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Does Commissioner Rick Catlin speak for the board on the air quality issue?

Kevin Maurer
Rick Catlin

New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin. (StarNews file photo)

The questioner also wanted to know if Catlin’s engineering firm benefits from the air quality issue facing New Hanover County.

According to an email from New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin, he first learned of the county’s air quality issues at an engineer conference in June 2010. When he was elected, he set up a meeting with County Manager Bruce Shell and the N.C. Attainment Planning Branch to educate staff and stakeholders on the issue.

“Since then other groups have arranged SO2 (sulfur dioxide)-related meetings, and New Hanover County Long Range Planning Director Shawn Ralston has taken the lead at the staff level. Since any meetings that I arrange are limited by law to one other commissioner, I have worked through the Chairman Barfield to invite the other commissioner,” Catlin wrote. “Nothing I or others do is binding until the commission acts on an issue. I have been working diligently on this since last June to understand and find solutions to bring to the board. I have kept them up to date through emails and discussions at board meetings, but most importantly by referring them to Shawn Ralston as our information coordinator.”

Catlin wrote that he has tried to be inclusive and is happy to see other commissioners also taking an interest. He noted in his email that Chairman Jonathan Barfield and Vice Chairman Jason Thompson have had meetings on the issue and Commissioner Brian Berger accompanied Barfield to meetings in Washington.

“I continue to work hard on this because the voters elected me, to some extent for my environmental expertise, and I’m trying not to let them down,” Catlin, an environmental engineer by trade, wrote.

His firm does not work on air quality issues, and he has instructed his managers to not work on any project that could be perceived as a conflict of interest. He also files an annual Statement of Economic Interest to the N.C. Ethics Commission that can be reviewed by citizens.

“This is a costly commitment for my firm and employees, but it was one I was willing to make when I decided to run to try to solve some of the problems we face,” Catlin wrote. “If someone is looking for dirt, they may want to look under my fingernails.”

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