With the choice between a fresh voice promising change and an experienced board member touting the town’s record, Wrightsville Beach voters will elect a new mayor on Tuesday, Nov. 5, while two new members will join the town’s board of aldermen.
Darryl Mills, who has won two four-year terms as an alderman and currently serves as the mayor pro tem, will run for a two-year mayoral term, seeking to replace the outgoing Bill Blair, who is not seeking re-election after six years as the mayor of Wrightsville Beach. Mills is being challenged for the role by Greg Buscemi, a local attorney and political newcomer who is seeking his first elected position.
Both Jeff DeGroote, owner of a local surf shop, and Zeke Partin, a retired accountant, will move from the planning board to the board of aldermen, as both run unopposed for two open board seats, as alderman Elizabeth King isn’t seeking re-election.
In an August interview, Mills said his focus for the town was to continue improving its infrastructure and boosting its savings for beach sand funding and hurricane preparedness. He said his primary goal as mayor would be to continue progress on upgrading the town’s outdated water and sewer system, as well as keeping streets paved and in good condition.
One of the accomplishments that Mills touted during his tenure on the board of aldermen was the building of a sizeable reserve fund, some of which could be used to provide a local match for federal or state beach renourishment funding, without raising taxes on local residents. With $10 million in the general fund, about $5 million so far is set aside for a “sand fund” for beach renourishment.
Buscemi said he had some concerns about how the town is operated, noting that there could be efforts to make the beach more accomodating. Some of Buscemi’s issues included exploring affordable parking options, improving public transportation options, opening more access to the beach and reducing traffic.
Buscemi said that the board has applied unequal, arbitrary, and ethically questionable decisions in public matters affecting residents, property owners, and local businesses. Most notably, Buscemi said that the town should end its efforts to challenge the zoning for downtown bar Red Dogs. On his campaign Facebook page, Buscemi has also questioned whether the town pays too much to contract Lanier Parking to enforce the town’s $3 an hour parking rate and why the town hasn’t adopted curbside recycling.
Mills objected to the idea that there was any unfairness in the town, including towards any specific businesses or individuals. Mills further went on to support the town’s current parking rate of $3 an hour and $17 a day, which he voted for before the start of the season.
Mills, a lawyer operating a private practice, was first elected to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. Prior to his election as an alderman, Mills served on the town’s planning board. He is also a member of the executive board of the Cape Fear Boy Scouts and a member of the board of directors for Cape Fear Hospice.
A native of Pennsylvania, Buscemi moved to the area to attend University of North Carolina in Wilmington before receiving his law degree from Wake Forest School of Law. In 2015, Buscemi joined Shipman & Wright, LLP law firm, before opening Buscemi Law, PLLC. He lives on the South End with his dog Kona.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 5. Wrightsville Beach voting booths are at the Fran Russ Center at 4 Fran Russ Drive, behind town hall. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.