Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Tracy Mitchell runs for Kure Beach Town Commissioner

A mom of four, who has been involved in the community for over 20 years, Tracy Mitchell is running for election to the Kure Beach Town Council. (Courtesy photo)

KURE BEACH — Tracy Mitchell is seeking election as a Kure Beach Town Commissioner and it’s her first time campaigning for a government position.

A homeschool mom who spent two decades serving the community through various efforts from grassroots organizations to board of directors, Mitchell is running against three other candidates. There are two seats open in this fall’s election.

Mitchell is a registered Republican but noted municipal elections are “and always should be” nonpartisan.

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.

Mitchell’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): Have you ever run for a government position before? If so, give us details: What, when, where, outcome? If not, what makes you qualified for a town commissioner (or mayor) position? 

Tracy Mitchell (TM): While I have not previously ran in a municipal election, I certainly feel I am prepared and qualified for the position of town commissioner. A demonstrated ability to lead and listen, community involvement, the understanding of our unique issues, infrastructure awareness, strong relationships with state, county, and local officials, and a proven commitment to community are all qualities that I bring to the table.

Prior to committing myself to this campaign, I not only made it a point to engage with council regarding my interest in serving, but many of our department heads as well. While I serve as chair for the Town’s Stormwater Oversight Committee, these conversations have certainly been informative and allowed a deeper level of understanding of our respective local government.

However, and most importantly, I’ve spent the past year speaking with the citizens and business owners of Kure Beach. I genuinely wanted to connect with and really understand what is important to them, what concerns them, and how they see our beach community. I’m thankful for the opportunity to currently serve and humbly ask my fellow citizens of Kure Beach to allow me the opportunity to represent and serve them in this capacity as well.

PCD: Why run for town commissioner (or mayor) now?

TM: The decision to run for town commissioner wasn’t one made without much thought, conversation, research, and consideration. Prior to running, I spent the past year seriously engaging with those within our community as well as speaking to most of those presently on council. To serve well, I feel it’s important to fully understand the issues, the culture, the people, and our unique history. 

The “Kure Culture” and flavor of Kure Beach are what makes this home. In speaking with those within our community, one message was consistent and clear: Keep Kure Beach, Kure Beach. As a mother of four, two still at home, I want this amazing community to continue to be for my grandchildren what it is to us today. For me, this is generational. 

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

TM: Density/development management and the impact on our existing infrastructure — While growth is inevitable, it must be managed and consistent with the town’s ability to maintain and upgrade systems and services as needed. According to the 2022 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, by the year 2049 our population is expected to increase by more than 40%. Accurate forecasting and our unique growth trends should continue to be closely monitored as council considers and implements long term solutions to our changing infrastructure needs. 

Beach renourishment — In speaking with residents, this was a concern most echoed. While we are accustomed to and expect the natural cycle(s) of beach erosion, the purpose of our beach replenishment is more than just aesthetic or for recreation — it is a proactive and necessary measure in maintaining and stabilizing the natural functions of the beach, protecting the town infrastructure, and minimizing property damage or loss. I cannot emphasize enough, council must continue to prioritize and focus their efforts on the funding for these necessary renourishment cycles, utilizing both state and federal funding. Relationships and collaboration matter. 

Safety — While Kure Beach is known for its relaxed, laid back, family friendly environment, peak tourist season can bring an added element of safety awareness for residents and visitors alike. Our community has a desire for increased visibility and awareness of pedestrian crosswalks across Fort Fisher Blvd. Public education and enforcement are instrumental in addressing this area of community concern.

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

TM: Kure Beach has been described as “Mayberry at the Beach” on more than one occasion. Living here, we enjoy the small hometown feel of our one-stoplight town, 365. Likewise, others look forward to visiting us just for a few short days a year and we certainly welcome their arrival. 

The message from our citizens has been two-fold around this topic: fairly sharing the financial burden and trusting council has their ear. Our FY 2023-2024 budget outlines our usage-based rate tiers and an increased financial responsibility for those who utilize the most water and sewer resources (residential as well as commercial). This eases the financial burden on residents that short-term rentals bring and also incentivizes full-time residents to be cognizant of potential overuse of our resources. 

It should also be noted that the seasonal Paid Parking Program brings in over $740,000 in revenue, which also helps offset the increased financial burden to our citizens. As we continue to face these challenges as a community, resident input and roundtable discussions are imperative. Trust in our elected officials starts with an open ear, communication, and action.

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?

TM: I’m a fan of and absolutely support procedure and comprehensive data harvesting. This information is critical, allowing council and the residents of Kure Beach to be informed, educated, and armed with the information necessary to make the best decision(s) for our community. I look forward to seeing the completed study and the corresponding data.  

That being said, we must deal in facts as this is a very complicated issue. 

  • In 2009, Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization already conducted a survey that indicated Dow Road as being the recommended route. (This public study is available on the WMPO website.) 
  • There is already an unofficial “route” via connector along Settlers Lane to K Ave.
  • There are significant and ongoing drainage issues with the MOTSU property behind the homes along Settlers Lane (this is a designated wetlands).
  • We have not been granted an easement by MOTSU
  • We will not be granted an easement from the Air Force
  • In order to get to the museum, aquarium, or ferry, Fort Fisher Blvd must be utilized.
  • We already have existing routes that are traversed daily without issue
  • Conversations and considerations around financial and environmental impacts of the respective project/s, the scope(s) of said project(s), and the long term projected budgetary maintenance of each should be made clear to the residents potentially funding this endeavor

In addition to the Dow Road option and Settlers Lane/Spot Connector route, the focus should be placed on Fort Fisher Blvd. These appear to be the most fiscally responsible options. 

Am I in favor of a safe community and place to bike, run, and walk? Yes, absolutely. 

Do I feel our streets are safe to traverse? I do and our monthly incident reports indicate such.

Am I in favor of cutting down trees in designated wetlands, erecting fencing, and adding yet another impervious surface to this island, increasing taxes to fund it? No, I am not.

Do I feel there is a compromise? Absolutely. As with any decision impacting our community, council should, without bias of desired outcome, prioritize resident feedback over nonresidents and “over the bridge” stakeholders, sincerely take the time to understand what our residents want or don’t want, and consider the ultimate and shared goal. This is where common ground may be found.

Nevertheless, the study is still ongoing and the final numbers and official recommendation(s) have yet to be determined. Once completed, we should have a better understanding of the financial and environmental impacts of the options presented and be able to make the best decision for our community.

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? 

TM: The Comprehensive Land Use Plan clearly indicates what the citizens want for our community. Residents indicated low-density (single-family dwellings) housing was very to somewhat important. In contrast, the majority of those who participated in the survey indicated high-density housing rated “not important” to “not important at all.” Residents have expressed their desire to keep Kure Beach the family friendly, non-commercialized, family beach community that it is.

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?

TM: Our climate here changes almost daily. Hurricanes, tropical storms, king tides, and other wind/water events are nothing new to us. We’ve been dealing with these natural disasters forever and we always will. While we can’t predict when these events will happen or how significant they may be, we can take preventative measures to minimize the damage by:

  • Stormwater management: reduce/minimize impervious surfaces/runoff, stormwater maintenance
  • Zoning / Land Use Planning: enforcement of building regulatory codes
  • Utilize natural barriers: beach and dune renourishment, invest in greenspaces, pervious surface incentives; implement projects that enhance the natural coastal defenses, providing protection against storm surges and erosion
  • Partnerships: foster and encourage collaboration with local, state, and federal levels, to include nonprofits and local community organizations. 

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