Swansboro voters will choose a mayor and three commissioners on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, although voters can cast a ballot ahead of Election Day.

In the 2021 election, incumbent John Davis and Dusty Rhodes are on the ballot for mayor. In the race for commissioners, incumbents Larry Philpott and Pat Turner will be joined by Lorenzo “Lawrence” Abalos, Jeffrey Conaway and Jerry Morse.

In Swansboro, the mayor is elected to a four-year term. The mayor does not normally have a vote, but could vote in the case of a tie.

The town employs a five-member commission with terms staggered. So commissioners are selected every two years with the top two finishers serving four-year terms and the candidate in third place serving a two-year term. This allows the voters to choose a majority of the voting board every election.

Over two weeks, Tideland News is profiling the seven candidates seeking a seat on the Swansboro Board of Commissioners.

Last week, the two candidates for mayor were included. In today’s Tideland, the commissioner candidates are profiled. For the profile, the hopefuls were asked to consider and answer a list of questions.

The candidates are presented in the order they replied.

Jerry Morse, 51, lives at 108 Bonita Lane.

A retired captain with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, Morse is a detective with the Jacksonville Police Department.

He has lived in Swansboro since 2015.

“I love Swansboro and I want to do my part in helping it maintain its small town charm,” Morse said in explaining why he is running. “I think I bring fresh ideas to the table. I grew up in this county and spent a lot of my youth visiting Swansboro and I believe I could represent the people well.”

As far as his qualifications to be commissioner, Morse said, “First and foremost I love Swansboro. I worked many years in this area and in the schools, so I feel like I have been a large part of this community for many years even before I moved here. I believe in representing the people of Swansboro and believe my 30-plus years in law enforcement has given me a common-sense approach to things and helps me make sound decisions with everyone’s best interest at heart.”

Incumbent Pat Turner, 71, lives at 1208 Mt. Pleasant Road.

She is director of Human Resources, Marine Corps Community Service Lejeune-New River and Albany, Ga.

Turner holds a Master’s Degree in human resources. She moved to Swansboro in 1992 and has been a commissioner for eight years.

“I want to be elected to continue what I and my fellow commissioners have accomplished for the past eight years,” she said. “I have a passion for the town of Swansboro and the citizens of this wonderful town since moving here in 1992. I have lived in Michigan, Alaska, Staten Island and the Philippines but once I moved to Swansboro I knew that this was the town that I wanted to raise my children and make Swansboro my forever home. I want to be actively involved in the town my children, grandchildren and I call home.”

Turner said she has the qualifications to serve.

“I have experience as a Swansboro commissioner for the past eight years; currently serve on the ONWASA Board of Directors; and previously was the chairperson for the Swansboro Planning Board for 14 years. I am an experienced and dedicated leader. My professional career has been in retail, hospital human resources and currently government human resources.”

Jeffrey Conaway, 57, lives at 664 Westwood Court.

He is a contract surveillance representative and retired Chief Petty Officer USN.

Conaway moved to Swansboro in 2006 and is a member of the Swansboro Planning and Zoning Board, Historic Preservation Commission and Board of Adjustment.

In explaining why he wants to be elected, Conaway said, “The people of Swansboro voiced their concerns and priorities about this town years ago. They need a voice to bring it to fruition. I will guarantee to be that voice, the voice of the resident and taxpayer and the voice of reason. I will ensure your best interest and the best interest of our town, while evaluating long-term effects. It’s time for me to serve the people of Swansboro at a different level and give them a professional leadership style and some fresh ideas to keep Swansboro thriving, safe and maintain its small town feel and show why we are The Friendly City by the Sea.”

Conaway said he is qualified, because, “I am currently on the planning and zoning board, the historic preservation commission and the board of adjustment. I am well aware of the interworking of our town. I also understand the roles and responsibilities of the advisory boards through the commission and will work to ensure everyone does what they are elected or hired to do for the residents, businesses and taxpayers of this town. I also have a deep understanding of the relationship between economic viability and environmental sustainability.”

Incumbent Larry Philpott, 71, lives at 706 Hummingbird South.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree at Methodist University and is a retired parks and recreation administrator.

Philpott moved into Swansboro in 2008 and served as a town commissioner, 2009-13, and was elected again in 2019.

“Why do I want to be elected? A desire to support and be a part of meeting the town’s adopted goals,” he asked and answered. “Additionally, to use my public service knowledge and experience in being fiscally responsible and in helping maintain Swansboro’s small-town character.”

As far as qualifications, Philpott cited his experience as a commissioner. “Additionally, I have been a member of the town’s planning board, parks and recreation board, the tourism development authority and other related planning initiatives such as the development of the Town’s Economic Development Strategic Plan,” he said. “Additionally, I spent more than 32 years as a parks and recreation administrator in county and municipal government; more than a decade of that time as a department director. Through my many professional and volunteer experiences, I have adopted an objective and methodical approach to planning, problem solving and/or addressing concerns. I have an opinion that governing at any level should be a team effort and requires mutual respect for the opinions of others and being open to new ideas and problem solving.”

Lorenzo “Lawrence” Abalos, 37, lives at 208 Brook Crossing Road.

Abalos holds a Bachelor’s Degree and is self-employed.

He has lived in Swansboro since 2010 and is a member of the Swansboro Parks and Recreation Board.

“I am running for commissioner to help make a difference towards positive growth and contributions that best serve the Swansboro community and its citizens,” he said. “Being a part of the community and giving back are important to me. Swansboro is a special place, as such, there is a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the town and its historic charm. It is also exciting to see growth and our community thriving. I am excited to help be a part of those efforts and make a difference in Swansboro.”

As far as qualifications, Abalos points to his professional experience and community involvement.

“I am a United States Coast Guard veteran with a law enforcement background,” Abalos said. “Most of my career afforded me the opportunity to be actively involved in the community finding ways to volunteer and give back. Since moving to Swansboro, I have had very active roles in the community to include volunteering as the vice president with the Swansboro Century Club and currently serving as a board member with the Swansboro Parks and Recreation Board.”

Absentee voting by mail is underway. One-Stop voting begins Oct. 14. Call (910) 455-4484 or more information on voting.

Email Jimmy Williams at jimmy at tidelandnews.com.

For this article, each candidate was asked to respond to specific questions. For the complete story, purchase a copy of the Oct. 13, 2021, Tideland News.

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