Pine Knoll Shores, NC (PKS), a small town, with almost five miles of Atlantic Ocean beachfront in Carteret County, NC, is where I have landed for the next ten weeks. As an online student, in between jobs, I took advantage of the opportunity to immerse myself in a local government Professional Work Experience (PWE), waved good-bye to my family, and moved 185 miles east – as far as I could go without getting wet!
The appeal of a PWE in a small town is the exposure to all aspects of local government. In a few short days, examples of how my MPA@UNC course work is relevant to professional experience are plentiful. We studied the local government budgeting process in this week’s session of PUBA 731 (Public Financial Management) and the next day I attended the town council meeting where the Town Manager presented the 2017-18 budget, beginning the ten-day public comment period. Pine Knoll Shores is doing well, with over six million in reserve funds.
In PUBA 719 (Analysis and Evaluation) this week I used a PKS water quality report for a research design assignment. Today I attended a strategic planning committee meeting and learned about the water quality and drinking water strategies the town is undertaking. Currently, several opportunities are being pursued and the committee is calling for some structure to the efforts. For instance, how will data from an East Carolina University research study using samples from PKS’s ground water wells be useful to the town? This is one of the questions on my list to help find an answer to this summer. Tomorrow, I will be recording water table measurements and learning about how that fits into the bigger picture. Also, of concern are predictions of rising sea levels. The question discussed today was how does a town like PKS communicate on this topic in an informative, balanced way. The balance is between helping residents understand an issue that could significantly impact the community without triggering a real estate panic.
But what are the “alligators closest to the boat”? Even though I started working this week on topics included in my Employment Contract, such as: the water study, a parking count analysis, a PARC survey, and permit software analysis, two items rose to the top of the list. First, was developing the program for a Flagpole Dedication. This past Monday an eighty-foot flagpole was installed at the PKS Public Safety Building and this coming weekend, on Memorial Day, a short ceremony will be held to dedicate the flag. A review of the Executive Order and Statutes related to the flag revealed that on Memorial Day, before noon, the flag should be flown at half-mast, a mere forty feet up!
The other alligator – and this one is angry – relates to a potential ballot referendum for November. I started at the beginning – what are we allowed to put on the ballot, what is the process, and when does it need to be finished? Some ballot referenda are permitted by statute, such as supplemental taxes, or the creation of special districts for conservation, transportation, or utilities. For other issues a Local Act will need to be approved by the General Assembly and the process begins with the local board of elections. The Carteret County Board of Elections passes the responsibility for complying with the law to the PKS town attorney. Any referenda submitted by the town attorney will be included on the ballot. I’m thinking of naming these alligators PUBA 723 (Communications) and PUBA 760 (Law).