LAKE WYLIE — As two-term Lake Wylie Marine Commission member Smith “Smitty” Hanks exits his Gaston County post, the group brings in new commissioner Neil Brennan. Members say they’re excited to work with someone bringing an intriguing background to the group. The Lake Wylie Pilot caught up with Brennan to ask a few questions.
Question: I heard you have a Navy background. I even heard something about submarines. What are some highlights of your naval background?
Answer: “My service in the Navy was in the Surface Warfare branch, not in submarines. I did complete the Navy’s nuclear power training, and four of the six ships in which I served were nuclear powered. Memorable tours included command of the guided missile destroyer USS BARNEY, command of the nuclear powered, guided missile cruiser USS TEXAS, and a tour at the Pentagon as Head, Plans, Programs, and Requirements for Surface Warfare.”
Q: How does that experience carry over, if at all, to freshwater? Are there similarities to what you’ve done with the Navy and your interests on the marine commission?
A: “Some aspects of the blue water Navy translate to the challenges we face on Lake Wylie - the appreciation for controlling pollutants and harmful bottom paints, the force of water (whether it be in storms at sea or the erosive power of uncontrolled run-off into rivers and lakes) and the need for a keen attention to detail for safety. We often hear of ships colliding at sea and wonder how that can happen with all the electronic devices and the vast area in which the ships operate. But collisions occur at sea. And we hear of terrible accidents on the lakes and rivers here in North Carolina. So safety translates readily no matter the size of the waterway. In my civilian career, we had to combat zebra mussels restricting flow at the cooling water intakes at the Zion Nuclear Generating Station on Lake Michigan. So I have some experience with the problems that the commission addresses in the unwanted species arena.”
Q: What’s the main reason you wanted to serve on this commission?
A: “After learning of the problems with Brown’s Cove, I became concerned about the silt buildup in the coves in Reflection Pointe where I’m a member of the HOA board. I have worked with the Gaston Natural Resources Department regarding the issue to ensure both the new construction lots and the undeveloped lots are not contributing to the problem. Given the prospects of further development on Lake Wylie, my other goal (boating safety is the first) is to ensure there is focus on this issue. The other impetus to volunteer for the commission was my participation in Riversweep 2012. The amount and variety of trash and debris that litterers leave in the lake is both disheartening and maddening. [On Oct. 5], we pulled a reported 21 tons of debris from the water. Jane and I live on Lake Wylie, and now that I’m retired from both the Navy and the nuclear power industry, I have the time to help and the desire to help in this area.”
Q: What else about you would you want people in the community, particularly those interested in the well-being of the lake, to know?
A: “I’m a believer in self-help - whether it’s doing a job around the house or providing one’s skills to the community, the idea of citizens contributing is one that should be encouraged, particularly among retirees.”
The Lake Wylie Marine Commission meets at 7 p.m. the fourth Monday of the month at various locations in York, Gaston and Mecklenburg counties. The public is invited. For more information and meeting location, visit lakewyliemarinecommission.com.