Mayoral candidates face off in Kure Beach is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

Incumbent Dean Lambeth, left, and current town commissioner Emilie Swearingen answer questions during a mayoral candidates forum in Kure Beach.
Incumbent Dean Lambeth, left, and current town commissioner Emilie Swearingen answer questions during a mayoral candidates forum in Kure Beach. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

Two familiar local politicians met in front of residents Wednesday night at the Kure Beach Community Center to express their views on the town’s issues.

Current town commissioner Emilie Swearingen and incumbent Dean Lambeth are vying for the position of Kure Beach mayor. While both have worked together as members of the town’s council, they differ on certain issues.

The biggest issue that the candidates disagree on is that of seismic testing off the coast of North Carolina. Unlike its neighboring beach towns and the city of Wilmington, Kure Beach voted down a resolution to declare their opposition to offshore drilling and seismic testing. Lambeth was one of the votes against the resolution.

“Seismic testing, in and of itself, is not that big of a deal because it’s used for making sure we have compatible sand for our beaches, which is what we want,” Lambeth said Wednesday night. “I don’t particularly care for offshore drilling, but seismic testing doesn’t hurt any animal in any way.”

Swearingen vehemently disagreed, presenting Lambeth with a document outlining the ways seismic testing could affect the environment.

“I am extremely opposed to offshore oil,” Swearingen said, noting that she has spoken in front of the United States Congress twice on the issue. “I will continue to speak out and also work … to educate the public.”

Lambeth and Swearingen also gave differing answers when asked what the biggest public safety concern in Kure Beach currently is.

“The biggest safety concern is usually the drugs which are brought to our beach,” Lambeth said. “The police have done a great job taking care of this.”

“We don’t have a major drug problem,” Swearingen, who is also the current police commissioner, rebutted, saying that oceanfront and pedestrian safety are bigger issues in her eyes.

Both candidates boasted about their working relationships with other local, state and federal representatives, assuring residents that whoever was elected would continue to work with those leaders to help Kure Beach.

“I think we have a wonderful working relationship with the town of Carolina Beach,” said Swearingen. “We have a wonderful delegation in Raleigh.”

“We have a good relationship because I know all those guys and I call them continually,” Lambeth said.

Swearingen and Lambeth noted that the town’s relationship with New Hanover County leaders was not as cordial, but said they would work on smoothing it over if elected mayor.

When asked why she should be elected to the position of mayor, Swearingen said, “I think it’s time for change in Kure Beach.”

Lambeth, who has served three terms as mayor, replied, “You don’t want to change anything,” noting that the town has done well under his leadership, particularly financially.

“Change is coming whether we want it or not,” Swearingen said in her rebuttal. “It just depends on how we want to handle it.”

Municipal elections will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 3. There are also two candidates, Joseph Whitley and incumbent David Heglar, running unopposed for two open council seats.

The candidates forum was sponsored by the Pleasure Island Chamber of Commerce. The questions posed to the candidates were submitted by town residents and by moderators representing three media outlets: the Island Gazette, the Star News, and Port City Daily.