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SMITHFIELD — Patrick Harris is a first-term county commissioner who’s now running for the District 11 seat in the N.C. Senate.
He thinks his experience will serve the district well.
“I try to take a reasonable approach to problem solving and believe that the knowledge and experience I have gained in business and government over the past 40 years will give me a unique perspective to serve effectively in the N.C. Senate,” Harris said in an email response to questions from the Johnstonian News.
“I have created jobs and managed businesses, so I also understand the complexities of overreaching government regulations on our local residents and their ability to attain good-paying jobs,” he added.
Harris entered the race after fellow Republican Rick Horner of Nash County announced that he would not seek reelection. It’s important to Harris that a Johnston County resident represent Johnston in the Senate.
“Although Sen. Horner has done an excellent job in representing us in the Senate, there hasn’t been a Johnston County resident in the N.C. Senate since David Rouzer,” Harris said.
If the General Assembly is going to send mandates to North Carolina’s counties, it should send money too, Harris said in laying out the issues he would champion if elected. “As a commissioner, I have experienced the challenges and difficulties local government faces with mandates handed down from the state, often with little or no funding to carry out these requirements,” he said.
One example, Harris said, is the state’s funding formula for exceptional children’s programs in the public schools. In Johnston County, that formula in no way meets the need, he said.
“That alone contributes to an $8 million gap that has to be funded from local tax dollars to supply the needs of our children,” Harris said.
As a senator, Harris would also look at the funding formula for the N.C. Education Lottery, which isn’t delivering what it promised to counties, he said. “I am additionally interested in education, infrastructure and roads, agriculture, and economic growth and job creation,” he said. “I am also very interested and committed to constituent services.”
Harris gives generally high marks to the Legislature under GOP leadership. “I think overall the General Assembly has done a good job in turning North Carolina around from a state that was furloughing teachers and employees and losing business to a state that is now one of the top states for business in the country,” he said. “I will work to continue this trend and seek ways to bring jobs to Johnston and Nash counties.”
Again, experience matters, Harris said. “As a commissioner, I have been a part of economic-growth incentives that when completed will bring over 3,000 new jobs to Johnston County and increase the tax base by over $300 million. I would like to take this type of growth to Nash County, which has actually reduced in population in the last five years.”
Harris is one of three Republicans seeking the party’s nomination for the District 11 seat. “My strategy to winning the GOP Primary is to take my positive message to as many voters as I can in Johnston and Nash counties,” he said.
“I believe that people appreciate an honest approach to choosing their representatives,” Harris added. “I have a long history here in Johnston County and many connections to Nash County. I truly believe that I can represent the citizens well in the N.C. Senate. Constituent services will be one of my top priorities when elected.”
In November, the GOP primary winner will face a Democrat in a district that is likely to be more competitive than in years past. Harris said he is ready for that too.
“When I win the primary, we will immediately begin working toward the November general election by growing our team and sending out our positive message of hard work and honesty,” he said. “After the primary, all Republicans will come together and support our conservative values.”
Harris said he thinks conservative values cross party lines. “I believe that many of our Democrat friends and neighbors do not necessarily align with the far-left rhetoric that we see going on in other places,” he said. “I will work to represent the citizens of Nash and Johnston County with honor and respect of our North Carolina values.”
If elected, Harris said he would gladly accept whatever committee assignments he receives, though he does have preferences. “I have special interest in finance, public safety, education, health care, and roads and infrastructure,” he said.
About Patrick Harris
Born March 11, 1964, in Hendersonville in North Carolina’s mountains, Harris moved to Johnston County around 1987 for his job with the N.C. Forest Service.
Harris, who has a bachelor’s degree in fire science, retired as director of emergency services for the Town of Smithfield, where he was responsible for fire and emergency medical services. From July 2011 until November 2017, he was chief executive officer and chief financial officer of two health-care practices that merged with Med First Primary and Urgent Care in November 2017. Also, he is founder and chief executive of Barbecue Provision Co. in Smithfield.
A former chairman of the Johnston County Republican Party, Harris has received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. He received the Governor’s Award for Bravery & Heroism for his lifesaving efforts in 1995.
His wife, Victoria, is a primary care provider at Med First Primary & Urgent Care in Smithfield. His daughter, Taylor Anne, works for Credit Suisse in Raleigh.