D. Cole Phelps, County Commissioner
What city in Washington Co. are you from originally?
Why did you choose East Carolina University, and then also why family and community services as a major?
I actually applied to five colleges when i was graduating from high school. Out of the those five, only ECU accepted me. The first year or so, I wasn't sure what my major would be so I really looked around and took various courses, ranging from business, pre med, communications etc. One day, I met with Mrs. Latonya Gaskins in the Rivers Building, and she asked me several questions to gain my passion. Then, she explained to me what FCS and the College of Human Ecology was about. And, that is who I am. I am all about "enriching lives and enhancing communities."
What lessons did you learn at ECU that you think helped push you toward politics (or will be the most beneficial to you in your time in office)?
The motto enriching lives and enhancing communities has always been a part of who I am, but throughout my time at ECU I really began to understand and value what it meant. I began to understand what it means to serve those who are under served. I began to understand what it meant to be an advocate and leader for people. I was able to enhance my leadership and advocacy skills. And most importantly, I continued to develop my compassion for all people and love for public service. The FCS major played a big part in all of the foregoing lessons. During my time at ECU, I was able to understand the importance of good advocacy in communities and that one person can impact and change a community. It takes hardwork, dedication, and sacrifice, but one person can truly lead and make a difference. This, along with other things, is what led me to seek the District One Seat for Washington County Commissioner.
What was your favorite class in your major?
I am trying to think back and remember, but it has been a while. I think the class that sticks out the most to me is family and public policy. Dr. Carroll, is the one who talked with me and encourage me to pursue my law degree. Additionally, she helped walk me through the application process and mentors me still. The family law and public policy course is one that began to spark my interest in obtaining a juris doctorate degree. It was in that class that I was introduced to many legal terms and was able to begin to see how laws and policies, both locally, statewide, and nationally, can impact families and communities. And that someone has to be making those decisions for us, so why can't I be that person to advocate and work hard on behalf of all people to make a positive change.
Do you have a professor that you look back on fondly?
Dr. Carroll and Dr. Ballard are Professors that are truly servant leaders both in and out the classroom. They both worked tirelessly to answer all of my questions, to ensure that I understood the material, and were very accessible to help me reach my maximum potential. It was through them that I truly began to see that one person could make a difference and an impact. Dr. Carroll and Dr. Ballard are still mentors of mine who i stay in touch with, and who work so hard to ensure that students are gaining what they need when walk out of Minges Collesium on graduation day. They are top notch faculty and they are truly people who helped shape my path along the way. Additionally, Dean Siguaw has been one of my biggest supporters. She is a true asset to the College and I cannot thank her enough for all of her support throughout the campaign and continued support.
How are studies going at NC Central? What pushed you to seek a law degree?
NCCU Law was the best choice, besides attending ECU, I have ever made. I decided to attend NCCU Law because of the mission statement. NCCU Law misison focuses on public service and the importance of giving back and going back into your hometown communities to make a difference.
What was your #1 motivating factor in running for county commissioner?
The same theme as indicated above. I love Washington County, it is where I grew up and where I want to raise my family. It is where I am going to open my law office next year. There are many challenging issues that are facing our community and I wanted to be a part of the solution. I have alot of energy and alot of fresh ideas to bring to the table.
What do you hope to bring to Washington Co. and how does your education at ECU relate to that?
One of the main things I would like to see is increased recreational opportunities for students in the eastern end of the county. Further, there are so many things that we can work towards to improve the lives of all of our citizens and those are the steps that we need to take. See above for education and relation to ECU.
I know you were just elected, but what’s next on your aspirational list?
I haven't really had time time to think about it. I am just in my second week as County Commissioner and I am really focused on trying to improve the lives of all Washington County citizens. I am just thankful that God has given me the opportunity to serve a community that has given so much to me. That is my focus at this time.
Any words of wisdom to current students at ECU or particularly those in the College of Human Ecology?
First, know that you are in good hands and that the Faculty of CHE is truly preparing you to go out and change the your communities and change the world. It will not be easy, but through hard work, dedication, and sacrifice you can do it. And never, never let anyone deter you from your dreams. People told me that I would never win as County Commissioner. They told me I was to young. The told me it "wasn't my time." Don't listen to the naysayers. Pray, come up with a plan, and go chase your dreams. Someone has to be in the one in that position, so why not you?