12344962065?profile=RESIZE_584xBy Steve Plunkett

Briny Breezes has a new mayor, Ted Gross, and for the second time, some controversy — at least from Gross’ would-be challenger — about how residents qualify to run for office.

It also has a new Town Council president, Liz Loper; a new alderman, Jeffrey Duncan; and another vacancy on the dais because Sue Thaler resigned her seat Dec. 28, effective Dec. 31.

Gross took his new seat on Dec. 7 after Loper shifted into the council president’s chair. Duncan was unable to attend the meeting because of a death in his family. The council elected Loper as president.

“My family has been part of Briny Breezes since the beginning. I have been coming to Briny Breezes since I was born,” Gross said in his letter of interest in being appointed mayor. “My wife and I became full-time residents of Briny Breezes in 2014 and we love it here.”

Before Gross, the husband of Alderwoman Kathy Gross, was appointed, would-be candidate Keith Black detailed how he was disqualified from running for the position in the upcoming March election.

“I got a report from the (supervisor) of elections stating that five of my petitions were turned down,” Black said.

Briny Breezes requires a potential mayoral candidate to submit 20 petition forms signed by registered town voters. Black, who sits on the Planning & Zoning Board, submitted 23, thinking that was a sufficient cushion, but five were not accepted.

“They were telling me we had an address wrong,” Black said. “One person was not eligible to vote. One signature was not authenticated, and there was one with an invalid date.

“The individual with the signature that was not authenticated, that gentleman had an accident and his signature before and after his accident do not match,” Black said.

He tried to get the Supervisor of Elections Office to cure the problems but was told it only authenticates or rejects petitions and to seek help from the town. But Town Attorney Keith Davis told him neither he nor the town clerk could overrule the supervisor’s office.

Attorney Trey Nazzaro, standing in for Davis at the December meeting, said their office did not help Mayor Gene Adams with a petition problem in 2021.

“The town or the city attorney’s office did not get involved then so, you know, we’re going to continue with the way that we’ve done that,” Nazzaro said.

Black appealed again to the elections office, sending copies of three petitions with notarized statements from the signees that these were their signatures. Elections officials accepted one, leaving Black one short of the 20 he needed.

Gross and Duncan both were appointed to fill vacancies created by the resignations of Adams and Council President Christina Adams, the council’s previous husband-and-wife team. They announced in October their intentions to resign.

Because no one besides Gross qualified to run for mayor, he was automatically elected and will take the post for a full two-year term in March. The mayor is a non-voting position on the council.

Duncan will have to be reappointed if he is to serve beyond March. He did not file to run for the seat, which is up for election then, and neither did anyone else.

Kathy Gross was reelected automatically when no one challenged her. That means no town offices will be on the ballot during the presidential primary in March.

A notice posted in the town’s post office said the council would fill Thaler’s seat at its Jan. 25 meeting and encouraged people to send letters of interest in being appointed by Jan. 18.

“There will not be an election,” Davis said, adding that the Town Charter dictates that the council fill what he called Thaler’s “mid-term” resignation. Thaler would not have been up for election again until 2025.

Black said he planned to submit a letter of interest.

Thaler and the Adamses did not say why they resigned, but Town Manager Bill Thrasher blamed Form 6, the state’s new requirement that municipal officials detail their personal finances online.

“The effect of Form 6, with respect to all our newly appointed council members, in essence the effect of Form 6, the Town of Briny Breezes lost 23 years of experience or will lose 23 years of experience with people that sat on this board,” he said.

Thaler joined the council in 2012, Christina Adams in 2015 and Gene Adams in 2019.

Town manager’s report
Thrasher noted that he starts the fifth year in his position on Jan. 8.

“It’s my intent to continue serving as your town manager as long as I can,” he said.

But there will be changes, he said, including more face-to-face interaction with county commissioners, the League of Cities and state officials as he tries to find money for sea wall and stormwater upgrades.

“My emphasis going forward next year hopefully will be outreach,” Thrasher said. “Not concentrate so much on working within the Town Hall. I’m working outside Town Hall.”

Thrasher is contracted to work an average 25 hours a week, and he works remotely in the summer. Council members, who will evaluate his job performance at their Jan. 25 meeting, praised his output.

“I also think that when you do go to North Carolina we don’t even know you’re not here. So that’s a compliment,” Alderman Bill Birch said.

Thrasher also reported that the town has completed the rehabilitation of all seven of its sewage lift stations.

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