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  • Writer's pictureTopsail Times

Candidate Questionnaire: Aaron Ritter For Holly Ridge Council

1. What are your greatest strengths and skill set that will make you a good elected official?

During my 10 years as a police officer and 22 years in the Army, I’ve had a great deal of experience to help me hone my leadership skills and abilities. I think my top three strengths are my ability to work in a team, think critically, and ability to communicate and provide transparency.

Teamwork: Any political position comes with its own conflict, but I’m dedicated to keeping an open mind and looking beyond myself to engage in “productive conflict” in order to come to resolutions the council believes are in the best interest of the community.

Problem Solving: I am an outside-ofthe-box thinker and I’d use every means at my disposal to bring positive change to Holly Ridge, all the while keeping its citizens and businesses first. Also, as an experienced military planner, I’m able to take into consideration the long-term ramifications of the decisions I support.

Transparency / Communication: I am a strong believer in being transparent; what you see is what you get. Transparency and communication are paramount to building trust between the town and its citizens, and I vow to keep those lines of communication open and develop relationships with those in the community (and the surrounding area) in order to support building an even better Holly Ridge.

2. Is there a particular issue that motivated you to run for office?

While I was initially approached to provide a voice for the Summerhouse community, I’ve come to see a lot of untapped potential for Holly Ridge that the current council has not capitalized on. Holly Ridge has the hottest housing markets in North Carolina, and I think it’s so desired because it’s the best of both worlds with its small-town feel and proximity to the beaches.

As I drive through Surf City or Hampstead, I’ve really come to appreciate that small-town feel and that is what motivated me to run for office, to preserve Holly Ridge’s identity.

I feel I can bring a fresh perspective to the table and have ideas on how to help develop Holly Ridge’s vision to allow it to grow and prosper while doing so sensibly so that it does not lose that small-town feel and does not go against what is in the best interest of the community

3. Do you currently or have you ever held an elected office before, and if so, what office?

While I have not held an elected position before, I believe I have the leadership skills necessary to effect positive change on the council, and the community as a whole. I am a quick study and am successful in any roles I’ve filled in the past. Lastly, what you see, is what you get. I don’t have any skin in the game or ulterior motives as some others might have to run for the council. I just want to do my best to serve my community by bringing a new perspective and vision to the community.

4. As an elected official you will have to make decisions regarding zoning. What, if any, is your experience with zoning and how will it benefit the voters if you are elected?

While I don’t have any professional experience with zoning, I plan to proactively take training to become familiar with the ins and outs of zoning, I have read over the ordinances and I plan to take additional local government training, if elected, to further educate myself on important topics such as community development, intergovernmental cooperation, and infrastructure. I will also be relying heavily on the subject matter experts in the town administration and planning committee to help educate me so I can make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the community.

5. Traffic is a major issue, especially during the tourist season. One concern is the lack of sidewalks and dedicated bike paths. Do you agree this is a concern and if so, what would you like to see changed or added regarding sidewalks and bike paths?

Traffic is becoming a larger problem by the day, and it will only get worse as further development occurs, particularly for those unincorporated areas in which there are little controls on what type of business or developments go where.

That is why I believe Holly Ridge needs to commission a comprehensive study and develop a deliberate, phased, “whole community” master plan to address these concerns, as well as address things such as land use and beautification.

With the continued growth of the industrial park and the town’s desire to attract certain types of businesses, sidewalk expansion would be necessary. But beyond that, there could be other possibilities.

One potential opportunity would be to work with Pender and Onslow counties, as well as the Wilmington Urban Area, as they continue to develop and refine bicycle and pedestrian plans to connect communities throughout the Cape Fear and Topsail region. This could eventually lead to a dedicated path from Holly Ridge to Surf City that will allow walkers/joggers/bicyclists to be active and enjoy the Topsail region without having to worry about driving or their safety with increasing traffic along Highway 50.

6. Our area is unique in the fact that we are comprised of several small towns and two counties. Do you feel it is important to work alongside the neighboring towns/counties and are there any specific issues you want addressed or feel needs more work?

Although Holly Ridge is fully in Onslow County, residents rely heavily on the offerings of Surf City and Sneads Ferry, which is where Holly Ridge children attend school. Therefore, it’s imperative to maintain working relationships with the other communities and address any shared issues.

I would like to promote more cooperation with the neighboring communities to identify what the region, as a whole, needs and to help work together to bridge those gaps. Such things could be a sports complex, splash park, or even a satellite hospital with outpatient services that all communities in the region can benefit from.

7. Hurricanes are a way of life in coastal areas. 1) Do you feel your town is properly prepared to handle a major storm? 2) What improvements, if any, would you like to see take place, regarding communication, shelters, or staff?

While I am no emergency management expert, I think the town and the Holly Ridge Fire Department do a lot to ensure all of its residents are informed, especially via social media. However, I think one thing I’d like to see is maybe some informational sessions hosted by the town for new residents on how to prepare and respond to a hurricane, especially since the town has so many residents moving in, many of whom have never lived on the coast or experienced a hurricane.

8. If elected and a proposal was created regarding term limits, would you support it?

I would not be opposed to term limits if the council and community believe that would best serve the community. However, I believe the town would be best served by allowing council members to serve two or three terms. I say this because it takes a while for a candidate to become familiar with all of the ins and outs of town administration and this would provide continuity within the council. However, limiting the number of terms allows fresh perspectives to be introduced on the council and works to mitigate potential conflicts of interest that might be formed over time.

9. As time is always precious, do you agree that as an elected official, it is your responsibility to learn about the topics to be discussed ahead of time to help expedite discussions and decisions during the meetings?

Yes, in fact, there are occasions in which current council members have admitted they did not fully read the agenda and associated documents for a topic requiring a vote. Council decisions can set precedence so it's important to be fully informed on a topic before making a decision that can have ripple effects down the road. I also think it’s important for a council member to do his or her own homework by speaking to all stakeholders on all sides of an issue so they can determine what the best course of action is for the community as a whole

10. If your community has paid parking: What issues do you have regarding the current program and would you work to change or alter the existing program in your community?

Although efforts are still ongoing with the current council, I would continue to work avenues in which Holly Ridge could partner with the Topsail Island communities to get some sort of concessions in terms of beach parking, whether that be reduced pricing or perhaps free parking.

11. Tell me something about yourself that may be of interest to the community.

I’ve dedicated a large part of my life to the service of others. I’ve been an EMT, a community service officer, and a police officer for 10 years. I’m a disabled Army veteran with 22 years of service where I did two deployments (Iraq and Afghanistan) and have led hundreds of troops until my retirement in 2022. I also volunteer as an assistant scoutmaster with the Sneads Ferry Boy Scout troop. Of all of those roles, the underlying theme is dedication to others and service to my community. And that is why I am running for town council. To help forge a fresh, cohesive vision of how Holly Ridge can grow and be prosperous without impacting the way of life, Holly Ridge residents have grown to love about their home. And it’s with that goal I hope I can earn your vote and you’ll allow me to represent you on the Holly Ridge Town Council.


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