Located at the head of the Albemarle Sound, Elizabeth City has been named one of the “Best Places to Live on the Coast” by Money magazine.
Elizabeth City is also one of the great places to be for the United States Coast Guard’s Base, whose relationship spans more than 70 years with the county seat of Pasquotank County.
Local Appreciation for Base
“They really get the Coast Guard here, and that’s really gratifying,” says Capt. Donald Culkin, who succeeded Capt. Carol Bennett as base commander in May 2011.
Culkin, who has served in various capacities across the nation during his career with the maritime service, including at headquarters in Washington, D.C., as deputy director of Health, Safety and Work Life, recalled a greeting he received while getting a quick bite to eat between meetings in downtown Elizabeth City. Some local residents, seeing Culkin in uniform, approached him and thanked him for two things – his military service to the country and the Elizabeth City Coast Guard base.
“They love the military here,” Culkin says, a native of New York City. “Not only are we appreciated for the service, but we have a good relationship with the local community and they understand what the Coast Guard is about.”
Base Vital to Economic Growth
The Coast Guard is many things to the Elizabeth City area – valued neighbor, civilian employer, engine for economic growth. There is even a “Coast Guard Week” in Elizabeth City, celebrated the first week in August each year.
Congressional appropriation landed the base in Elizabeth City in 1939, and it has operated continuously since. The command covers 822 acres that support 1.1 million square feet of infrastructure and more than 100 buildings. Some 2,200 active duty civilian and contractor personnel work at the base, home to five commands: Base Elizabeth City, Aviation Technical Training Center, Air Station Elizabeth City, Station Elizabeth City and the Aviation Logistics Center. The National Strike Force Coordination Center, while not located on the base proper, is also located in Elizabeth City.
The Albemarle Economic Development Commission in Elizabeth City estimates the annual economic impact of the base at $117 million, which includes base payroll, local contracts, utility payments and local construction. The figures do not include Coast Guard retirees living in Elizabeth City, which has the highest population per capita of Coast Guard retirees in the country.
As a base commanding officer, Culkin’s job is to provide direct support of Coast Guard activities in the area. Culkin is also responsible for supporting some 2,200 on-base active duty, civilian and contractor personnel and more than 2,000 individuals at Coast Guard units throughout North Carolina.
“We’re the support nexus. We’re the people that the public doesn’t see, but we make sure the units we serve have what they need to get their jobs done. My job is to provide them the support so they can do their jobs more efficiently and effectively,” Culkin says.
New Facilities Being Constructed
Culkin believes the future is bright for the Coast Guard in Elizabeth City. The base is constructing a new state-of-the-art facility to train rescue swimmers, new barracks and a new unit galley for meals.
“Over the years the Coast Guard and my predecessors have done a great job keeping the base operational,” Culkin says. “We’ve had a very close relationship with the community and maintaining that is very important.”
Read more on the coast guard in Elizabeth City, NC.