Being in the Room Where It Happens

Not everybody likes government but I sure do! For that reason, I was beyond ecstatic to be paired up with the Town of Nags Head’s Planning Department for my internship this semester. Nags Head is a popular tourist destination that has a year-round population of 3,000 but supports 40,000 visitors during the summer time. 

Holly White, the principal planner for the Town, was my mentor and has been compared to Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation by previous students and I agree. She engaged me in the entire legislative process at a local level and all with a welcoming smile.

Definitely my favorite part of my internship was sitting in on meetings ranging from the monthly Board of Commissioners meeting to internal staff meetings. The meetings typically centered around stormwater management, estuarine shoreline protection strategies, and many more. The presentation that stuck with me was Dr. Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences, presenting to the Board of Commissioners on the underlying models used to create the recently revised FEMA flood maps. Flood insurance is a contentious issue in the area so the discussion after the presentation was interesting!

When I was not sitting on meetings, I assisted in data collection and analysis for the Planning Department’s latest focus: the Unified Development Ordinance. The Town recently adopted their Comprehensive Plan which clarified the Town’s vision and will serve as a guide for future development in the town. The next step in the planning process is to revise the Town’s regulations and codes to reflect the Comprehensive Plan, also known as the Unified Development Ordinance. To assist in this lengthy endeavor, I inventoried the Town’s commercial property and described characteristics such as lot coverage, building heights, amount of parking, etc. This inventory was exported to ArcGIS and will allow Holly and the staff to look at differences between various parts of the town and guide future regulations.

The commercial inventory was my main project but I also worked on two smaller projects. I created a manual for oceanfront property owners looking to relocate sand from their property back onto the beach. I also researched how municipalities are implementing living shoreline projects through incentives. Most of the living shoreline projects we’ve studied this semester were built with assistance from nonprofits but Holly and I were interested how municipalities throughout the nation were head starting these projects.

In the beginning of November, I was privileged to attend the annual Albemarle-Pamlico Ecosystem Symposium hosted at NC State University. The symposium is organized by the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, a coalition of local governments, nonprofits, and scientists within the watersheds that drain in the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Holly is the Co-Chair of the Policy Board and moderated a panel on the importance of partnerships in addressing local environmental issues. I attended fascinating sessions and met a lot of professionals in the industry that I want to break into. I will definitely be attending another APNEP symposium in the future!

Overall, my time with the Town of Nags Head has been enlightening in a professional sense. It has reaffirmed my passion to go into public service and work in government in some capacity. A special thanks to Holly, Andy, Kelly, and Todd who lent advice, their knowledge, and time.