Bryan County became the biggest economic story in the state in 2022, with Hyundai’s announcement it will set up shop here and bring in thousands of jobs and billions in investment and, in doing so, change the county in a number of ways, some more apparent than others.
Recently, Bryan County Commission Chairman Carter Infinger participated in a Q& A with the BCN covering a range of topics, including the Mega-Site.
This has been edited for both clarity and brevity.
Q: From your perspective as not only the chairman of the county commission but also the JDA, what’s it like to be a part of something that big?
A: For me it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to make generational changes in our community, and to better our community for all people. It’s a lot of work, and it involves everybody, it’s not just one person it’s everyone working together. It’s been an overwhelming experience for most of us, from county staff to JDA staff and state staff.
Q: Let’s back up. What made you first decide to run for office in 2010?
A: I ran because I didn’t serve in the military and wanted to give back. I thought it was a good opportunity to give back at a local level. I also wanted to help make sure that as the community grew, my kids and grandkids would enjoy living here.
Q: You’ve seen a lot change in Bryan County. What do you say to people who hate to see the county lose what’s been for many a small town, country feel?’
A: We can’t stop the community from growing. We can’t tell people what to do with their land if they meet the zoning ordinances. We can try to control growth to try and benefit everyone in the nity. And there again, if a community doesn’t grow it dries up and withers away.
Q: County government has been the only local government to consistently take the rollback rate and reduce millage rates. It’s dropped around 2 mills since you became chairman. How has the county been able to do that?
A: I think the way we can continue to roll back the millage rate is by having a great staff. And I believe government’s responsibility is to save taxpayers as much money as we can we can. We continue to do that through good overall planning, good financial planning and being responsibile for the people’s money. I believe we can continue to roll millage rate back as property values continue to go up.
Q: How would you describe the county’s relationships with Richmond Hill and Pembroke at present.
A: It’s a good relationship overall. We’ve got our business to do, they’ve got their business to take care. We’re working together with Richmond Hill on Brisbon Road and Belfast Keller and our staffs get together once a month make sure projects move along. We may disagree on some things, but it’s important to note all city residents are county residents too. I think our relationship is fine.
Q: Will the county be able to meet infrastructure deadlines on the Mega-Site?
A: We’re working feverishly to meet the deadlines on infrastructure projects, and I believe we will be able to meet the time lines. That’s if there are no supply chain delays. We’re working through those now, and hope to be ready by Hyundai’s deadline to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2024 or first quarter of 2025. I believe we will be able to meet infrastructure needs. They’re moving at light speed on the Mega-Site. One example, contractors are burning 12,000 gallons of fuel a day to clear that site. That’s a lot.
Q: You usually end county commission meetings by opening up the floor to ask if anyone in attendance has any questions. Why? What is your philosophy on open government.
A: We want everybody to have an opportunity to speak at our meetings. So we give four or five minutes at the end of the meetings for people to say whatever they want to say. I think it’s important for citizens to come to us and voice their opinions about whatever is on their mind. I may not always agree with it, but it’s important to hear it.
Q: You are not term-limited, but have said you will only serve to terms as chairman? What are your plans after that?
A: I can serve more terms if I want to and I have other opportunities. That’s for me and my family to decide.
Q: What’s been the biggest surprise you’ve found by serving in government?
A: It’s that government can’t be run like a business. Some aspects of it are run like a business, but some are not. There are some services we have to provide. Businesses can choose which services they’ll offer. In that regard business and government are like night and day. And government moves at a slower pace than business. We have a lot of regulations to follow and boxes to tick, and we offer 32 services, all of which are important.