Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Donald Helms runs to serve another term with Surf City council

SURF CITY — Donald Helms is the current mayor pro tem on Surf City Town Council and is running to retain a seat at the dais. A retired highway patrolman, Helms has 20-plus years working with Surf City in various departments.

There are three available seats on the council this fall and Helms is up against six other candidates — fellow incumbents William (Buddy) Fowler and John Koloski, along with newcomers Heather Allen, Cheryl Hunter, Alicia Hawley and Trudy Solomon.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, covering issues such as balancing growth and infrastructure, beach nourishment, development and climate change impacts.

Helms’ answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

The paywall has been dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 31 and must be returned Nov. 7 (or post-marked as such).
  • Registration to vote will be open until Oct. 13; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration will be available only during one-stop early voting.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 19 and remains open through Nov. 4 (3 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

One-stop voting in Pender County will be held at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, 801 S. Walker St. in Burgaw from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their voter registration card, or verified here.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

Photo ID requirements are required to cast a ballot in 2021; more information can be found on the state board of elections website.

The candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily.

Port City Daily (PCD): Have you ever run for a government position before? If so, give us details: What, when, where, outcome? If not, what makes you qualified for a town council position?

Donald Helms (DH): I have over 23 years of knowledge and experience with the town’s inner workings, infrastructure, and departments. I am a liaison with the utility department and the fire department, with over 20 years of experience, and I am currently a ladder captain. I have experience with the police department as I am a retired highway patrolman. I have experience with parks and recreation, being on the council when the land was purchased for Soundside, Nelva Albury, and Kenny Batts Park on the island.

To sum all of this up, knowledge and experience is a valuable asset to the taxpayers and the Town of Surf City.

PCD: Why re-run for council now?

DH: Because I want to continue to help the Town of Surf City and the taxpayers of Surf City.

PCD: Name three issues you think are most affecting the city currently and describe how you would work toward tackling them.

DH: One issue is infrastructure capacity for new development.

Second, new growth brings a greater tax base and allows for more services for our taxpayers.

Third, beach nourishment will begin according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, in the year 2025.

PCD: In the past the town has turned down development applications for lack of sewer capacity. How do you plan to balance needed growth with adequate infrastructure as the town continues to attract more residents?

DH: We are in the process and have finished part of the upgrade at the sewer plant, and continue to make other upgrades throughout the town to help our infrastructure.

PCD: The beach town is working through the process of federal beach renourishment. Do you agree with spending the nearly $20 million needed for the project? Do you think a different approach should have been taken?

DH: Yes, I agree with spending the $20 million because this project is for the safety of Surf City and its citizens, in case of a major hurricane. Also, it will enhance the beach.

PCD: Surf City is in the midst of updating its zoning ordinances. What changes do you think need to be made, if any, and why?

DH: With my 23 years of experience dealing with all kinds of zoning, I have a very good knowledge of zoning laws. Right at this time, we are going through an ordinance upgrade that would help the town and its citizens.

PCD: The town is working on an engineering study to address stormwater issues on the island. What do you think should be done to mitigate flooding?

DH: We currently have a contract in place with [NC]DOT to address the stormwater problem on South Shore Drive and North New River Drive.

PCD: There were unfortunately a few drownings along Surf City’s beaches this past year but no lifeguards. Do you think Surf City should consider funding lifeguards during summer months or other – water safety programs to increase protection for beachgoers?

DH: Not at this time because the Ocean Rescue program that is operated by the Surf City Fire Department is working in a very sufficient manner. The one drowning that we had was rip-current related and flags were up at the beach the represent the hazard.

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