Saturday, April 1, 2023

2021 Election: Bill McHugh running for a spot on Leland Town Council

Bill McHugh is running for a seat on Leland Town Council. (Courtesy/ Bill McHugh)

Update: This article has been corrected to state McHugh is in fact a registered Democrat, not Republican.

LELAND –– Bill McHugh is running for a seat on Leland Town Council. McHugh is a registered Democrat.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, and has dropped its paywall on the profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of the 2021 election year. (Though, your support of local, independent journalism is appreciated through a monthly subscription. Also, consider signing up for Port City Daily’s free newsletter, Wilmington Wire, to get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.)

As a reminder, the early voting period begins Oct. 14, with the registration deadline on Oct. 8. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period, which ends Oct. 30 (check if your registration is active at your current address).

Election Day is Nov. 2.

McHugh’s stances on local issues are discussed below. Port City Daily has included all responses in full, and only edited responses for grammatical and spelling errors.

READ MORE: Catch up on all political coverage

Bill McHugh – Democrat

  • Education: BA in Political Science from Florida Atlantic University and Juris Doctor from St. Thomas University School of Law
  • Job title: Attorney
  • Experience: Currently working in Clinical Research with a background in contract negotiation, trial work, and litigation.

Port City Daily (PCD): What town services would you like to see introduced, expanded, or revised?
BM: As Leland continues to grow, I want to expand our system of parks, green spaces, and pedestrian pathways. I believe growing these as we grow our town is critical to Leland’s health and sustainability. Parks and pathways will help us attract more families, allow for more bike and foot traffic (which reduces vehicle traffic), and help preserve the natural beauty of our community. 

I also believe forming public/private partnerships with the right partners will be critical in growing our town in the best way possible while reducing our overall costs. These partnerships can help us create a thriving downtown area and increase our inventory of workforce housing. We must collaborate with those that share our vision moving forward.

PCD: What’s one decision town council recently got right? What’s one decision they got wrong?
BM: I believe the council’s efforts in creating a dynamic plan for our future has been commendable. The 2045 plan was created with public input and the advice of experts, which is the type of collaboration I believe is critical in our path to a safe, smart, sustainable, and varied community today and in the years ahead. I don’t want to Monday-morning quarterback the council’s decisions, as I know all decisions, even those that are unpopular are made with the best interest of the community at heart. That said, if elected I will ensure the council does everything possible to communicate the decision-making process to our residents. Strong communication will help foster trust in our decisions and make sure no one feels left out of the process.

PCD: How can Leland foster smart growth and development? What specifically should be improved or is already successful in your opinion?
BM: The pace at which Leland is growing is the biggest challenge to the community today and in the future. We must ensure that our development and growth is safe, smart, sustainable, and varied. This means that we need to carefully plan our development to ensure we diversify our community by attracting the kind of businesses we want to patronize and the kind of businesses we want to work for. We will also need to take action to increase our inventory of workforce housing so we can not only attract a dynamic workforce to Leland, but to ensure our teachers and first responders are able to live and own a home in the community they serve. As we grow our residential communities, we need to remain ahead on critical infrastructure and environmental resiliency planning. This will require careful review of traffic patterns, road development, and stormwater management as well as partnerships with the county and

NCDOT to ensure we avoid the trappings of rapid growth.

PCD: When did you first move to Leland? Do you think there’s a division between so-called “old Leland” and “new Leland” and if so, how would you appeal to both factions?
BM: I moved to the area in 2016 and Leland in 2018. I chose Leland because I saw a vibrant and developing community that was affordable for my wife and I. I know there are a great deal of people who have lived in our community long before it began to grow so rapidly, and I recognize this growth is a matter of great concern for many of them. We are all still Lelanders and all of us want to see our community succeed. I believe I can appeal to all of Leland because my vision for our path forward requires careful thought and planning and a great deal of collaboration. Negotiating and bringing people together is what I do in my work life. Seeking solutions, building relationships, and formulating a consensus between disparate groups is part of my DNA. I will bring that to the council and work with everyone in our community to ensure no one feels left behind.

PCD: The utility merger with H2GO arrived after a long and contentious battle. Are you in favor of the merger? Are you concerned about any of the dissent surrounding it, notably by developers, Brunswick County, and a local legislator?
BM: I am very glad to see Leland consolidated to one utility. I believe safe drinking water is critical and providing it to our community is non-negotiable. That said, I am concerned with the increased cost of RO water and how it affects our neighbors, particularly seniors on a fixed income and folks who are low income. We need to find ways to serve those neighbors and ensure their water is affordable. I believe those who put those pollutants in our water should cover some of our costs as well, however that action may come about.

Leland, Brunswick County, and the State of North Carolina are all different entities that will often have different viewpoints and priorities. It’s important for us to work together wherever possible to the benefit of everyone. With every major decision comes dissent, what matters most is that Leland and its leaders are ready to do what is best for our community.

PCD: Are you in favor of the town’s use of financial incentives through the use of taxpayer dollars to offset a developer’s expense to fund on-site infrastructure improvements?
BM: Yes, as long as the incentives make sound business sense. The infrastructure being funded by these incentives is necessary for development and if the town can offset the developer’s cost to get the infrastructure built to our specifications and built more quickly then it’s a win for us.

PCD: Finally, what does Leland need? How will you help the town get or achieve it?
BM: Leland needs to plan its future carefully and this requires strong, thoughtful, and collaborative leadership. I have the background as an attorney and negotiator to help achieve these goals. We need to collaborate with developers, the county, and the state to achieve our most important objectives. We need to continue to work to attract businesses to our community and increase our inventory of workforce housing. We need to focus on environmental resiliency and green space to keep our environment healthy. If elected, I will work to ensure that we continue to make decisions that are best for our town and our future, and I humbly ask every citizen of Leland for their vote.

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