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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local Carolina Beach Council Appoint Bridges, Smith For Vacant Seats

Carolina Beach Council Appoint Bridges, Smith For Vacant Seats

(Left to right) Carolina Beach Councilmember’s Sarah Friede, Steve Shuttleworth and Bob Lewis appointed Tom Bridges and Jody Smith to vacant Council seats December 18.

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council appointed Jody Smith and Tom Bridges to fill two vacant seats during their Tuesday December 18, meeting. They were selected from a list of top five candidates drawn from 16 applicants who expressed an interest in serving in writing by November 30.
On November 13, the Council announced the resignation of Town Manager Tim Owens following a closed session meeting. Immediately following that announcement, Councilman Lonnie Lashley and Mayor Ray Rothrock resigned in opposition to Owen's resignation.
The Council interviewed the top five candidates from a pool of 16 people who applied for appointment to the vacancies for Mayor and a Council seat during a meeting held December 11. They voted to appoint Councilman Bob Lewis as Mayor.
Lewis, Smith and Bridges will take the oath of office at the Council's January 8th, meeting starting at 6:30PM.
The top five were Douglas B. Andrews, Dennis "Duke" Hagestrom, LeAnn Pierce, Jody N. Smith and Michael "Tom" Bridges.
Hagestrom withdrew on December 17. In a letter to Council he stated, "I recently confirmed that my appointment to a council vacancy would result in a conflict of interest regarding personnel at one of my businesses and a contract I have in place with the Town."
At a previous meeting Hagestrom was asked about a contract with the Town to rent paddle boats at the Carolina Beach Lake but said it would not be a problem to recuse himself should a related issue require a vote of Council.
Doug Andrews recently changed his voter registration. According to Marvin McFadyen, Director of New Hanover County Board of Elections, Andrews applied for a change in voter registration from an area north of Carolina Beach on November 19. The Board received the application from the state on November 27 and changed the registration on November 29.
Andrews had not previously voted in Carolina Beach and until recently was registered at an address in the Inlet Point neighborhood north of Carolina Beach. He told local news station WECT last week he has lived in Carolina Beach since 2010 and was eligible for appointment since he's eligible to vote.
On Tuesday, Town Attorney Lawrence S. Craige explained, "The Town must appoint to the Town Council a person who is qualified and registered to vote in the Town of Carolina Beach. In other words, if an applicant resides in Carolina Beach and is qualified and registered to vote at least twenty-five days before an appointment to Council, the applicant is eligible to serve on the Town Council."
Council member Sarah Friede thanked the community for their opinions and the candidates for their willingness to serve their community. She said the process was stressful and, "I would ask the Town to embrace the choices we make tonight and move on."
Councilman Bob Lewis, who will soon be sworn in as Mayor, said there were five "really extremely qualified candidates" and said, "All we are is a bunch of residents up here in a volunteer position part-time trying to steer the Town in the right direction."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said it's been an educational process and an opportunity to meet residents and people willing to help lead the Town.
He said the interviewing process was overwhelming and many residents weighed in on whom they felt were the best candidates.
Doug Andrews spoke to the audience saying, "I think the Council did an excellent job of making this process as transparent as they did. The process was not easy for this Council I'm sure and there were no guidelines or any book that really guided them down this path to make this decision short-term."
He said, "Me personally, it was a quick decision to make. I had friends that didn't" force him into it, "but we had conversation and I'm glad I went through the process. I can only hope regardless of the outcome the citizens of the Town jump in behind this Council and the new Council and allow them to spend their time providing solutions."
Friede nominated Tom Bridges saying, "He is a relatively fresh face in this Town but he has made contributions to this Town in a quiet manner that has not drawn a lot of attention to him" and, "I heard a very solid support behind him."
Friede, Shuttleworth and Lewis voted unanimously for Bridges.
Lewis nominated Jody Smith saying he was looking at a balance between the business community and the residential areas and Smith will help that balance from the residential aspect.
The Council voted unanimously to appoint Smith.
Bridges and Smith will serve until December 2013. They will have the opportunity to run for Mayor (2 years) or Council (4 years) during the November Elections. Lewis will serve as Mayor until December when his original Council term was set to expire.
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.
Tom Bridges has lived here since 2007 and moved here after working as a principal 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. He currently serves on the Town's Planning Commission and Freeman Park Committee.

On Wednesday December 19, applicant Doug Andrews submitted a letter to the editor to the Gazette. The letter states:

Dear Editor,

 I wish to thank the Carolina Beach City Council for the time and energy they spent researching and qualifying candidates applying for the open council seats vacated during 2012.  Extensive phone and face to face interviews were conducted by council members utilizing time taken from both their personal and professional lives to properly evaluate the candidates. Carolina Beach citizens should recognize that sixteen candidates were willing to invest personal time towards the opportunity of improving the quality of life and investments of their fellow citizens.

I also wish to thank all those who on my behalf provided unsolicited written support to council persons in order to assist them in making their final decisions. I am fortunate to have many friends who believed in my qualifications, integrity, and ethics, and that were willing to publically voice support for my appointment to city council.

Lastly, in response to previous inquiries presented regarding my residency and voting eligibility, I would like to provide some clarification and history to support my eligibility. In November 2012 close friends encouraged me to apply for appointment to one of the open council seats based on their belief that my experience in business operation, finance, and strategic planning, would serve my fellow citizens in Carolina Beach well. At this time I was registered to vote in New Hanover County and submitted a voter registration change immediately to reflect my address in Carolina Beach. While the timing of this change might have appeared suspect to many, my change in domicile could have been made legally some time ago. My rationale for not acting on this change in a prior year is too complex to discuss in this correspondence. I have owned property in Carolina Beach and paid property taxes since May of 2002, and the home listed on my voter registration card was purchased in September of 2010. To those who questioned my residency qualifications related to this appointment, persons who know me well will attest that since moving to the Wilmington area in April 1993 my personal life and recreational interests have been centered at Carolina Beach. In support of my connection to Carolina Beach, please recognize that my daughter attended Carolina Beach Elementary, both my grown children played in the Pleasure Island soccer league, we shop for groceries on this island, and when not working you will either find me on my boat, or at our Canal Drive home. Historically, my father after returning from WWII during the late 1940’s even waited tables at the original Ocean Plaza Building Ballroom.

In closing I would like to encourage my fellow citizens to fully support the current and newly seated council, and allow these individuals to spend their time providing solutions and guidance as opposed to dealing with non-productive controversy. I am personally looking forward to the guidance and vision that this council can bring to positively impact the lives of the citizens of Carolina Beach.

Sincerely,
Douglas B. Andrews

Center of photo: Tom Bridges.

Center of photo: Jody Smith