Dr. Joe Pat Hatem
Mayor of the City of Southport
As Mayor of the City of Southport, I have fulfilled my pledge to the citizens of Southport that I would bring my years of education, training, and experience in service to our city and to our citizens. I am a doctor, a physician on the staff of the emergency department at Dosher Memorial Hospital. As a graduate of the UNC School of Medicine at Chapel Hill and as a graduate of the UNC School of Public Health— with a Master Degree—in Health Policy and Administration which covers many disciplines including statistical analysis, the environment, quality in health, medicine, the corporate world, how government works, economics, epidemiology, leadership management, all so important for success in municipal government.
I am uniquely qualified with my diverse education and experience to continue to lead our city as we continue to find and implement Public Health measures, to survive and overcome this pandemic. My message has been clear and my decisions were correct for our city and our citizens with respect to this global scourge.
I have over the past four years, read, researched, and processed large amounts of information and I have shown that I can work long hours, am willing to make the difficult decisions, and have shown the ability to adapt and evolve as the situation arises. I have worked with the City Manager, City Employees, Staff, the Board of Aldermen and listened to our citizens in developing and implementing a strategic plan for our city, adopted a robust and balanced budget, have prioritized and completed infrastructure projects, and using the leadership skills based on my training and education as a doctor, and the leadership and skills and principles of public health—prevention, education, and proactive promotion—with respect to the health of our citizens and our city, and proactively promoting the progress in infrastructure projects, the economy of our businesses, tourism, and promoting the historical preservation of the city and the heritage of Southport, its charm and quaint village atmosphere of this great city.
About Dr. Hatem
As a native of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, which is the last town before crossing into Virginia on Interstate 95, I tell people I have not gone very far in life, from the top of the state to the bottom of the state. But what a wonderful town I found, something Southport natives already knew, and a town that we all now love and cherish. And it was this love for Southport and its people and the opportunity to practice medicine at J. Arthur Dosher Memorial Hospital, is how a moonlighting job in Dosher Emergency Room, while I was in Residency Training at New Hanover Memorial Hospital in Wilmington, developed into a career that began thirty-eight years ago. And though not a native of Southport, I did marry into the Hickman family, who have descendants from the 18th Century. My wife Tish and I have found over the years that Southport is like one big family and though the fishing village with the many shrimp boats are gone, the spirit of the quaint village remains.
As to why I wanted to become Mayor of the City of Southport and why I want to continue as Mayor is the desire to serve the citizens of Southport, not only at Dosher Hospital, but also through city government. My father, Joe Hatem, was a merchant, so I am well aware of the challenges and importance of small business owners and he instilled in me the importance of public service—he was a Rotarian and their Motto was “Service Above Self.” A quote from my undergraduate days at the University of Notre Dame where my education at this great Catholic university has guided me personally and professionally, the quote from Albert Schweitzer was his admonition when he spoke to a group of students: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found to serve.” It is this dedication to service this ideal of in some way making a difference in the lives of others, instilled in me, which has guided me in my work as a physician and has been a driving force as Mayor of the City of Southport.
To serve as a physician requires years of education and training for which I am grateful to have had such an opportunity. My four years at Notre Dame were academically challenging and as a Catholic University, spiritually rewarding and made a lasting impression that education and intellectual endeavor should be used to the betterment of mankind and each person had a responsibility and a role to play. My education at UNC followed and because of the many professors in the classroom and clinicians in the hospital, we were mentored as future doctors and to this great university I owe a great deal for the career that I have had. UNC also provided me with the knowledge in public health to make me a better physician and to think of populations instead of only individual patients and how public health principles can change and improve the lives of all.
As Mayor, I will continue to embrace the same intellectual endeavor, work ethic, and passion that I have used as a doctor in leading Southport in reaching these goals and other endeavors deemed significant by the public intent of our citizens.
To the Citizens of Southport
Southport is your home for a reason. For most, it was a choice, for others, the gift of a birthright and legacy. Regardless of how we all found our way to Southport and made it our home, it is my privilege and responsibility as Mayor to help ensure along with the Board of Aldermen and City Staff and Employees, that our coastal city, a crown jewel on the banks of the Cape Fear River, retains the beauty, charm, and quaint fishing village like atmosphere, while facing the challenges of and providing the necessary services for the 21st Century.
Growth is our biggest challenge—how do we mitigate the overwhelming growth of Southport and Brunswick County– while promoting our current businesses and measured economic development? The revision of the Unified Development Ordinance, which is being undertaken at the present time, is part of that process.
Providing you with important services which are efficient, innovative, effective, and affordable is an ongoing endeavor and your input is essential in that regard. As a physician, and as a graduate of the University of North Carolina, School of Public Health at Chapel Hill, the health of our citizens and our city is what is most important: “He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.” Public Health initiatives and leadership principles will help to guide me in serving you as your Mayor. The health of our environment, clean water, clean air, preserving our trees, the majestic live oaks, mitigating threats to our environment and having a strong relationship with governmental environmental agencies. Our city will continue to support J. Arthur Dosher Memorial Hospital, now in its 90th year of service. Southport is a member of Smithville Township that owns the hospital and its success is an important aspect of or city. With respect to Emergency Preparedness, we will improve coordination and continued support and strengthening of our Police, and Fire/EMS departments and be prepared for natural and manmade disasters, with hurricane season being one of our biggest threats. Part of the health of our city is preserving Southport’s Historic Heritage, as well as continued improvement of our infrastructure—efficient, affordable, electricity, sewer, and water, burying our power lines and improving the safety of our city with improved sidewalks, roads, and pedestrian access. Pedestrian Economic Areas—PEAs—our major intersections on Howe Street will be evaluated for better access for crosswalks to all businesses and restaurants.
Our waterfront is our greatest asset and along with the Yacht Basin, it is a treasure of beauty, for locals, visitors, and tourists, where memories are made, the salubrious breezes are engulfing, and the food at our waterfront restaurants, a delicious dining experience, as are all our Southport eateries. Safety in the Yacht Basin where sidewalks are extended, parking improved, where all can “make the loop” whether in your car, on your bicycle, or walking in your “Converse Chuck Taylors”, where fragrances of the sea, and fresh seafood dishes, mix with the joy of being under blue skies or a starry night. The river is inviting, and is nature’s display of birds, sea life, as well as sail boats, shrimp boats, container ships, fishing and pleasure boats, and must be protected by our waterfront policy/project of erosion control and stabilization and the repair/revitalization of the Old City Dock.
There are many other issues facing our city, a plan for an entry corridor, short term rentals, and continued improvement of our facilities, parks, and buildings, including Taylor Field. Some things just require a coat of paint. Others, more thoughtful analysis and discussion. We want a tax policy that is adequate and fair as we consider creative taxation with respect to tourism. We also want to continue to work with our many volunteer organizations and nonprofits and have active city committees, Planning Board, Parks and Recreation, Forestry, and Beautification, and have an active Department of Tourism, which supports our greatest industry. Our city government is open and the voice of the people, your voice will always be heard, and there are many ways to do so from public comment at the Board of Aldermen Meeting, email, phone calls, make an appointment, and send a letter or drop it off at City Hall.
Southport is rapidly changing from the days of Robert Ruark and his great novel, “The Old Man and the Boy” but it does not mean that we cannot bring the Old Man and his fellow hunters, Tom and Pete Hickman, with us, along with the sacred history of Southport, into the third decade of the 21st Century. Enjoy each day in our beloved Southport, where discrimination should not allowed to exist, that our churches are open to all who wish to enter, that our city is full of free speech, where newspapers thrive and books abound in the library, and patriotism as if every day is the Fourth of July and that we in some way enhance the lives of all who reside or enter our great city.