Candidate Questionnaire: Fred Fontana For N. Topsail Beach Council
1. What are your greatest strengths and skill set that will make you a good elected official?
I have served as an Alderman since November 2022, appointed to fill a vacant position. Previously, I served on the North Topsail Beach Planning Board and I continue to serve on the Topsail Island Shoreline Protection Commission and the Jacksonville Urban Area Transportation Advisory Committee. I'm also well aware of environmental concerns through my volunteer work on the Topsail Island Turtle Patrol and through the Shoreline Protection Commission. In addition, I have a good understanding of the needs of diverse individuals in the community, through my volunteer work with Share the Table and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
2. Is there a particular issue that motivated you to run for office?
Issues that motivate me include: First: Re-nourishment of the beach and dunes systems. Second: Continue to make North Topsail Beach an attractive destination for tourists and residents while being prudent with residents' tax dollars.
This will include improving the safety of all residents and visitors by replacing the fire station on the south end of the town. It will also include eliminating much of North Topsail Beach from the CBRA designation that prohibits residents from qualifying for the federal flood insurance program and restricts veterans from applying for VA housing loans. Third: Improve recreational activities by establishing bike lanes on New River Inlet Rd and expanding activities at Richard Peters Park.
3. Do you currently or have you ever held an elected office before, and if so, what office?
I was appointed as an Alderman to fill a vacant position in November 2022. I am now running for a 4-year term. Previously, I was elected for four consecutive years as president of the Onslow United Transit System Board of Directors and elected for three years as the president of the North Carolina Public Transportation Association.
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?
I served on the North Topsail Beach Planning Board for almost two years. My experience on that board will benefit voters in that I am knowledgeable of zoning requirements and the zoning process for the town.
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?
Bike lanes are a pet project of mine. I'm working with NCDOT to develop plans for bike lanes on New River Inlet Road from Town Hall to the north end. Also working with the local police department to identify potential safe pedestrian crosswalks.
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?
I’ve been active on the Topsail Island Shoreline Protection Commission for over two years. The three island towns – North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach – work collaboratively on many common issues. These include keeping the beaches clean by encouraging everyone to not use plastics and to remove debris. Also, we are working on a vitex removal program to eliminate this invasive vine from the dunes. I also participate in the Four Town meetings, which involve the island towns and Holly Ridge discussing issues of concern to all of us. As the North Topsail Beach representative on the Greater Topsail Area Chamber of Commerce, I am involved with addressing many issues affecting both Onslow and Pender Counties.
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?
North Topsail Beach has a solid Emergency Management plan. The Town Manager coordinates with police, fire, county emergency management staff and town elected officials in the event of a hurricane. All Alderman are available to serve as needed at the Emergency Operations Center.
8. If elected and a proposal was created regarding term limits, would you support it?
Term limits exist in that, every four years, voters have the opportunity to choose their board members.
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?
Absolutely, preparation and knowledge are essential to the role of Alderman, particularly in regard to ensuring meetings are run efficiently and effectively, allowing adequate time for comments from the public.
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?
North Topsail Beach’s paid parking helps fund beach projects and helps keep property taxes low.
11. Tell me something about yourself that may be of interest to the community.
I'm not a politician. I'm an average citizen living in North Topsail Beach. I want to continue to work toward preserving the natural beauty of the area and continue to make this an enjoyable place for residents and tourists alike.