Dare school board taps Harvey Hess Jr. to fill vacant seat

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, February 13, 2020

In a unanimous vote, Dare County Board of Education selected Harvey Hess Jr. to fill the vacant District 2 seat on the board.

Hess, who lives in Kill Devil Hills, is a retired Dare County social studies teacher. He taught at Manteo High School, where he also coached the varsity wrestling team, and finished his teaching career at First Flight Middle School. He has taught economics, criminal justice and history at College of The Albemarle.

He is a businessman. Hess is an owner of Capt’n Franks, Kitty Hawk, and Buccaneer Walk, just across the parking lot from the restaurant. Capt’n Franks was started in 1975 and is the second oldest, family-owned restaurant in Dare, reported Hess.

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His three children graduated from Dare schools. He is also licensed to practice law and does some consulting.

He was elected to the first Town of Kitty Hawk board and helped put a whole new town together.

“It was really an experience,” Hess told school board members during his interview at Nags Head Elementary School, Feb. 5.

Hess, a Republican, was one of four who applied to fill the vacancy.

Also interviewing were Kyle Eaker, an unaffiliated voter from Kill Devil Hills, Susan Bothwell, from Nags Head and the Republican candidate for the seat, and Jen Alexander, from Kill Devil Hills and the Democratic candidate for the seat.

The candidates were provided with a list of 13 questions prepared by the school board. The plan was for candidates to draw interview positions. Bothwell had requested that she interview in the one or two slot due to an appointment. Board member Tauber moved to approve the request. It died for lack of a second. Board member Margaret Lawler wanted to stay with the original plan.

Board member Mary Ellon Ballance suggested that the plan be implemented and then see if anyone would switch with Bothwell. The board approved that move.

At the original draw, Eaker drew 1, Hess 2, Alexander 3 and Bothwell 4. Hess agreed to switch.

Board chair Bea Basnight read each of the 13 questions to the applicants.

Eaker is a school counselor in an unidentified school system. He indicated that the community support and caring is one of the strengths of the school system and one weakness is school safety, particularly mental health awareness. He tagged safety as the most pressing issue.

Bothwell praised teachers and called for more students to achieve the dual degree program with College of The Albemarle. She said would bring listening skills to the board. She identified the “ugly head of politics” as a weakness and called for rising above unproductive discourse.

Alexander is a mental health professional. She wants to meet the staffing goal per student for professional social workers and counselors and expand access by streaming board meetings. She wants to address school safety and specifically mentioned bullying.

Hess replied to the question about serving, “I have the time. I want it to be better than it is now . . . I think we should focus on what we need locally.” He was the only applicant to list teacher pay as a challenge for North Carolina. “If you want the best teachers, you’re going to pay more.” He also pegged the board’s role as policy and budget.

In the short time Hess will be in office, the board with deal with budget and audit. Hess said about budgets: “I have a lot of experience.”

After the Hess interview, the board took a 10-minute break and started discussion by thanking the applicants. Ballance was the first to propose Hess, citing his budget and teaching experience. Board member Frank Hester joined her. Board member David Twiddy said he was debating between Hess and Bothwell. Board member Joe Tauber went with Hess. Lawler said she was considering Hess and Alexander. Twiddy said he could go with Hess and Lawler said she could endorse Hess.
Ballance made the motion for Harvey Hess to fill the vacant seat and Twiddy seconded the motion. The vote was 6-0.

The board then recessed to the Board of Education building, where Hess was sworn in and immediately participated in a closed session.

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