Benjamin Cahoon

Title: Mayor

Municipality: Town of Nagshead

Position Interested In: At Large - Affiliate Organization Representative (NC Association of Resort Towns and Convention Cities)

Tell us why you would like to serve in a leadership position at the League. In particular, specify goals you would like to accomplish as an officer or board member and indicate how, if attained, they will help to achieve Vision 2030 – the League’s future vision of how cities and towns will operate in 2030.

NC cities and towns, especially across the coastal plain and along the shoreline, are faced with the challenges of climate change. Nags Head and other resort cities are on the front line, fighting for their futures. These places need the knowledge and financial resources to adapt and make themselves more sustainable. I believe I could bring valuable experience and insights to the Board. Community adaptation to climate change is just one example that embodies the goals of Vision 2030: 1) demonstrating the value municipalities add to the community's quality of life, 2) using technology for service delivery, citizen engagement, and economic development, 3)practicing productive partnerships with counties, other governments, and the private sector, and 4) showing how urban and rural municipalities work together for economic success.

Tell us about your experience as a municipal official. You may want to include information on your service on the municipal governing body, other related boards and special areas of interest.

Mayor Ben Cahoon combines practice with community leadership by blending resilient design strategies, sustainability education, and legislative advocacy to address climate change impacts and improve the quality of life for inhabitants of fragile coastal environments. With more than thirty years of constant civic engagement while practicing architecture in coastal communities, and now as mayor of a barrier island town, Ben is intimately familiar with the impacts of climate change on the land, infrastructure, buildings, and people. Those impacts, which include ocean shoreline erosion, severe and frequent flooding, elevated water tables, malfunctioning wastewater systems, and more frequent and severe hurricanes – all require architectural, planning, educational, and political solutions. Whether pursuing those solutions through the U.S. Congress, Federal agencies, or developing replicable local models, Ben is the quintessential “Citizen Architect”. He addresses these issues with an inquisitive spirit, open-mindedness, collaboration, and holistic non-linear thinking.

As Mayor, Ben leads his town along what Duke Professor of Environmental Politics Megan Mullin calls “the leading edge of thinking about how to prepare for the future.” Ben has led numerous committees and his town Board in the consideration and adoption of a Land Use Plan focused on resilient development, to construction of sustainable infrastructure like parks and multiuse paths, and initiating innovative drainage projects. With Ben’s advocacy and participation, the town engaged North Carolina State University’s Coastal Dynamics Design Lab to explore resiliency to sea level rise through a number of student projects. The award-winning responses to environmental challenges developed by this studio have application to the world’s coastal communities.

Ben also recognizes that the root causes of the climate change challenges faced by coastal residents on a daily basis must be confronted with education and political action. Toward that end he lobbies the U.S. Congress on a regular basis, serves on Congressional Briefing Panels, and authors editorials encouraging U.S. Senators and Representatives to action. As a witness before the U.S. House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee he helped defeat an offshore drilling bill. He led a coalition of twenty-four coastal mayors to oppose offshore drilling and seismic testing. And he was selected by North Carolina’s Governor Cooper to moderate the 2019 Coastal Resiliency and Clean Energy Roundtable.

Tell us about your educational background, professional experience, and/or community or civic activities. 

  • ​Mayor, Town of Nags Head, 2017-Present
    Elected to a 4-year term in November 2017

  • Mayor Cahoon has led the adoption of a new resiliency-focused Comprehensive Land Use Plan and companion Unified Development Ordinance, completion of a $42.7 million beach renourishment project, completion of Dowdy Park (the town’s largest and most fully developed), construction of miles of multi-use paths, and installation of stormwater mitigation projects.

  • Dare County Control Group, 2017-2020

  • The Control Group coordinates town and county preparation for and response to

  • emergencies like hurricanes and pandemics.

  • North Carolina Resort Towns and Convention Cities Board of Directors, 2019-2021

  • Eastern North Carolina Alliance for Recovery and Resiliency

  • The Alliance works with local communities, the NC Legislature, Federal agencies, and U.S. Congressional representatives securing support for recovery from Hurricane Florence and for resiliency implementation.

  • Dare County Board of Education, 2008-2014, 2016
    Appointed and elected terms totaling 7 years

  • Member (Appointed) Dare County Board of Education 2008-2010
    Selected by a Committee of the Board to complete an unexpired term

  • Member (Elected) Dare County Board of Education 2010-2014
    Elected to a 4-year term in November 2010

  • Member (Appointed) Dare County Board of Education 2016
    Selected by the Board, based on experience, to complete another unexpired term

  • Vice Chair, Dare County Board of Education 2011-2014
    Elected by the Members of the Board to 1-year and 2-year terms

  • Dare County Academically and Intellectually Gifted Students Advisory Board 2008-2016
    Appointed by the Chairman of the Board

  • Dare County Board of Education Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) Committee 2012-2014
    Appointed by the Chairman of the Board

  • Ben led the CIP Committee to develop and advocate for a long list of post-Great Recession “catch up” projects (including energy efficiency) and worked with the Committee and the County Commissioners to create a funding plan. The innovative funding formula they developed remains in place today.

Have You Participated in Any NCLM Events or Committees? 

  • Town & State Dinner or Town Hall Days

  • Legislative Goals Planning Events or Process

  • Legislative Lobby Days

  • Affiliate Organizations: North Carolina Association of Resort Towns and Convention Cities

Please provide any other information you would like the Nominations Committee to consider.

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