- Published on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 01:51
- Written by Super User
Carolina Beach Town Council interviews applicants for appointment for two vacant seats. (Pictured above:) Michael "Tom" Bridges addresses the Council and answers questions about his views on issues facing the Town. Sitting in the front row behind him are applicants (Left to right:) Douglas B. Andrews, LeAnn Pierce, Dennis "Duke" Hagestrom and Jody N. Smith.
By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council interviewed the top five candidates from a pool of 16 people who applied for appointment to the vacancies for Mayor and a Council seats during a meeting held December 11. They voted to appoint Councilman Bob Lewis as Mayor. They met prior to that at 4:30PM for a closed session meeting to interview someone to fill the position of full-time Interim Town Manager until a replacement can be recruited to replace former manager Tim Owens.
In November the Council announced the resignation of Owens following a closed session meeting. Immediately following that announcement, Councilman Lonnie Lashley and Mayor Ray Rothrock resigned in opposition to Owen's resignation.
At the December 11, meeting the Council interviewed five applicants to fill two vacant seats. Those were Douglas B. Andrews, Dennis "Duke" Hagestrom, LeAnn Pierce, Jody N. Smith and Michael "Tom" Bridges.
Andrews said he's lived in the area since 1993 and believes the skills and experience he's gained as Managing Director of Chloride Systems in Burgaw, NC gives him insight into making good financial and strategic planning decisions for the Town.
He focused on fiscally responsibility with taxpayers’ dollars by examining infrastructure and general spending habits.
Tom Bridges has lived here since 2007 and moved here after working as a principle in the Charlotte Mecklenburg School System for 23 years. The first seven was as a school psychologist.
Bridges said, "I have a wide variety of public service and certainly have had to deal with the public on a daily basis also constantly making decisions" as well as interviews and working with staff.
Bridges said, "I'm not a politician" and public perception is key to being successful. He said, "That's something I can bring to the table... as a group you need to be a cohesive group. If you have something to discuss, you discuss it in an intelligent manner and even if you have some disagreements, you take it outside somewhere else. Backroom, you talk about it somewhere else. If you have five people you can actually meet two on two or one on one and not have to have an open meeting."
He said he had to turn around schools that didn't have the best reputations and has extensive experience in budgeting.
Bridges currently serves on the Town's Planning Commission and Freeman Park Committee.
Dennis "Duke" Hagestrom owns several local businesses including Wheel Fun Rentals, the FudgeBoat and Krazy Kones on the Boardwalk and has worked as a technology and business consultant for corporations such as Kellogg Company and Cox Media.
Hagestrom has also served on a number of Town committees and currently serves on the Town's Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, Aquatic Facility Committee and Tourism Marketing Committee.
Hagestrom said his experience working as project manager for large corporations dealing with millions of dollars gives him ample experience that he could build upon when making responsible fiscal decisions on Council.
Hagestrom said the Town has several challenges and, "Of course, the big elephant in the room, next year is the last year for the 50 years of our relationship for federal funding for beach renourishment. We've got to get creative."
Hagestrom said, "We need to work with the County and the state. There are special taxation districts in Florida, the Intra Coastal Waterway. That's paid for by special taxation districts. So you can get really creative in how you come up with solutions for that."
LeAnn Pierce has lived in Carolina Beach for 21 years and currently owns two businesses including a hotel.
She said, "I do believe one of our biggest challenges will be finding a Town Manager. He or she will be the person that will work on a day to day basis with our employees and organize things for us."
She said tourism is vital to the local economy and, "That's how many of our residents make a living."
Pierce said she owns property on the Boardwalk and, "I got involved with the Boardwalk Makeover five or six years ago and that was a challenge. Everybody said that the people could not come together, communicate and all agree. You know what? We did. And our Central Business District is a better place for it. I see people down there now, adults and their children, spending quality time together and that is huge for our community and the image I think we want here in Carolina Beach."
She also served on the Town's Board of Adjustments and currently serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission. She has also served on the Business and Economic Development Committee.
On the topic of budgeting, Pierce said, "It's is similar with our households... you don't spend money you don't have. You have to find the money. I'm not a big person to go out on credit and buy things. I think you find the money, allocate it to the
most important thing. Then what you have left over is your pleasure." She said inlet dredging and beach nourishment is important for the local tourism economy.
Pierce said, "I do not want to raise taxes... but we do have to pay our bills and the money has to come from somewhere" and Council needs to look at budget expenses closely.
Jody Smith has lived in Carolina Beach since 2001 after attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She said, "I remember when I was at UNCW working on my degree there that Carolina Beach just was not a place you went. It wasn't a place to go to. It wasn't a place you took your kids and it wasn't a place to go out. I'm honored to say that over the past nine years living in Carolina Beach, 12 years total on the Island, that I've seen that turn around completely."
She works with the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project that interacts with local government on a regular basis.
Smith said challenges facing the Town include how to deal with an uncertain future for property previously purchased for a Pier and Park, dealing with finding a long-term location for the Town's Operations Department and finding a new Town Manager.
On controversial issues, Smith said, "At the top of the list is just to listen to what the people want" and, "It's important to take in as many ideas and input." She said there would be times when decisions are made that not everyone will like.
Councilman Shuttleworth said, "Those are the five folks that we narrowed it down to. I hope everyone here can see the struggle we've had over the last couple of weeks. It's been a short process. Seventeen people. There are a number of people on that list... that I wish we could have heard from. We had to get somewhere. This was the consensus of the three of us."
Shuttleworth said, "We've had some tough decisions this past year. We've had some tough personnel decisions. Some tough budget decisions. Some tough policy decisions."
Council member Sarah Friede said, "I would very much like to hear from people in Town what they thought of the five."
She said, "We have to be the ones to appoint. We cannot open it up to an election season and have people file and go through a campaign and have forums. There's
just not time. We can't go without Council members for that long. The statutes have dictated this procedure. I don't think any of us would
have picked it. None of us want to presume that we know what everybody in Town would do."
She said, "We appreciate feedback, positive and negative, we don't need people telling us we are idiots or stupid... we've narrowed this down to five" and wanted
to postpone voting on the appointments in order to digest the information heard from the five applicants and to get feedback from interested residents.
She nominated Councilman Bob Lewis for Mayor in order to let everyone
know they will be appointing for two council seats and not the Mayor's position.
The Council agreed to consider appointments at a special meeting Tuesday December 18 at 5:30PM.
Lewis does not officially take the Mayor's seat until he's taken the oath of office. That will be scheduled for another day.
Lewis' four-year Council term expires December of 2013. Shuttleworth and Friede's terms do not expire until December 2015.
Lewis would have been up for relection in November whether he was appointed Mayor or not.
Had either Shuttleworth or Friede been appointed mayor, they would only serve until December 2013 after vacating their Council seats.
In November citizens will vote for two four year council seats and one two year mayor's seat.
The interviews will appear on New Hanover County Government Access Channel 5: Friday at 7:00 am and Sunday at 6:00 pm on Charter Cable. Audio is also online at www.carolinabeach.org