Elections 2021: Town of Leland Council Part I - Candidates Dunlap, Gaver, and Newell
The Leland Town Council race has two open seats, with six candidates competing for those spots. Mayor Pro Tem Pat Batleman and Councilor Bob Corriston are not running. WHQR spoke with the candidates about the town’s explosive growth -- and Leland’s planned merger with water utility H2GO. In Part I, interviews with Jason Gaver, Nicholas Newell, and Allison Dunlap.
Note: You can find full interviews with Jason Gaver, Nicholas Newell, and Allison Dunlap at the end of this article.
Nicholas Newell said he’s a candidate who would bring a certain outlook to the council, one that’s currently missing.
“Being one of the youngest candidates, I think outside the box a lot. I'm not afraid to try new things, I can bring a fresh perspective, town council should be as diverse as the populace that it represents. [...] We don't have any diversity when it comes to age, our youngest council member is 60. And most of them are leaning around 70. So being a decade younger than any other candidate, I think I can bring a perspective that isn't there currently,” said Newell.
Most of the candidates in the race support the merger between the Town of Leland and the Brunswick Regional Water and Sewer H2GO Sanitary District. But candidate Jason Gaver said the process behind the agreement was difficult for some town constituents.
“But what people have communicated to me is that it probably could have been done a little better. The communication of the ‘why’ because if you look back this was a nasty court battle that costs the taxpayers dollars. And then all of a sudden, it was like, ‘Hey, we have an agreement.’ Once again, history is going to tell us whether that was right or wrong, but people, I think if they would have done a better job of communicating, ‘Hey, we were we weren't getting along very well. And now we have a solution,’” said Gaver.
Allison Dunlap is vying for one of the seats, but she said she doesn’t support the strings attached to those wanting to access H2GO’s future services.
“One thing I don't like about the merger is that the Town of Leland will be able to use that to annex people into the town. I think Leland is growing really fast. And it's very hard to see Leland just continue to grow, grow grow. I think a lot of people move to Leland because they wanted to not live in a big city,” said Dunlap.
Candidate Jason Gaver is a member of the town’s planning board. He said they try to achieve balance when it comes to approving development.
“There have been times where we have voted no, we don't agree that this is in the best interest. And that's part of leadership, right? Sometimes you've got to make the hard decision. And that's the way it is. But the Planning Board does, I believe, the Planning Board does a really good job of scrutinizing these things. It's not just rubber stamps,” said Gaver.
Candidate Nicholas Newell works in real estate and said this experience lets him see the issues with development firsthand.
“Because of what I do day in and day out, I see the growth that Leland is having I'm dealing with it on a daily basis; I'm seeing the way a lack of workforce housing is affecting Leland residents who are our firefighters, our teachers, our police officers. I am seeing the way that bad development policies can have things like massive land clearing where there are no trees left, where we lose century-old heritage oaks and other trees that will never be replaced in anyone's lifetime,” said Newell.
Leland is getting closer to publishing their Leland 2045 Plan -- which will provide an overview of how the town wants to grow. While Newell and Gaver mainly support the plan, candidate Dunlap said she’s skeptical of it.
“The agenda that's in there is really getting people into more high density and mixed-use living quarters. So instead of being able to kind of have a sprawl, and it's more about getting people into these high-density areas and that, that's really concerning to me,” said Dunlap.
One-stop or early voting is underway until October 30th. Election Day is November 2nd. You can find more information on municipal voting in Brunswick County at brunswickcountync.gov/elections.