This year’s municipal elections for the city of Wilmington include candidates for city council and mayor.
The Wilmington City Council has three open seats with eight candidates running. Those include: Clifford Barnett (current councilman), JB Brookins, Paul Lawler, Charlie Rivenbark (current councilman), Angie Ulmer, Jonathan Uzcategui, Luke Waddell and Philip White.
For the mayoral seat, current Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo is seeking another term while Harper Peterson, a former state senator, is also pursuing the mayoral seat.
Early voting started on Oct. 14 and Election Day is Nov. 2. To look at sample ballots, check voter registration status, voting options, polling places and more, visit the New Hanover County Board of Elections website.
The Greater Wilmington Business Journal sent questions to all city council and mayoral candidates and will be running a different candidate’s responses every day on our website.
Philip White - Wilmington City Council
“For the past several years I have worked as a Business Analyst, however with COVID I have taken this opportunity to begin exploring a niche entrepreneurial opportunity in the shoe industry.”
New Hanover County Parks Conservancy Board of Directors, Long Term Healthcare CAC, Young Professionals Board at A Safe Place.
What are your top economic development priorities?
“I believe that the key to a truly successful local economy is diversification. I know that the bedrock of every local economy and community is entrepreneurship. I have a three-step plan which I believe will work to diversify our local economy while fostering knowledge and relationships with local business owners. COVID has wreaked havoc on small businesses across our country. My first step involves working with locally owned small businesses to offer further grants to keep them in operation.
Secondly, we as a community should be investing in education programs for our local small business owners. I see it all the time. A small business owner is excellent at their particular field but has little to no knowledge of the tools at their disposal as a business owner. Things as simple as filing your business as an LLC to protect your private assets. We need to partner with local groups and Cape Fear Community College to offer a business education course that will assist our local business owners.
After completing these courses, my third step would be to give our local business owners, who complete this education and are willing to meet minimum conditions of employment, local tax incentives so that they might grow and expand their businesses.
This will open up the sector of capital investment, as well as growing our commercial spaces as well. To put it simply, I believe that the key to developing our local economy is diversification and education.”
If elected, what are two goals you would like to have completed by the end of your term?
“I would like to see steps taken to begin to address the inequities in our city and local area. Whether we are speaking about health, environmental, occupational, housing, climate or racial inequities, it is well established that when those on the bottom do better, that we all do better. Any sustainable economy is built on this principle.
We must work to address climate in our area. Our current modeling is built primarily around simply rebuilding. Hurricane Florence reminded us all that we live on a peninsula, and that we cannot continue to pave over every single square inch of dirt in our city and county. I would like to see more encouragement from the council regarding the usage of permeable road solutions in new development, which will reduce stormwater runoff. We also need to do a better job of encouraging businesses to utilize redevelopment properties. Reducing the amount of property that is covered with non-permeable asphalt. We must protect our natural environment, or else our economy will suffer time and time again, every time that we experience a storm.
We live in hurricane alley, storms are not going to stop hitting us any time soon, so I believe that we need to move to a plan of preparation and mitigation, where we are far more prepared for storms. This will protect our assets, but more importantly, it will protect our families.”
How can the community address the issue of lack of affordable housing?
“We as a city must do everything in our power to increase the amount of affordable housing. In the past, the city has been a part of one of two projects at a time, as affordable housing becomes scarcer in our area, we no longer have that luxury. We should be working with developers, with taxpayers, the federal government and all interests so that we can increase our housing density, while not having a hugely detrimental effect on our natural environment.
Sadly, we cannot have a conversation about increasing affordable housing without also having a conversation about increasing housing density. The two go hand-and-hand. Without one, you cannot have the other. I am in favor of utilizing creative zoning and using every tool in our tool belt to work to accomplish this goal.”
From roads to bridges to more accessibility, what are some of your infrastructure concerns and ways to deal with them?
“A primary concern of mine is the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. I spoke at the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) meeting concerning the unsolicited proposal that was presented. I am 100% opposed to a toll bridge in that area. It would have a devastating effect on our roads, our traffic and our residents. I state this because if we place a toll bridge in the place of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, then this will simply divert the majority of traffic onto the Isabel Holmes Bridge. This huge influx of traffic will now be going through downtown, and through the surrounding neighborhoods. These areas were never designed to handle this sort of a huge permanent traffic flow, causing massive traffic jams in downtown, backing up all of the way to the Isabel Holmes and over it onto Eagles Island. I also asked at the WMPO meeting why we were the only place in the state that was undergoing a proposal for a toll bridge. No other area else in our state was being asked to look for additional funding sources. Why are our tax dollars in this area, suddenly not as good as in areas like Raleigh, or Charlotte?
As a city, we need to be expanding our biking and walking paths. It seems like a weekly occurrence where we turn on the news and see another person who was hit and killed by a vehicle. Wilmington must become a more pedestrian-friendly city if we are going to continue to be a modern city. Walkability is a key aspect of our infrastructure that I simply do not see being discussed as much as I would like.”