Kevin Spears was born and raised in Wilmington and is on the ballot for Wilmington City Council. As a community activist, he works to combat youth gang violence. He's concerned about council’s priorities.
Kevin Spears says he’s been to a lot of city council meetings. Now he’s hoping to attend those meetings from the other side of the desk. He says Wilmington politicians favor the wealthy.
“I want to say that I represent the everyday working people, but more so the underdogs, the people who don't feel like they have a voice. And that's always been my drive. Just speaking up for the people who don’t, who don't feel that they have a voice. So I've been like a conduit for those people.”
Big on his agenda is neighborhood safety, and a more even distribution of wealth in the community – although he is unsure how that would be paid for. He wants more investment in what he calls “the lower half” by providing higher wages.
Wilmington City Council has a new member. And the vote difference between staying on the council or being voted off – was just six.
It was a very close race for the three city council seats up for grabs.
The unofficial results from the state’s Board of Elections have Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes the top vote-getter, followed by newcomer Kevin Spears. Neil Anderson retained his seat, by six votes over incumbent Paul Lawler.
Six votes out of more than 18,000 cast.
Margaret Haynes is looking forward to the challenges ahead.
“Of course public transportation is going to be huge, especially if the county pulls out of WAVE, it will become a city bus system, which will leave a lot of people out. So there, there are a lot of burning issues, and if anybody's new, it's, it's going be a real learning curve to get, get up to speed.”
And that’s what Kevin Spears has to look forward to.
Wilmington’s City Council has a new addition. Kevin Spears was sworn-in on December 3, 2019, alongside Neil Anderson, Mayor Bill Saffo, and Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes.
2019’s final city council meeting is a little unusual. There are few agenda items, and yes, there’s a violin -- but the crowd is large and more racially diverse.
Spears is now the second Black member on a mostly-white council of seven, and he’s also the youngest member. During his campaign, he ran on a platform of being the voice for Wilmington’s underserved citizens. And now, a month after the election, he says that’s still his priority.
“We have a huge task ahead of us. Our goal is to improve this city, not just for a specific group, but for the city as a whole.”
With Spears’ arrival, comes Paul Lawler’s departure. He lost his seat by a five-vote margin.
The council unanimously passed a resolution of appreciation for Lawler and his work. Meetings resume on January 7.
Kevin Spears focused his campaign for the city council on the priorities of Wilmington’s underserved citizens. Now, six months in office, he spoke with WHQR’s Hannah Breisinger about the biggest issues facing the city’s Black community.
Councilman Spears -- you’ve been in office for six months. And as the topic of police brutality is a huge national conversation right now -- how do you feel about the relationship between the Black community and law enforcement here?
“I think the relationship between law enforcement and the Black community here needs improvement. I would say that. I think that we're under a new regime now, you know there’s Interim Chief Donny Williams here, he's going to have some different approaches than the previous chief.
And we had a good working relationship with Chief Evangelous. But Chief Williams is new. He has some new ideas, and we're hoping to see some new things. We're hoping to see some improvement. We're hoping that the issues that citizens have or have had in the past will be worked on in a different manner. And we're hoping for some more transparency as it relates to law enforcement and the Black community.”
And what do you think are the biggest issues impacting the Black community in Wilmington today?
“Barriers to living a better life. That’s it. You know, there is the elephant in the room, the ghost of 1898, and the ghost of the Wilmington Ten. I don't think we've actually reconciled those past deals and I think we really need to.”
A lot of white community members right now are asking, ‘what can we do to help?’ What’s your response to that?
“I hear that a lot of the time, ‘what can we do to help?’ And I think people need to see the Black community as being able to help themselves. You know, we don't want to feel hopeless and that our white friends, comrades, need to come in and save us. I think being able to assist us and whatever goals and initiatives that we have, that's how you help.
People need to know that it's a tough time for some people in this city. What can you do to help, what can these organizations do to help -- and, you know, it's by being trendsetters. Do something that puts a person in the position to be a leader or to better provide for their family. To make a transition from one place to another. And I think that's what it is. We have to all be intentional. And if you don't know much about what takes place, then you go and you learn about it.”
Thanks so much for speaking with me Councilman Spears -- take care.
“Thanks, you too.”