Monday, July 15, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Rochelle Whiteside runs for Burgaw board of commissioners

Rochelle Whiteside is running for a spot on the Burgaw Board of Commissioners. (Courtesy photo)

BURGAW — Rochelle Whiteside is hoping to retain one of three open seats on the Town of Burgaw Board of Commissioners. A retired school teacher, Whiteside has served on the Pender County Board of Education and currently sits on the county library board.

“Serving on these boards has given me experience in understanding the purpose, the reaches and possible over-reaches facing a board member,” she said. “As a local public school teacher, for 28 years, I served on countless school and community liaison committees, which I feel developed my team-work skills as a good listener, assessor, communicator and creative problem solver.”

Whiteside is running against five other candidates, two of who are incumbents.

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.

Whiteside’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 8 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 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): What makes you qualified for a commissioner position?

Rochelle Whiteside (RW): I have served on several community service committees and boards, including the Pender Arts Council, Pender Spring Fest Committee, the
Merry Music Making Committee and Burgaw’s Centennial Committee. For this
service I was honored to receive both the Community Service and Volunteer Of
The Year Awards. I believe that receiving these awards speaks volumes to the
reason I feel qualified and drawn to serve as a Burgaw Town Commissioner. It is
evidence of my love of my community and my desire to do my part to help keep
our town a safe, comfortable, thriving place to live.

PCD: Why run for commissioner now?

RW: Burgaw is changing before our eyes. Whether that change is positive or negative
is determined by the amount of thought and planning which precedes it. I want to
work towards maintaining our quality of life and keep our town affordable for the people who live here while embracing the changes and growth which are happening and will continue to happen at a rapid pace.

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

RW: 1. Aging infrastructure must be repaired or replaced before the town out-reaches
its capability to provide added infrastructure for new development.
2. Zoning to protect all of our neighborhoods and existing businesses will help keep the small town amenities accessible for residents.
3. Support for local businesses, services and schools will keep our town functioning successfully.

PCD: Burgaw is updating its park and recreation master plan. What do you think should be included to expand recreational opportunities for residents and visitors?

RW: Our Parks and Recreation Department has made great strides to meet the needs
of our community! I would like to see Community Arts Facilities in place in our town. I would also like to expand the Hiking Trail and sidewalks to the western side of the town.

PCD: Pender County is growing at a rate of nearly 1.3% annually. 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 Burgaw? Are there ideas that haven’t yet been considered?

RW: Repairing and replacing aging infrastructure for homes and businesses, which are already in place, so that new construction does not overtax our capacity, from the beginning, will keep residents’ quality of life from suffering as we continue to grow.

Creatively planning for parking and closely monitoring zoning so that all our neighborhoods and businesses remain safe, comfortable and accessible will help keep our small town feeling. Small town living, at its best, offers easy access to amenities, such as shopping, health care, schools, government services, etc. The convenience of being able to walk, bike or drive to take care of daily tasks or to simply enjoy exercising, as well as dependence on competent and timely police, fire and rescue services, are benefits of living in a small community.

Our citizens want our water, electricity, street lighting, drainage and streets and sidewalks to be safe and reliable. In quality small town living, citizens are people whose voices are heard — people who have a say in issues which affect their lives. Continuing this tradition by electing town board members who really care about our community is very important!

PCD: An increase in inquiries related to short-term rentals (ex. Airbnb / VRBO) in Burgaw has the planning department looking into the possibility of allowing them within town limits. Do you think Burgaw should consider allowing short-term rentals, why or why not? Should they be regulated?

RW: I do think short-term rentals add a dimension of convenience and comfort to our
town by serving families who gather for holidays or events. They also offer visitors who are looking for an interesting, small town stop-over as they travel to other destinations. I believe that most visitors who stay in short term rentals are looking for the kind of experience which we have to offer. They also boost our local economy.

PCD: The Burgaw Fire Department has requested additional funds from commissioners over the years and most recently asked for a 2-cent hike on the fire tax, last increased 10 years ago. While it was not included in this year’s budget, do you support increasing the fire tax to replace aging vehicles and hire more personnel?

RW: Our citizens should be able to count on well-equipped and competent fire and rescue services. Efficient fire protection is essential for a high quality of life. I do not know, at this time, if the funds for equipping our fire department are best secured by increasing the fire tax. But, if elected town commissioner, I would study the situation and all possible resources for funding. I certainly believe we should fund our fire and rescue services by the most expedient and well-planned means possible.

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