OAK ISLAND — Oak Island resident Niki Cutler is running for a seat on Oak Island’s Town Council.
Author’s note: Port City Daily’s candidate interviews are largely unedited. Edits have only been made to correct spelling or grammatical errors. Candidates were not given word or character limits to answer each question.
What is your campaign platform?
As an Oak Island property owner, I am running for Town Council because I have the experience to solve problems that affect our residents. I do not like wasting money. I will keep the Town of Oak Island financially stable and functioning to the benefit of all of our residents, business owners, and guests.
What makes you qualified to serve on Town Council?
I have been a resident of Oak Island since 2005 and have been a member of the Oak Island Fire Department and Oak Island Water Rescue. During my 3-year term on the Board of Adjustment, I gained valuable experience with Town ordinances and established excellent working relationships with Town staff.
What are the top three issues Oak Island is facing right now and what’s your position on these issues?
1. Reduce Wasteful Spending – This is my tax money and your tax money. I urge you to consider some of the recent purchases made and determine if these were wise usage of our money.
2. Town Services – Basic Public Works services such as lawn debris pick-up and getting our roads fixed are important to me as they affect everyone. These services need to be provided in the timely and professional manner that our tax-paying citizens expect and deserve.
3. Mainland Growth – We must implement strategies now to ensure manageable growth on the mainland that most satisfies our Island and mainland residents. This must be proactively done and not as a reaction down the road. The time is now! This is a critical election which will determine the future of Oak Island for decades.
Oak Island bungled its choice of parking company consultants this spring. What’s your take on what happened? Could it have been prevented?
Managing a Town requires a large and versatile skill set. Communication between the Town Manager, staff and Town Council members is of utmost importance. There is a disconnect in communication and this leads to major unnecessary errors. Many people are excellent employees for the Town. This does not automatically translate into being good leaders in government.
Some island residents continue to air grievances, one year after Hurricane Florence, that town officials unreasonably kept people from returning to their homes in a timely manner. Do you agree with this perspective? Why or why not?
The events following Hurricane Florence made it painfully clear that the re-entry system is in dire need of an overhaul. This is one of the first things I plan to tackle. The plan needs to be clear, fair and readily available to all residents and property owners. While we do not want to go to the opposite extreme of wanton recklessness which endangers people’s lives, certainly this process needs to be expedited to ensure all residents can return as soon as possible. I also felt extremely unhappy with the situation following Florence and I never want myself nor any other residents to be put in the position of not leaving for a hurricane because of fear of being kept from our property afterwards. Communication is the key to effective government. Time and again this communication has failed on major levels. I promise to give this my utmost attention until it is resolved!
Should the town work to attract new business opportunities?
The Town should be conducive to business and attractive to new businesses venturing in. Consistent regulations and application of ordinances will assist with this. The Town should NOT be competing with private businesses and extending beyond reasonable government responsibilities. Treading into tourist attractions infringes on private businesses and the vacation rental industry. This has no place in a government that cannot manage timely lawn debris pick-up. Priorities need to be maintained.
How do you define transparency? How can the town work to be more transparent?
Transparency is providing public information to the public in a reasonable and timely manner. Town Council meetings need to give the general comments section the respect it deserves. This entire portion of the meeting has turned into a “stopwatch cut-off race”. Questions to staff should be addressed as quickly as possible and overall public service must once again be a priority.
What is one action/vote Oak Island got wrong in 2017-2019?
What is one action/vote Oak Island got right in 2017-2019?
Almost any action/vote can be corrected and the Town got other things right. There is an overall lack of leadership and the failure to communicate has repeatedly plagued the Town with poorly made choices.
Anything else you’d like to share with voters?
I would like to share a bit of personal information to give the voters a broad picture of my life experience and ability to focus and accomplish tasks.
I was born in Germany, the daughter of Silver Star recipient Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Richard Cutler and wife Hildegard. I spent most of my life at military bases around the world and chose to live on Oak Island because of its beaches and proximity to Fort Bragg where my family now resides.
My occupation since 1992 has been “Piano Teacher” and I currently perform with multiple orchestras. I am the owner of Middle Sea Piano Studio on Oak Island which has sponsored numerous events including the annual surf-off. In 2014 I established the Trash Cart Rollout Service of Oak Island as a public utility effectively eliminating a major problem along the entire beachfront.
During my campaign I have and continue to strive to speak to residents personally on a daily basis. I am not asking for campaign contributions nor placing signage all over our beautiful town. I am an Oak Island property owner and local business owner. Thank you in advance for your consideration.