On Sept. 9, current Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin announced his intent to pursue a second term in the position. He was previously elected to the mayoral seat in 2016.
Prior to his mayoral seat, Bowlin served Wildwood as a City Council member and chair of the Board of Adjustment. He’s also served as a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
The announcement comes amidst a year of changing faces, not just on the 16-member city council dais, but within the walls of city hall. Those changes include the appointment in August of Samuel Anselm to the city administrator position. Anselm’s appointment followed a nine-month search to replace former City Administrator Ryan Thomas, who resigned in 2018. On Sept. 9, the council unanimously approved the appointment of Joe Farmer as the new Ward 4 representative. Farmer was selected to fill the seat vacated by Steve Taylor, who resigned late last month. Both changes follow the swearing-in of four new city council members since the last general election.
“To provide context, we have a large council,” Bowlin said. “So, by definition, the larger the group, the more changes you’re going to have. These changes have occurred really for personal reasons, so there really hasn’t been any commonality to it, but we’ve had some changes.”
According to Bowlin, the changes inside and outside the chamber could be part of a bigger call from Wildwood voters to “put our agendas aside and work – not for ourselves, but for them.”
“That’s what I’ve tried to do,” he said, “and I think I’ve been able to make some changes.”
With his announcement, Bowlin identified a list of city goals to accomplish by 2024, many of which are ongoing issues the city has identified. Those include identifying solutions for high-speed rural internet access, resolving the Lake Chesterfield issues and addressing land erosion around nine identified watersheds located in the city limits.
According to Bowlin, for the first time, the city is utilizing Geotechnology Inc., a geophysical survey engineer, to have nodes inserted into Lake Chesterfield to detect drainage spots while also monitoring the roadway that goes over the dam on Pierside Lane.
“There’s been some concern about the structural integrity of [the dam] based on leaks, which is a safety issue,” Bowlin said. “We’re not relying on anecdotal information, like ‘Well, I think I saw the water leaking over there…’ or what have you. Where exactly are the leaks occurring? Do we know if the safety of the bridge is impacted? If so, how is it impacted from this structurally?”
As for moving forward with providing rural internet, the city has partnered with CTC Technology and Energy to provide reports and guidance on possible approaches to providing internet access to more rural areas of Wildwood, particularly on the western side of Hwy. 109.
CTC Technology and Energy has noted at previous Rural Internet Access Committee meetings that low-density areas make up seven times more territory within Wildwood than medium- or high-density areas, thus potentially raising the cost for fiber to over $8,000 per household.
However, according to Bowlin, the city recently received a report with options based on current technology, including the possibility of combining wireless and fiber options.
“We have employed experts, people who have the expertise that we do not have, so that we’re not shooting in the dark and potentially spending taxpayer money or asking residents to become a part of a program that does not have a solid foundation without the expertise that’s needed,” Bowlin said.
Other issues have come to light more recently. For example, concerns of erosion came to light after recent cases of flash flooding heavily impacted resident homes and major roadways like Hwy. 109 in August. The ongoing status of multiple concerns is one of the reasons Bowlin announced his campaign for reelection.
“We can’t get these done in a matter of weeks, and frankly, that’s one of the reasons I’m running for mayor again,” Bowlin said. “To give residents the comfort that we’re going to have stability to see these through.”
Each mayoral term is made up of four years. Filing opens in December 2019, with the election taking place on April 7, 2020.