PINE KNOLL SHORES — Carteret County voters may notice a familiar name on their ballots during the 2020 races for N.C. General Assembly – Pine Knoll Shores Mayor Ken Jones announced he’s running for the House.
Mayor Jones formally announced his candidacy March 9 at the Carteret County Republican Party convention, held at the Leon Mann Jr. Enrichment Center in Morehead City. In an interview Thursday with the News-Times, Mayor Jones said he ran for state office several years ago, at the time running for a N.C. Senate seat. This time, he’s running for the state House, due to Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret (Jones), announcing this will be her last term in office.
“I know I can do a good job representing the 13th District,” Mayor Jones said. “Pat McElraft is leaving some big shoes to fill.”
In addition to serving as mayor of Pine Knoll Shores since 2009, Mayor Jones has served as Carteret County Beach Commission vice chairman since 2011. He’s also served as the county representative to the New Bern Regional Airport Authority since 2014 and as an appointee to the Eastern Region Economic Development Commission from 2014-17.
Mayor Jones said he’s familiar with a lot of the issues concerning Carteret County and other coastal areas.
“I’ve gone to Raleigh to represent the county on several occasions,” he said. “I represented several coastal counties on the issue of municipal service districts. I’ve got several contacts in Raleigh.”
Mayor Jones said he’s received a lot of support to run for the House from those around him.
“I think I’ve represented my town and our county well,” he said, “so I think my chances are good. My priorities have always included communication.”
Mayor Jones has worked in local government for about 10 years. Prior to serving on the Pine Knoll Shores board of commissioners, he was a member of the town planning board.
If elected, Mayor Jones said he intends to pursue state support for developing aquaculture in Carteret County.
“I like the education setup we have (to train people in aquaculture),” the mayor said. “I want to support making our schools and colleges stronger.”
Beach nourishment is another issue Mayor Jones plans to tackle if elected to the legislature. He said he wants to work toward maintaining state funding opportunities for beach nourishment.
The mayor said he’s also in support of environmental protection. Pine Knoll Shores residents have often spoken publicly about protecting their local maritime forest and have prided themselves on being designated a “Tree City U.S.A.”
“I’m always going to be in favor of doing the right thing for our environment,” Mayor Jones said. “I also want to bring industry to eastern North Carolina. When we develop aquaculture, I’d like to go the whole nine yards. All the (seafood) processing should be done here, not shipped off elsewhere.”
The mayor also said he wants to promote the aviation industry in Carteret County. He said while there appears to be an “aviation pipeline” through which production and shipping of aviation components moves, it doesn’t include Carteret County, in spite of the existence of the Michael J. Smith Field Airport in Beaufort.
“When the F-35s roll into (Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point, we can be a part of that,” he said.
Last but not least, Mayor Jones said it will be important to look for growth with the state’s plan to have an exit from Interstate 42 on the Craven/Carteret county line. He said this will shorten the length of the commute from Raleigh to the coast, making shipping easier, but plans need to be in place for property and infrastructure development in the county before the interstate project is done.
“There are plenty of lessons around,” Mayor Jones said. “Look at Wilmington, the traffic situation (there) has become insurmountable.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email email@example.com; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.