Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: Kevin Spears seeks another term on Wilmington City Council

First elected to council in 2019, Kevin Spears also ran for New Hanover County Board of Education in 2016. He won the primary but lost in the general election. He is running to be re-elected on city council. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — Kevin Spears, current Wilmington City Council member, is seeking reelection. He is up against six other candidates for three open seats.

First elected to council in 2019, Spears also ran for New Hanover County Board of Education in 2016. He won the primary but lost in the general election.

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, covering issues such as balancing growth and infrastructure, traffic and tourism, parking and climate change impacts.

Spears’ 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.

To vote early in New Hanover County, visit the Northeast Library (1241 Military Cutoff Road). From Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, voters can also go to CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 Second St.), Carolina Beach Town Hall (1121 Lake Park Blvd.) and the NHC Senior Center (2222 S. College Road).

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.

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 city council again?

Kevin Spears (KS): I need to continue the progress we have made in the past four years. We have not allowed political coalitions from stopping us in trying to create a better Wilmington for all. We have given a voice and representation to people who felt as if they did not have a voice, no matter where they lived or what they looked like.

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

KS: My three issues are how we conduct business as a city, what we do as city government, and who we do business as city government. Meaning, as the City of Wilmington, we are in the most powerful position to set the tone and standard for the betterment of the lives of our citizens. I do not believe that just because we have not historically done things, we shouldn’t do them now. We are in the information age and we have the capacity to do things more innovatively.

PCD: Growth in the city continues at a rapid pace — 3.92% since the most recent census of 116,146 in 2020, now at 120,695. Jobs and affordable housing continue to be of top importance to keep people here; how as a city council member do you propose fostering a better balance with both? What will you bring to the table that hasn’t been considered yet?

KS: What I have already brought to the table is a council view of things as it relates to jobs and affordable housing. I’ve been in the rooms and in the meetings where these topics are being discussed, and I am challenging staff and potential employers to do a better job on who they will employ. I feel that Wilmington does have a great talent pool and we need to start looking here first for employees.

Affordable housing is a really hot button topic right now that we must face in Wilmington as we also hear the accusations of Wilmington being over developed. There has to be a lens in place that focuses on what we do to improve living situations for citizens that want to remain here and not lose an arm or leg to do it. Council first and then staff has to set a standard for developers to seek out incentives for adding affordable units to their projects.

PCD: Homelessness has become a growing concern for many residents and local government officials in recent years. Do you support a housing-first approach? How/why? What else would you support to help the less vulnerable populations of our city?

KS: I support the permanent support housing initiative that has been put in place in the area. I know the homelessness issue does not look pretty to many of our citizens, but these people are human and need to be cared for just as anyone else in our community. We cannot arrest our way out of homelessness and we cannot use entitlement as a means of where people can be just because it doesn’t look good. There has to be access to resources for all citizens, no matter what issue has led them to being homeless.

PCD: The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is reaching its end-of-life and funding has yet to be allocated toward its replacement. What have officials gotten wrong and right in expediting the process? What would you do that is different? Also, do you support a toll and any of the options on the table for its replacement? Explain.

KS: I think officials have taken the wrong approach by saying the bridge has reached its end of life. As long as the bridge can be serviced and maintained, it can’t be at its end of life; end-of-life makes the public feel as if it might fall in the Cape Fear River in the near future.

There has to be a better look at where another bridge can go in the area that both sides of the river agree upon and the lives of all residents are not disturbed and where it is effective and beneficial to all.

I don’t support a toll, by any means.

PCD: With sea-level rise continuing to increase and affect low-lying areas, such as downtown Wilmington, flood resilience and preventing natural disaster scenarios is a necessity in a hurricane-prone zone. What more would you suggest is implemented to protect the coastline, including the Cape Fear River banks?

KS: I suggest that we up our standards for housing and development so we are not in as much danger due to hurricanes and flooding. I also believe that preventative maintenance on our stormwater systems and drainage have to be updated frequently in preparation for potential disasters.

PCD: Where do you stand on Cape Fear River growth — for instance, extending the Riverwalk under the Isabel Holmes Bridge and redeveloping the industrial area on the northern waterfront? Do you support building on the western banks of the Cape Fear River? Why or why not?

KS: I’m not sure where I stand on extending the Riverwalk under the Isabel Holmes Bridge. Has there been a request from our citizens to extend it or was it an idea brought up by someone at the city?

[Ed. note: The city is doing a feasibility study, jointly paid by Off the Hooks Yacht, which owns property on the northern waterfront, to see if expanding the Riverwalk is viable.]

Redevelopment is consistently happening downtown and there seems to be a demand for it and as long as we do our due diligence in providing safety and protecting the natural habits for animals in their area and not creating environmental concerns, I may not see a problem.

I don’t support the development on the western banks. I’m satisfied with what I see coming into Wilmington now, that stretch of nature enhances the beauty of what is in the city from across the river.

PCD: Did you support the city’s recent purchase of the Thermo Fisher building in downtown Wilmington? What should be done with the two tracts of land that came with the purchase? Should it benefit taxpayers?

KS: I was supportive of the purchase of the Thermo Fisher building; it was a cost saving purchase made by the city, that was done without raising taxes (I initiated that idea). I don’t know what can be done with the other tracts of land, I’m certain staff will come up with something and it most certainly needs to benefit the citizens of this community!

PCD: Some residents have accused the city council of only representing a select few in the community, rather than the needs of all. Do you agree with this sentiment? Explain. What would you do in a leadership position to represent more equitably?

KS: I have seen some of the decisions made to look as if it only benefitted certain citizens in our community — those are the decisions where I am vocal and stand for what’s right, even if I stand alone or in the minority. Those are the decisions where I point out the process so citizens are able to see what takes place and so they can come together to request a different outcome as it relates to those issues/concerns.


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