OBX Surfrider leaders seek changing of the guard

By on January 13, 2020

Matt Walker, standing on left in an olive shirt, looks on as Ivy Ingram, on the right in maroon shirt, addresses a question. (Kip Tabb)

After 15 years in leadership roles in the Outer Banks Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Matt Walker and Ivy Ingram are stepping down from their positions as co-chairs.

“It’s time for new issues and new blood,” Walker said in explaining his decision.

Ingram echoed his thoughts, saying, “It’s been fifteen years. I think Matt and I are done.”

On Saturday evening at the Outer Banks Brewing Station, Ingram and Walker addressed the need for new leadership in the environmental advocacy group at an open meeting that included current members of the organization and the public. Ingram and Walker have been the co-chairs of the Outer Banks Surfriders board for the past few years and have served on the board of directors almost continuously from 2005 until the present time.

The meeting was well attended with between 50 to 60 people on hand in the balcony area of the Brewing Station.

Although both Ingram and Walker cited the need for new ideas and new direction after their years in leadership roles of the organization, other factors were also part of their decisions.

Ingram, recently elected to the Kill Devil Hills Board of Commissioners and the town’s Mayor Pro Tem, felt she could not make the time to effectively commit to the Surfrider board and Kill Devil Hills responsibilities. Already with a full-time job with her pre-school and after school programs, she felt it was important to concentrate her efforts on the issues confronting the town.

“That’s where my extra time goes. That’s where I plan on working,” she said.

In their comments during the meeting and afterward in interviews, Ingram and Walker also expressed concerns about conflicts of interest.

Asked if sitting on the board of an advocacy group like the Surfriders would represent a conflict of interest with her responsibilities as a commissioner, Ingram responded, “Oh, absolutely.”

Walker, who publishes the Outer Banks quarterly magazine Milepost, said, “I can’t cover a story and then lead a campaign,” he said.

The Outer Banks Surfriders has been one of the leaders in opposing offshore drilling and that began when Walker was on the board. “It was 2008 I went to New Jersey to deal with the first offshore drilling meeting,” he recalled.

Walker feels that offshore drilling is a different than the issues that will be confronting the next board. Pointing out that opposition to exploiting possible oil reserves off the Outer Banks enjoyed widespread support that transcended economic and political lines, he felt he could campaign against it and write about the issue in his magazine.

The issues that the next board may wish to confront, however, may not have the same universal support.

During the Jan. 11 event at the Brewing Station, Walker was asked about what future issues he felt the board may wish to address, with the questioner specifically addressing the thorny question of beach access in Duck.

“It’s funny you say that because that’s pretty much why I have to step down. I couldn’t really fight that charge and do what I do now,” he said.

Former board member John Wasnieswski, who was in the audience, pointed out that kind of issue is what a new board may wish to address.

Ingram told those in attendance that the process of bringing in new leadership began some time ago.

“The last couple of years, Matt and I have put feelers out in the chapter when a new member came in,” she said. “We had started the transition of leaving the executive board before I took my [commissioner] position,” she added.

Looking back over the past 15 years, both Ingram and Walker point to how effectively the Outer Banks Chapter of the Surfriders galvanized opposition to offshore drilling as a highlight of their tenure, something Ingram addressed directly.

“I think of that BOEM {Bureau or Ocean and Energy Management] meeting that we had in March of 2015 when everyone came together at one place,” she said, referring to an anti-offshore drilling protest that attracted hundreds to the Comfort Inn in Kill Devil Hills. “That, for me, is one I’m proud of.”


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