WILMINGTON — Fresh faces are coming to Wilmington’s City Council in David Joyner and Salette Andrews. Both secured top votes in the 2023 municipal Wilmington election, with incumbent Kevin Spears securing a second term.
Seven candidates — including incumbent Neil Anderson — were in the running for three spots on the council. Mayor pro tem Margaret Haynes chose not to seek reelection and told Port City Daily after serving for 13 years, it was “time for some new voices with fresh ideas.”
Though technically nonpartisan, the board will now comprise a majority of Democrats with all three winners — Spears, Andrews and Joyner — supported by the party. They will join fellow Democrat Clifford Barnett and Republicans Luke Waddell and Charlie Rivenbark on the council.
“At the end of the day it’s a nonpartisan election, and people do want to see collaboration and working together,” Joyner said.
Joyner, the youngest candidate and an assistant district attorney, received the most votes, 17.4%. A small business owner and veteran, Andrews placed second with 16.5% of the votes.
Spears earned the third-greatest number. He told council at Monday’s agenda briefing he would be going on vacation Nov. 8; he did not respond to Port City Daily’s request for comment after clinching his spot.
Joyner said his team wasn’t taken aback by the win, as they had put in a lot of campaign hours.
“But to come in first was a surprise on its own,” Joyner said. “It was a great night.”
Both newcomers to the board said they’re ready to hit the ground running when they take the oath and are sworn in come December.
Running as an environmentally conscious candidate, Joyner plans to live up to his campaign promises and tackle sustainability issues facing the city first and foremost. His first plan of action is to pore through all facets of city government.
“And make sure Wilmington is leading the way when it comes to being a climate-friendly city,” he said.
Joyner wants to meet with the sustainability committee, review the city’s emission standards and track the progress on transitioning to LED lights to ensure the city is meeting its benchmarks.
Andrews also has the environment top-of-mind, particularly with how it intersects with other issues facing the city.
“We need to balance environmental protection, community safety, housing affordability and infrastructure because those issues sometimes don’t play well together,” Andrews said. “I think our charge is to find a balance and make the best environment for the people of Wilmington.”
Referencing the low voter turnout numbers — only 20.76% out of more than 100,000 showed up at the polls Tuesday — Andrews said another goal is to launch a citizens academy for more public engagement. It would be an opportunity for the public to participate, learn how city government works, how it intersects with other levels of government, what the different departments are responsible for and the role of the various volunteer boards and commissions.
“I’d like to see a wider representation of people who understand what city government is about and actually participating,” Andrews said. “We need more people to vote … and serve on the volunteer boards and committees, bring a diverse set of voices.”
In June when Andrews announced she was running and knew Haynes was stepping down, she expressed concern about a primarily all-male council. Haynes is the only female currently serving.
“I have a perspective that’s not from a developer, but maybe more of a private citizen that’s called to public service,” Andrews told Port City Daily in June.
Joyner and Andrews both touted public safety as a top priority, though one is a little more closely involved. While balancing his full-time job as an attorney, Joyner’s already been thinking about avoiding any perceived conflicts of interest when it comes to his caseload.
The DA’s office covers New Hanover and Pender counties and staff have been “reshuffling” cases so Joyner works on fewer that involve the Wilmington Police Department, which is under the purview of city officials. Council approves WPD’s budget, equipment requests and overall salary increases.
“We’re screening out for any appearance of conflict,” he said. “Technically there’s not a legal one, but we understand we don’t want the appearance of one either.”
Instead he’ll take on more Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Pender files, he said.
Joyner added he’s looking forward to working alongside Andrews, noting they overlap in their views on various issues.
“As well as on actual policy distinctions on how we get to where we want to go,” he said.
“I think I’m going to be able to work with everyone,” she said. “I think it will be a good mix.”
Fellow members have already reached out to both newcomers to welcome them aboard, Andrews and Joyner confirmed.
The first order of business when the three council members are sworn in during the first meeting of December will be the selection of a mayor pro tem and committee assignments.
Andrews and Joyner both said they couldn’t have succeeded without the numerous volunteers helping to door-knock and make calls, as well as the voters who supported them.
“It was a collective effort of many people of all walks of life who shared their concerns and hopes for Wilmington,” Andrews said. “I’m ready to get to work.”
Votes are unofficial until canvassed by the local board of elections on Friday, Nov. 17. This is when provisional and absentee ballots are counted. A candidate can challenge a recount if margins are less than 1%. This won’t affect the other candidates in the race.
Anderson placed fourth, with a 2%, or a little under 1,000 vote difference from Spears. First elected in 2011, Anderson served three terms on city council. He was also a member of the Legion Stadium Commission, Governance Committee, Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and ad hoc transportation committee.
Republican John Lennon was only 0.12% behind Anderson, earning 7,003 votes, with Kathryn Bruner trailing behind with 6,042. Democrat Marlowe Foster came in last, with 8.65% or 4,245 votes.
Bill Saffo ran unopposed, though 1,404 voters chose to write-in a name instead of choosing the mayoral incumbent. He’s served as the mayor of Wilmington since 2006, holding the title for longest-standing mayor in the city’s history. This week’s election marks his ninth consecutive term.
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