Staff photo by Benton Sampson
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, from left, and Skip Watkins file for candidacy on Friday, July 5 at the New Hanover County Government Center.
Friday, July 5 saw Democratic incumbent Mayor Bill Saffo officially file for reelection at the beginning of the two-week filing period, along with political newcomer Skip Watkins, a Republican running for one of the three open seats on city council.
Mayor Bill Saffo, a Democrat, showed up to cement his candidacy for reelection, addressing media and supporters after the official paperwork was submitted.
“I believe from my perspective that we have made a lot of progress in the city of Wilmington, but there are still a couple of things left that I want to see finished,” he said during a short speech following the official filing. Saffo went on to reiterate his intent to finish ongoing projects in Wilmington, including the convention center hotel and the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail, along with his desire to work more with county and state legislators to attract new business.
In addition, Republican Brian “Skip” Watkins filed for city council. For the past 16 years Watkins has been the manager of the Cape Fear Fair and Expo, and has served on its board of directors for the past 24 years.
“I’m a financial advisor, so by nature I believe in fiscal planning, making the dollar work,” he said. “I want to make sure we have strong fiscal guidance from the city council.”
Watkins also cited the city’s aging population, green spaces, and mass transit as his focus areas.
“The recent baseball thing really bothered me,” he said, when asked why he decided to run. “We have to grow, but in a balanced, fiscal manner.”
Incumbent councilmembers Charlie Rivenbark and Dr. Earl Sheridan have both stated that they will seek reelection, although neither had filed as of late July 9. Kevin O’Grady indicated last week that he would run, although he has yet to officially announce his candidacy. After offering cryptic indications last week that he would run, O’Grady officially announced Tuesday, July 9, that he would run again. A press release stated that he would file on Monday, July 15.
Felix Cooper, who says he served as a finance officer and manager for New Hanover County for a combined 16 years, has also thrown his hat into the ring. Derek Bickel has also filed for a seat on the council, although he did not immediately return phone calls.
As of press time on Wednesday, July 10, Bill Blair and current Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson were the only Wrightsville Beach candidates to file with New Hanover County Board of Elections.
Running for mayor, Blair previously held an elected position on the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen as recently as two years ago. Citing larger issues like the impending flood insurance rate increases from the Briggert-Waters Act and beach renourishment, Blair first told Lumina News he planned to file for the Wrightsville Beach mayoral race on Tuesday, July 2.
That day Sisson also said he would be filing either for mayor or alderman but made the decision to run for alderman, citing time commitment to his business as the reason why he did not file for mayor. Sisson informed Lumina News of his decision on the way to file on Wednesday, July 10.
Later Wednesday afternoon former alderwoman Lisa Weeks also filed to run for another term as alderman. Weeks served on the board of aldermen with Blair two years ago.
Another board of aldermen member whose term will expire in November, Susan Collins, said last
week that she was not yet sure whether she would file for either elected office.
The filing deadline for candidates seeking office in New Hanover County’s municipal elections is July 19.