2021 Election: Charlie Rivenbark running for re-election for Wilmington City Council

WILMINGTON –– Long-time incumbent Charlie Rivenbark, Republican, is running to secure his spot on Wilmington City Council for four more years. First elected to a seat on council in 1993, he has served five terms, a total of 20 years, collectively.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, and has dropped its paywall on the profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of the 2021 election year. (Though, your support of local, independent journalism is appreciated through a monthly subscription. Also, consider signing up for Port City Daily’s free newsletter, Wilmington Wire, to get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.)

As a reminder, the early voting period begins Oct. 14, with the registration deadline on Oct. 8. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period, which ends Oct. 30 (check if your registration is active at your current address).


Election Day is Nov. 2.

Rivenbark’s stances on local issues are discussed below. Port City Daily has included all responses in full, and only edited responses for grammatical and spelling errors.

READ MORE: Catch up on all political coverage

Charlie Rivenbark —  Republican

  • Education: New Hanover Schools and UNCW
  • Job title: Broker 
  • Experience: Five terms on the Wilmington City Council, 1993-2001 & 2009 to present.
  • Family: My significant other, Ms. Dawn Grants. Two sons, Chad & Travis. Granddaughter Molly, 5 years old and Grandson, Greyson, 15 years old.

Port City Daily (PCD): What is your top priority, if elected a seat on council? How will you address it?
Charlie Rivenbark (CR): Reducing violent crime; handling a thriving region; creating a more pedestrian and bike friendly city; and affordable housing.

Comparing the data from the first six months of 2021, incidents where a firearm was used during that same period in 2020 has decreased by over 13%. But that’s still too many incidents. We need to do whatever is necessary to bring gun violence to an end, ensure that our schools are safe for learning and our neighborhoods are safe for raising families. Everyone deserves protection. Like other cities in America, we have seen much unrest. Now more than ever is a time to support our law enforcement and provide them with the necessary tools and training to protect us all. There were 15 murders within the city of Wilmington, and this year we have had seven and three of those occurred in a single incident. One is too many, and I will do whatever it takes from the council level to get to zero.

The challenges of success can be difficult. We have received many accolades including “One of the South’s best cities on the rise in 2021” and “#1 for inbound moves in the country” and even one of “The Best Places to Retire,” and it is apparent that many are moving to our area. Except for 2016, the city of Wilmington has grown at a rate of less than 2%, while our neighboring communities are bursting. Leland has grown by over 67% since 2010 and Belville over 20%. As the regional hub, the city of Wilmington struggles with this influx and needs to be consistently looking toward the future to provide our growing community. Our infrastructure must continually be improved to handle our growing community and provide a high quality of life to all in our community.

Within the city limits, I have supported the requirement of the installation of sidewalks and multi-use paths in all improvement projects. This leads to connectivity by filling in the gaps with those that have existing sidewalks. I also support enhancements to the Gary Shell Cross City Trail, with additions into neighborhoods, as well as pedestrian lanes, especially near our schools. As a member of the MPO, I am actively working with NCDOT at the possibility of adding a pedestrian bridge over our heavily traveled College Road.

PCD: What do you believe is the solution to the affordable housing crisis? Are you supportive of a housing bond? Why or why not?
CR: One of our other biggest challenges is regarding affordable and workforce housing. The city recently completed a rewrite of the Land Development Code (LDC), the ordinance that all development must adhere to. I supported the inclusion that will allow for greater density, in return for creating a percentage of units at or below the prevailing market rate for a specified time frame. In the past two years, the budget that I supported included over $5 million on housing expenditures including homeless sheltering, multi-family, our Housing Opportunity Program, and rehab programs for low-to-moderate income homeowners. 

Fortunately, the city and county have come together to address this smoldering problem of the lack of suitable affordable and workforce housing stock. It is the intent to present a $50,000,000 housing bond to the voters, hopefully in the March 2022 voting primary to address and assist developers in the cause to close the severe shortage of this type of housing.

PCD: What about other infrastructure in our city: What needs the most attention in your opinion and how would you address it?
CR: Each year the city maintains our road system, but we still have some unpaved streets, and I want to begin reducing the number of unpaved lane miles through an orderly year-by-year plan, whereby residents would know when they could expect to have their street improvements completed.

PCD: What kind of environmental protections would you like to see the city focus on and how?
CR: I believe that we should always continue to improve our stormwater ordinance to insure that pre-construction water runoff does not exceed post-construction runoff, as is now required, and to hold the developer accountable for any negative result.

I brought forth a resolution to city council that opposed offshore oil drilling because I just can’t take the chance that we could possibly experience the devastation to our pristine coastal shoreline and all that comes with that. Southern California is experiencing still another oil spill as of the writing. Sooner or later, a mistake is made and we pay the price!

PCD: Do you think enough is being done to confront gang violence? What else should be done?
CR: Comparing the data from the first six months of 2021, incidents where a firearm was used during that same period in 2020 has decreased by over 13%. But that’s still too many incidents. We need to do whatever is necessary to bring gun violence to an end, ensure that our schools are safe for learning and our neighborhoods are safe for raising families. Everyone deserves protection. Like other cities in America, we have seen much unrest. Now more than ever is a time to support our law enforcement and provide them with the necessary tools and training to protect us all.

PCD: Residents often raise concerns about clear-cutting and overdevelopment. What is your response when hearing this sentiment? How should the city respond to these complaints?
CR: The city has incorporated into our zoning ordinances tree protection and enhancement codes to protect our tree canopy from needless clear-cutting. Some trees have to be cut in order to place structures on the tract and to ensure that stormwater can properly flow to the required detention ponds, but the development ordinance requires that new trees must be installed to help make up for the loss of trees cut down. The city utilizes public private partnership in order to plant 1739 trees each year in public ROW. 

PCD: Is our city prepared for the influx of growth that’s being predicted over the next 20 years? What are the top priorities you think must be addressed to prepare for the population increase?
CR: The great majority of the population increase is being generated outside the corporate limits of Wilmington, but we will continue to be impacted by the sheer numbers of daily visits. Our entire infrastructure will be affected and the only outside steady source of highway money is the North Carolina Powell Bill fund. This alone doesn’t cover our maintenance costs. The NCDOT has a revenue source issue that needs to be addressed by the general assembly and soon!

Drinking water capacity is not a problem in our region, due to the improvements made by the Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority and the Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority to the water intake at the King’s Bluff Lock & Dam, and the soon-to-be completion of the new water line that provides redundancy for the thousands of residents who rely on the CFPUA for their water. I serve on both of those boards and am very proud of the progress we have made to remove the harmful chemicals that have been introduced into the Cape Fear River.

PCD: How would you rate Wilmington’s job market? What can the city do to create more sustainable jobs?
CR: The city works tirelessly and supports our economic development partners, and we have had much success in the last 10 to 20 years. All jobs will not be created within the city, but we will benefit from the impact that these new jobs will have on our economy. Some new job creation in the manufacturing sector have a multiplier of approximately 3 to 1. Other types, such as retail and office, have a lesser multiplier but still have a positive effect on the job market.

PCD: Would you approve an ordinance establishing a social district in downtown Wilmington? Why or why not? What provisions would you advocate for within the district?
CR: Only if the ordinance was thoroughly vetted by the citizens and stakeholders and overwhelmingly requested. 

PCD: What changes, if any, would you make to the city’s current spending strategy for its $26 million in American Rescue Plan funds? Is there an initiative you would like to see funded? If so, which expenditure would you cut in its place?
CR: The American Rescue Plan funding plan is intended to address the recovery needs of our community and to build public health and economic resilience for all of our citizens. Council had the foresight to appoint a diverse group of community leaders to lead the effort in scoring the nonprofit applications and deciding how to distribute that assistance. 

There are many opportunities to invest in the future of our community, especially the most impacted portions of our community, via these funds. As a member of the CFPUA board, I am aware of community needs, and we are implementing a utility payment assistance program as a result. We are working hard to implement more programs dedicated to the affordable housing.


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