By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on January 14, 2022
With applications from 14 candidates, the Southern Shores Town Council is poised to select a new member to fill the vacated seat left by former Council Member Elizabeth Morey, who was elected on Nov. 2 to serve as mayor. The term of the vacated seat does not expire until 2023.
The candidates who have applied are Sarka Martin, Mike Guarracino, Mike Fletcher, Jason Krieg, Zachary Stroud, Dr. Robert Neilson, Wes Stepp, Tony DiBernardo, Mark Batenic, Robert Roseman, Emily Gould, Peter Frost, M. Zehner and Dan Fink.
Town Manager Cliff Ogburn said the council is expected to decide on the process for filling the slot and then making a selection at its Jan. 18 meeting.
Each candidate filled out an application describing their experience and interest in serving on the board.
James Fink described “a lifetime habit of public service” that includes being a youth soccer coach, PTA president and soccer club president. While living and serving in a planned community in Reston, Va., Fink notes that he has learned that “good community governance drives quality of life.”
Dr. Robert Neilson comes from a career in domestic and defense-oriented agencies that culminated in a Senior Executive Service position in the Department of the Army. He points to his wide range of knowledge, skills, abilities and insights as a result of his experience in the public sector.
Emily Gould has been on the Southern Shores Civic Association Board of Directors for four years. With a professional background in Older Adult Services and Social Services, she noted that she has excellent communication and networking skills. She has volunteered in a number of local organizations, including Dare Health & Hospice and most recently has been appointed to the Interfaith Community Outreach Board of Directors.
Jason Krieg is director of finance at Resort Realty and has been living in Southern Shores with his wife and four children for the past 10 years. He noted in the application that his experience with the Kitty Hawk Rotary Club as a board member, former president and now treasurer would be an asset to the town, along with his financial acumen.
Mark Batenic is chairman and former CEO of IGA Inc. “I am a problem solver, an intense listener to all sides of a situation and have proven to be able to find compromise for most situations that sometimes, while not totally satisfactory for the parties involved, are reasonable solutions with common sense and respect for all involved,” he stated in his application.
Michael Fletcher is the chair of both the Dogwood Trail Task Force and the Library Committee. He is retired from a career in intelligence analysis in the U.S Army and the National Security Agency. Fletcher said he would be an asset to the council because he is honest with people, willing to listen and skilled at developing options and data-driven decision making.
Michael Guarricino is a former Deputy Marshal of the Court for the United States Supreme Court. After 43 years of military and public service, Guarricino stated that “nothing would be more rewarding for me than to continue serving the public good by being a member of the Council…” He added that his traits that would make him a good fit on the council include his honesty, commitment, motivation and experience.
Michael Zehner, the former Nags Head Director of Planning and Development Director, is currently the Environmental Programs Director for The Berkley Group, a regional and local government consulting firm. He noted that he has helped communities “solve complex programs and proactively capitalize on opportunities.” Zehner said he is open minded, takes all perspectives into consideration and approaches decision making in a balanced and pragmatic manner.
Peter Frost has spent 10 years as Director of the Aviation and Admiralty Office of the Department of Justice as well as serving in active duty and leadership roles in the U.S. Navy including achieving the rank of captain. Frost said on his application that he is an experienced manager and advocate, serving in these roles in multiple venues.
Robert Roseman said as a council member, he would enjoy working with all stakeholders in looking at ways to make the community a better place to live and work. “I have a lot of life experience to offer,” he wrote. “I consider myself honest…and believe in doing the right thing. I have good communication skills and can reason.”
Sarka Martin, a staff accountant at Hutchins Canning & Company, said she could bring her accounting background to her position if chosen and she would like to see the town rise to its potential. “I’d like to participate and be involved in events in the town,” she added.
Anthony DiBernardo, who spent 32 years with state agencies, is currently the Vice Chair of the Planning Board and the Historic Landmark Commission for Southern Shores. He was a member of the Vegetation Board from 2005 until it was disbanded and also served on the Outer Banks SPCA Board of Directors. DiBernardo said he would be an asset to the council because of his experience and knowledge of issues facing the town.
Wes Stepp is president of Outer Banks Restaurant Association and owner of the Red Sky Cafe. “The Outer Banks and Southern Shores is my home. I am anxious for the opportunity of service,” he said. Noting that his job puts him in touch with neighbors, town employees and service staff, he added “This leads to conversation and…develops that sense of home and happenings.”
Zachary Stroud said he has three children and has a vested interest in raising them in a well-functioning town. A psychiatrist who also has a Master’s in Business Administration, Stroud added that his skills as a psychiatrist allow for successful mediation between conflicting viewpoints.