Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: John Gunter runs unopposed to retain Topsail commissioner position

John Gunter has served on Topsail Town Council since 2019 and is running unopposed to retain his seat. (Courtesy photo)

PENDER COUNTY — The Topsail Town Council has two commissioner seats open, with two incumbents running unopposed: John Gunter and Joe Bell.

Gunter has been vacationing on the island since the 1950s and purchased a home there in 2000. He worked in manufacturing for 20 years with Eastman Kodak Company before becoming a laboratory manager for an environmental company.

He has since retired and held a seat as part of the town’s board of adjustment and planning board before running for council and getting elected in 2019.

“I am very knowledgeable of the issues that come before these boards,” Gunter told PCD.

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. Gunter’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.

One-stop voting in Pender County will be held at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, 801 S. Walker St. in Burgaw from 9 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): Why run for commissioner now?

John Gunter (JG): I have served and contributed to the town strongly during the last four years. We presently have very active work on capital planning that will extend over several years. My background will contribute to this work.

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

JG: Capital planning — We have identified capital needs, including fire protection equipment and facilities, the possibility of having to implement sewers in the five-to-10 year horizon, and needs for expenditures on facilities for our staff. This will require careful and reasonable actions to finance and plan for significant expenditures.

Stormwater flooding — Significant drainage problems exist in some areas following heavy rains, such that some homeowners have rain water in the ground level, and everyone has huge puddles in the roads. Because our elevation is very few feet, these are difficult problems to eliminate. These problems require significant engineering and work with the property owners.

Water supply — Without a water supply, we have no community. Maintaining our system is essential, and planning for the long-term needs is important. Our water system is in good shape and safe, but is vulnerable to loss of a well.

On each of these needs, I have actively learned about the issues and fully participated in the discussions and planning. I will continue to do so, and will use my extensive management experience with both personnel and technology of processes to contribute constructively.

PCD: Do you support the current conditional rezoning request to build on a portion of the Point? What do you think the commissioners’ role is in this process? Have they overstepped asking for additional studies or have they not asked enough questions?

JG: The conditions attached to the rezoning decision are not yet agreed with the applicant. I cannot comment on an unfinished product. 

The role of commissioner is to study and understand all of the facts, opinions, legal, and emotional issues prior to the final decision that we are required to make. We then must find the appropriate balance of these facts and opinions to give the best decision for the applicant, the town, and those that reside or visit our town. It is not appropriate for me to comment on what commissioners have asked for.

PCD: Where do you stand on paid parking? It was a contentious topic throughout last year and could bring in needed revenue for Topsail Beach; however, many residents were opposed. What ideas do you have that may have not yet been addressed on this topic?

JG: Our town staff prepared a very thorough plan that covered potential parking throughout the town and potential pay-for-parking. This plan had several elements, each of which can be implemented or not, and implementation can be done in phases over several years.

My decision on this plan was based on public input from town taxpayers. I expect that it will be discussed in future years, and I will continue to base my opinion on public input, so long as the public does not ask for something that is clearly not right for the town.

PCD: The town has a long wish list of items in terms of buildings, equipment and staff. How would you prioritize funding over the next few years to ensure the most appropriate use of Topsail Beach’s limited budget?

JG: The highest priority is a new fire truck by 2030. The new truck will not fit in the existing building, which cannot be modified to house it. The first major expenditure will be for a new fire house, then the fire truck.

Our current town hall looks nice on the outside, but it is not suitable size-wise or in capability for our town staff if we expect to retain our current exceptional staff.

Likewise, for police the facility is very inadequate. Within the next two years, we will have to have a detailed plan and financing plan for a new town facility which addresses shortcomings in administration, police, fire. Drafts of plans have been done over the last few years, and as we have seen these drafts, we have begun planning for real estate on the present site.

PCD: With sea-level rise continuing to increase, flood resilience and preventing natural disaster scenarios is a necessity in our hurricane-prone zone. What more would you suggest is implemented to protect the coastline, businesses and residents?

JG: By far, the best protection is to continue our well-planned and executed approach to beach renourishment. I have fully supported this and will continue to do so.

Tips or comments? Email amy@localdailymedia.com.

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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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