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One of the newest members of the North Carolina General Assembly will also be one of its youngest. Transylvania County Republican Cody Henson, 24, won election to the seat held by Rep. Chris Whitmire, who chose not to seek re-election, in a landslide over Democrat Maureen Copelof. Henson has been a member of the Marine Corps Reserve since 2011 and graduated from Rosman High School in 2010.
On his campaign website, Henson says his family has been in Western North Carolina for seven generations and that he won’t “fall prey to the mentality of Raleigh where the mountain region of this state is often overlooked.” Henson is a husband and father to a young son, and currently works at OceanX, an Arden-based company that helps businesses create subscription programs.
Henson, who has no prior political experience, is joining the North Carolina House of Representatives at a time when the Republican Party holds a supermajority in both chambers of the General Assembly.
Carolina Public Press asked Henson a series of questions. His responses are below.
CPP: What motivated you to run for office?
HENSON: District 113 has been home to my family for generations. It is the place where my wife and I saw as the best place to plant our roots and raise our family. That task has become significantly harder for young families over the years. I believe this is the best place to raise a family and want more people to have that opportunity. Western North Carolina has often been overlooked when it comes to decision-making in Raleigh and I felt like we needed a local, conservative voice to stand up and fight for our corner of North Carolina.
CPP: What do you believe are the key issues facing the incoming class of the General Assembly?
HENSON: The General Assembly, under Republican leadership, has taken great strides in eliminating burdensome regulations, raising teacher pay and lowering taxes, but … much more … can, and should, be done in these areas. … A good bit of focus on these areas (will be) in the upcoming session in order to make North Carolina even more business friendly. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House on these areas as well as several other issues.
CPP: One of the key issues of your campaign platform was a pledge to fight to bring jobs to District 113. Now that you’ve been elected, what actions do you plan to take to help bring jobs to the area?
HENSON: I have already been in touch with many local officials and business owners to develop a plan that will not only help bring jobs to the area but help existing businesses grow and expand. There is a big need for infrastructure improvements throughout the district and I plan to work toward getting the ball rolling on some of these projects that will appeal to businesses looking to invest in Polk, Transylvania and Henderson counties.
CPP: What House committees will you serve on, or do you hope to serve on, and why?
HENSON: I have met with Speaker Tim Moore and expressed interest in K-12 Education and Education Appropriations because I feel this will give me the ability to help our local school systems as well as fight to return more control of our schools down to the local boards of education, administrators and teachers. I have also expressed interest in the House Committee on Homeland Security, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee because … we can do (more) to help our veteran community and those coming off active duty who wish to continue to call North Carolina home.
CPP: How has your prior work and public service experience prepared you to serve in the General Assembly?
HENSON: I have learned that hard work can go a long way. I am fortunate enough to have been able to move up in the company I am at to my current position in less than two years. I look forward to applying that same work ethic in my role as representative for House District 113. Most importantly, a lifetime of living in Western North Carolina has instilled the fighting spirit and values of our mountains in me. I am honored to have the opportunity to go to Raleigh and fight for our mountain values and for our region in the North Carolina House.
CPP: What is your overall opinion of the state’s public education system? What changes would you like to see in North Carolina’s public schools?
HENSON: Great strides have been made but there is so much more to be done. … It is time to return the power of our schools back to the teachers, administrators and local school boards, who are working day in and day out with our children. It’s time to shed the “one size fits all” mentality of Raleigh when it comes to education. Each school district is unique and … those at the local level should be making the decisions that will directly impact our children.
CPP: H.B. 2 has been a hot-button issue for both its supporters and opponents. What is your opinion of the law and do you believe it will remain in place?
HENSON: Men do not belong in the same bathroom, locker room or changing facility as women and/or little girls. It’s common sense and H.B. 2 is a common-sense law that keeps men out of women’s restrooms in publicly funded facilities. I don’t think H.B. 2 is going anywhere.
CPP: Would you like to see any changes made to North Carolina’s gun laws?
HENSON: I don’t believe there need to be any changes that would hinder a law-abiding citizen from exercising their 2nd Amendment right to own a gun.
CPP: Describe your personal political philosophy. What issues are most important to you?
HENSON: I am a Christian conservative. I believe in standing up for and upholding the Constitution of North Carolina and the Constitution of the United States. I think Ronald Reagan was right when he said, “Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem.” It is important that government be constrained to the confines of the Constitution and for elected officials to remember that government has no power or authority other than that which is given to it by people and that we are to serve the people, not to rule their lives.
CPP: What are some pieces of legislation you’d like to sponsor or co-sponsor?
HENSON: There are many things that I hope to accomplish in the upcoming session and many more things that may come up that I would be honored to help pass. As I mentioned earlier, I want to see more decisions over our schools being made at the local level and I would be happy to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation that moves us toward or accomplishes that goal. Legislation that will curb the burdensome regulations on our small-business community or legislation that can help our local economy flourish would also be bills I would sponsor.
CPP: Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. How important is bipartisanship to you, and can you identify any areas where Republicans and Democrats in the legislature can work together?
HENSON: Before any of us are Republicans or Democrats, we are all North Carolinians. There are 120 different opinions on various issues that can come before the House. We just came out of an election that divided our nation, state and communities. Now is the time to come together, regardless of the party in power, and move forward. There are many things that can and should be accomplished and we can all work together on accomplishing these goals. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to continue to make North Carolina the best place to live, work and do business.
CPP: Forbes magazine recently ranked North Carolina as the No. 2 state in the U.S., in terms of business climate. How can the General Assembly work to ensure that trend continues?
HENSON: We need to work on eliminating some of the red tape that still exists that prevents businesses from being able to grow. The infrastructure improvements I spoke of earlier are also needed in other areas of the state and, with those improvements, it can help this trend of making North Carolina more business friendly, grow. More jobs will allow more families to be able to call our state home and my goal as Representative for District 113 is to get some of the success our Piedmont region has seen to the mountains.
CPP: What do you believe the state can do to better support veterans?
HENSON: More … can be done for the men and women coming off of active duty. North Carolina is home to several major military installations. The men and women leaving these posts are looking to either begin school or begin a career. Helping them make that transition smoothly and ensuring they have the right tools they need in order to succeed is the least we can do for them. I have also begun speaking with folks in the North Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs about various things that we can do for our veterans and I hope to continue that dialogue in order to be able to help our veterans more at the state level.
CPP: Parts of WNC are currently battling very large wildfires. Is there anything that can be done at the state level to help prevent similar wildfires in the future?
HENSON: First and foremost, I want to thank all of our firefighters and the firefighters that have come from all over the United States, for all that they are doing to battle these wildfires. They have put in an incredible amount of work, sacrificed time away from their families and put their own lives at risk to protect lives and property all across Western North Carolina. At the state level I want to make sure that we are giving all of our first responders the tools that they need to get the job done. These men and women do a great job in their respective fields and I believe that anything that can be done at the state level to make their job a little bit easier should be done.