WILMINGTON — “When city council recently approved a 25% pay raise for themselves while raising property taxes via the county’s blanket increase in assessed property values, that was the moment I decided to go all in,” city council candidate Luke Waddell told Port City Daily.
Waddell is one of eight candidates looking to fill three seats in this year’s municipal election. Slated for Nov. 2, 2021, the seats of Kevin O’Grady, Clifford Barnett and Charlie Rivenbark are up for election; O’Grady is the only council member not seeking re-election.
Waddell doesn’t give much praise to the current lineup of council members. He measures their overreach and expansion in government “by over 100%,” which he said is unwarranted compared to a population that “has grown at a slower pace” over the last decade. (Wilmington population expanded from 106,456 in 2009 to 123,744 in 2019, or 16.2%, according to the U.S. Census.)
“For example, four years ago, they had a 17% revenue windfall,” Waddell said. “They spent it all, including on pay raises for themselves. Despite recent unprecedented growth, they have not lowered the tax burden, ever, in modern history. When elected, I aim to be the voice for fiscal restraint and responsibility.”
Sustainability and responsible growth, as well as “prosperity,” are top-of-mind for Waddell this campaign season. He conveyed a disconnect between council and its constituency as alarming.
“It is not fiscally responsible for property owners to bear the entirety of the tax increase on the heels of recent shutdowns,” Waddell added. “Wilmington needs pro-business candidates who will fight for our community — not lobby to [get] a pay raise.”
Waddell has owned Cadence Realty Corp. since 2016. He currently serves on the county’s zoning board of adjustment and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations Government Affairs Committee.
The thirty-something graduated from The Citadel with a degree in political science in 2010, and since has gone on to get his licenses as an N.C. real estate broker, a broker-in-charge and a contractor. He said his schooling at a military academy reinforced his values of “discipline, hard-work, honesty and ethical stewardship.”
“I work every day to ensure my company is sustainable and profitable, our clients are secure, our processes are streamlined and that our teams have the tools to craft solutions resulting in long term success,” Waddell said. “This is exactly what I can offer to our city council.”
Waddell wants to apply such foundations to what he said is a calling to public service. More so, he desires to be an elected official that serves community over big donors.
He said his platform will focus on quite a few issues, including public safety. Specifically, Waddell points to the recent uptick in crime as concerning — “we can do better, we must do better” — and supports law enforcement and first responders on the frontlines of protection.
“All Wilmington citizens should feel free and safe to go downtown and enjoy the riverfront and patronize businesses,” Waddell added. “Parents should be able to take their children to Long Leaf Park for a baseball game without worrying about a shootout occurring in the middle of it. Teenagers should be able to hang out with their friends without worrying about a drive-by taking one of their friends’ lives. This is not hyperbolic — these are real events that have happened recently.”
Waddell vowed to “refocus and find a fresh approach to leadership” across the city. It will include taking myriad views and ideas into consideration, he said, from businesses, organizations and citizenry, to better represent “the diversity and needs of the entire community.”
“The current council has too many people who have served too long,” Waddell noted. “It is time to turn the page for Wilmington and usher in fresh leadership and a newer generation of people that put Wilmington first.”
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Disclaimer on Port City Daily’s policy in coverage of local campaigns: The newsroom runs candidate interviews on those who personally reach out to PCD after filing, ahead of early voting. Once early voting approaches, PCD staff will begin outreach to every candidate to address where they stand on top-of-mind issues affecting the region.