Sunday, September 24, 2023

City council candidates at public forum Thursday night

Margaret Haynes_Fotor
Mayor pro-tem Margaret Haynes is up for re-election during this year’s city council race. Photo by: James Mieczkowski

With three seats up for grabs, the city council campaign trail heats up as Wilmington residents will hear  candidates respond to questions about local issues during a meet and greet public forum tonight.

Local organizations Residents of Old Wilmington (ROW) and the Downtown Business Alliance (DBA) will hold the public forum at the Hannah Block Historic USO, 120 South 2nd Street, Wilmington, with WECT anchor Jon Evans serving as the event’s moderator.

According to a release from ROW, there will be an opportunity to meet and greet the candidates at 6 p.m. and the program will begin promptly at 6:30 p.m.

“Subjects included during tonight’s forum will be a wide range of important issues facing the City including public safety, city budget, roads and transportation, the proposed municipal service district, and more,” said ROW President Sylvia Kochler. “Candidates have not been given the questions, or even the topics, in advance.”

Kohler went on to say each candidate was asked to fill out a questionnaire including yes or no questions about his or her prior public service experience, as well as positions on a few key topics. The questionnaire responses will be compiled into a handout for forum attendees.

The forum is free and open to the public and a period will be set aside for questions from the audience.

“The purpose of the Forum is to afford voters the opportunity to ask questions about, and hear the candidates’ views on city issues, and especially those issues that directly affect downtown residents and businesses,” said Kochler.

With councilwoman Laura Padgett retiring and Margaret Haynes and Neil Anderson running for re-election, eight candidates will compete for the three open seats.

Those candidates running for Wilmington City Council include:

  • Margaret Haynes (incumbent)
  • Neil Anderson (incumbent)
  • Paul Lawler
  • John Presswood
  • Frank J. Madonna
  • Hollis B. Briggs Jr.
  • Alvin Rogers
  • Deb Hays

According to Kochler, incumbent council member Neil Anderson will be unable to attend the forum due to a scheduling conflict, and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is also not expected to attend the event as he runs unopposed for another two-year term.

ROW is a non-profit organization and neighborhood community of shared goals and responsibilities of people living in the Historic Districts covering the oldest parts of the City of Wilmington, North Carolina—the area between Red Cross and Queen Streets, from the Cape Fear River to Eighth Street, according to the organization’s website.

According to DBA President Jim Bitto, “the Downtown Business Alliance of Wilmington is a non-profit organization whose mission is to unite, promote,& support the Downtown Wilmington community. We are a membership-based organization that, through civic activism, annual special events and corporate sponsorship, are able to help make downtown a viable and attractive community for residents, business owners and visitors.”

James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD

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