NCLM Southern City, Volume 73, Issue 4 2023

of Georgia to attend school in South Carolina at Clemson, then moving again for work to North Carolina, where she also got her master’s degree at NC State. Finally, after several decades in the state, Morey and her husband moved to the coast. “Southern Shores was a place we loved to visit,” Morey said of the move. “We still think it’s one of the most beautiful places to live. It was a goal. We achieved it and we’re proud of it.” Finding public office was not part of that plan. At the same time, as Morey admits, it is not wholly unexpected. Her career was largely centered around public resources, if not exactly the public sector, working as a forester and then later in regulatory research at the NC Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (now the Department of Environmental Quality). Politically, Morey also helped with numerous campaigns, canvassing, and door-knocking during this time. She remembers the pull towards public service beginning back as early as her childhood days in Atlanta. Morey’s parents were exceptionally community-oriented and, through their work purely as active citizens, were adept at achieving change locally. Morey points to one specific example: “When we moved to Atlanta, there was no recreation. You had to drive miles and miles and miles to get to a public swimming pool, which was unusual for them because they moved from Dallas and there were swimming pools everywhere. So, they took it upon themselves to meet with the developer and get land donated. Then, we drummed up community support, and before you know it, we had a community swimming pool and tennis court in our neighborhood. No small feat.” The local organizing achievement rightfully caught the attention of developers and local leaders in the community, and Morey’s father was soon asked to join the Planning Board. “I don’t know if you could do that now,” Morey says. “But we did. He pulled it off.” Morey’s father served on the Planning Board for more than 20 years. “I was just a kid growing up, so I didn’t know a lot of details. But I was exposed to it.” Upon moving to Southern Shores, she followed those same footsteps, joining the Planning Board first as an alternate, then as a regular member, and then as the chair. She served for eight years. In the arena of local leadership, there are few better introductions to the scope of local government than planning. Zoning, land use, permitting—these responsibilities are uniquely local and affect nearly all other services offered by a local government. Morey was in the middle of it, albeit in just an advisory role. “Eventually, I wanted to not just offer advice to the decision-makers,” she said. “I wanted to be one of the decision makers.” She made the leap in 2019, running as part of a four-person race for three open town council seats. She won. After one term, she made another leap and ran for Mayor. She won again, becoming the first female mayor in the history of Southern Shores. The beach-side wall in the Town Council chambers features framed headshots of all the town’s mayors. “It’s me and the boys, I like to say,” said Morey. Board Profile: Mayor Elizabeth Morey continues on page 22 Morey’s experience as a public official did not begin easily. It began with a pandemic. Taking office in December 2019, Morey had only a few relatively normal months before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020. Southern Shores, working with its neighboring towns, had to respond to a complete upheaval of the normal routine of the Outer Banks, which included briefly closing the bridge to the island, concerns about adequate groceries and resources for the residents, and, of course, the disease itself. “All my, ‘I want to work on improvements, I want to work on infrastructure,’ my whole list of things—it had to wait,” Morey said. As the pandemic and related public safety measures began to unwind, old challenges began to rush back in. Challenges that beach communities know intimately. “They’re called changeover days,” Morey says. Changeover days: Saturdays and Sundays from May to October, typically. The Outer Banks is slim and long, and running that length is just two roads. In tourism season, ‘Changeover Days’ are when the current crop of visitors departs their rentals, and the new crop of visitors arrives. They come and go at the same I know what the problems are and who’s being impacted. Because they’ve told me. It turns out, if you listen, a lot of people will talk to you. » Elizabeth Morey, Mayor, Southern Shores NCLM.ORG 21