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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Mills wins Wrightsville Beach mayor’s race, DeGroote, Partin take aldermen seats

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Drawn to a campaign message that promised to continue the path forged in recent years, Wrightsville Beach voters elected Darryl Mills, who has served as an aldermen for eight years, over a political newcomer who challenged the town’s recent policies on several issues.

Mills won almost 70 percent of the vote, collecting 480 votes, while attorney Greg Buscemi captured 216 votes in his first run for any public office.

Two open seats on the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen were also filled as only two candidates formally registered. Surf shop owner Jeff DeGroote won the most votes of anyone on a Wrightsville Beach ballot, taking 551 votes to get 48 percent of the votes for aldermen, while retired accountant Zeke Partin got 41 percent with 477 votes. However, write-in candidates won more than 12 percent of the aldermen vote.

Mills will take the helm from current mayor Bill Blair, who has held the seat for the past six years. He will be sworn in at the Dec.12 meeting.

Mills touted the record of the current mayor and board of aldermen, citing the town’s building of a reserve fund of $10 million, with $5 million earmarked for potential future beach renourishment projects. Mills also said he would continue the board’s work on repairing and improving the town’s aging water and sewer system. Mills, who was twice elected to the board of aldermen, served as town’s mayor pro tem, fulfilling mayoral duties when needed.

Meanwhile, Buscemi focused his campaign on concerns about how the town is operated, noting that there could be efforts to make the beach more accommodating, including offering more affordable parking options, improving public transportation options, opening more access to the beach and reducing traffic. He also charged that the board has applied unequal, arbitrary, and ethically questionable decisions in public matters, specifically citing the town’s opposition to reopening the downtown bar Red Dogs. Additionally, he frequently raised Mills’ temperament as an issue, citing a 2015 incident where Mills was alleged to have made racially insensitive remarks to a local waitress.

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