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Mayoral rumblings in Nags Head

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Nags Head Mayor Bob Edwards, left, and new mayoral candidate Ben Cahoon.

Edwards won’t seek re-election, Cahoon announces candidacy

Starting a rapid chain of events on Dec. 7, Nags Head Mayor Bob Edwards announced at the town's monthly meeting that he has decided not to run for re-election next November. And, within hours, Edwards' long-time friend Ben Cahoon launched a website — benfornagshead.com — announcing his candidacy for that office.

      Both men told the Sentinel the announcements were a matter of careful attention to timing.

      "I decided to make my announcement at this time," Edwards said, "because I was interested in giving an opportunity for anyone who would like to provide leadership for the town to get a campaign together and make a good run, and so our citizens would know who they're selecting and what platform they're running on."

      Explaining that he had passed the word that he would "make a decision [on running] one way or the other by the December meeting,” Edwards said he "knew Ben, from another source, was planning on running if I didn't run. And so I think he was ready, in case I didn't run, to go forward."

      "I supported Bob when he ran for mayor and chaired his campaign committee. And I would not have run against him,” Cahoon told the Sentinel. “But it's something that I've been thinking about for a while. And so, when I learned that Bob was not going to run, I decided the time was right to go ahead and get the news out so that people would know that I am running. Then we'll go back into 'quiet mode' and wait for the filing period to begin” in July 2017.

      Asked why he chose not to seek another term as mayor while still in his first term in that office, Edwards said he was thinking primarily of "keeping the town moving forward." Noting that he would be 84 years old upon completion of a second term in December 2021, Edwards said he felt that continuing as mayor past next year was "not appropriate for the town to keep moving forward the way we have been."

      Reviewing what he characterized as the current board's "outstanding” work, Edwards emphasized the important tasks remaining in the coming year, including taking the next step in beach nourishment, finishing construction of Dowdy Park, completion of improvements in the Peak Resources nursing home and a comprehensive and long-term land use plan.

      He added that his main focus for the remaining year as mayor will be to "concentrate on getting the things done over the next year that we need to do for the town, rather than concentrating on getting re-elected. We love the town of Nags Head and certainly want to do what's best for the town."

      A native of Engelhard, Cahoon is an architect and partner in the architectural firm of Cahoon and Kasten in Nags Head, where he lives with his wife Melanie. Their daughter Melissa works and lives in Washington, D.C., and their son James is a student at N.C. State University. 

      Cahoon is active in leadership in the Outer Banks Presbyterian Church and has served on a wide variety of community boards, including the Dare Board of Education from 2008 to 2014 — and briefly in 2016 as an interim board member after the death of David Oaksmith. He has also sat on the Chamber of Commerce Board, the UNC Coastal Studies Institute Board and Foundation and numerous Nags Head committees such as the Beach Road Committee, the planning group for Gallery Row Roll and Stroll, the Dowdy Park Steering Committee, Art is the Heart and the FOCUS Nags Head Advisory Committee.

      Asked about the primary reason behind his decision to run, Cahoon said there are "some things that I've been very involved in and that are important to me and that I'd like to see through to completion. The biggest one is the FOCUS Nags Head project — the comprehensive plan and zoning rewrite that's in progress. I've been serving on the advisory committee and will be serving on the technical committee that will make recommendations for the zoning ordinance changes."

      "This is a very comprehensive look at patterns of development in Nags Head and the kind of community that we want to be and a comprehensive rewrite of our ordinances,” he added. “And I think my expertise working with the ordinances on a number of development projects in the town and my involvement in these committees will serve the town well stepping into a larger role."

      Noting that he will likely have to step down from the technical committee if he becomes mayor, Cahoon commented, "I'm very much in favor of as much public engagement in the town of Nags Head as we can get. So when I leave a committee all that means is that there is room for another citizen to get involved, and I'm very much in favor of that."

      On his website, Cahoon notes that his service on boards and committees has "shown me the power of public engagement. The best schools are those with the most parental and community involvement. And on the town committees, I see fellow citizens who are smart and passionate about how to make Nags Head an even better place to live. I want to keep them engaged, engage more of you [and] develop trusting relationships between the Nags Head Board of Commissioners, the citizen committees and our community so we can move good ideas into public policy."

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