For the first time in six years, Wrightsville Beach will see a change in its political leadership this fall when a new mayor is elected to serve the town.
Current Mayor Bill Blair said this week that he won’t seek re-election to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen after serving for 10 non-consecutive years, with six being the town’s mayor.
With the municipal candidate filing period opening on Friday, July 5, two new candidates are seeking seats on the board, while current Mayor Pro Tem Darryl Mills has said he will run to succeed Blair as the mayor.
Just as Blair had first done in 2007, both Jeff DeGroote, owner of a local surf shop, and Zeke Partin, a retired accountant, are seeking to move from the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board to the board of aldermen. Mills, who has won two four-year terms as aldermen, will run for a two-year mayoral term.
“I’ve always had good boards and have been fortunate to have good people working on these boards,” Blair said. “It’s made it a good experience.”
Blair said he considered retiring following the prior term, but stayed on for one more term to continue work on ongoing projects, namely securing another round of beach renourishment funding and planning the Salisbury Street beautification project.
“Once you’ve gotten to a point where you feel you’ve gotten stuff done, you move over and let other talent have a chance,” Blair said.
With a sizeable reserve fund, Blair said the town is in solid shape fiscally, making the position of town mayor attractive for those that want to be involved with the town’s government.
“We have enough good people here and we’re in good shape financially to do things,” Blair said.
Blair said that he encouraged Mills, who runs his own law firm, to run for the mayoral position.
“I do have confidence in Darryl. He’s done some heavy lifting as Mayor Pro Tem for the past six years,” Blair said. “He’s the most qualified person I know for the position. “
Blair, who moved to Wrightsville Beach in 2003, served on the town’s planning board for four years before being elected to the board of aldermen in 2007, which he served on until 2011 before taking a hiatus from the board in 2012-2013. He ran unopposed for mayor in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
But while he’s leaving the board of aldermen, he won’t be leaving local government entirely, as Blair said he would remain on the town’s board of adjustment, while also taking a seat on the county Alcoholic Beverage Control board.
The current chair of the ABC board could help fill the void on the board of aldermen left by Blair. Partin is serving in her second term as ABC board chair, following a stint as the board’s vice chair. She also served on the town’s planning board, a position she would relinquish if elected.
However, after more than four years on the planning board, Partin said it was time for her to “step up.”
“I love to give back to the community and I have a lot of energy to do that,” said Partin, who added that she intends to remain on the ABC board if elected to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen.
In addition to serving on local boards, Partin is also an active member of the Harbor Island Garden Club.
Meanwhile, Partin said that she believes the town has been running very well under the current board and wants to keep it that way.
“Everything has been moving along very smoothly, but I just want to make sure the beach is safe, and that we continue to have a healthy environment here,” Partin said.