Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Joe Cranford runs for Belville commissioner seat

Joe Cranford, a retired park ranger and assistant teacher, is seeking his first elected position running for a spot on the Town of Belville’s board of commissioners. (Courtesy photo)

BELVILLE — Joe Cranford, a retired park ranger and assistant teacher, is seeking his first elected position running for a spot on the Town of Belville’s board of commissioners.

In 2020, Cranford was appointed to the town’s parks and recreation board; he became vice president of the board in 2022 and this year was appointed as board president.

With 44 years of local government experience, Cranford spent 30 years with the city of High Point, North Carolina as a park ranger and 14 years as an assistant teacher with Guilford County Schools.

Cranford, a Republican, is up against incumbents Charles Bost and Morgan Mehler for two open positions on the Belville commissioners.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, covering issues such as balancing growth and infrastructure, traffic and tourism, and climate change impacts.

Cranford’s answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity. 

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 31 and must be returned Nov. 7 (or post-marked as such).
  • Registration to vote will be open until Oct. 13; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration will be available only during one-stop early voting.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 19 and remains open through Nov. 4 (3 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

In Brunswick County, voters can cast ballots early at the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension (in lieu of the Board of Elections) at 25 Referendum Drive, Building N, in Bolivia.

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their registration cards, verified here.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

The paywall has been dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

A photo ID is required to cast a ballot in 2023; more information can be found on the state board of elections website.

The candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. 

Port City Daily (PCD): Why run for town commisisoner now?

Joe Cranford (JC): My qualifications for Town of Belville Commissioner starts with my love of Belville and its “Small Town Charm.” I chose to run for commissioner now because our town and county are growing at an incredible rate and no slow down is in sight.

The last numbers I saw had Brunswick County as the fastest-growing county in the state and the seventh-fastest growing county in the nation. Now is the time to look forward and plan our future with the input of our citizens. We can make the best decisions for a prosperous Belville and not lose that “Small Town Charm.”

I want to be part of the decision-making, with the input of Belville’s residents.

PCD: Name three issues you think are most affecting the city currently and describe how you would work toward tackling them.

JC: There are numerous issues affecting the Town of Belville currently and I will address three of them.

1. Keeping the traffic flowing on River Road during the construction of the multi-use path and the widening of Highway 133. While it will be an inconvenience, even with the efforts to use off-travel hours for construction, once these two projects are completed they will have been worth the issues we encountered.

2. Continue to address the drainage/flooding issues that occur with heavy or prolonged rain in some areas of Belville. With the coordination of the citizens of
Belville, Brunswick County, State of North Carolina and the Town of Belville working together to identify the cause, fix the problem and then continue with proper maintenance, the flooding will be rectified.

3. The Belville Riverwalk expansion is moving forward and the development of
downtown Belville on the Brunswick River is a high priority. With landowners and developers working with Belville, a new downtown is viable.

PCD: Do you agree with the town’s recently adopted ordinance to regulate open burns? Why or why not?

JC: I do agree with the ordinance to regulate open burns. The ordinance follows the state of North Carolina burn regulations. Due to the number of wildfires in the area recently, regulating open burns just makes good sense.

PCD: The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is reaching its end-of-life and funding has yet to be allocated toward its replacement. What have officials gotten wrong and right in expediting the process? What would you do that is different? Also, do you support a toll and any of the options on the table for its replacement? Explain.

JC: My concerns with the replacement of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is how it will affect the residents of Belville. How long will the project take and where is the proposed replacement bridge going to be located? I have more questions about the bridge than answers, currently.

I do not support a toll of any type because I think it would overload the Isabel Holmes Bridge and it would be an undue monetary burden on the citizens that commute daily over the bridge.

PCD: Brunswick County is growing at a rate of nearly 6% annually, the highest in the state. How do you plan to keep pace in terms of jobs and housing, while also balancing quality of life for residents, especially with the small town feel of Belville? Do you have some ideas that haven’t yet been considered?

JC: There is no doubt that Brunswick County is the fastest-growing county in North Carolina. When you live in an area where thousands of people come to vacation, you should consider yourself fortunate to live in such a great area.

Our growth cannot exceed current and planned infrastructure. Future schools, transportation issues, health and safety, environmental and historical preservation all add up to maintain a great quality of life in our region.

More housing projects are being constructed and are in the planning stages. If these projects are planned correctly, and Belville’s and Brunswick County’s reputation as a county that is concerned about a great quality of life continue, then new job opportunities will seek us out.

PCD: How should Belville’s leadership approach future development?

JC: Belville’s leadership will approach the rapid growth in both Belville and Brunswick County by asking: “What is best for our citizens? How will this affect our economy? Are we protecting our environment and historical areas? Will this affect our health and safety?” A great “quality of life” is what makes our “Small Town Charm” work — we’ve got to maintain that!

PCD: How do you envision the use of Belville’s Riverwalk in the future, especially in terms of recreation and economic development?

JC: My ideal future for the Town of Belville’s Riverwalk Park would be the completion of the riverwalk expansion. I envision the addition of a splash pad for kids, a water taxi service to and from downtown Wilmington, and possibly a floating restaurant on our side of the Brunswick River.

The construction started on the new Downtown Belville on the Brunswick River, and a new boat ramp that is less dependent on the tides would be a positive by providing new shops, restaurants and more job opportunities. Belville Riverwalk is such a great asset to the Town of Belville and we will maintain its environmental and integrity.

PCD: With drainage issues a top concern within the town, how can the board of commissioners implement change to improve stormwater runoff and reduce flooding?

JC: The drainage issues are being addressed by the town and it will take the coordination of multiple government agencies and the citizens of Belville to correct the issues and maintain the property affected.

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