Sunday, July 21, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Mike Barbee running for mayor of Southport

Mike Barbee is running for Southport mayor in the 2023 municipal elections. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTHPORT — Lifelong Southport resident Mike Barbee is taking the step to challenge current Southport Mayor Joe Pat Hatem and current council member Rich Alt, also running for mayor, in the upcoming election.

It won’t be Barbee’s first foray into politics. He was elected Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor for Brunswick Water and Soil Conservation District  in 2022.

“It has been an honor to serve the people and communities of the district,” he wrote to Port City Daily. “I was just nominated, last month, to be appointed Vice-Chair of Area 6 of BCSWCD; a position, that I will take in January of 2024.” 

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, in this case, PFAS, customer growth and keeping rates from rising. Laub’s 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.

In Brunswick County, voters can cast ballots early at the Brunswick County Cooperative Extension (in lieu of the Board of Elections) at 25 Referendum Drive, Building N, in Bolivia.

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

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

A photo ID is required to cast a ballot in 2023; 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): Why run for the board of aldermen or mayor now?

Mike Barbee (MB): I am running for Mayor of Southport now because my fellow townspeople deserve a good, honest, hardworking mayor that will provide needed results for taxpayers. I don’t like the way my hometown is being developed and operated by the current town council and mayor. All I hear are complaints about the mayor, town council, and planning board by my neighbors, friends and family.

The other candidates for mayor are already a part of the current town council and will only continue to destroy the town. I was raised from birth in Southport, and I will work to ensure that the people of my hometown can prosper and can continue to enjoy its charm and natural beauty.

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

MB: Three issues that are most affecting the city currently are infrastructure (roads, sewer/water system, traffic, parking), unsustainable development (loss of green space and biodiversity due to development such as Indigo phase two), and funding.

I will make it priority to find funding for town infrastructure projects through grants, loans, and cost share programs.

I will fix the parking issue downtown by adding more parking spaces and consider paid parking at the waterfront, while reforming other parking. We will stop the destruction of our Franklin Square park by moving all festival and farmers market activities to Bay Street and side streets by waterfront. Traffic will be better directed under my mayorship.

Funding is one of the overarching issues and I will work to earn more revenue for the city without raising taxes. 

PCD: Do you think the city should make efforts to provide a wider range of housing options in Southport, including affordable housing? How so?

MB: I think the city should definitely make efforts to provide a wider range of housing options in Southport. It’s even difficult to find employees in the service industry in town partly because housing prices are so high in town.

That being said, building more houses in town and destroying forests and wildlife to provide more affordable housing is not the answer! Perhaps, we should retrofit our current urban sprawl to accommodate people looking for more affordable housing. 

PCD: Homelessness has come up as a major focus from citizens and leaders of Southport. How do you think the city should respond to homelessness? 

MB: The increased homelessness in Southport, and everywhere, really, is the direct result of the increased housing costs and also untreated mental health issues and addiction. Honestly, the solution to the homeless problem is a difficult one that needs to be discussed openly and with mental health professionals and people that know the legalities of what can be done. I do think a homeless shelter that provides mental health outreach and life assistance would be very beneficial to have in town. 

PCD: As evidence shows, climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of storms and hurricanes, along with sea level rise. What should the city do to protect residents, property and infrastructure?

MB: Climate change is inevitable and so is sea rise. Protecting our waterfront from erosion can be done utilizing bulkheads and wave breaks; however, property is going to be damaged regardless as far as the waterfront restaurants and homes are concerned.

When Hurricane Hazel hit last century it destroyed all but three buildings on Oak Island, and that will happen again; it’s just a matter of time. We can reform our systems for managing floodwaters and runoff to mitigate damage to  property from storms and sea rise. 

PCD: How should Southport address its infrastructure needs in the face of aging utilities and the county’s growth?

MB: The crumbling infrastructure of the town is long overdue for an overhaul. The sewer issue is being worked through currently with the county as far as I know, with regards to capacity. As far as the condition of our sewer and water lines, these are top priority for me. I’ve been suffering the poor quality water in this town most of my life and I don’t want my daughter to suffer the same. The roads are atrocious in town and need to be repaired. Parking needs to be reformed along the main streets. We need to find funding solutions for these issues without raising taxes. 

PCD: Brunswick County is the fastest growing in the state; how should Southport’s leadership approach future development, balancing economics with quality of life?

MB: As a graduate in sustainable development, I must assure you that the only way for Southport’s leadership to approach future development to balance economics and quality of life, is to keep future generations in mind. We need to preserve the charm and natural beauty of our town’s landscape as well as being conscious of our natural resource use. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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