Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Candidate interview: Lynn Barbee, Carolina Beach Town Council candidate [Free read]

CAROLINA BEACH — The Town of Carolina Beach has several candidates running for multiple positions including Mayor as well as Town Councilmembers.

Port City Daily has emailed all of the candidates a list of the same questions and will be publishing their answers throughout the week. Answers are unedited except for formatting.

There are four candidates running for mayor — a position that will be vacated by Joe Benson who is not running for reelection.

There are two spots on Town Council up for grabs with five candidates.

Lynn Barbee: Town Council candidate

Why do you want to be mayor/town council member?

Having moved to CB in 1971 as a child, I have seen the many phases of renewal over the years. I grew up here and have a passion for my hometown with a perspective of the past and a vision for the future.  As an executive in my professional life, I have set strategy and vision for organizations as large as the town.  I feel that I can apply those skills to help the town face the mounting challenges.

What are your priorities for Carolina Beach, what do you think needs to be addressed and what do you think the town currently does well?

I think of my priorities in terms of long term vs short term.  Long term priorities are needed to ensure that we have a sustainable plan for the future.  Short term priorities are focused on tasks we must complete to move forward.

Long Term:

  1. Expand our financial planning horizon to include past performance and anticipate future needs before they become a crisis.  Create a culture of transparency that pushes clear information to citizens.
  2. Establish a focus on Coastal Infrastructure by putting resources in place to manage our relationships with USACOE, NHC, and NCDEQ.  Our shoreline resources and inlets are critical to our economy and security.  We must have a coordinated effort to tackle the funding, regulatory, and technical hurdles.
  3. Develop a vision for our central business district that continues to provide a draw for locals and tourist alike, with shops, activities and events that continue the tradition.
  4.  Determine the appropriate amount of reserve funds requirement to manage foreseeable events and create a plan to achieve it.

Short Term:

  1. Hire a highly qualified town manager.
  2. Implement bike and pedestrian safety measures including those at Hamlet crosswalk and Ocean Blvd. 
  3. Complete the planned infrastructure projects for water, sewer, and stormwater, including completion of the lake dredge project.
  4. Secure an additional 15 years of renourishment funding by supporting the USACOE Beach Renourishment Evaluation Report.
  5. Ensure that the Land Use plan is updated and reflects the voice of the community.

How would you like to see the issues at Freeman Park solved? (Erosion, overcrowding, land disputes with private owners)

The beauty of Freeman Park creates a unique opportunity to enjoy our natural resources.  Erosion is part of the natural beauty.  While it may temporarily limit the number of visitors, it must be managed for safety and environmental impact.  I support any USACOE beneficial sand placement opportunities but do not support renourishment of the area.  Freeman Park carries an Inlet Hazard Area designation and as such is deemed too unstable for renourishment.  It would not make financial sense.

Overcrowding is not a Freeman Park issue specifically, we see it at other locations during peak periods.  I support possible limitations required for public safety and environmental impact, however attempts to manage the natural experience are subjective.  While some visitors may desire peaceful solitude, others desire the communal aspects with their friends on the beach.

The town’s job is to effectively manage the resource.

It is too soon to see how the land disputes will resolve. Cost will limit the options.

Parking rates and other costs like passes to the park have steadily risen to account for increased spending by the town, do you think it is fair to pass these costs to visitors that the town relies on to survive instead of raising taxes for residents? Would you like to see parking fees decreased?

A coastal town incurs significant challenges due to its seasonal nature. This creates surge requirements on all town resources.  It is not uncommon for towns that rely on tourism to recover these costs thru taxes and fees. Carolina Beach is first and foremost a family town and asking the families that derive no benefit from the tourism industry to shoulder the burden seems unfair.

I believe free market will determine what is a “reasonable” fee, however, we must be keenly aware of the tourism impact. Currently, we are a great destination value.

Speaking of parking, what are your plans to help solve parking woes? Would you consider a parking deck a viable option?

Our parking issues are not unique, every popular vacation destination has similar issues. I certainly believe we have some parking challenges requiring attention and better management, I also believe they are overstated. Is it inconvenient at times?  Yes.  However, we are primarily talking only a few weekends a year.

We must manage the crowds and the guest experience.  When is the beach and/or boardwalk so crowded that it begins to erode the visitor experience?  Overcrowding will impact the hotels and businesses that serve the tourists.  We only have two levers to pull to control overcrowding, cost and access (i.e. parking).

I support a comprehensive analysis of capacity that maintains the desired visitor experience.  Once that capacity is determined, we need enough parking to support it.

At this moment I would not support a public owned parking deck option as I believe it is too costly and will lead to overcrowding and erosion of the visitor experience.

With the firing of two town managers in a year, what qualities would you look for in a new manager? How could these issues be avoided in the future?

The ideal Town manager should be a strong financial and project manager, with experience in a town with a high transient population in a coastal environment. It is also imperative that the manager have the leadership skills to grow and empower the town staff to achieve excellence.

I have many years of experience in hiring top management. The most critical step in any hiring process is properly defining the job description, traits, and competencies of the position. Then we must utilize a comprehensive assessment process to determine competency. We should not shy away from utilizing outside resource to “shake the top talent out of the tree” for consideration of this opportunity.

How would you balance moving the town forward in terms of economy and new business/condos/homes and maintaining the ‘small town’ vibe of Carolina Beach?

The small town feel does not come from density. We will always be a geographically small town even at full build out because we are a small island. I think your question is spot on with keeping the “vibe”.  The vibe comes from several things. Unique shops, restaurants and activities centered around our natural beauty create the vibe.  Strong community involvement supports the bonds among our residents. Safety and security underpins our laid back lifestyle. Access to amenities by being bike and pedestrian-friendly contribute to the overall experience. This is where my 40+ years of perspective becomes an asset.  I have seen multiple regenerations of our town and the “vibe” is alive and well.

Is there anything else you would like people to know about you or your hopes for Carolina Beach?

Carolina Beach is a very special place which is sometimes lost of those of us closest to it.  Many are making huge personal sacrifices to enjoy what we have.  They see us from the outside, evaluate us, and then choose us as their destination.  Sure, we have problems to solve, but we can solve them.  We will do that together, with a sense of community and resolve.


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