Rivers, Williams weigh in on infrastructure, finances, why they should be mayor

Rivers, Williams weigh in on infrastructure, finances, why they should be mayor
By Paul Nielsen, The Daily Advance Staff Writer Oct 1, 2023

Editor’s note: With early voting underway for the Oct. 10 Elizabeth City municipal election The Daily Advance is publishing stories about the city’s contested races. Candidates were asked to limit their responses to 300 words.

Incumbent Mayor Kirk Rivers is being challenged by Christina Williams and Bennie Murphy in the municipal election. The winner will serve a two-year term beginning in December.

Williams, 45, ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2022 and has lived in the city since 2018 but her family is originally from Pasquotank. She is the founder and chair of the conservative Pasquotank Political Action Committee.

Rivers, 48, in in his first term as mayor and previously served several terms on City Council. Rivers, who is an entrepreneur, is a life-long resident of the city.

Murphy, who ran unsuccessfully for a 4th Ward seat in the 2022 city election, did not respond to an email from The Daily Advance seeking responses to the newspaper’s questions.

Why should the voters elect, or re-elect, you to serve as mayor?

Rivers: “The city is moving in the right direction. We are addressing the fiscal affairs of the city, aging infrastructure, youth programs and enterprise funds being sustainable. The City Council is working together in a very professional manner representing the Harbor of Hospitality.

“We have a lot of unfinished business that needs to be completed in a second term. Those include audits being current, economic development, increased homeownership, juvenile issues, development of our downtown waterfront, revamping our recycling program, increasing the fund balance and new pickleball courts just to name a few.

“We are working together with our citizens, local elected boards, state elected officials and community partners like the College of The Albemarle, Elizabeth City State University, Mid-Atlantic Christian University, Sentara (Albemarle Medical Center) and the United States Coast Guard to make Elizabeth City the brightest star in North Carolina.”

Williams: “Elizabeth City needs a mayor who is serious about improving the daily lives of all citizens and bringing more opportunity for jobs and housing. I get along well with most people and have strong social skills to communicate effectively with everyone. I will be conservative with our money. I care about all people in the community and I listen to people.”

The city needs to spend millions of dollars to fix its water and sewer infrastructure. How do you propose paying for these fixes? Would you vote to raise property taxes to generate the needed capital?

Williams: “I will not approve of any measure to raise taxes in any form for any reason until we can tell the public where their tax money that has already been spent has gone. I am against increasing costs to our residents and will always look for every way to avoid this. I will encourage this council to seek not only grant assistance, but also pay-as-you-go programs that are available to us.”

Rivers: “Our track record speaks for itself: 15 months in office and over $13 million brought in. This council is fixing pump stations, broken pipes, manholes, infiltration issues and a lot more. We will build a new water reservoir with money already allocated. We are putting the work in securing funds right now and property taxes have not been raised.”

The city has, and continues, to pay the Greg Isley Firm and now financial consultant Susan Tezai to assist city staff in correcting past financial bookkeeping problems. Is this a good use of taxpayers’ money?

Rivers: “We will fix the city’s financial infrastructure. The Isley firm is working on the past, city staff the current and Tezai group the future.

“There are issues that had to be fixed, including bank reconciliations that were extremely behind, late audits, employee turnover and outdated computer systems. These issues are being worked out and still keeping up with current day-to-day operations. That is a lot when it took years to fall behind. We are putting the resources to fix the past financial issues that have plagued the city and working to get off of the Unit Assistance List of the Local Government Commission. We inherited this and we are going to fix it.”

Williams: “We cannot keep double and triple paying for basic services. If our financial staff was not able to do the job we needed to have them either replaced or trained prior to spending more money on third party assistance. Elizabeth City cannot be a city with on the job training in our finance department. We need experts and forensic accounting specialists as part of our Elizabeth City recovery team.”