Generational leaders face off in race for Manteo mayor

By on October 20, 2017

Bobby Owens

Jamie Daniels

Manteo voters will find a race for mayor and competition for three Board of Commissioners seats on the town ballot this year.

Eight-year incumbent Mayor Jamie Daniels faces a challenge from Bobby Owens Jr., a former chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners and a longtime local and state political force.

Four candidates are running for three board seats: incumbents Christine Walker, Martha Wickre and Richie Burke along with challenger Eddie Mann Jr.

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We asked them questions concerning the character of the town, the Police Department, the next town manager and infrastructure improvements.

Early voting is under way. Click here for more details »


Biographical information and some photos were provided by the League of Women Voters of Dare County. Photo of Bobby Owens courtesy of East Carolina University.

Luther Jameson “Jamie” Daniels
Education: Graduated from Manteo High School 1989, Attended College of the Albemarle, Graduated from Baltimore International Culinary College.
Occupation: Restaurant Owner 22 Years
Additional experience: UNC School of Government certificates in; School for Newly Elected Officials, Essentials of Municipal Government, Manager Evaluation and Board Assessment, Ethics Training. 5 years Dare County Tourism Board; 8 years Town of Manteo Planning and Zoning Board; 8 years Town of Manteo Mayor

Bobby Owens
Education: High School
Occupation: Retired
Additional experience: Various county and state positions

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Richard H. Burke
Education: Manteo High School
Occupation: Dare County Water Department (15 YRS)
Addional experience: Town of Manteo Commissioner for 10 yrs; Lifelong Resident of Dare County; Father

Martha Wickre
Education: Attended Longwood College and Old Dominion University
Occupation: Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper for Deep Water Yachts in Wanchese, and self-employed as Coordinator for Special Events and Public Relations
Additional experience: Board Member of the Outer Banks Visitor Bureau, Board Member of the Dare County Current TV, Dare Day Director, Volunteer for the Outer Banks Relief Foundation and Outer Banks Sporting Events.

Christine Etheridge Walker
Education: Graduate of Manteo High School; Associate of Arts, Peace College 1989; Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, ECU 1991
Occupation: Administrative Assistant, Wanchese Marine Industrial Park, N.C. Dept. of Commerce
Additional experience: Mom of 2 teenagers; Past Secretary for the Dare County Baseball League

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Edward “Eddie” Lee Mann Jr.
Education: College of The Albemarle, BLET Certification
Occupation: Detective, Law Enforcement
Additional experience: Dare County Zoning Board of Adjustment, Lodge Officer of Manteo Masonic Lodge 521, Past President of Dare County Shrine Club, Past Board Member of The Room in the Inn, Criminal Justice Instructor, Crisis Negotiator, over 1,000 hours of Law Enforcement training

1. What measures need to be taken in the near future to preserve the character of the town, while continuing to allow owners to have the ability to use/enhance their properties, especially along the US 64 corridor?

Daniels: Dare County administration soon will not need all the satellite offices they have in downtown Manteo. The Manteo Board of Commissioners needs to hold a series of a joint workshop meetings with the Manteo Planing Board and representatives from Dare County to discuss a plan to re-purpose or re-develop these satellite offices into retail and residential space.

The Boards need to include in their meetings a discussion of the results of the recent citizen survey. Also, there should be an opportunity for citizen input on the future plans. There are some lager parcel on 64 that we need to work with developers to find compatible uses for Manteo.

Owens: I am very proud of the corridor. You should have seen it before Sen. Basnight pushed for funding for improvements along the corridor. From Pirates Cove to the north end of the island, take a good look at it.

If you are proud to be from Manteo or from any part of the island to the north end, you should respect the corridor on 64. Some of the rules and regulations could be relaxed for the businesses, but let’s keep it beautiful.

Burke: Community planning is required to preserve the character of the Town. As we transition into the future, it is important that the decisions that guide development are in the best interest of the community and the people that make up the community.

The regulations that we have in place need to be constantly reviewed and updated. For example, the US 64 Corridor in the Town, that you referenced, is governed by the B-2 General Business District zoning regulations. In this ‘commercial district’ no commercial uses are allowed by right. This means that any ‘commercial use’ must be approved by the Town Commissioners. This politicizes the use. In this next term, I look forward to continuing my efforts to establish a list of uses that are permitted by right in order to enhance the ability of individuals to use/enhance their properties.

In continuing to look at zoning issues, there are several properties within the Town that are in need of re-development that have either been abandoned by the County or private landowners. We need to listen to the community and establish zoning regulations that allow the re-development of these properties to meet the shared goals of the community.

This past year, this Board worked to hire a new Town Planner. We are extremely satisfied that the new Planner is working with the community, Board, and staff to further identify the issues that will allow us to strengthen the community while preserving the rights of the individual.

Mann: The Town of Manteo needs to consult with local preservation groups and town historians to update the “Manteo Way of Building” in a way to better preserve the history and character of the town. Along the US 64 corridor the Town of Manteo should maintain landscaping to give the town a more welcoming and pleasant appearance. The commercial property usage along the corridor needs to also be updated to allow businesses to maximize their property while maintaining the small town charm of Manteo.

Walker: We should continue advising builders and developers of the benefits to preserving the history and character of the town. Guidance is offered on the Manteo-way and other preferred building styles. It need not be a detriment. The Town desires responsible development and use of all properties to the fullest.

Manteo is a desirable place to live for many reasons but most citizens like the small-town feel along with the benefits of businesses such as grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants and shops. The Board of Commissioners should work with the Planning and architectural review boards to achieve this goal. Citizens should also be involved in determining what development occurs along Hwy 64.

Wickre: Over the years, The Town of Manteo Board of Commissioners in conjunction with the Planning Board have worked together to provide guidance through zoning ordinances and reference documents to ensure consistent development and the redevelopment of existing properties. The current zoning ordinances are in need of review and update, if warranted. It is not my intention to make drastic changes to the current zoning ordinances as it is my goal to preserve the character of the town.

The Board of Commissioners, with the assistance of the Planning Board need to review and update if needed to allow current and potential owners the ability to enhance their properties. The board needs to take a serious look at the future of our town along US 64 corridor, and make solid decisions of what direction we as a town need to take to begin to move forward. We have several properties along US 64 corridor that would benefit from this next step to help insure the future of our town.

I would also like to re-address the steps needed to allocate preservation of the historical districts in the town of Manteo. Possible state funding and grants may be available to home and business owners to cover the cost of restoration and repairs of historical homes and buildings. This would be a great incentive for our property owners to receive assistance and/or tax breaks in the restoration and up keep of their properties.

2. What efforts need to be made to continue improving the town’s police department after its negative review?

Daniels: The police department did not receive a negative review. The Manteo Police Department is routinely audited multiple times a year by the State and the federal government, Neither the State nor any federal agency has ever found the Town of Manteo Police Department to be out of compliance. We did have complaints from officers about low morale and a desire for career advancement.

Also, the board of commissioners and myself were concerned that the police department was not growing with the changing times. We hired a consultant to review the police department policy and procedures and make suggestion. The Chief, the consultant and the town manage developed an action plan to make the small department of eight officers as professional as any department in the country. Some suggestion we simple like officers should wear proper uniforms while on duty and not fatigues. Other we more complex like developing a professional career development plan. The Chief of Police updates the board monthly on his progress.

Owens: I think the police department has gotten a bum rap. It has problems but not as bad as others think or have said. It’s a small department covering about a mile or a little longer in any direction, not counting Pirates Cove. With no more coverage than this, the few problems we have could be handled easily with some corrections in policies or replacements of personnel.

Burke: The Town of Manteo is a safe place to live. It is this safety and charm that has driven people to us from larger areas where safety is an issue. Are there improvements that can be made? Yes. The recent report identified changes that need to be made. The Department is making those changes.

As a Board, we were aware that there were issues, and that was the purpose of initiating the report. As a Commissioner, it is important that personnel issues are addressed in accordance with the Town’s Personnel Policy booklet. As a Board, we will continue to review the Police Department and if changes need to be made, we will have the documentation to make those changes.

Mann: This is an area that I can help greatly with my experience in law enforcement. The police department has got to start building relationships with the town residents, through direct interaction and community events. The police department has to make an effort to get to know its citizens so that they can serve the community better. Strong leadership, structure, direction, and accountability in the police department will guide the police department in a positive direction. I have numerous resources in law enforcement that are willing to help the Manteo Police Department become a exemplary small town, community involved police department.

Walker: The Manteo Police Department does a great job of protecting its residents and visitors. While we strive to improve our services, we are mindful that our police sometimes face different issues than the surrounding communities. I find them to be citizen-friendly and available to the public. A recent review of the career development plan by the Chief and Board of Commissioners offers resources for training and education. We want them to be a top-notch force.

Wickre: The Town of Manteo Police Department participated in an external review performed by a retired police chief that was recommended to the by the NC Justice Academy. Upon the completion of the review, there were recommendations to the Board of Commissioners to improve procedures, policies, and practices that were currently in place in the police department. Recommendations made that were easily corrected have already been implemented. More detailed recommendations such as comprehensive review of policies and written procedures take more time to be updated and are currently being reviewed and updated.

Our Chief of Police has been working with his officers and staff to complete these recommendations to his department. I have requested several update reports over the last few months from the Chief of Police at our monthly workshop meetings. I will continue to request updated progress reports each month. The Board of Commissioners have stated to the Chief of Police that financial support is available for training, education and outside resources to ensure the department is in compliance with all State regulations and policies.

The Town of Manteo police provide an invaluable service to our citizens providing safety assurance and property protection. It is vital that our experienced officers and department operate with integrity, accountability and strong leadership. I will continue to monitor the progress until all recommendations are corrected and implemented.

3. With Kermit Skinner announcing his retirement next June, what would you like to see in the next town manager?

Daniels: Mr Skinner leaves big shoes to fill. I hope we can find someone that has a love for Manteo like Kermit does.

Owens: I would like the incoming TM to have a vision and be goal oriented with no more than a five year projection plan. I have found that ten to twenty year projections sound good but are not really feasible or doable. He or she should definitely be the person in charge of all departments and not allow departments to manage themselves without oversight. The manager should also be out on the streets and visible to the citizens and businesses in town.

Burke: We thank Kermit for his thirty (30) years of service to the Town. Under his tenure as Manager, the Town has grown dramatically. During this period, the growth has been managed to preserve the qualities that make Manteo a special place. As a multi-term commissioner, I understand the responsibilities involved in hiring the next Town Manager in order to preserve the ethos of this place.

First, we need to extend the search beyond the Town of Manteo, Dare County, and North Carolina. We need to make sure that we get the best candidate for the job.

It is imperative that the new manager has the experience of a well-run municipality behind he or she. I
want the prospective manager to bring long-term stability to the community and not look at the position
as a bridge to another position or Town. Additionally, I want a manager that is analytical and innovative.
It is important that the manager is able to get the most out of a lean budget.

As a community of names and not faces, the new manager must have outstanding people skills — the
ability to work with the good, the bad, and the ugly to respectfully resolve issues as they occur. The
skills to not only see the big picture but to help motivate others to see it and buy into it are important to
making the Town run more efficiently.
In closing, the ideal candidate will possess these skills and the knowledge of coastal issues that we face
as a Town.

Mann: Kermit has done a good job and has served Manteo well and will be missed by the residents and employees of Manteo. The next town manager will need to be a well organized leader who will strengthen the structure of the town and communicate clearly with the town board and with the community. I would also like to see the next town manager of Manteo be a resident of the Town of Manteo so that they too have a personal interest in the improvement of the town.

Walker:  We are going to miss Kermit! His wealth of knowledge and love for the Town have grown while serving as Manager. When the time comes, Commissioners will closely examine the applications for Town Manager to meet our changing needs. I feel it’s important for the new manager to have an outgoing personality while providing structure and being the Head of town staff.

Wickre: First, I would like to thank Kermit Skinner for his upcoming 30 years of service upon his
retirement in June 2018. As we look towards the future for the Town of Manteo I think it is important for the next town manager have the same values that we as citizens of Manteo have. I would like that person to have a vision for the town in keeping with our character, but come up with new ideas and even think “outside of the box” as the Board
of Commissioners look towards the future. A good candidate would be someone who has experience in small town management, leadership ability, accountability, and a passion for our town.

4. What is the biggest infrastructure improvement that needs to be made to the town in the next decade, and how would you propose paying for it?

Daniels: Stormwater. Every house that gets built, or drive way that gets paved creates more stormwater runoff. Most of our stormwater system is a collection of privately owned ditches and culverts that have not been engineered. NC DOT only maintains a system to clear water from DOT roads.

Currently the Town sets aside 2% of the property tax it collects for stormwater projects. We have already spent over a million dollars on four stormwater projects downtown We need to continue that work, and let it grow into a municipal stormwater collection system.

Owens: I see in the not so distant future, problems with wastewater, potable water, and last but not least, parking. The first two will be very expensive to fix. Parking will cost some, but the logistics of public parking, such as where to locate the parking and the form it will take will be the greater problem here, rather than expense.

Burke: As an elected leader in the community, I do not have the ability to single out one interest, one site, or one infrastructure improvement. I wish it were that simple. As an elected official, I and the Board have to constantly evolve and change to address all of the issues that the Town faces.

During my tenure, the Town and the Board have worked to make significant infrastructure improvements to the following: stormwater treatment, dredging public waterways including Pirates Cove, sewer plant, sidewalks,
residential curbside recycling, enlargement of the cemetery, and water distribution services.

With this stated, as our systems age we are constantly improving our infrastructure. The cost associated
with these improvements are significant. The only way to pay for these services is through taxes, and
grants. It is important that the new Town Manager is innovative in researching grant programs to
minimize tax increases. Another aspect is that we continue to invest in Town employees so that they
are given the skills to properly manage these systems.

My history as an employee with the Dare County Water Department is an asset that provides me with a
greater understanding of the issues related to water distribution and water quality.

Mann: The biggest infrastructure problem currently in the Town of Manteo is the water system. There are numerous residents in Manteo that have issues with the quality of the water coming in to their homes and businesses. The town has money in reserve funds, these funds can be allocated for the replacement of water lines. This would not be an easy fix that could happen all at once but can happen on a section at a time until the water lines are brought up to date.

Our health and the health of future generations is of the upmost importance, all of the residents and visitors in the Town of Manteo should not have to worry about the quality of their drinking water.

Walker: The Town needs to continue improving its infrastructure as we have been for several years now. We allocate 2 percent of tax money to fund storm water projects and remain committed to storm water retention to protect properties; both residential and commercial. Just as the water/sewer fund has become self-sufficient, the storm water fund’s balance will increase. Along with safe drinking water and sewer capacity, these things remain a top priority even as infrastructure costs increase.

Wickre: The Town of Manteo has several infrastructures that require upkeep, improvement and
repair each year. Our municipal waterfront marina and boardwalk, public works, and water and sewer department are just a few that provides services to our citizens.

As we look to the next decade, I believe that our biggest infrastructure improvements need to be focused on our water and sewer department and our ongoing storm water projects. We are currently working on Phase IV of our storm water project on Croatan Avenue. Our underground water pipes are old and outdated. With each storm water phase we are replacing water and sewer lines for drinking water quality, and implementing storm water drainage improvement for water running off our streets into Shallowbag Bay. There are two oil grit separator units to be installed on the landward side of two additional outfalls into Shallowbag Bay for cleaner water entering into Shallowbag Bay. We are also in need of updating our lift stations that carry storm drain water back to the water and sewer plant for clarification to be returned to Shallowbag Bay.

We are at 50% sewage capacity at our sewer plant. We can process up to 1,000,000 gallons a day. We need to plan for the future and be mindful of potential increase of sewage capacity in the next decade as a result of new homes and businesses being built or expanded. Also, with a good rain or hurricane our plant may runs at its capacity for
several days without any issue, but our plant is dated. In the next decade we will find the need to look at increasing our overall space with expansion, new equipment, and updated computer software in order to meet state and federal requirements for the water that is clarified and travels through the outfall into Shallowbag Bay
The storm water projects are paid for through the General Fund which is generated through our property taxes. Each cent on the .37 tax rate for every $100 generates $53,000 in revenue into our General Fund. Each year the Board of Commissioners strive to include another phase in the overall storm water project.

The water and sewer operational funding and infrastructure improvements/repairs/replacements are funded by user fees as required by the NC General Statutes.

All water and sewer enterprise funds must generate enough revenues to fund operational expenses and debt service payments for loans when needed to make necessary repairs and minimum rates for each type of account and vary for consumption depending upon how much water a customer uses. In 2012 a Comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan,
Space needs Study and a Water and Sewer Rate Study were completed. Each of those plans included components to be used as a planning tool to identify and fund immediate needs and future needs for the drinking water distribution system, the sewer collection system and our wastewater treatment plant.

Each year the Capital Improvement Plan is reviewed by the Board of Commissioners to determine priority projects during the budget planning process. Each year the needs of the water and sewer operations have changed. There is currently a rate schedule in place that is intended to provide for our current needs while creating a net change in assets for funds that can be used for emergency repairs and improvements.

Each year during the budget planning process the water and sewer enterprise fund balance is taken into account while determining whether or not increases in rates will be needed to meet current obligations and future improvements. The Board of Commissioners along with the Finance officer work together to insure the continued funding of our water and sewer facility for current needs, emergency repairs and future improvements.

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