As another local election campaign nears, new and familiar faces have been filing to fill three Wilmington City Council seats. Mack Coyle, 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 (Alexandria Monroe pulled out of the race last week). 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 Kevin Spears about his upcoming council bid.
encore (e): Tell us why you decided to run for council. Why now?
Kevin Spears (KS): Government needs better representation for all of its citizens, not just from a racial standpoint but also in terms of age and socioeconomic status. Citizens want to see a person in government who shares similar points of view for everyday life, a person who shares similar values and offers real-life solutions to whatever issues that arise as citizens of this city.
Ultimately, I have served the community in some shape, form or fashion for many years now.
e: What qualifies you to run for council?
KS: I’m a tax-paying citizen who is highly involved in matters of government through my actions as an advocate. I also consider myself to be a liaison between the government and its citizens. For years I’ve worked in this community, helping with only my friends, compassionate strangers and myself as resources.
Also, in 2016 I ran for the New Hanover County Board of Education. I won the primary in March but lost the general election in November of that year. Great knowledge was obtained during that period and I plan to use it in this election.
e: Can you elaborate?
KS: One specific thing I learned is the power of help and utilizing resources. Despite not winning the general election, I felt I did a great job of making myself known, but everyday I see some votes I left out there. Not this time.
The second thing is not to fall victim to conformity. The same tenacity and spunk I’m known for is the same reason why people feel confident in my decision to run. My reputation of representing the underrepresented will bring the voters together (just like before), but for the win this time!
e: What do you like about what our council is doing and what do you think needs to be improved upon?
KS: I like that our council is familiar with some individuals and even displays somewhat of an open-door policy. I think the council needs to improve on the issues that are specific to minority and low socioeconomic communities—issues like neighborhood policing, employment and wages, and the condition of neighborhoods in which we live.
I think our council needs to be trendsetting. Our city has a great history that dates back prior to the coup d’etat of 1898. Ours was the largest in the state; it was the most important city in the state. There was opportunity for everyone who lived here. That is a model of living we should be looking to reconstruct.
e: What are top-of-mind concerns you have for our city and how do you plan to address them?
KS: My top concern is the city’s reluctance to be innovative as it relates to the livelihood of its citizens. I feel we need to be competing with Raleigh-Durham, Charlotte and larger cities for jobs, quality of life and concern for all citizens.
Affordable housing is also a major concern for me. I would want us to assess what’s available as it relates to development, dedicate a percentage of what we find to affordable housing, and maybe develop a program for people who may want a house but are not making the right wages to obtain that dream.
Also, gun violence is and has always been a big concern for me, even more so since my son was injured in a shooting this year.
e: What are your thoughts on the current noise-ordinance regulations the council is trying to rewrite?
KS: I read up a little on the noise ordinance, and I think it’s going to be a touchy subject. You’re going to see the ordinance being enforced more in some places than in others. We all know that certain parts of town carry more weight, and traditionally the city puts the appeasement of said communities before others.
Do fireworks fall under the noise ordinance?
e: Do you have new ideas for approaching our water crisis and other environmental concerns our residents face?
KS: My idea is to partner with the colleges and universities, the EPA and even the Army Corps of Engineers to brainstorm the most creative and effective ways to improve environmental concerns, especially [the health of] the Cape Fear River (Chemours and CFPUA) and the cutting down of so many trees.
e: Any ideas on how the city should help combat climate change in our coastal town?
KS: Our beaches are what draw people to us, so we should invest back into them. Again, I want to partner with UNCW’s marine biology department and try our best to make improvements for our coast, while preserving natural habitats for animals that cohabit there as well.
e: Where do you stand on tax incentives, say for historic property renovation?
KS: I think there need to be tax incentives for businesses coming to create mass jobs and for employers who are willing to take chances on people who have made mistakes in life. I think there needs to be a strict follow-through policy in place so we don’t have companies taking advantage of hot button topics and not using them for their original intention. I think Vertex is a perfect example of what the city needs not do again!
[Editor’s note: Vertex, a company that makes railcars, closed its Wilmington facility last year after only four years after failing to deliver on its promise to create around 1,300 jobs.]
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?
KS: I plan on representing the city of Wilmington by doing what I have been doing all the while—being involved, calling out things to the attention of all citizens, taking a stand on the tough issues and using my voice to the benefit of the people. The biggest tool for helping others is listening to them—not just listening to respond but to collect what’s being said, analyze it, process it, and give the most honest yet relevant response you have to the best of your knowledge.
Have follow-up questions for Kevin Spears? Be sure to leave a comment on the online article, and we will see that Mr. Spears receives and answers them for you. His 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.