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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Bonnie Bray hopes to secure a Southport alderman seat

Courtesy photo

SOUTHPORT — Southport Board of Alderman has two seats open and Bonita “Bonnie” Bray is campaigning to secure one.

There are six candidates running overall, with four in ward two, Bray’s district. Bray is running against incumbents Lowe Davis and John Allen, as well as Rebecca Azzato Kelley.

“I have not run for a government position before,” Bray told PCD. “I am qualified to serve, based on my background as a local government finance officer and my demonstrated participation in Southport’s civic and community life for the last 14 years.”

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, in this case infrastructure, homelessness, and housing; 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 alderman now?

Bonnie Bray (BB): I am seeking election in Southport as a Ward 2 alderman in order to serve the city at this time, in the midst of record-setting population growth all around us. My perspective, gained from 25 years as the chief financial officer of North Carolina and Maryland local governments, is unique among the current candidates for this office. This experience taught me how to effectively balance competing public service interests over the long haul — matching resources with needs — while maintaining fiscal integrity. I want to dedicate that knowledge to ensuring Southport is equipped to meet the challenges it faces.

I also want to contribute my non-governmental insight — nine years as a small business owner, 10 years on volunteer committees, and 13 years as a resident of Southport neighborhoods — to supporting and expanding the conversation around issues we experience as a community.

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

BB: We have a great deal of work ahead of us to guide Southport through the explosive growth and development currently bearing down on Brunswick County. Even though most of it is out of our control, we are all invested in the outcome.

We also have a critical need to expand our civil discourse to all affected parties, so that we can address the growth in our collective best interest. To that end, I will steadfastly hold out for active stakeholder engagement and promote effective problem solving with an open exchange of ideas. 

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

BB: I am a proponent of affordable housing and believe it can be achieved using a variety of methods, including partnerships with surrounding governments and non-profit organizations. It is in Southport’s best interest to explore all opportunities to broaden its use locally, so that our community can accommodate the housing needs of young families, civil servants (fire, police, teachers), and service-industry employees.

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? 

BB: I congratulate Southport police officers for their humane response toward a group of homeless people who congregated here this summer, providing direct help and putting them in touch with available county social services and related non-profit organizations to help address their needs.

I also applaud the city’s elected officials efforts to quickly review a range of current regulations and amend, as necessary, while in dialogue with experts in the field. I will do the same, if elected, and continue to advocate for a more robust county response to this critical situation.

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?

BB: Southport currently has developed a tried-and-true group of immediate and long-term responses to this heightened situation, covering everything from public education to an expanding list of capital projects now underway to make our water, sewer, stormwater, and electrical infrastructure more resilient. I support all these efforts and pledge to increase my knowledge of the interdependent ways existing organizations contribute to meeting the needs of citizens impacted by environmental disasters.

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

BB: Southport is undergoing a remarkable recovery from a host of other conditions that were equally potent until just recently: a failing sewer system, power shortages, inadequate staffing, overdue building and roads maintenance, and outdated equipment. The list has been long for many years and funding was not effectively leveraged to achieve long-term solutions.

Thankfully, Southport’s current administration started gaining ground last year on the logjam that threatened our quality of life. We are not over the hump, by any means, but we are no longer constantly behind the eight ball. In addition to leaders committed to outcomes that serve the city’s best interests, the community now benefits from incredibly talented staff members whose expertise is vital to staying ahead of the old challenges and meeting the new ones head on.

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

BB: I am a candidate for Southport alderman at a critical time. We are facing the intense pressure of exponential growth from external conditions we cannot avoid. The challenges that go hand-in-hand require visionary leadership to navigate traffic congestion, parking gridlock, workforce shortages, housing scarcities, zoning incongruities — all with a multitude of causes and solutions. The city’s current administration has undertaken a number of projects in the last two years to gain the information necessary to meet these challenges head on. I pledge to marry this proactive knowledge gathering with ideas from other jurisdictions who have faced and resolved similar issues, and with input from area citizens and other stakeholders to marshal the growth outside our city limits to work for us inside.

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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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