Wilmington mayor, council candidates face off over Zoom

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Election day is a little more than a month away, and candidates for Wilmington mayor and city council answered questions from the community on Tuesday.

The League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear, the New Hanover County NAACP, and the Cape Fear Housing Coalition held a virtual candidate forum over Zoom. Residents were able to submit questions before and during the discussion.

Bill Saffo, Wilmington’s longest serving mayor, is seeking an 8th term in office. In 2019, Saffo narrowly defeated now-disgraced challenger Devon Scott by just 610 votes.

“I have been the mayor since 2006 and I’ve been re-elected seven times,” Saffo said during the forum. “I don’t think you just get re-elected seven times if you do nothing.”

This time around Saffo is up against a familiar face, former state senator Harper Peterson, who served one term as Wilmington mayor from 2001 to 2003. Peterson is challenging the status quo.

“Have we made any progress in the last 15 years or are we stagnant and going backwards? That’s the question to ask,” Peterson said. “We need new ideas, fresh energy.”

During the forum, Peterson criticized city spending on projects like the Riverfront Park development.

“What kind of economic boost has the north side received from the $35 million investment in the North Riverfront Park?” Peterson asked. “How many jobs with a living wage for young men and women in the north side?”

Saffo defended his and council’s decisions over the past 15 years, saying there have been significant investments in marginalized communities when it comes to housing, businesses, and jobs.

“The more jobs we can bring into the community the better the community is, not like it was when I graduated high school where 80 percent of the graduates had to leave this community to go to Charlotte, Raleigh, Atlanta and different places because they could not find a job here,” Saffo said.

You can watch the entire discussion here.

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