With incumbent councilmen Kevin O’Grady, Earl Sheridan and Charlie Rivenbark now officially running for reelection, every open seat on the Wilmington City Council is being defended as the July 19 noon filing deadline looms closer.
So far, Mayor Bill Saffo remains unopposed in his bid to retain his seat, but three new faces have emerged to contest the other three incumbents.
The newcomers includes Skip Watkins, a financial advisor and the manager of the county fair and expo; Felix Cooper, a former finance officer and manager for New Hanover County; and an unknown, Derek Bickel.
Unlike Sheridan and Rivenbark, O’Grady, a former attorney, was joined by local media and about a dozen supporters as he officially filed for candidacy on Monday, July 15. In a short speech to supporters, he rattled off a list of accomplishments during his first four-year term in office, which included bolstering safety, upgrading infrastructure, adding to the city’s green spaces and completing much of the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail. Looking forward, he pledged to “continue bringing [the city] smart leadership,” and to continue public projects as the city continues to emerge from the recession.
Sheridan and Rivenbark quietly filed for office the following day. Sheridan, seeking his third term, holds a doctorate in political science and is a professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He has said that if reelected he would focus on housing, job creation and safety issues, which have received considerable attention in the midst of last month’s spike in gang violence.
Rivenbark, a former real estate broker, is seeking another term to address several ongoing issues including the hotel next to the Convention Center, along with the upcoming appointments for directors of Wilmington Downtown, Inc., and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority. He will be seeking his fourth term as a city councilman. Derek Bickel, a Democrat who resides at 1301 Hawthorne Road, has not returned multiple phone calls.
In Wrightsville Beach, Bill Blair is currently running unopposed for current Mayor David Cignotti’s open seat, and incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson and former Alderwoman Lisa Weeks have both filed as well.