Rachel Lewis Hilburn

News Director, All Things Considered Host, CoastLine Host / Producer

Rachel Lewis Hilburn came to WHQR in the spring of 2011.  After serving as back-up host for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Classical Music for a year, she was named News Director in July of 2012. 

She moved to Wilmington from Los Angeles, where she worked as a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley.  After joining the local ABC affiliate in Wilmington, she wrote and produced local TV newscasts, a 30-minute special program for the Cape Fear Museum showcasing its renovation and new exhibits, and independently wrote and produced a documentary on the lingering effects of the 1898 coup d'etat in Wilmington.   Before joining the staff, Rachel co-produced Stories, Wine, and Cheese - a series of local, live storytelling events which aired on WHQR.  

Ways to Connect

Municipal elections across North Carolina have concluded; the results are in. 

Wilmington City Council welcomes back its two incumbents – Margaret Haynes and Neil Anderson.  Paul Lawler was the third-highest vote-getter – winning the seat Laura Padgett vacated after more than two decades on Council.  The window between Paul Lawler and fourth placer-Deb Hays wasn’t huge:  88 votes. 

Brunswick County

The Village of Bald Head Island, with a year-round population of less than 170 people, has approved a $10 million bond for a broadband network.  But barely.  The “yes” vote squeaked through by four votes – not unusual, though, in a small municipality.

Village residents will see a new slate of council members.  The two incumbents running for reelection, Gene Douglas and Bob Helgesen, lost their seats to top vote-getters Kit Adcock, John May, and John Pitera. 

Town of Kure Beach

Carolina Beach Mayor Dan Wilcox will keep his seat for another term.  Challenger Bob Lewis lost to Wilcox by 276 votes.  On the Town Council, incumbent Steve Shuttleworth also kept his seat and won the most votes of all seven candidates competing for two seats.  Tom Bridges won the second open seat by a wide margin.  The third-place vote-getter, Tammy Hanson, came in a distant third – losing to Bridges by 319 votes.  That’s a percentage difference of almost 12 points.

Pender County Board of Elections; Wikimedia Commons; Robeson County Board of Elections

PENDER COUNTY

In Pender County, the Town of Burgaw voted Wilfred (Red) Robbins, Vernon Harrell, and Bill George III onto its Board for 2016. 

Surf City’s unopposed Mayor Zander Guy will serve another term.  Top vote-getters for the three open Council seats are Buddy Fowler, Donald Ray Helms, and Nelva Albury. 

Neighboring Topsail Beach re-elected Howard Braxton as Mayor – by a roughly 30% margin.  Steve Smith and Linda Stipe won the two seats on Topsail’s Board of Commissioners.

ONSLOW COUNTY

In Brunswick County, the Town of Oak Island will see some new faces on Council.  The Brunswick County beach town has a new mayor – and two new council members. 

Cin Brochure, the current Director of Tourism for the City of Southport, will serve as the new Mayor of Oak Island.  Three-term mayor Betty Wallace decided not to seek another term.   

The Town of Leland saw a major upset on Election Day.  One polarizing issue --  how to plan for the Town’s future water supply – could have been a factor. 

Mayor Brenda Bozeman handily kept her seat winning 81% of the vote to challenger Glenn Thearling’s 19%.

Rachel Lewis Hilburn

A steady rain fell throughout the day in Brunswick County as a thin but constant stream of voters trickled through Belville Elementary School  -- picking leaders for Belville, Leland, and the Board of the local water authority, H2GO. 

Turnout is famously low when it’s only a municipal race on the ballot.  The Leland and Belville voters who braved the weather today generally didn’t have a lot to say about why they came out – but what they did say was pointed: 

Here’s Leland resident Bonnie Laserna:

Polls are open on Election Day from 6:30 AM until 7:30 PM.  Because it’s an odd year and only municipal races are on the ballot, elections officials expect turnout to be lower than in years that include state and federal elections. 

Early voter turnout for this year’s municipal elections in New Hanover County lands at about 1.6% of eligible voters.  That may sound miniscule, but New Hanover County Elections Director Derek Bowens says it’s right on target -- compared with numbers from 2013.  That year, about 1,000 people or 1.1% of eligible voters cast their ballots early. 

Leland residents get their water through H2GO, an independent governmental entity separate from Brunswick County’s Public Utility – which sells water to H2GO.  And now H2GO is deciding whether to build its own reverse osmosis plant. 

While water authority officials study the question, a citizen-led group, Stop H2GO, has sprung up in opposition to that project -- creating a StopH2GO website and putting forth two candidates for H2GO's Board of Commissioners.  

Isabelle Shepherd / Rachel Lewis Hilburn

The Town of Leland is governed by a Council consisting of a Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem and three other Council members.  Elections are held every two years.  The Mayor serves a two-year term; Council members serve staggered four-year terms. 

The two candidates for Mayor of Leland in alphabetical order: 

Isabelle Shepherd

Two candidates are running for the Mayoral seat in the Town of Carolina Beach.  On Wednesday, October 21st, WHQR broadcast a live candidate forum with both men. 

The Town of Carolina Beach is governed by a Council consisting of a Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem and three other Council members.  Elections are held every two years.  The Mayor serves a two-year term; Council members serve staggered four-year terms. 

The two candidates, in alphabetical order:

The CoastLine Candidate Forum featuring Carolina Beach Town Council aired live on Wednesday, October 14th from 12-2 PM.  We allotted two hours because it's a sizable race – seven candidates competing for two open seats – and we wanted to cover a comprehensive range of issues. 

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs building in Wilmington – hailed as a boon for local veterans who don’t have to drive to Fayetteville for health care – has been bogged down by concerns over drinking water contamination for months.   In response to those concerns, New Hanover County and the Board of Health  delivered on Monday what officials are calling a "protocol" to building owner Summit Smith Healthcare, who leases the facility to the Federal Government. 

This CoastLine Candidate Forum of 2015, featuring candidates for the Wilmington City Council, aired live from WHQR's MC Erny Gallery on Wednesday, October 7, 2015.  This is a sizable race – eight people are competing for three open seats – so we allotted two hours in order to cover a comprehensive range of issues.

Wikimedia Commons

Local officials have warned about serious flooding for days, and some of the hardest-hit areas – parts of Brunswick County, for example, have had to evacuate.  But other parts of the region haven’t seen much more than minor ponding in the roadways.  When the severity of weather conditions isn't observable for everyone, getting people to take the warnings seriously becomes its own struggle.

City of Wilmington

The pounding rain that has blanketed the Cape Fear region for the last several days is easing up.  Some activities are a "go" tonight -- such as Cinematique and CFCC's Beauty and the Beast.  But local officials aren't ready to sound the all-clear yet.

The rain isn't quite over, but it's not expected to have as much of an impact as it's had over the last few days.  Steven Pfaff is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.  Some areas, says Pfaff, will continue to grapple with flooding.

City of Wilmington

New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender County Schools are all closed Monday.  Cape Fear Community College has also closed all of its campus locations.  City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, and Brunswick County Offices and Courts are closed. 

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it illustrates the point:  driving conditions are hazardous due to flooding and the potential for downed trees.

By Tuesday, a drying trend will set in, which makes Monday the last day the area will see significant heavy rainfall from the current systems. 

National Hurricane Center / NOAA

Now that Hurricane Joaquin's projected path turns farther east, as the European meteorological models had predicted, state and local emergency management officials say they’re more confident the storm will stay well offshore.  But there are still statewide warnings about flooding and its ancillary effects.

U.S. Geological Survey

Storm surge, coastal flooding, and beach erosion.  Those are the likely impacts from the combination of a wet system moving up from the Gulf of Mexico and the arrival of Hurricane Joaquin – now a Category Four storm.  But New Hanover County Emergency officials say it won’t be until Friday afternoon that they’ll have any confidence in the forecast track for Joaquin.

Hurricane Joaquin, now a dangerous Category Four storm, is still highly unpredictable.  In preparation for potentially severe weather and heavy flooding, Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for all 100 counties in North Carolina.

National Hurricane Center

No one can say with certainty yet how much Hurricane Joaquin will impact the Cape Fear region.  But at the very least, serious flooding is high on the probability scale.

There a few reasons for that.  Steven Pfaff is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.  He says the situation that’s unfolding now is complex.  If Joaquin stays on the current track, this area could see breezy conditions along the coast – but, says Pfaff, it’s the potential for flooding that’s a serious concern. 

This CoastLine Candidate Forum of 2015 features the candidates for Oak Island Town Council.  Due to the size of this race, we allotted two hours, with a short break at the top of the hour, so that you can hear the candidates discuss a broader range of issues.  

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management / T. J. Boyle and Associates

While still years away, offshore wind farms are significantly closer to becoming reality off the North Carolina coast.  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently completed its environmental assessment and will hold a Task Force meeting October 7th in Wilmington to consider next steps.  Two of the areas slated for wind are near the southeastern North Carolina coast. 

Okko Pyykkö

Four people are vying for the mayoral seat in the Town of Oak Island.  This Brunswick County coastal town sits largely on a barrier island and has a year-round population of nearly seven-thousand people.  That number more than quintuples during the busy summer season. 

During a recent CoastLine Candidate Forum, all four candidates said they think transparency in government is critical.  But they didn’t all agree on whether the current government is adequately open or on how to improve transparency. 

In the Town of Oak Island, four people are hoping to be the next Mayor.  The office comes with a two-year term; Town Council members serve staggered four-year terms and are elected every two years in non-partisan elections.

The Town of Oak Island, which is part of Brunswick County and sits mostly on a barrier island, is only sixteen years old.  It was 1999 that Yaupon Beach and Long Beach merged to form Oak Island.  The town boasts a year-round population of nearly 7,000 people – but that number can swell during the summer on a daily basis to around 45,000. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

New Hanover County collected more than ten million dollars in room occupancy tax during the last fiscal year.  But officials in Kure Beach aren’t convinced that all property owners who rent on a short-term basis are sending their share to the County. 

At a recent CoastLine Candidate Forum for Kure Beach, held September 16th in WHQR's MC Erny Gallery, everyone agreed the status quo isn’t working.    

New Hanover County ranked 8th last year for tourism out of all 100 counties in North Carolina.   

Seismic testing and the potential for offshore drilling has galvanized strong opposition in Kure Beach.  Earlier this year, Mayor Dean Lambeth ignited controversy after he sent a letter in support of seismic testing to the Federal agency overseeing offshore oil exploration.  Hundreds of opponents showed up to protest at the next Kure Beach Town meeting in January.  

Town of Kure Beach

In this first CoastLine Candidate Forum of 2015, we bring you the four candidates running for Kure Beach Mayor and Town Council.

In the Town of Kure Beach, two candidates are competing for the mayoral seat.  On the council side, two candidates are running unopposed for two open seats. 

Kure Beach Town Council Members serve staggered four-year terms. The Mayor serves a two-year term.  Members are elected in a non-partisan election every two years.  

Candidates for mayor:  

The Cross-City Trail in Wilmington is nearing completion with a ribbon-cutting scheduled for November.  The multi-use trail is intended to give cyclists and pedestrians access to important recreational and  cultural landmarks. 

City officials say they eventually see Wilmington-area green-ways as part of the East Coast Greenway – which is described as an urban Appalachian Trail.  In this case, the ECG would run from Maine to Florida.

Wake N Bake Donuts

When was the last time you visited a locally-owned restaurant that didn’t offer some regionally-sourced ingredient?  Some would say the farm-to-table phenomenon is a full-blown element of the North Carolina restaurant landscape – along with the explosion of craft beer, cocktails, and boutique donuts.  Wilmington boasts a foodie scene – in spite of serious challenges facing new restaurateurs. 

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