PINE KNOLL SHORES — Communicating with the public and protecting remaining maritime forest seem like goals shared by the mayoral candidates in Pine Knoll Shores.

The League of Women Voters of Carteret County held a mayoral candidate forum Tuesday in the town hall boardroom at 100 Municipal Circle. Incumbent Mayor Ken Jones and mayoral candidates Margaret “Peggy” Young and Robert Cox answered questions submitted by the full-house audience and provided by forum moderator and Carteret County Chamber of Commerce President Tom Kies.

Mayor Jones said in his opening statement that being involved in Pine Knoll Shores is what matters most to him.

“Being mayor isn’t just kissing babies,” he said. “It’s representing this town to the world. I’ve done a lot for the county and put a lot in place to communicate with the people of the town.”

Mr. Cox, during his opening statement, said he thinks he has the skills and abilities to best represent the interests of Pine Knoll Shores’ residents.

“I’ve worked on work crews and many committees,” he said. “I’ll encourage interactive, two-way communications (between town officials and residents) … This is just the beginning.”

In her opening statement, Ms. Young said she has three primary goals if elected.

“It’s time the town made an investment in our families and our water,” Ms. Young said. “We need to let people know about all the things going on in town. Finally, I want to open up more communication opportunities in this town.”

All three candidates seemed to agree on a number of issues. When asked for their opinions on commercial development in Pine Knoll Shores, they all seemed to support keeping the primarily residential-feel of the town.

“We don’t have a lot of commercial property,” Mayor Jones said, “and I don’t see us getting much more. I don’t think we need a lot of industry.”

Mr. Cox seemed to agree, saying he thinks the commercial footprint of the town “is about right.”

“I think encouraging a virtual business is good,” he said, “but I don’t support a larger commercial footprint.”

Ms. Young echoed the other two candidates’ statements.

“There’s a lot of talk about tear-down-and-rebuild,” she said. “Our ordinance is being re-codified to preserve what we have.”

All the candidates also seemed in favor of protecting maritime forest in Pine Knoll Shores. Mr. Cox said he’d address the issue by determining what’s causing tree removal in town, as well as rescinding certain development requirements that may result in people cutting down tress to make room for things like engineered stormwater controls and septic tanks.

Mayor Jones, meanwhile, said he’d support additional indigenous tree planting. Ms. Young said town officials need to support and enforce existing tree protection ordinances and work with the town’s community appearance commission.

The candidates did differ on some issues discussed, however. When asked for their thoughts on resident feedback to town officials and working with resident volunteers on community projects, Mayor Jones seemed to favor maintaining current practices on accepting resident input and volunteer assistance.

“When we put out a call for more people to show up (for volunteer events), people show up,” he said.

Mr. Cox, meanwhile, said he thinks town officials can do better to engage with volunteers.

“I continue to hear from folks ‘I have an expertise in X,’” he said. “Many people who’ve retired here have worked in a variety of fields.”

Ms. Young said while Pine Knoll Shores has “a tremendous number of volunteers and organizations,” there’s not much communication with them.

“Many of them are independent (volunteers and organizations),” she said. “We need to be sure everyone knows about the opportunities.”

When asked if there’s any ways to improve receiving resident feedback, Mayor Jones said there are a number of ways that already exist outside the three-minute public comment periods during board of commissioner meetings.

“There are five commissioners you can approach,” he said. “They can bring up issues at meetings. Our process is very open to the public.”

Ms. Young, meanwhile, said she thinks town officials need to make more “formalized avenues” for residents to voice their concerns and ideas. She proposes having open office hours for the mayor and an “open mic night” before commissioners.

Mr. Cox said there’s “clearly a concern” among residents about communication with town officials.

“I will have established office hours and idea sessions (if elected),” he said.

During closing statements, Ms. Young said she’s known for “wearing her heart on her sleeve.”

“I very much want to serve Pine Knoll Shores,” she said. “Everyone is to be respected, to be listened to.”

Mayor Jones said it’s very important to be involved in this election.

“We don’t live in an island, but on an island,” he said. “We need to communicate with the state and county. It’s important we communicate.”

Mr. Cox said he offers “a different approach.”

“I pledge to donate my mayoral salary to local charities,” he said. “I’ll make 2020 the Year of Water. I’ll champion the original concepts and environmental priorities that make Pine Knoll Shores unique.”

Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email mike@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.

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