody, and several members of Bowden’s family, it was the first reception in Currituck history held for an outgoing commissioner.

“I was deeply humbled,” Bowden said reflecting on the party. “I cannot say how much I appreciate what the county did for me.”

After losing the primary election earlier this year, the District 1 commissioner is stepping down from office. But ask Bowden if he has plans to run for office again in 2010, and he might just say it’s a possibility.

“I don’t know if I’ll run again,” Bowden said laughing. “It depends on the circumstances I suppose, but I never say never.”

Those that know him well aren’t surprised with Bowden’s conceivable future run for office, witnessing firsthand his tireless dedication to the county.

“When (Bowden) gives his word, or a handshake on something, that’s it, he follows through,” Commissioner Gene Gregory said remembering his service with Bowden the past 15 years. “There aren’t too many people like that anymore, it will truly be a loss to the board.”

Bowden says he was first motivated to run for the Fruitville Township seat in 1976 after a long delay occurred with a governmental board and other groups who were unable to move forward with a connection route from Virginia to N.C. Highway 12 in Corolla.

The access road, Bowden says, was marketed to prospective residential buyers interested in moving to Carova Beach at that time.

Owning many acres of property in the Corova Beach area, Bowden became fundamentally involved in the first-ever residential development project in Carova Beach, managing lots, assisting with subdividing the properties, and creating right-of-ways.

“What predicated my entry into politics was when I learned this road would not become a reality, and I didn’t see anyone indicating an interest in accommodating the people who bought property there,” he said.

At the encouragement of others, Bowden began to get involved in local politics, attending commissioners meetings, chairing the Outer Banks Civil Team, and eventually running for Currituck’s Board of Commissioners in 1976.

Bowden served 12 two-year terms as county commissioner from 1976 to 1980, 1984 to 1988, and 1992 to 2008. He also served one term as board chairman in 1994.

Bowden has even been around long enough to have served with every county manager in the history of Currituck, as the county manager form of government was adopted in 1974,

Looking back on his many years in office, Bowden says he never came to a point where he wanted to exit politics.

“I don’t think I ever wanted to (leave office). I have always felt like I had something to contribute to the county,” he said.

More than three decades later, Bowden has seen numerous changes in the county, primarily growth-related.

In 1976, there were 8,500 residents county wide, nine people who worked in the sheriff’s office, and about 40 people working in administrative positions, Bowden said.

Today, there are about 23,000 residents, 117 people in the Sheriffs office, and about 400 people working in administrative positions.

“We had a budget of $3 million when I joined the board in 1976,” Bowden said. “This year, we adopted a budget of $63 million.”

But even if Bowden never returns to state politics, he says he will be most proud of the high level of commitment to exemplary education within the county.

“There are many rewarding experiences I’ve encountered over the years, but I have to rate the development of our education system as extremely high, and I’m very proud of it,” he said.

For the many public officials he served with, he will be remembered as the consummate southern gentleman, a man of great wisdom and a friend to the county.

“I’ve worked these (30) years for the county not because I had to but because I wanted to,” Bowden said. “I thank you all for allowing me to serve you through the years and I’m always a phone call away.”

Bowden offered two final pieces of wisdom to the incoming board and first-time commissioners.

“My advice to the board and especially the new commissioners is to leave their ego at home, and come to the meetings with an open mind,” Bowden said. “If they can do that they’ll do all of us proud.”