Friday, April 12, 2024

Small business owner, veteran Salette Andrews joins city council race

Salette Andrews has announced her candidacy for Wilmington City Council. Municipal elections will be held Nov. 7. (Courtesy Salette Andrews)

WILMINGTON — Collaboration and a fresh perspective: Those are the two themes a new candidate for the 2023 city council race is hoping to bring to the dais should voters elect her this November. 

READ MORE: Marlowe Foster seeking a seat on Wilmington City Council

An Air Force veteran, Salette Andrews announced Thursday she’s running for one of three seats open on Wilmington City Council.

Mayor pro tem Margaret Haynes and council members Neil Anderson and Kevin Spears terms are expiring this year. Haynes said she doesn’t intend to seek another term after serving 13 years, another reason Andrews said it’s important to join the race.

“I can’t imagine an all-male city council,” she told Port City Daily Wednesday.

Andrews’ announcement follows Marlowe Foster’s from April.

A small business owner, Andrews addressed the common public perception that, right now, all council members are involved in real estate. 

Charlie Rivenbark, Luke Waddell and Mayor Bill Saffo each work in the industry. Anderson, who said he plans to seek another term, also has a real estate license, though said his last transaction was in 2007. His main job is as an independent contractor selling furniture for importers and manufacturers. Clifford Barnett is a pastor and Spears, who said he will “possibly” re-run, is an entrepreneur and IT professional.

“I have a perspective that’s not from a developer, but maybe more of a private citizen that’s called to public service,” Andrews said.

She runs an Etsy shop selling estate jewelry, collectibles and art, and also hosts her own YouTube channel teaching evidence-based nutrition and cooking classes.

Andrews lost her son to cancer at age 22 from toxic burn pits during his service in Iraq with the U.S. Army.

“Pollution is very personal to me,” she said. Andrews also is a cancer survivor, with a potential link to environmental toxins, though near difficult to prove causation, she said. 

Andrews plans to continue advocating for keeping Wilmington’s drinking water free of toxic chemicals and holding polluters accountable instead of leaving taxpayers funding the bill. She’s specifically speaking to Chemours for its PFAS pollution in the Cape Fear River. 

PFAS exposure has been linked to health issues, including cancer, development delays in children, autoimmune illness, increased cholesterol and reproductive issues; though no studies have confirmed the connection.

Other top priorities include transportation, affordable housing, and community safety.

“I’ve got a history of knowing that people need to work together in order to get big things done,” she said.

Her time as an air traffic controller for the U.S. Air Force is where she learned the value of teamwork. It was also Andrews’ first experience dealing with traffic issues.

Disappointed with the failure of the quarter-cent transportation in the fall, Andrews said public transit, pedestrian and bike paths and fixing roads need to be addressed. Improving public transportation, including amenities at bus stops and increased alternative transit, are a key solution to addressing traffic concerns, she said.

“There was so much issue with inflation in the fall, I think the word ‘tax’ is really scary for a lot of people in times like that,” Andrews said of the proposed transportation tax. “I also think there was not a lot of leadership educating the public on what this would do.”

She’s an advocate for additional funding for roadways, though North Carolina Department of Transportation holds the majority of the purse strings. The city of Wilmington oversees 400 miles of roadways, with the rest owned privately or by NCDOT.

“It costs a lot of money, but there is so much to be gained from it in terms of traffic, which people say is their number one thing to hate,” Andrews said. 

READ MORE: Local drivers lose 26 hours a year due to congestion, spend $600 on wasted fuel, report says

She attributes the increase in traffic, development and growth to the attractiveness of the city. Andrews and her husband David, Pender County manager, have owned a home in Wilmington for a decade but moved here full-time during the pandemic. 

They moved from the Triangle, where David worked remotely with the Town of Carrboro before taking his role with Pender in summer 2022. Andrews owns her business and was able to continue her job from anywhere. They were drawn to Wilmington due to its beaches, and multitude of restaurants and entertainment.

The Andrews were among the 1% annual population growth New Hanover experienced over the last three years. 

That balloon brought with it a rise for more affordable living, Andrews explained. If elected, she plans to advocate for more incentives and regulations the city can put in place to assist homebuyers. One example is density bonuses for developers.

“That’s something we have to look at,” she said. “But we also have to look at the impacts to traffic, schools and other things before we start putting in denser housing.”

New Hanover County’s rate of population and household growth has outpaced the state over the past 10 years, a trend expected to continue through 2025, according to the 2021 county and city housing assessment.

A balance of density and sprawl needs to be the focus on sustainable and smart growth, according to Andrews.

However, she strongly believes the city should retain its authority to regulate zoning and density requirements. Andrews opposes Senate Bill 317, which would give developers the ability to circumvent zoning requirements if 20% of units were dedicated to workforce housing.

She touted developments, such as Good Shepherd’s permanent supportive housing, that are vital to decreasing the numbers of people living on the streets.

“And we need to realize there are mental health and addiction issues all wrapped up in community policing issues,” Andrews said. “And we need to get them the resources they need for all of that.”

Certain occupations, such as frontline workers, can get “more bang for their buck” in Pender and Brunswick counties, Andrews said, adding the city needs a mix of housing options to make it more affordable.

Though workers need to be able to afford to live locally, Andrews said. She pointed to the recent salary increases for law enforcement as great first steps, “but there might be more needed.”

Also adequately funding law enforcement to ensure community safety, is a top concern. But Andrews stands behind finding inexpensive ways to increase enforcement.

“We need to emphasize de-escalation and community policing,” she said. “It’s not as expensive as the fancy things police like to ask for. There needs to be a balance of talking to the community and asking about their needs. It’s a worthy investment to see what citizens need as far as making them feel safe.”

She is also focused on helping law enforcement’s service for keeping fentanyl off the streets.

State public officials estimate 77% of North Carolina’s overdose deaths are related to fentanyl, adding to the opioid epidemic. 

“We need to consider all harm reduction strategies to save lives,” she said.

Andrews wants to ensure continued funding is available for services such as Coastal Horizons’ medication-assisted treatment as well as The Healing Place’s peer-to-peer recovery support.

The local municipal elections will be held Nov. 7; official filing in North Carolina opens noon July 7.

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