The two candidates vying for the Holly Ridge mayoral seat stated their stance on key issues during a candidate forum this week.

The two candidates vying for the Holly Ridge mayoral seat stated their stance on key issues during a candidate forum this week.

Anita Dingler and Joseph Edwards participated in a question-and-answer forum Tuesday evening at the Holly Ridge Community Center. The forum was hosted by the Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and moderated by Elliott Potter, publisher of The Daily News.

Dingler and Edwards are running in the Nov. 5 municipal election for the seat available after incumbent Elmer Padgett decided to retire after his current term. Kenneth V Roe III, who was not a forum participant, is also vying for the mayor’s office but as a write-in candidate.

Dingler and Edwards were asked a series of questions ranging from safety concerns to the town’s business climate and recent disagreements with the Holly Ridge Volunteer Fire Department over a contract.

When asked their visions for the town’s future development in the next five to 10 years, Edwards said the town already is experiencing a lot of growth with an expansion of residential homes.

Dingler agreed the town had seen residential growth. She said with more residents, the community needs more small businesses on highway corridors along N.C. 50 and U.S. 17, as well as more activities in which citizens can participate, including sports or classes at the community center.

Edwards said in his rebuttal that small business growth in the town always had been a problem.

“The local town government, we cannot force people to sell their lands and we cannot force people to buy the property. That’s always been the hold-up in our town,” he said.

Dingler answered Edwards, saying she would try to increase communication between property owners and business owners to create incentives to bring businesses to the area.

“If the land doesn’t sell, that’s OK because the property owners can lease the land to individual businesses,” she said.

The candidates were asked about a recent contract disagreement with Holly Ridge VFD.

Dingler and Edwards stated the town government is planning on sitting down with the VFD to decide on a contract that will be a compromise for the fire department and the government and that the council would not allow the town to go without fire protection.

They also were asked about their position on a gun range currently in Holly Ridge’s ETJ that is outside town limits. Both declined to comment, stating that the issue is in litigation.

Both candidates said the town’s lack of small business industry is one of its biggest deficiencies.

Edwards added that he would like a rise in citizen participation in local government, and that he wants to see more programs for senior citizens.

“A lot has been said about supporting the youth in our town, which I totally agree with, but we have failed to mention our senior citizens in town, which I am a member of,” he said. “We do need some activities for our senior citizens. And you know, as you get older, you’re not able to drive, and we need some kind of transportation ... volunteers to help our senior citizens.”

As to the most pressing public safety concern in town, Dingler said she would like to see more crosswalks in town because Holly Ridge has a very active walking population and she would like to put in more sidewalks. Edwards said he had no pressing issues with the Holly Ridge Police Department. He said crosswalks are mainly in the Department of Transportation’s purview, and sidewalks would be “great if the taxpayers could afford them.”