Island Gazette Candidate's Corner: Matt Dunn For Carolina Beach Council

Island Gazette Candidate's Corner: Matt Dunn For Carolina Beach Council

Island Gazette Candidate's Corner: Matt Dunn For Carolina Beach Council Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 26 October 2021 18:58

If you are elected on to council, what will be the first thing you do?

Communicate, Town Staff is asking each standing committee to produce a mission statement and a set of goals. How can this be possible when committees are in place to support the mission of Council, but Council itself does not have a mission statement and a clear set of goals. Therefore, each new Council should develop a mission statement complete with goals to better align their priorities with Staff and committees. This statement should be published and communicated to the public on the Town’s website and kept up to date on a monthly basis complete with a joint statement from all council members.

 

We must reconnect our public service institutions. Many people have taken this for granted over the years, but my connection to youth sports, CB Elementary and families with young children have given me the perspective to observe a shift in the Town’s priorities away from the school. The school and Town have had no relationship at the executive leadership level since at least before Hurricane Florence. The Town Manager and Police Chief should be on a first name basis with the Principal. They need to physically go to the school, get a tour, ask what they can do to support the school, students & teachers and then make it happen. Education programming through the Town should be a normal part of the relationship between the two. For instance, ongoing bike safety programs for kids and parents would be beneficial with the increased vehicle traffic in Carolina Beach. There are 415 kids at CBES. The school is an important part of our community.

Residents deserve an update on the status of infrastructure projects. Common challenges everyone in Carolina Beach is facing include the need for the Town to complete planned infrastructure projects, like water, sewer, storm water, Lake dredging, Marina bulkheads and roads. I would begin to tackle these challenges by communicating to the public where we stand with each project, so we can reset expectations for residents, businesses and all other stakeholders. It’s the Town’s responsibility to communicate with residents and visitors, telling them what is going on with our projects and to keep the project locations looking maintained, even when under construction. The info on the Town website is outdated.

Do you feel like Carolina Beach Town Staff is working effectively? 

 I do not. Not to take anything away from some of the hard-working members of Staff, but if citizens don’t feel like Council has clear objectives, then how can Staff be effective? I believe the majority of Staff are doing what they can provided the lack of guidance that is necessary to complete a clear mission. I believe department heads oversee their domain with minimal input from Council except for when problems surface. It should be clear to Town Staff what our priorities are at any given time. Let’s get proactive with our management style as opposed to reactive.

If not, what will you change?

I will encourage Council to implement the above mentioned, mission statement and goals, making stronger lines of communication and oversight.

I look back to Hurricane Florence as a recent marker for the direction we ended up taking as a town. Like Hurricane Hazel in 1954 taught us the importance of needing sand dunes to protect buildings and infrastructure from storms, Hurricane Florence in 2018 taught us that we need to be better prepared for storm events that bring heavy rain. Even the simple heavy rain events we’ve experienced these past two months have revealed deficiencies in our stormwater system. Unfortunately, we didn’t adapt in 2020 and allowed COVID to prevent us from properly maintaining the stormwater system throughout Carolina Beach. That includes no dredge improvements made to the Lake. Private businesses and charitable organizations adapted to keep life going throughout 2020. As a Town, even with countywide restrictions in place, we must be more creative when it comes to servicing something that is one of the most crucial parts of our infrastructure system. That residents were unaware of the lack of maintenance being performed was a lack of communication.

Regarding the “sunny day” flooding that occurs on Canal Drive, I believe we can do much more. For some reason, the Canal Drive Flood committee was disbanded after finding only a partial solution to tidal flooding. Bring it back as an ad hoc committee, including former members as well as opening it up to new people with fresh ideas. We have citizens living with road conditions along Canal Drive that are poor at best. These wonderful citizens are willing to help by communicating the various types of flooding they are witnessing in real time, as well as possible solutions. Troubleshooting efforts should be taken seriously and not written off simply because the road is in a low-lying area. Staff needs to reach out to other coastal communities with similar issues, the State and any organization that could provide information and assistance towards mitigating the problem. Just like with the Lake dredge project, we need an all hands-on deck approach with the willingness to look outside Town Hall at times to help solve the problems. 

The Parks & Rec Department needs to do better with their vision and goals for kids and families living in Carolina Beach. There is no “active” vision for youth and teens. The Town has a role to play by getting behind and bringing together leaders from youth focused organizations around town to help create a more supportive environment for each, as well as to identify common challenges or best practices. Because we don’t currently have that, we have already lost a decade of opportunities. As a volunteer, I have worked to keep kids and families here in Carolina Beach by giving them a viable and affordable youth sports experience close to home, something that makes our community bond stronger. We need more of that for boys and girls. The next Council can list this as a goal. If we make it a priority, the Town can offer more youth sports and activities through a willing volunteer network without hiring an additional employee. This is all part of continuing to offer the amenities and activities that lure families to Carolina Beach while retaining the families already here. Instead of sending parents and kids off the island to spend registration fee money outside of Town, we could put that money to work by organizing and offering additional recreational programs, like flag football, outdoor basketball, and other fun outdoor activities, while simultaneously creating revenue to put back into facilities. The Department says we’re not set up to organize more youth sports in CB… That mindset needs to change. It is important for town leadership to promote the organization of more recreational youth sports programs for Carolina Beach kids. No one has spent more time at Mike Chappell Park over the last several years than I have. A lot of people think I work for the Town, but I don’t. It’s awesome to see youth sports and activities bringing kids and adults together from throughout our community, but if taken for granted, some of them could disappear overnight.

What specific skills do you bring to council should you be elected?

I see the town through a resident’s eyes. I graduated from UNCW in 1997 with a communication degree. Since 1993 I have lived in Wilmington, downtown Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach before moving to CB in 2005. I have seen the growth and changes in the Cape Fear region. After college, I worked in laboratory equipment sales where I traveled to more than 30 states, Canada and Europe calling on some of the world’s largest healthcare, personal care and pharmaceutical research companies from 1998 – 2004. I worked for Honeywell, one of the world’s largest companies, implementing residential energy efficiency programs for Duke Energy and Dominion Virginia Power where I worked with and trained a network of hundreds of small business contractors. I have had a real estate license for 17 years, something important when understanding property rights and the challenges we are facing with growth and development.

After traveling for work I wanted to be home with my kids. I am a full-time volunteer in CB. For years, I have been immersed in youth sports on the island. I am a Community Leader through youth baseball. I am willing to roll up my sleeves and work. You can find me with my straw hat on taking care of the ball fields at Mike Chappell Park. I do that because I want kids and families to be proud of the park. I collaborate with leagues and organizations outside the community that we can mutually benefit from. Most people don’t realize this, but Pleasure Island Youth Baseball is an all-volunteer 501c3 charitable organization. I have small business responsibilities that are necessary to maintain. I am organized, I am a communicator, problem solver, calm, committed, reliable and persistent. I have the ability to anticipate and the willingness to adapt. From June 1, 2020 through the end of May 2021, Pleasure Island Youth Baseball organized over 600 team activities for kids while parts of the Town and other organizations were shut down. We even adapted to offering winter programming when rec basketball was canceled and parents asked me to offer programming to give their kids some recreation and social time with other kids. I haven’t done it all on my own, but I’m proud of my decision to get involved with youth baseball because serving the community is the right thing for me to be doing. Pleasure Island Youth Baseball is Carolina Beach’s largest all-volunteer youth sports organization. We need more like it. We grew from 45 kids in the fall of 2016 to 185 kids this past spring and then 160 this fall (that’s big for fall). We have been inclusive and have adapted to challenges along the way. We’ve created this growth through Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Florence and nearly two years of COVID. I’m excited and proud that we just started up girls’ softball, as there are not enough activities in Carolina Beach for just the girls. We need to have recreation flag football, outdoor basketball, soccer, tennis, golf and more for kids in CB….especially the 12 & under age groups. We need to have the older kids be involved with the youth sports. They can help assistant coach or umpire / referee games. We need to include the teenagers. There isn’t much for them on the island.

I asked both Mayoral candidates this in a different form, what was your biggest disappointment made by standing council?

 As a body, standing council appears to be disconnected from residents. COVID created an environment that caused Staff and Council to completely withdraw from being visible in the community. Council allowed Town Hall to be closed off from residents and business owners for far too long. During the same time period, Council allowed Staff to pull back on maintaining the stormwater system, something that surfaced in the past two months with the rain events we recently experienced.

Some residents have commented that their quality of life is diminishing? 

How do you reassure them? Most of us moved to Carolina Beach to enjoy all that the town has to offer. My wife and I have lived here for 16 years and I agree with residents who are seeing quality of life issues begin to surface. We are all concerned with overall maintenance issues around all parts of town. Whether you are talking about roads, sidewalks, storm water, water, sewer, Mike Chappell Park, the Lake, Marina, etc… The Town has struggled to keep up with basic maintenance.

 Another hot topic is parking. Parking is stressful during the peak season. You can’t even park to run in and get take-out from our restaurants. You don’t know what is a Town lot and what’s a private lot. Parking meters are constantly not working. Private lots not being able to take money after a certain date….makes no sense and the residents and visitors have no idea what is going on. This is a problem that will persist until Council brings in stakeholders to solve the problem. We will always have issues around peak season, but we can certainly manage the experience better for everyone.

Residents love local businesses. A lot of our business owners are residents too. They have families in CB. Their kids go to our school. All of the businesses should have a good relationship with the Town Staff and Council. Businesses should be incentivized to keep up their buildings and businesses. We need to really crack down on the boardwalk. All buildings at the boardwalk should be well maintained. If we are going to be a family beach, we should have an ordinance that says the boardwalk businesses can’t have their windows covered with bongs. We have boardwalk businesses spending lots of money, time and resources making things beautiful and inviting, while we have some businesses that make locals not want to bring their families to the boardwalk. That’s not right. Clean it up.

 Residents don’t feel welcome in Town Hall. The general attitude of staff towards residents and business owners is not positive. Residents feel like it is an “Us vs Them” attitude. This is our town. We need to take it back. We need to make sure the elected officials get back to being leaders and making sure that the community vibe stays strong.

If residents know their Council has a clear set of goals, these quality of life issues should be addressed. It goes back to creating that mission statement and list of goals. That way, even if we see interruptions from storms or pandemics, we have clear objectives to fall back on when the Town’s business is able to resume. Additionally, some of the problems require input from stakeholders to help solve properly.

Any parting words for residents as we look forward to electing the next council?  I was the last council candidate to file to run for office because I didn’t see any other candidates who shared my family’s vision for the community. I’ve lived in Carolina Beach with my wife for 16 years. We have two little boys (9 & 12). Running for office is my way of trying to represent all those who feel like their voices and concerns have not been heard over the years. It is time for a new and complimentary perspective on Council. Just over the course of the last couple of months, we’ve been able to shift the conversation of some of the other candidates back to family, community and things that matter to where we live, learn, work and play. Win or lose, I will continue to push leadership in this town to refocus on the thing that makes our community so great, the people. I referenced this in the first campaign video my son Jimmy and I made together. My sons, Willie & Jimmy and I made some videos that talked about different topics. Go back and check out our videos on www.Facebook.com/MattDunnforCB. There will be more to come as we get ready to head out to Vote! When you see me around town, please stop, say hi and let me what’s on your mind!!!

 

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jasmine1

jasmine1

 



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