As another local election campaign nears, new and familiar faces have been filing to fill three Wilmington City Council seats. Mack Coyle, Alexandria Monroe, Harry Smith Jr., Kimberly Spader, Kevin Spears, Scott Monroe and Matt Thrift are on the ballot, and up for re-election are Margaret Haynes, Paul Lawler and Neil Anderson. Also, Devon Scott announced his run against Mayor Saffo, who has held office since 2006.
encore has been reaching out to all candidates to get their thoughts and views on top-of-mind issues concerning our city. This week we chat with Margaret Haynes’ about her upcoming re-election bid for her council seat.
encore (e): Tell us why you decided to run for council. Why now?
Margaret Haynes (MH): I am running for re-election because I believe in public service and want to be a positive part of helping create Wilmington’s future. There are many opportunities and challenges ahead, and I’d like to use my knowledge and experience to maximize our city’s potential.
e: What qualifies you to run?
MH: While I now have a few years of experience in serving the city, I also have a masters of public administration degree, and I worked in the federal government. I also have a successful business background. So I have not only the book sense but local, hands-on, practical experience and the business background to help in positive decision-making to move the city forward and deal with future challenges.
e: What do you like about what our council is doing and what do you think needs to be improved upon?
MH: I believe in, and continue to promote, transparency and public input across the board. I believe council makes every effort to involve the public in developing our plan for the future as well as dealing with current challenges. This council understands the need to leverage public funds in public-private partnerships in order to create community prosperity. As a whole, management and council strive to provide quality services, as well as maintain our AAA bond rating while holding the line on taxes.
e: What are top-of-mind concerns you have for our city and how do you plan to address them?
MH: Certainly, the number one responsibility of government at any level is safety. Our safety record continues to improve year after year.
Secondly, traffic and roads are very large concerns. Most of the large thoroughfares are state roads and we have no control over them. When the state improves a road, the city will often cooperate financially to implement amenities, such as sidewalks, bike paths and lighting.
The city started working on a comprehensive plan in 2015 and it took over two years to develop the Create Wilmington plan. We had a 20-plus member citizen committee that held over 18 neighborhood meetings to find out what citizens wanted for the future. After two years of hard work, the plan was presented in a number of public meetings and unanimously approved by the committee, the planning commission and city council. It is more than an aspirational plan. It defines specific areas for growth and redevelopment, all while maintaining the integrity of individual neighborhoods.
The only hope to ameliorate traffic is to encourage citizens to work and play closer to their living environment. Hence the encouragement of mixed-use development. While some large mixed-use projects are on the horizon, the infrastructure must be built first, and it will take many years for such projects to come to fruition.
e: What are your thoughts on the current noise-ordinance regulations the council is trying to rewrite?
MH: There is much misinformation floating around about the update of the 30-year-old noise ordinance. Neither the decibel levels nor the time frames are changing in the recommended rewrite. The updated ordinance will now include an appeals process and overall it is being simplified so it is easier to comprehend and enforce.
Generally, if you have been okay under the current noise ordinance (for 30 years) you will likely be okay in the future.
e: Do you have new ideas in approaching our water crisis and other environmental concerns our residents face?
MH: All citizens, not just elected officials, must continue to be more vigilant about our water and environment in general. We dodged a bullet in catching the re-classification of the Cape Fear River to “swamp” water and the council moved swiftly to have the EPA abandon that reclassification, which would have allowed more pollution flowing into the river.
When attending a national municipal league conference in DC, the participating council members met with the leadership of the EPA and had a good dialogue about the plans to deal with local water quality. As we all know, the clean air and water regulations are federally mandated. Local officials have some limited control on industry that might want to relocate here and we must stay vigilant to protect our environment.
e: Any ideas on how the city should help combat climate change in our coastal town?
MH: We must do our part locally to prevent pollution of any type in an effort to stave off future damage to our climate. Until the federal government recognizes climate change and starts to make grand efforts to combat such, we can only deal with our local environment. Any new construction projects must take future sea rise into account in the initial design process, especially along the river and waterway.
e: Where do you stand on tax incentives, say for historic property renovation, or in any other fashion?
MH: Tax incentives are really rebates. No one gets any money until they have already spent their own money. I certainly support “tax incentives” or rebates, for historic property renovation and preservation.
I also support film incentives, which again, are really rebates. No one gets money upfront. Once the production company money is invested in our local economy; then, and only then, does a project get any financial payback of the money they have already spent. I hope our state leaders will go back to this fair and encouraging system rather than current system of grants.
I also support limited incentives to encourage desirable business or industry to locate here and provide jobs. Again, no money is paid upfront. Buildings must be built and actual jobs must be created in order to eventually receive any rebate or incentive. Job creation is calculated by the State Employment Commission.
e: How do you plan to represent all the citizens in Wilmington? How, for example, will you connect with people who do not live and work in your comfort zone/neighborhood?
MH: The beauty of having a seven-member, at-large, non-partisan council is that each member has a duty to represent all citizens. Our diverse population should be our strength. We need everyone’s input and ideas, and everyone’s concerns and challenges should be heard. I try to attend as many events in all neighborhoods that I can fit on my calendar. Also, having a government background in constituent service, I like problem-solving and helping individuals navigate the often-confusing matrix of government.
Have your own inquiries or follow-up questions for Margaret Haynes? Be sure to ask on the online article, and we will see she receives and answers them for you. Her responses will be posted below the article until election day, Tuesday, November 5.
One-stop voting for the municipal elections begins on Wednesday, October 16, and will conclude on Friday, November 1.
Read all candidate interviews here.