Candidate forum stresses need for unity

Published 7:23 pm Friday, November 3, 2017

BELHAVEN — Unity was one of the more prominent talking points at Belhaven’s “Meet and Greet the Candidates” forum.

At the Thursday night forum, candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves and state their platforms before the group broke off into a meet-and-greet time. In attendance were: mayoral candidates Ricky Credle, Elola T. Moore, Arthur Bonner, Greg Satterthwaite and Edith C. Guy; and aldermen candidates Ricky Radcliffe and Mary F. Cox.

Current Alderman Yvonne DeRuiz was present, as well. She is listed on the ballot, but is not running for re-election and chose to sit in the audience. Jay Wilkins, the candidate for West End alderman, was not present.

Radcliffe is the sole candidate seeking DeRuiz’s East End seat, while Cox is looking to take over for the late Dr. Charles O. Boyette’s unexpired spot. That term will end in 2019.

The Belhaven-Pantego Rotary Club sponsored Thursday’s forum. Richard Montgomery served as moderator, and Chuck Williams acted as the timekeeper.

Besides a need for unity in the town’s government, other popular topics included economic growth/development and positive leadership.

Wayne Penn, who recently moved to Belhaven full time, said he viewed the forum as a way to get to know the candidates better. Penn has owned a home in Belhaven for three years, but this summer he decided to retire there.

“It was a chance for us to get to meet some of these people because, obviously, we don’t know who anyone is, what they stand for, what they’re about,” Penn explained. “The town has been divided over the hospital thing and everything else, so it’s good that everybody’s saying, ‘We’ve all got to work together.’”

Milbert Whitley is a Pantego resident, and although he won’t be voting for the candidates in Belhaven, he said he still wanted to show his support for the Rotary Club and the forum. Whitley has strong ties in Belhaven.

“A long time ago, it was the good ol’ boys club. … Things have changed over the years, and that’s what’s making things so much better around here,” Whitley said. “They’ve got a long ways to go, but I think if they work together, they’ll get there.”

Whitley also said he thinks municipalities should hold more forums in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

“You know, I’d like to see some more inclusivity in town,” Penn said. “That’s kind of what I’m looking for in candidates, are people that want the mix and to make things come back as all in one piece. We don’t need to be three, or four, or five different little towns.”

Regular voting for municipal elections will take place Tuesday. Voters can mark ballots in their respective precincts from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.