Nags Head candidates discuss subjects from stormwater to the Soundside Event Site

By on October 19, 2023

From left to right: Candidates Brinkley, Morrison, Lambert and Sawyer at the LWV forum.

When the four candidates for the Nags Head Board of Commissioners were asked to name the most important issue facing the town during the Oct. 5 League of Women Voters forum, they offered a variety of answers.

Keith Sawyer responded that “I think the number one issue in that the town is dealing with right now has to do with stormwater [and] the infrastructure within the town itself.”  T-Mike Morrison stated that “right now, we have a major traffic issue in this town.” Kevin Brinkley identified “multi-family or workforce housing,” as the chief issue. And Megan Lambert said that the stormwater issue and “workforce and long-term housing” are neck and neck as the most pressing matters for the town.

In Nags Head, two of the five seats on the board of commissioners are on the ballot this November. Brinkley, the incumbent, is running for another term, but the other incumbent on the board whose seat is up, Renee Cahoon, is not running again. The challengers for the seats on the board are Lambert, Sawyer, and Morrison.

Brinkley is a retired member and former chief of the Nags Head Police Department, while Lambert, a business owner, is on the Nags Head Planning Board and Septic Health Advisory Committee. Sawyer, who served on the Beach Nourishment Committee, is a businessman and Morrison is a former Nags Head Fire Chief and Ocean Rescue Director in Kill Devil Hills.

Throughout the event, the candidates shared their perceptions of the town as well as their priorities should they be elected to the board of commissioners.

Lambert stressed problem solving through partnerships, stating that she “wants to develop more productive engagement between our town staff and our business owners and our residents,” while developing “strategic partnerships” with neighboring Dare County towns to come up “with big solutions to the big problems we are facing right now.”

Brinkley discussed his experience and attitude, noting that with his law enforcement background, he’s spent “twenty-eight years working in local government. I know the town of Nags Head…I still have the passion to serve.” And he offered a largely upbeat assessment of the town’s situation, stating that “Nags Head is not broken.”

Morrison, who now works in real estate, cited his work as a firefighter and fire chief, declaring that “I’ve been blessed all my life to take care of people in the Emergency Services work.” He also acknowledged during his opening statement that “I would not have run for this office if Renee Cahoon was still running for the office.”

During his opening statement, Sawyer said that “I’d like to see things changed. I want to lower taxes. I’d like to better the community.” Stressing his concerns about development pressure on town infrastructure, he said that “we need to stop the building, we need to slow it down.”

The affordable housing issue surfaced during the forum, and here, Nags Head has a recent history. Earlier this year, its board of commissioners, responding to significant community opposition, opted to rezone an area that would have potentially housed a 54-unit affordable housing development proposed by one of the county’s housing partners, Woda Cooper. That decision effectively ended the project.

When asked if municipal government can have an impact on helping solve the affordable housing crunch, Sawyer responded flatly: “No they can’t. We don’t have the infrastructure to be able to afford the low-cost affordable housing.”

In contrast, Brinkley stated that “Yes, we can do that” to the question about local government impacting the housing shortage. He mentioned the affordable housing task force that will include representative of all six towns, as well as adding multi-family dwellings back as an “allowed use” in areas of the town and working to revert Airbnb’s back to longer-term housing.

Lambert stated that “we need to have community involvement in it. I just don’t want to see leaders that hold office [forming] a task force,” she said in a reference to the affordable housing task force. “I think it’s really important that community has a voice in it.”

Morrison said that “We need to address affordable rent for our workers” and described the state budget provision curtailing the towns’ regulatory authority over affordable housing projects as “ridiculous. I don’t know how that got in there.” (On Oct. 6, all six Dare County towns filed suit to challenge that provision.)

When asked about the best use for the Soundside Event Site in Nags Head, Sawyer and Morrison basically supported keeping the site as it is. Lambert and Brinkley also lauded “the green space,” while adding that anything being built there should be low impact and comply with town regulations.

One other question also brought unanimity from the candidates. When asked whether they would oppose any effort to turn the commissioners’ races into partisan elections, they concurred with the sentiment expressed by Brinkley that “Partisan politics do not belong in municipal government.” Added Lambert: “We have real issues in front of us that affect us day to day.”

Visit League of Women Voters of Dare County website to watch Dare County Candidate Forums.

SEE ALSO: Housing issues are front and center at Manteo candidates’ forum

Candidates make their case at Kitty Hawk forum

Southern Shores Council hopefuls vie for votes at LWV candidate forum

Affordable housing takes center stage at KDH candidate forum


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  • surf123

    Should “comply with town regulations.” There is not should…it has to comply and Nags Head has stood up to them before and assume they will again.

    Thursday, Oct 19 @ 12:31 pm
  • Woodard's Task Farce

    If Nags Head is spending taxpayer’s money litigating in court to overturn the underhanded power grab why are they even agreeing to participate in Woodard’s task farce along with the very same organizations that lobbied for the underhanded power grab?

    Thursday, Oct 19 @ 1:10 pm
  • Steven

    When will they realize that there is no housing shortage, more like oversaturation of houses, that is where the problem lies..

    Thursday, Oct 19 @ 1:52 pm
  • Another neighbor

    What’s up with t mike always talking about not running if Renee was? What does that have to do with him?

    Thursday, Oct 19 @ 4:45 pm