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Newcomer Connie Mearkle and incumbent David Heglar win two Kure Beach council seats

Winners of Election 2023

Four candidates ran for Kure Beach Town Council for two open seats. Allen Oliver, running unopposed, won the mayoral seat. However, in the town council race, incumbent Dennis Panicali was ousted.

Challenger Connie Mearkle won the most votes at 31%, she was trailed by long-time incumbent David Heglar who also won a seat with 29.5% of the vote.

Results as of November 8, 2023
Results as of November 8, 2023

However, all results are official on canvass day — which is Friday, November 17.

Mearkle said she was humbled by her win.

“And I really felt that social media works for some people, but I thought that, you know, this is an older community, average age is like 58. And I thought that the way to get my message out to everyone was to go door to door. So I canvassed for about four weeks, and I talked to 500 people, and I left the door hangers on another 600. And the strategy worked,” Mearkle said.

And Mearkle said she wanted to thank her fellow competitors, saying that they all were together at dinner when the election polls closed.

“They’re all wonderful people, so we're all friends. So, there's no losers. We all still live in Kure Beach and love [it]," she said.

During the campaign, candidates touched on issues like creating new stormwater, water, and sewer infrastructure and planning for the future of the Island Greenway.

At the October candidate forum, hosted by WHQR, WECT, and Port City Daily, Mearkle said the town will be working on this Island Greenway plan.

“There is a feasibility study going on; they're looking at three possible routes. One is probably the most contentious. Nothing has been decided; nothing has been recommended. But I would say that I am a proponent of greenways, and I hope that we can find a compromise position that we can make that greenway happen because I think that 90%, at least, of the community wants that Greenway extension through Kure Beach,” she said.

Mearkle said she’s looking forward to Mayor Oliver setting the upcoming agenda for the new council.

“We don’t have a town manager, and so the council manages the town, and so you get assigned to departments to oversee them like I might be assigned the finance department,” she said.

Mearkle is a retired executive of Lockheed Martin and said she’s lived in town for about 12 years, and in that time she started volunteering for various town boards and committees, so she said she felt the time was right to run.

“My whole career has been in finance, and so I bring a totally different perspective to the town council. They haven't had a true financial person on the council in quite a while,” she said.

She also said she’d like the new council to work on a long-range plan, one that’s longer than five years, as the “southern end of our island, they're doing major renovations and expansions, and actually [building] a new museum for Fort Fisher and of course, our aquarium, and that's put stress on our infrastructure,” she said.


Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR