OAK ISLAND — Oak Island resident Ken Thomas is running for Mayor.
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?
It’s time for a change!
Our town will grow because of our location and beautiful beaches, but the Town must be
maintained as an affordable place to live. One of our biggest challenges is fiscal responsibility. We have more debt per citizen than any beach town in NC. We need to fix that. Fiscal responsibility will ensure that our town can pay its bills and work toward a more balanced budget.
You will often read or hear me talk about transparency and integrity. I think without both of these traits our town government is not meeting the needs of its citizens. We must ensure the town council makes decisions for the good of its citizens, over personal feelings. Each resident should be able to find out how and why town decisions are made.
As your Mayor, I will work diligently to get OKI on track fiscally and work for the health and
safety of our residents. I will always be available for any discussion regarding any facet in our town to assist each and every citizen.
What makes you qualified to serve on Town Council?
As a business owner for 36 years, I have the experience and knowledge to realize our town needs to be run more like a business. I can read financial statements and understand the direction of a business’ finances and then create a budget to ensure we have the money to run the town business
What are the top three issues Oak Island is facing right now and what’s your position on these issues?
1. Fiscal responsibility – Fiscal responsibility will ensure that we can pay our town bills, and work toward a more balanced budget, without adding to our residents’ financial burden. I will say again that integrity and transparency are key to running a town government. Each resident should understand how and why a financial decision was made.
2. Town debt – We need to lower our town debt. OKI debt was higher than it should be for an island our size. We have more debt per citizen than any beach town in NC. We need to fix that.
3. Street and stormwater problems – Stormwater issues were the cause of some of the greatest damage to homes and roads in the last hurricane. We need to identify and fix the problems before the next major storm.
Oak Island bungled its choice of parking company consultants this spring. What’s your take on what happened? Could it have been prevented?
I’m not sure bungled is the right word, but more due diligence and research into the company was necessary. In this case, the issues the council had with the chosen company were easily found on the internet with a quick search.
While I do think parking is a serious problem I do not think parking meters and meter maids are what Oak Island needs. The Committee to elect Ken Thomas Mayor located approximately 160 new parking spaces for very little expense in a 4-hour search. We need legitimate alternatives to paid parking.
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 town’s response to Hurricane Florence is one of the issues that persuaded me to run for Mayor. After the hurricane, fellow neighbors and I were told that if we left the island we would not be allowed to return. Not even to bring supplies and equipment to assist other
homeowners. In addition, many homeowners returned after the hurricane has passed and were still kept from returning to their homes. It seemed that only after public outrage were the bridges opened. I’m sure that’s not the case.
I’m hoping the town had good reasons for how they handled things but the communication
regarding the hurricane and aftermath never happened. Transparency is my watchword and this seems like it was handled within the shadows.
Should the town work to attract new business opportunities?
Absolutely, we need and should want new business for economic development. However, we do not need to turn into another Myrtle Beach. We should design an economic development plan that allows for growth at a pace that the island is built for. In addition, we should target small, local businesses and streamline our permitting process to allow for builders and citizens to save money.
How do you define transparency? How can the town work to be more transparent?
“Transparency is government’s obligation to share information with citizens that is needed to make informed decisions and hold officials accountable for the conduct of the people’s
business.” ~ American Legislative Exchange Council
Essentially I mean that every citizen should be able to find out how things are handled and why decisions were made. We should be working toward a town government that allows each citizen, voters and non-voters alike, a voice in our policies.
In addition, there should be no topic off-limits when speaking to a government employee. Town documents should be easy to find. Final votes should be easy to find and easier to understand.
Clear and consistent communication is key. For example, last year’s Hurricane Florence demonstrated that the town does not make transparent decisions. The town was essentially quiet on why the bridges were closed for so long. Many residents did not know how long the bridges would be closed because very little was communicated to the public. Why was the decision made to keep the bridges closed for so long and why was this information so hard to find?
As Mayor, I pledge to be available for any discussion regarding any facet in our town that needs attention, and assist each and every citizen find the information they need to make informed decisions.
What is one action/vote Oak Island got wrong in 2017-2019?
What is one action/vote Oak Island got right in 2017-2019?
I believe many of the council’s votes were done very well and others were handled badly. I
would rather look to the future and how we can, as a town, have more of a voice in the process and understand how, and why, each issue was handled as it was. I’m looking for a change!
Anything else you’d like to share with voters?
I love Oak Island, and I care about my neighbors. Our town will grow because of our location and beautiful beaches, but the Town must be maintained as an affordable place to live. I will work toward a fiscally sound budget while ensuring the health and safety of our citizens.