Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Mayor of Ocracoke

Posted September 18, 2009 8:28 a.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2009 11:08 a.m. EDT

Quick!  Who knows the answer to the following question:  Who is the mayor of Ocracoke?

Any answers? Any guesses?

Ocracoke is an unincorporated community, so it doesn't have a mayor. But there is a mayor who spends a lot of time in Ocracoke. He's Charles Meeker, the mayor of Raleigh.

Meeker spent summers in Ocracoke as a child and held various jobs in the village as a teenager. His father, Leonard Meeker, lives in Ocracoke today in a house along Silver Lake. The elder Meeker was attracted to the peaceful nature of the Outer Banks when he worked as a lawyer for the State Department and as U.S. Ambassador to Romania.

This week, I asked Raleigh's mayor about his family's love for Ocracoke.

(1) What are your connections to and memories of Ocracoke?

Since 1960, our family has vacationed at Ocracoke Island. Then it was a quiet place year round. A Jeep was a rare site on the beach, and there were thousands of sand crabs out every night. The ponies on the northern end of the Island had just been penned up. And on calm nights, mosquitoes kept you inside at dusk.

(2) What makes Ocracoke a special place?

The natural beauty of this barrier island is most remarkable. Watching the sun rise over the Atlantic Ocean is a special experience. The Islanders also add lots of local flavor. Their stories are fun.

(3) Tell us about your father who lives there. Why did he choose Ocracoke for his final years?

My Dad is now 93. He retired to Ocracoke four years ago and since then has lived there full time. He enjoys the quiet pace of life on the Island, although he reads the news online each morning as he sips his coffee. We have an extended family, and all of us look forward to our several visits to Ocracoke each year.

(4) What lessons could N.C. towns and cities learn from Ocracoke?

Every community needs to remember and honor its history. Ocracoke was a fishing village. The recent renovation of the waterman's fish house preserves that way of life for another generation. The transformation of the former Coast Guard Station into a learning center for teachers is also an outstanding adaptive reuse of that structure. When communities preserve their history, they also create interesting futures for themselves.