Oak Island Mayoral Candidates Election 2021
In the Oak Island mayoral race, incumbent Ken Thomas will be challenged for his seat by Liz White.
Brunswick County voters have three options to vote in this year’s municipal election. Residents can vote before polling day by sending a mail ballot or voting during the one-stop or early voting period, which begins October 14 and ends October 30.
Voters can also vote on polling day, which is November 2.
- Age: 71
- Address: 7th E. Oak Island Drive
- Occupation: Owner Whiteville Rentals
- Family: My wife is deceased but we have two daughters and sons-in-law and a fantastic grandson.
- Education: Two master mechanics, unlimited electrical license in NC, SC, GA and AL.
- Political Affiliation: Oak Island hosts unaffiliated races
- Age: did not respond
- Address: 112 SE 34th St., Oak Island, NC 28465
- Profession: Retired apprentice architect and project manager
- Family: Recent widow of a retired Marine who was a 100% disabled veteran. One of seven siblings
- Education: Two year undergraduate degree at East Carolina University; alumnus of Florida State University; masters, East Carolina University where I studied sports medicine
- Political affiliation: Registered independent (for decades); NC refers to this status as unaffiliated
What are the biggest challenges Oak Island faces and how would you approach them?
Thomas: My five-year business plan presents our challenges as well as suggested courses of action. First off, beach food is covered below. Next, we need to finish repairing the storms. We don’t even need a heavy rain and some of our roads are getting impassable. An engineer has developed a plan for us which we are implementing in phases. The economic development and growth of the city must be planned. We must find a way to develop our territory, as well as our economy, but with measured growth that does not negatively impact our citizens and our businesses. We should be working with other towns in the area and the county to start getting more funding. We are one of the fastest growing counties in the country and we should act on it. Most of this growth is coming from our beach towns and we can use it to put pressure on the county and indicate what we need to continue to attract new residents and businesses.
White: Among other things, the most debilitating and undermining challenge we face is a government that too often operates behind closed doors and with minimal civic engagement. Democracy is a form of government that our founding fathers intended to operate openly, actively engaging citizens as participants. We have an abundance of expertise within our community that will bring new ideas and new approaches to the issues before us if properly structured. I will ensure that the items on the agendas of our meetings are discussed and voted on openly as much as possible. I will also advocate for additional opportunities for citizens to contribute and have an open and meaningful dialogue with council members and the mayor. Only in this way will we be able to preserve our island culture while managing growth and anticipating the challenges we face.
What is the long term solution to feeding the beaches and how can the city pay for it?
Thomas: We are defenseless in the face of storms at the moment because our dunes have disappeared in most places and our beach is undernourished. We need to upgrade our beach and then make a maintenance plan and stick to it. My five-year business plan for the city contains a power plan based on the money we receive for our past projects, our taxes and government assistance. With my plan, we will be able to deposit the sand in the hot spots and build our dunes, and then maintain that every few years with our sand and lodging tax. We have to make a long-term plan and stick to it.
White: A long-term plan must establish and maintain a “healthy beach,” as well as protect and preserve the wildlife and natural resources our ocean offers to ensure we have a viable ecosystem. This plan must generate a binding commitment on the part of the city and the members of our community to appropriate this defining characteristic that we are so lucky to have and to take all reasonable measures to preserve and protect it. If we don’t respect this treasure, no one else will. Our long term plan is to actively work to 1. Restore our line of vegetation to the extent possible to anchor our sand. 2. Use effective methods to allow blown sand to accumulate in natural construction dunes. 3. Amend ordinances to move the line of development back to help protect frontline homes. 4. Clear the city of all responsibility for those who choose to build on the waterfront. A funding strategy will be unveiled at a later date.
What is your position on the sand assessment districts?
Thomas: Sand Assessment Districts are actually called Benefit Zones and when used as they were in 2001, they are useful. In 2001, they were used to start the sand project with a small cushion of 10% of the cost of the project from the owners and the cost was only a few hundred dollars. Sand valuations are a big no if used to fund a $ 40 million project.
White: The sand districts in themselves are not a problem. Many communities employ Multiple Service Districts (DMS) as a means of obtaining funds for large-scale and otherwise unfunded or short-term funded projects. When a municipality does not show foresight or abuse these districts, it can have unintended and overwhelming consequences for taxpayers or cause problems. A more acceptable approach to obtaining the funds would have been to issue General Bonds. To do so would have required a majority of the voting public to agree with the council’s plan. Yet our five council members and the mayor felt they were in a better position to make this decision to impose such a significant financial obligation on taxpayers than to let the citizens of Oak Island decide.
What is your approach to improving parking in the region?
Thomas: We’ve started adding more space around Town Hall and are looking at some of the other properties in town where we could add parking. We should also be looking at a driverless electric shuttle like the one Southport started working with. He picks up people at a designated spot and walks up the beach, stopping in the designated streets. I also think that a feasibility study should be carried out on paid parking. I am not convinced that paid parking would not have a negative impact on our city. Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach both had issues this year and had to occupy spaces because their businesses were losing customers. In addition, we will have to put pressure on the state to allow us to use any product as we see fit. We live in paradise and everyone wants a little bit of it and in order to be able to share this with everyone we will always have parking problems.
White: Parking on the island is a complex issue. There is no doubt that parking can be improved, as there are a number of successful models used in our area. Paid parking is even more controversial. Before we get into a serious discussion about improving parking, we first need to decide what we are trying to achieve by managing parking differently. There are a lot of ideas on the proverbial table, but a lot of them don’t fit together well and some work in opposition. Recent council history should have taught us that parking is not something that can be approached casually or reactively. As mayor, my approach would be to look at what is currently in place, what Oak Island will be like in the not-so-distant future, establish clear and measurable goals for the program, and define the boundaries within which we must. work as well as potential Opportunities. Only then should we get into planning.
Why are you the best candidate?
Thomas: I have owned a very profitable business for over 30 years and a resident of Oak Island for 24 years. So I know the island and understand the needs and wants of the locals, but I also know that the city is a business and should be run as such. Just because citizens want something doesn’t mean it’s better for the city. Any board member must be able to balance the needs of citizens with the needs of cities. I am ready to make the tough decisions and explain my position and why this position. I’m not afraid to make tough calls. I also know how important project management is and how to use it appropriately. The city has huge multi-million dollar projects going on simultaneously and if we don’t manage them properly they will become another sewer project (cough (cough breakup)).
White: I bring a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience to the post of mayor. Throughout my career, I have successively been able to identify priorities as well as skillfully develop, execute and evaluate plans to ensure they achieve their goal and meet expectations. I tend to be proactive or reactive and I am decisive when the situation calls for it. I am able to easily establish relationships and build effective relationships. I am able to lead teams; facilitate difficult discussions; and work effectively with groups made up of a wide range of personalities, perspectives, knowledge and skill sets. I am able to easily see the “big picture”; work with a team to break this vision down into specific goals or projects; identify the first actionable steps; while developing a comprehensive roadmap that will fully achieve the expected results. I am familiar with the emergency management system and disaster planning, response and recovery.