Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Steve Smith runs unopposed for second term as Topsail Beach mayor

Steve Smith is seeking reelection as Topsail Beach mayor. (Courtesy photo)

TOPSAIL BEACH — Steve Smith is running for reelection as Topsail Beach mayor, which would mark his second term. A retired international business executive, Smith was formerly a Topsail Beach commissioner from 2015 to 2019 before being elected as mayor.

He is running unopposed and has been a part of the Topsail Beach community since the ’50s.

“I have seen our community develop and face similar challenges we have as a community today,” Smith wrote. “That gives me knowledge and an understanding of how we became the community we are today.”

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, covering issues such as balancing growth and infrastructure, beach nourishment, development and climate change impacts. Smith’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.

One-stop voting in Pender County will be held at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, 801 S. Walker St. in Burgaw from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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 2021; 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 mayor now?

Steve Smith (SS): We have a great town with a fabulous town staff. Our commissioners are focused on our town’s future. To continue as mayor, allows me to continue to support and translate actions agreed by commissioners into workable objectives for our town. I also believe the development of our town staff to meet the new demands we see as a town is important for a town’s success.

Our community wants to remain easy going, quiet, friendly and family oriented. We support our few businesses and do not want the aggressive growth seen in other communities. It is important we apply the values our parents used as they developed Topsail Beach and keep Topsail Beach a desirable destination for families, friends and our visitors.

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

SS: Maintaining our water system – While our water system has not had to deal with the “forever chemical” issue other water systems have seen, we need to understand the impact of growth and other stresses being placed on water sources. We must ensure the town has a plan if a source is lost and to also consider the longer term with partnerships with other regional suppliers.

Long-term building and equipment program – We built our last building over 50 years ago. They have held up to many hurricanes, but it is time to improve our buildings to handle the new technologies, personnel needs, equipment requirements and community desires. This will require tax increase and state support. We have gained support from our property owners and the state. We have and will continue to keep our property owners educated on our town’s needs.

Retention of qualified personnel – Having staff that can meet the changing requirements of a successful town is an ongoing challenge. We do not have unlimited resources and other communities need these specific skill sets. We have to provide the training, remuneration and recognition that allows our town staff to feel part of our community. We encourage their participation in a manner that takes their knowledge into account in our decision process.

Septic System Management – With climate change and the increased uses our homes and rental properties are seeing today versus 20 years ago it is important that these septic systems be maintained in a manner that protects our community. However, with the increased full-time use and changes in the water table it is important that the town has a plan to handle this waste, one option is a sewer system.

Our commissioners have been doing the research on what might be best for our community. While I see our septic systems handling our needs for the short-term, it is climate change and sea level rise that may force a change when you look out 15 years or more. When our community has to consider this change to a sewer system, we need to use best practices and determine if we are town sourced or have a regional partner for sewer. The building and correct operation of a sewer system is expensive but without a viable way to handle waste we do not have a community.

PCD: Do you support the current conditional rezoning request to build on a portion of the Point? What do you think the commissioners’ role is in this process? Have they overstepped asking for additional studies or have they not asked enough questions?

SS: My role as Mayor is to ensure that the process is followed correctly so all information is heard on any issue we face as a town. This includes that any legal requirement is met and that the commissioners are given factual information, so their decision is driven by facts and not misinformation or emotions.

PCD: Where do you stand on paid parking? It was a contentious topic throughout last year and could bring in needed revenue for Topsail Beach; however, many residents were opposed. What ideas do you have that may have not yet been addressed on this topic?

Paid Parking has been discussed by three different Town Board of Commissioners through the years. During each of these discussions when all information on impact to property owners and expected revenue was understood the commissioners have voted to remain with free parking with the exception of the one property we lease for parking. In the coming years, I would expect to see our town transition to paid parking if it fits our community needs and desires.

PCD: The town has a long wish list of items in terms of buildings, equipment and staff. How would you prioritize funding over the next few years to ensure the most appropriate use of Topsail Beach’s limited budget?

SS: Our commissioners are focused on the long-term town needs. We have a list of buildings, equipment and personnel needs. When you look at that number it is above $100 million when everything is considered over the next 10 years. This includes a new fire truck as required by state regulations and a new Fire/Police/Admin Building along with other Public Works equipment. We do have the advice of a financial consultant and other state organizations on how we should handle these financial needs. We are in the process of identifying our tax revenues for these projects and will continue to seek grants from state and federal programs. We recently received
an $8 million grant from the state for our fire/police/Admin building. As mayor and with Town Staff we will continue to find opportunities to gain support for these projects. There are also regional partnerships that may offer a better solution for some projects versus our Town as the only provider for certain infrastructure needs.

PCD: With sea-level rise continuing to increase, flood resilience and preventing natural disaster scenarios is a necessity in our hurricane-prone zone. What more would you suggest is implemented to protect the coastline, businesses and residents?

SS: We have been working from our 30-year beach management plan and it is currently being updated by our Beach, Inlet & Sound Committee. This plan has allowed our Town to recover our beach dune system and increase the protection from storms. We are also looking at ways to reduce tidal flooding we are now seeing due to climate change. We have active engineering work underway to provide us ways to reduce tidal flooding. We also continue to update our ordinances to handle the changes we are seeing from climate change.

Tips or comments? Email amy@localdailymedia.com.

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