In yesterday’s municipal elections, Wilmington’s three incumbent city council candidates kept their seats, beating out three challengers. Kevin O’Grady, Charlie Rivenbark and Earl Sheridan will all begin new four-year terms. Mayor Bill Saffo, who ran unopposed, will also continue to serve the city for another two-year term.
Six Wilmingtonians are running for three open spots on their city’s council. And curbing Wilmington’s highly publicized crime rate is a top priority for each. The hopefuls agree that higher police officer pay would fortify intervention efforts; however, they have disparate ideas when it comes to preventing the root causes of crime. The value of youth-oriented social services is the source of greatest contention.
During the seventies and eighties, Felix Cooper served as New Hanover County’s finance manager and later, its county manager. Following those sixteen years of local service, a subsequent stint as city manager of Key West in Florida, and several years of retirement, the Democrat is throwing his hat in the ring again. This time, he’s vying for a seat on Wilmington’s City Council. And, Cooper is a major proponent of increased synergy between the city council and the county commission.
Skip Watkins says he’s dreamed of serving in public office his whole life. A father, financial advisor and longtime volunteer with the Cape Fear Festival and Expo and the Azalea Festival, Watkins cites frustration over Wilmington City Council’s recent efforts to acquire a minor-league baseball stadium as the catalyst that ultimately spurred him to run for a seat on the Council. If elected, Skip Watkins hopes to provide the City with a dose of what he describes as “fiscal guidance.”
Four years ago, Kevin O’Grady, a retired lawyer and then president of Residents of Old Wilmington, decided to bring some of his neighborhood association’s priorities into the limelight by running for City Council. Since then, the incumbent Democrat says he’s accomplished what he set out to do—enhance public safety, historic preservation, and forestation initiatives throughout downtown Wilmington. But O’Grady, who’s up for reelection, has a host of related civic projects he hopes to see through during a second term.
As City of Wilmington officials prepare the budget for the next fiscal year, nonprofits and arts organizations are working hard to make their case for the well-documented link between economic development and the arts.