O’Neal has challenger in Belhaven

Published 12:49 am Thursday, July 28, 2011

Belhaven Mayor Adam O’Neal will have a challenger should he choose to seek re-election.

Ronald Winfield has signed up to run against O’Neal in the Nov. 8 nonpartisan election.

First elected in 2005, O’Neal has continued serving two-year terms as mayor.

This is Winfield’s first run for political office.

Winfield is a retired Army staff sergeant. A Belhaven native, he returned to town around two and a half years ago after his military career.

O’Neal, owner of a Belhaven real-estate business, had not filed to run for re-election as of Wednesday, but he confirmed he is planning to do so.

Asked why he was running, Winfield nodded to the local economy.

“Suffice it to say our town is on the wrong course for progression,” he said. “Right now, we are suffering the effect of attrition, really bad. The demographics or the demography, however you want to picture it, is working against us, and this town is not doing anything, at least from my perspective, to change that.”

Winfield said he wants to help revitalize Belhaven’s downtown business district, and do everything possible to develop the municipal waterfront.

“That is a multi-million-dollar industry there, and we are just allowing it to sit,” he said of the waterfront.

O’Neal disagreed with Winfield’s assessment of the issues.

“There’s many projects that we have going on in town that need to be finished up,” the current mayor said, listing the Wynne’s Gut dockage, cleaning up ditches throughout town, replacing the Water Street bridge and an effort to stem tidal flooding.

These and other projects are in progress or heading toward their beginnings, according to O’Neal.

“I would think that I feel as strongly as anybody in Belhaven that we need jobs here, and we need some economic development,” he said. “The problem is, right now, the economy is in the doldrums, and it is very hard just to keep businesses in business. I have made efforts to try and bring businesses to town, but those efforts are difficult right now due to the economic situation.”

O’Neal pointed out he and the Town Council supported working with Beaufort County government to establish an industrial park for Belhaven, but that initiative fizzled because of the troubled economy.

In addition to the mayor’s seat, three of the five Town Council seats are up this year. The three up-for-grabs seats are held by eastern-area Councilmen J. Nelson Guy and Mac Pigott and western-area Councilman Robert Stanley.

At last report, Thomas Ballard has filed to run for the western-area council seat.

None of the incumbents had filed as of Wednesday afternoon.

The filing period for Belhaven’s town offices began at noon Monday and ends at noon Aug. 12.