By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on October 14, 2021
Southern Shores candidates vying for the mayor’s job along with one other seat on the town council participated in a League of Women’s Voters Forum on Oct. 13. It was one in a series of virtual forums the League is hosting leading up to the Nov. 2 municipal elections.
Two candidates are vying to capture the mayor’s seat being vacated by Tom Bennett. Council Member Elizabeth Morey, whose current seat on council does not expire until 2023, will go up against political newcomer Rod McCaughey. Vying for the council seat are Ann Sjoerdsma, Paula Sherlock and John Carter.
Morey, a resident of Southern Shores for 18 years, is retired from the Dare County Health Department and is currently a member of council.
“My ten-year record of service on the town planning board and council proves that I have been doing the work to ensure that our town stays the special place it is, a residential community with a small commercial district,” she said. Morey added that she has heard three common concerns while campaigning — “one, we love our town and want it to stay the way it is; two, fix our aging and overused crumbling streets; and third, traffic – both speeding and the volume of seasonal cut-through traffic.”
McCaughey was a marketing manager for British Oxygen and later a partner in a regional mortgage bank before retiring to Southern Shores eight years ago. He has been a Southern Shores Community Association board member for five years and president for two years. He has also been a member and chair of the Architectural Review Board for the past six years.
“Let me be clear that having vision and being able to marshal resources as part of my skill set is important,” he stated. “But nothing would happen without great volunteers.”
Sherlock, a longtime property owner in Southern Shores, has been living here full time since 2017. Now retired, she served as a circuit judge in Louisville, KY, and as chief judge of Jefferson County, KY.
“During my time on the bench, I valued listening to people, knowing the law and striving to make fair and balanced decisions,” Sherlock said during the forum. “This is much the same work as our council, and I would like to give back to this community that I love so much in a meaningful way.”
Sjoerdsma, editor of the Southern Shores Beacon, has lived in Southern Shores for 30 years and has a background in journalism and law from UNC-Chapel Hill. Sjoerdsma said she believes it’s imperative that Southern Shores updates its Land Use Plan, adding that, “I am committed to preserving, protecting and safeguarding our precious community, our environment, our quality of life, the appeal of our town, especially by preventing cut through traffic. And I believe in planning proactively not just reacting to problems when they occur.”
Carter has been a Southern Shores property owner since 2009, but he moved permanently to the Outer Banks in 2020 when he retired after a 45-year career in Information Technology.
“If elected,” Carter asserted, “I’m committed to keeping our taxes as low as possible. I’ll advocate for using public and private partnerships, federal, state and charitable grants to fund improvements and desirable projects.” Carter added that he is an advocate for the use of referendums for “any large discretionary expenditures that would raise taxes…”
In response to a question regarding the three major issues the town faces, all the candidates named the cut-through traffic during the summer months among their priorities.
“Number one, hands down – cut through traffic. Also, traffic on NC 12 and on Ocean Boulevard…all of that is priority number one,” Sjoerdsma asserted. “I’m very open to some creative thinking and I’m committed to working on it,” she added, but noted she wasn’t keen on the concept of gating the community.
Carter said that he would address cut-thru traffic through a collaborative effort, but added it would primarily be focused on gating, using barricades, one-way signage of streets and possibly the use of a cut-through toll. “None of these solutions that I’m speaking to are necessarily ones that would stand the test of scrutiny and or stand alone, but I would ask that they be studied to see if they have merit and then put before the townspeople,” he said.
In response to a question on municipal spending, Morey said that Southern Shores has been fiscally responsible over the years. “I believe that we’ve gone eight budget cycles until we did the beach nourishment project without raising taxes, so we basically have the lowest tax rate on the beach,” she said. “I believe that we are managing our budget with our staff in a very sound fiscal responsible way, and I hope that we continue to do that.”
McCaughey concurred. “My sense of the budget is that it prudent and is responsible,” he said. “I think most of the people I’ve spoken to are more interested in additional services than they’re interested in trying to cut corners of cut costs.” While he said it’s important to pursue grants and other alternative revenue sources, he added, “I don’t know anyone who thinks we are overspending on projects right now.”
In response to a question about regulating large homes, Sherlock said that for 17 years, she had two flat top cottages, which were recently replaced with large vacation rentals. Along with lobbying legislators in Raleigh to advocate for the area when it comes to building codes, she also pointed to the important of local action.
“This has been mentioned several times here tonight, but I agree that it was critical to update the Land Use Plan to strengthen our commitment to low-density single- family homes with minimal commercial development in Southern Shores,” she noted.