Majority of board seats on the ballot in Kill Devil Hills

By on October 23, 2017

Ron Wright

Sheila Davies

Kill Devil Hills features a rematch of the 2015 race for mayor between challenger Ron Wright and incumbent Shelia Davies.

Four candidates are also running for two seats on the Board of Commissioners: incumbent Michael Midgette, Terry Gray, Luke Mahler and John Windley. Incumbent Travis Appleman declined to seek another term.

We asked the candidates questions about the Judge Tillett case, affordable housing, the character of the town and beach nourishment.

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Biographical information and photos were provided by the League of Women Voters of Dare County.

Sheila Foster Davies

Education: PhD in Public Policy and Administration; Master of Public Administration degree from Walden University, 2009; Health Policy Specialization from Walden University, 2014; Bachelor of Scienc Degree in Psychology and Kinesiology from the College of William and Mary, 1995

Additional experience: Currently serving 3rd term as Mayor of Kill Devil Hills; Founding Executive Director of the Outer Banks Family YMCA; UNC School of Government LGFCU Fellow; Former member of the KDH Zoning Board of Adjustment; President Currituck Dare Community Foundation; Former Paramedic; PORT Human Services Board member; 26 years of non-profit, business and government budget and leadership experience.

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Ron Wright

Education: High School graduate; Continuing Education in Constitutional Law

Additional Training/Experience: Pool and Spa Industry Advisor/Research & Development; Boy Scouts of America District Chairman; Pack 116 Cub Scout Leader; Inaugural Outer Banks Motorcycle Toy Run Committee Member; Founding member of the Outer Banks Spa and Pool Association; Over three and a half decades as a successful Entrepreneur; President of East Coast Hot Tubs, Inc., 26+ years in business

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Michael Midgette

Education: Graduate of Manteo High School; COA Classes; NC License Real Estate Broker; CompTIA Network+ Certified; Currently studying CompTIA’s Security+ Certification.

Occupation: Current Commissioner on the Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners; Member of the Kill Devil Hills Community Appearance Committee; A/V Tech for Audio Video Providers; Ambassador for Twiddy. I have also worked retail, repaired arcade games, and managed the local movie theaters.


John Linton Windley

Education: Bachelor of Science, Criminal Justice in 2001 from East Carolina University

Occupation: Store Manager of Walgreen’s Drug Store in Kill Devil Hills. I started with Walgreens in 2005 and have been at my current position of Store Manager in Kill Devil Hills since 2009.

Additional experience: United States Peace Corps Volunteer, Nicaragua 2002 – 2005; Bilingual, English and Spanish; Kill Devil Hills Planning Board member 2016 – present; Rotarian- North Banks Rotary; Active member of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce; Contributor to the Outer Banks Hospital Health Coach Program; Team Lead and Contributor, Dare County Relay for Life, 2012 – present


Luke Chandler Mahler

Education: Bachelor’s degree in History and Classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Occupation: Recent UNC graduate; Community organizer and volunteer

Additional experience: Environmental advocate and canvasser; Longtime tutor for at-risk & disabled children; charity and aid worker and facilitator


Terry Gray

Education: Graduate Manteo High School, 74

Occupation: N.C. DOT Ferry Division Operations Manager

Additional experience: Kill Devil Hill’s Planning Board, 1987-1991; Kill Devil Hill’s Board of Commissioners, 1991-1993; Kill Devil Hill’s Mayor, 1993–1995; NC DOT Ferry Division, Hatteras Inlet 1996-present; Manage Terminal and Ferry Operations employing as many as 75 employees, 7 vessels with complex routes to ferry traveling public to Ocracoke, N.C; Also managed Emergency Ferry Operations during Storm recoveries

1. Much time, effort, and money was spent on the Judge Tillett and Chief Britt cases along with the Delbert Melton situation. How would you have acted differently and how do you address the ethical standards violations (Britt filing false documents with the schools, personal vendetta by town staff against Tillett that was rebuked by the state Supreme Court, commissioner trying to purchase property the town was attempting to foreclose), exhibited in actions taken by town staff and elected officials?

Davies: Much time and effort is spent on addressing any complex issue the Town of Kill Devil Hills faces. Exercising sound judgement takes diligence, thoughtfulness, and a clear distinction between facts (backed by solid evidence and credible sources) versus speculation and assumptions.

Given the complexity and breadth of these issues and the fact that one started in 2010 and the other started over 25 years ago, in 1992, this is not the forum to adequately address these items. Additionally, there are inherent mistruths in the question itself that make it unfair to address, not to mention I hold myself to a much higher ethical standard than this question provokes and would never allow myself to be put in a position to publicly belittle, devalue or defame any individual associated with this question.

That being said, I would be more than happy to discuss in detail any of these issues with anyone who wants more information. Please feel free to call me on my personal cell phone (252)475-0033 and we can discuss.

The merit of this question is in addressing the ethical standards that an elected official uses to guide decision making. This is very important to me and should be for voters as well. I hold steadfast to the American Society for Public Administration’s Code of Ethics (www.aspanet.org), which calls for:
Recognizing and supporting the public’s right to know the public’s business
Involving the citizens in decision making
Assisting citizens in their dealings with government
Maintaining truthfulness and honesty
Zealously guarding against conflict of interests or its appearance

Over the past 6 years I have demonstrated my commitment to these ethical principles as validated by recording and televising all board of commissioners meetings, providing additional public comment time at each commissioners meeting, facilitating meetings between town staff and citizens, business owners, or property owners to address issues brought forth. I remain committed to addressing any issue the town faces, openly, honestly and with the end goal in mind of reaching solutions that are legal, ethical and for the betterment of the town and its citizens, property owners and business owners.

Wright: My plan for an open and transparent town, run like a business, should eliminate future ethics issues within all town departments.

At times, it may become necessary for micro-management by the Board of Commissioners if issues arise.

As Mayor, I would personally investigate and resolve issues with the strictest of standards in an effective and timely manner.

Gray: I agree, way too much time and money has been spent on issues where not only Governing Board members but Managers, and Dept. heads have miss-stepped causing a distraction that keeps us from concentrating on the real issues and from serving and protecting the Citizens and Business owners of the Town.

I would like to state that if I am elected to the BOC, I am but only one vote of a five member Board, however I will push to have a Code of Ethics adopted that guides how we approach problems and would be a standard to which our Elected Officials, Managers and Department Heads are held accountable.

A code of ethics document may outline the mission and values of the business or organization, how professionals are supposed to approach problems, the ethical principles based on the organization’s core values and the standards to which the professional is held.

We are having a time right now with vehicle break-ins and we need to be concentrating on helping our Policemen to attack that. We are fortunate in KDH to have a great group of officers. We need to stand behind them with resolve, to fix this problem without distractions.

I have the experience and ability to get dialogue started to complete this much needed task.

Mahler: If and when elected commissioner for Kill Devil Hills, I fully intend to apply the same integrity and respect for the law with which I have conducted my campaign. I’m running for this office purely to enact the positive change I want to see in the town — I have no conflicts of interest, and I will act to ensure that all benefit from my policies and actions equally and impartially.

Upon taking office, I will hold all of the town’s affairs to that same standard. The people of Kill Devil Hills deserve nothing less.

Midgette: I will handle any complaint brought to me about town staff or elected officials by doing research and consulting with the other members of the board. I will do my due diligence and investigate the situation. I will speak with the other board members in closed session if necessary where we can further discuss the issue with the town manager and town attorney. We would hear all the facts and consider solutions. We would
follow the rules of the town’s personnel policy and from there we would decide what action needs to be taken.

Windley: When a concern is presented to any town official ample time and effort should be given
to investigate what happened, collect data, interview and mediate an appropriate result.
If a concern requires a legal response the town attorney and/or the North Carolina
League of Municipalities should be consulted. Based on the information gathered,
appropriate, supported action should be taken.

2. 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?

Davies: The Town of Kill Devil Hills is currently in the process of updating our Land Use Plan. The goal of the land use plan is to provide a general pattern for the location, distribution and character of the future land uses within the town. As a guideline the land use master plan is not a zoning document but rather a reflection of the community’s vision of its future self. Community input is utilized in the development of the land use plan and serves the following functions:
Provides continuity across time for addressing land use issues
Is a means by which the community can balance competing interests
Is a means by which the community can protect public investments
Allows the community to plan development in a way that protects valued resources
Provides guidance for shaping the appearance of our community
Promotes economic development/re-development
Provides justification for decisions
Is a collection vision for the future
Once we have the updated plan the next step would be revisiting zoning ordinances that are not consistent with the revised plan and making changes to ensure that the town’s zoning ordinances are in line with the vision expressed in the plan.

Wright: The town needs to restructure the biased ways of dealing with citizens to be fair and equal with the idea that “we work for them.” Customer service is paramount, with town pride in all departments. We need to protect, then educate the public in all town matters.

My “KDH Proud” commitment and policies will make us the envy of the Outer Banks. This will allow owners to understand how the town will work with them to enhance their properties.

Gray: We need to be a service provider and understand that our customers need assistance from us. It is the Towns job to provide this service. We need to preserve the character of the Town by doing a couple of things.

Update the Land use Plan, (currently under way) to be a guide of how the Citizens want us to govern the Town.
Uniform zoning enforcement.
We are here to serve the Citizens and customers of the Town.
I have the experience, ability, and have demonstrated the dedication to putting the citizens first and to foster improvement programs like the Trash Attack that benefit our Town.

Mahler: I believe strongly in maintaining and enhancing the aesthetic and unique beauty that this town represents so well, and preserving the look, feel and availability of the town’s neighborhoods and beaches is a crucial priority.

It can be difficult to strike a balance between respecting the rights of homeowners to develop their property with the concerns of folks who feel rightfully concerned by the intrusion that massive and large-scale developments cause — with that said, however, I come down strongly on the side of doing what I can to keep both the beach and the town’s look and feel pleasing to the eye and unobtrusive to the community.

While I support folks’ prerogatives to enhance their properties within the bounds of regulations, wherever possible consultation with the relevant stakeholders and residents of nearby homes and neighborhoods is the best path. Kill Devil Hills works best as a community when goodwill between neighbors is widespread, and I intend to act to create and maintain that goodwill to the greatest extent that I can.

Midgette: There needs to be a balance between preserving the character of the town and allowing private property owners to enhance their properties. NC law limits the town’s ability to restrict private property owners from making a number of choices from the colors they can paint their home to the number of bedrooms a home can have. These decisions are generally left up to smaller communities where HOAs can implement
restrictive covenants. Part of what makes the outer banks special is that so much of our community moved here from somewhere else. This has created a melting pot of styles giving Kill Devil Hills its own unique flair. I enjoy the variety and I would never want to restrict someone from being able to express themselves by enhancing their private property. I do feel that it is the towns place to step in when safety becomes an issue. I would also consider any complaints brought to the council about a given structure.

Windley: Improving communication between citizens and town government can preserve the
character of our town while allowing owners to use/enhance their property. The town
should continue investigating creative ways to build rapport with our community so
property owners know whom to approach with questions and concerns. The more
comfortable citizens are directly approaching town staff, the Planning Board and the
Board of Commissioners with issues concerning property usage the best balance of
preserving our character and building for the future can be achieved.

3. The businesses community says the lack of housing is having a detrimental impact on their ability to attract and keep employees at all pay levels. How would you work to change that situation in your town?

Davies: Affordable housing is a genuine issue in our area. It is a multi-faceted issue as it is not just about the availability of housing, it is also about the living wage and having multiple options for people of varying income levels. One of the first challenges is determining a definition of affordable housing. The Town of Kill Devil Hills worked collaboratively with the former Outer Banks Community Development Corporation – CDC (which is no longer in existence due to funding cuts at the federal and state level) to adopt a workforce housing ordinance which now allows for increased density and waiving of fees associated with new development. Within the first few years of the construction of the new townhomes, buyers were running into challenges with qualifying for the homes based on HUD’s low income formula. One buyer in particular made only $2500 gross per year more than the qualifying income and the only way the townhome could be sold to her was to remove it from workforce housing and return it to market rate. This is an unfortunate example where best of intentions (i.e. establishing an affordable housing development) did not meet expectations due to inflexible federal income guidelines. I share this example to illustrate the complexity of this issue.

At the root of addressing this issue must be a collaboration of stakeholders that can impact change. Specifically, local government (all towns and the county), state and federal housing agency representatives, the business community and the chamber of commerce and individuals representing various income levels within the workforce. The issue of housing availability is not a one town issue and in light of the closing of the Outer Banks CDC, a local task force comprised of the representatives named above would be a strategic place to start creating action plans to combat this significant issue facing the Outer Banks.

Wright: I would like to reduce red tape and change restrictive ordinances, such as lot size limits, to allow for “true” affordable housing townwide.

Gray: Only 0.5% of total units in the housing stock in dare County are “affordable” based on a preliminary scan conducted by RTI in a 2016 study of Affordable housing Best practices.
A relatively large portion of population is employed in service sector jobs that support the Tourism Industry. Of 19,400 workers in the County, 4,700 people are employed in the accommodation and food services, another 3,700 are employed in retail business. These two sections make up 43 % of total employment in the region. Most of these folks are overburdened due to paying over 30% of their earnings on rent (ACS 2013).
We need to work with other municipalities, and the County, to identify land and principals that can do as Pirates Moor Townhomes has done, use (LIHTC) to finance projects. Local Government needs to be the frontrunner in tackling this issue I would propose a task force to take this issue on.
I have the experience, ability and contacts with other government entities, both local and state to get the ball rolling.

Mahler: Affordable housing is among the most pressing issues affecting this town — currently nearly half of Dare County and Kill Devil Hills residents spend more than more than 30% of their income on rent. (2016 statistic – Affordable Housing Best Practice, RTI International)

Our local economy depends on large numbers of hardworking folks who find it extremely difficult to find acceptable housing — and that’s why future housing developments need to be undertaken with service and retail workers in mind.

There are a couple tools we can use and expand to help address this issue.
By making zoning laws more flexible for accessory dwelling units (subordinate units/rooms on the same lot as a property), rooms that might not otherwise be available for rent and use can be opened up.

Low income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) are another option that have met with some success — but the town and the county will certainly have to continually make the case to developers in order to encourage specific projects. Overall, housing decisions must be made based on the needs of the large numbers of people who struggle to find available and reasonably priced housing in Kill Devil Hills — and my decision-making will be undertaken with these folks’ interests well in mind.

Midgette: This is an issue that many communities with tourist economies face. Property values are higher here because of the location and scarcity of land which can make it impossible for someone making minimum wage to find affordable housing. This is an issue that we need to work together as a community to solve. We’ve been encouraging everyone to take the land use plan survey so that we can better serve the interests of the town.
I would also encourage the business community to pay a live able wage to their employees. A new apartment complex is currently being developed near Run Hill. The town has also recently approved a lot size change that will allow 70+ new single family homes to be built in the first flight neighborhood. This will certainly bring more options for people looking to purchase a homes in Kill Devil Hills.

Windley: The first step for addressing the lack of affordable housing in Kill Devil Hills and Dare
County is utilizing the resources that are currently available. The business community
needs to be aware of our Workforce Housing Ordinance that provides density bonuses
and waives initial construction fees for multifamily units that are priced affordably
based on median family income.
The second step is collaboration. Affordable housing needs to be addressed on a
countywide level by a group consisting of community organizations, elected officials,
builders, bankers and REALTORS. This group’s goal would be to investigate creating
incentives and ordinances that make building affordable housing a desirable business
opportunity in Dare County.

4. What is your stance on beach nourishment, and are you in it for the long haul if it means continuing to pay for it at the local level?

Davies: I am supportive of beach nourishment and proud of the Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners for taking the necessary steps to assure shoreline protection. When we made the decisions to move forward with beach nourishment we knew it was not a one and done process. Beach nourishment and maintenance is an ongoing commitment. The current funding plan the board adopted in 2015 not only provided for funding the current project but also provides funding for ongoing maintenance and future re-nourishment.

Wright: Beach nourishment was put off entirely too long! We must save our beaches while looking for creative and green programs/funding to offset future costs and less the burden on taxpayers.

Gray: Absolutely, the nourished beach is an insurable item that will benefit us and with sustainability, it only makes sense. My family has been around a long time, and me too. Over all those years there were a couple of things that were constant. One was that neighbors take care of neighbors, and another was the fact that our visitors come for the Beaches. Storm waters, sea level rise, and sustainability are subjects that we must accept as issues. Also as stated, The Beaches are the number one reason people visit. Essential to our success, and to protect our infrastructure and future success ….We need clean wide beaches. Yes nourishment is going to be our future, and we will do everything to protect this asset.

Mahler: Without a viable beach and coastline, this community would simply not exist. It is in our social and economic best interest to do ensure our beaches are protected, supported and nourished — and while great strides have been made in maintaining our beaches, this vital work needs to be continued.

Midgette: The beach is critical to this community, and beach nourishment helps to prevent erosion. I support beach nourishment and I would continue with the current maintenance program in place. By protecting our
beaches we are protecting the infrastructure of Kill Devil Hills. The beach benefits our town not only recreationally, but also economically by being the number one reason that people choose to visit our area.

Windley: Beach nourishment is the only option unless we choose retreat. North Carolina is one of
two states that do not allow hardened structures off the coast. We have limited options
because of state regulations. I support beach nourishment projects for the future of our
oceanfront neighborhoods and economic engine.

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Comments

Phill S.

November 5, 2017 7:43 am

It is very concerning to me that this former mayor is trying to get back in office, as well as someone so young with seemingly no experience.

dave

November 1, 2017 8:15 am

Delbert and spray painting a not so nice sign incidents is all you need to know about the core values of a couple people.

Skip Jones

October 29, 2017 11:14 am

I would like to take this opportunity to recommend that more KDH citizens consider attending the town meetings and get involved with boards and committees. It takes very little time and is a great way to understand what is really happening. It is easy and unfortunately typical for “concerned citizens” to show up at the last meeting of a months long discussion of an issue and then not even show enough courtesy to their elected off Icials to stay for an entire meeting

A guy who goes to meetings

October 27, 2017 6:24 am

Funny how everyone screams for ‘change’ based on a hot-button topics or two that they only read on line or hear second hand — but can’t be bothered to go to a meeting and see all that goes into the governing process. As someone who sits through these things several times a year, I can say I’d be happy if the current board stayed as is. They don’t do everything I agree with, but even the people I didn’t vote for clearly have the town’s best interest at heart. Being an elected official takes more than opinions; it takes listening to other peoples’ take, being informed and follow-through and time spent. Being a voter means and recognizing who you’re putting in as much as who you’re kicking out. Look at the bios and it’s pretty clear who’s put their hours where their mouth is when it comes to caring about the community.

Local Guy

October 25, 2017 1:28 pm

Remember Delbert when you vote KDH

Stevejo

October 24, 2017 9:48 pm

I think Mr. Wright may have sealed his fate with the spray painting incident. Not sure I can vote for him. With that said, I guess I too may have to add a write-in vote.

In the future, “party groups” need to get their candidates in the right order. I plan to vote for Terry Gray and would have voted for him ANY DAY for MAYOR.

Joan

October 24, 2017 4:20 pm

It is very unfortunate for the town to have such a qualified Mayor defer responsibility for question #1, but will answer only privately in a phone call? Those issues were distractions to the proper running of the police force and to this day have an impact on our resources with the County. More unfortunate is not having peer alternative to vote in. If you are voting for the Mayor’s team (Midgette and Windley), you are voting for status quo. It would be nice to add some experience to the Board of Commissioners
.

OBX mermaid

October 23, 2017 11:48 am

The status quo in KDH needs to go! They are letting their law firm make the decisions in the Tillett case and other related actions! Unfortunately, the other new individuals running are of the same genre! Perhaps we should have some right-in candidates!

Comments are closed.