Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Connie Mearkle runs for Kure Beach Council

Connie Mearkle is running for election to the Kure Beach Town Council against three other candidates for two open seats. (Courtesy photo)

KURE BEACH — Connie Mearkle is looking to be elected to an open seat on the Kure Beach Town Council. Having never run for a government position before, Mearkle has served on the board of adjustment and stormwater committee. She is currently a member of the planning and zoning board, as well as the historic preservation commission.

A retired vice president with Lockheed Martin, Mearkle has 30 years of financial experience to ensure an annual balanced town budget and “sustainable” financial decisions. She moved to Kure Beach full-time following her retirement.

Running unaffiliated, Mearkle is up against three other candidates for two open spots on council.

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

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

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

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.

To vote early in New Hanover County, visit the Northeast Library (1241 Military Cutoff Road). From Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, voters can also go to CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 Second St.), Carolina Beach Town Hall (1121 Lake Park Blvd.) and the NHC Senior Center (2222 S. College Road).

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

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

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 council now?

Connie Mearkle (CM): I’m running now because I believe the town would benefit from my extensive financial background and my corporate leadership experience. Through serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission, the Historical Preservation Commission, the Board of Adjustment and the Stormwater Committee, I have developed an understanding of the town operations, its ordinances and infrastructure.

I am in a position where I can add value to the council and to the community. I believe in the power of community involvement, support and encourage active citizen participation, which will create a sense of belonging. Throughout my career, I’ve served in volunteer roles, including as treasurer and board member of numerous nonprofit organizations, responsible for preparing their annual budgets and evaluating
project spending.

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

CM: Beach renourishment and protection is a top issue for Kure Beach. I will work to ensure our Coastal Storm Risk Management projects continue to have strong federal/state support. Our beautiful beach is important to our homeowners and tourism.

Ensuring that our infrastructure is adequate (roads, water, sewer and stormwater) for our residents and that we prepare for the growth from the $55 million expansion/renovation at the Fort Fisher Aquarium and the Fort Fisher Museum. I will work to ensure that we have a long-range plan for infrastructure that will anticipate this growth.

Fiscal responsibility as it pertains to the annual budget process and evaluating spending funds on individual projects. I will be very involved in the budgeting process and ensuring that funds are available for projects. It is imperative that we have adequate funding that provides for infrastructure and the safety of our citizens.

PCD: Where do you see the balance of accommodating tourists and other locals outside Kure Beach and ensuring Kure Beach residents’ concerns are addressed? 

CM: As the region grows, Kure Beach will continue to benefit from tourism and daily beach goers. Accommodating increased tourism will require us to prepare for adequate safety (fire, police and walkways) and infrastructure (roads, water, and sewer and stormwater facilities). Our residents need to be assured that tourism will not be to the detriment of our locals. Tourism will require a focus on safety for our community in terms of sidewalks, crosswalks and green spaces. Most important, we don’t want the small town feel to be jeopardized by tourism.

PCD: The extension of the island greenway is a contentious topic in Kure Beach. What action do you think the town should take on the issue and do you see a compromise between differing opinions?

CM: In general, I support Greenway. When our community was surveyed via the land use plan, the number three priority was enhancing the bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It is important to have adequate green spaces for our community that will provide a safe environment to relax and exercise.

There are three routes under consideration that are being analyzed in a feasibility study (funded by a grant) that should be completed by mid-next year. I understand that one route is for the greenway to be extended behind the residents’ homes on the West side of Settlers Avenue, who have privacy and safety concerns. We will have to address these issues if that is the route selected. There has been no recommendation or decision made on this issue.

PCD: What is your long-term vision for development in Kure Beach? Are there any types of development, residential or otherwise, you think will not fit in Kure Beach? 

CM: When we look at Kure Beach, there are very few vacant parcels available for development, therefore, it is important to develop those parcels consistent with the towns current look and feel. My vision for development is consistent with the Kure Beach land use plan, which reflect what our community wants, which is to preserve the small-town character through a development pattern of low-density single-family homes and locally owned businesses.

Given that we have a height restriction of 35 feet for buildings and our business district is very small, development that is not consistent with our town is not likely.

PCD: As evidence shows, climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of storms and hurricanes, along with sea level rise. What should the town do to protect residents, property and infrastructure?

CM: As we see more intense storms, our town is actively engaged in being prepared to react quickly to weather events. We need to continue to be diligent with our coastal storm damage reduction and beach protection efforts, which includes beach renourishment and dune protection.

Before and during storms our town emergency manager keeps residents informed and coordinates with our public works department and outside utility companies to ensure the town is ready for the storm and to address any issues that arise from the storm. After major storms the town collects information from residents as to where there was flooding on streets and properties, in order to correct any stormwater issues before the next storm event.

The town also coordinates with MOTSU to inspect and maintain functionality of our stormwater runoff ditches, which conveys stormwater for our community across federally owned property to the Cape Fear River.

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