Beach Town in a Forest

Beach Town in a Forest
Beach Town in a Forest, Pine Knoll Shores located in Carteret County on North Carolina's Crysal Coast. Photo compliments of Bill Flexman and Dave Prutzman

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Early Town Clerks

By the time Pine Knoll Shores incorporated in 1973, 20 years after Alice Hoffman died, a cohesive community existed, consisting of two homeowner associations—Pine Knoll Association (PKA) and the newly formed Pine Knoll Shores Corporation (PIKSCO). Incorporation as a town gave this small community official standing and structure. Full-time residents elected a Board of Commissioners, who, in turn, selected a mayor. They, then, added to that structure by hiring a town clerk. The story that follows features the first three town clerks, focusing on the most recent—Corrine Geer.

Town clerks serve a critical role in town government, and their job descriptions are as diverse as their community needs. Clerks fundamentally serve as custodians of public records and keepers of official actions of the board. Outside the boardroom, they can serve as conduits of information between public officials and the public. Pine Knoll Shores’ early clerks held true to all of these patterns. Simon Bezuyen, Aileen Adams and Corinne Geer were the first three Pine Knoll Shores town clerks. Simon was one of the early residents of the newly formed town. Aileen and Corinne lived in Morehead City.

In 1973, Mary Doll wrote in the first town newsletter she called “News and Notes from Pine Knoll Shores, “Let’s face it—Pine Knoll Shores is coming of age. The beautiful lots are almost all sold to beautiful people.” One of the “beautiful” couples she listed as new neighbors were the Bezuyens.

In1973, the fledgling town received its North Carolina State Charter of Incorporation. Simon Bezuyen, with his much-needed accounting experience, was appointed to be temporary town clerk. He later took Bill Doll’s place as a town commissioner. Simon was also a dedicated town volunteer, offering his labors in many needed capacities, including helping to clear trees and thick underbrush on land donated by the Roosevelts to build a new town hall. Again, according to Mary Doll, the commissioners “met every little while” at the Atlantis Lodge where lodge manager and Pine Knoll Shores Commissioner Ruth Bray graciously offered them space to operate. In actuality, based on minutes of the commissioners’ meetings during this time period, “every little while” really meant regular monthly meetings as well as many special meetings. The town police and building inspector were also housed at the Atlantis.

The State magazine, 1967

In October of 1973, Aileen Adams was appointed as Pine Knoll Shores town clerk. According to an early town newsletter, Aileen had worked for eight years in Morehead City as tax collector, temporary town clerk and treasurer. Originally from Statesville, Aileen came to Morehead City to visit her sister, mether husband here and stayed. The town newsletter, then called the “Pine Knoll Shore-Line” and edited by Mary Doll and Betty Hammond, indicated that a good part of Aileen’s job involved recruiting resident volunteers to do many needed jobs, one of which was studying feasibility plans for a proposed bridge from Pine Knoll Shores to the mainland.

On January 10, 1974, Aileen recorded a town resolution to accept from the Roosevelt developers a tract of land designated as a town hall building site. Town commissioners discussed with the planning inspector a decision to move and use the former office of Roosevelt employee Don Brock as a temporary town hall. After careful planning and consideration of the deed transfer and cost of moving, which was estimated to be $3,500, the building was moved to the west corner of Bridge Street, now Pine Knoll Boulevard, near what was to be the south side of the driveway leading to the planned Pine Knoll Shores town hall. A well-attended dedication ceremony of the new town hall building was held on September 7, 1974.
Photo of the original photograph taken by Kathy Foy

Due to illness, Aileen had to leave her job as town clerk in 1978. During her employment, she made an impression on town residents with the friendly, caring manner in which she carried out her duties.

Corinne Webb Geer came to the job of town clerk in February 1979 with experience in business and county government, which was most fortunate for this young town. Everything about running a small town was still new, and everything about running a municipal government was entirely different from working in county government. Working with Corinne in what she fondly refers to as “the little green shingled cottage” were town employees Connie Reese and Margaret Wylie. Corinne was very grateful when the town provided training she would need by sending her to the School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill. During her role as town clerk, the town earned certification in Municipal Administration, which included tax collection, and as a result, a Certificate of Achievement in Financial Reporting. The Board of Commissioners also supported her service as president of the North Carolina Association of Municipal Clerks. It seems that Corinne wore many hats while serving as town clerk from 1979 to1995: finance officer, tax collector and budget officer. Doing all of these jobs necessitated obtaining approval from the Department of the North Carolina State Treasurer. According to Corinne, municipalities with populations of fewer than 5,000 could apply for and be granted special operational status.

Corinne Geer—Photo by Dan Law
During Corinne’s tenure as town clerk, there were many “firsts.” She believes a contributing factor to achieving these firsts was the expertise and experience newly elected commissioners and resident volunteers brought to their various jobs. These town firsts included establishment of a volunteer fire and rescue department, a civil preparedness plan and an evacuation and reentry plan. The feasibility of using personally owned boats in an emergency to get people across the sound to the hospital was examined. A land use plan and flood map, as well as a plan for numbering homes to aid police and the fire and rescue department, were put in place, and a town property map was produced. Other things worked on were plans for building inspection, development of a Planning Board and codification of ordinances. The filing system for the town’s records was something Corinne is most proud of implementing to preserve town records. It was, at that time, a laborious, time-consuming task, which has now become easier with modern technology. Corinne indicated that Pine Knoll Shores also had the first municipal computer system in the county.

In my many conversations with Corinne, she had only praise for the high caliber of residents choosing to make this new town their home and their willingness to volunteer to serve the town. Corinne indicated that many of these early residents were worldwide travelers who still chose this rather wild and isolated place to make their home when they could have lived anywhere. There is no doubt, early residents enriched our town with their skills, knowledge and talents.

In a recent interview, Corinne said, “Thinking back brings happy memories.” She expressed her wish that Pine Knoll Shores’ future goals hold onto the values and vision of the Roosevelt family and the legacy of Alice Hoffman.

Corinne Webb Geer remains an intelligent, vibrant woman who still keeps up with the town of Pine Knoll Shores, where she spent so many dedicated hours doing an enormously important job. Many current residents remember Corinne well, and some remember Aileen, too.

Simon Bezuyen, Aileen Adams and Corinne Geer are the early town clerks who helped the town prosper and grow. They were sometimes called upon to do unique jobs, such as driving the fire truck to a fire when the driver was unavailable—as Corinne did.

Post Author: Barbara Milhaven
Previously publishedd in The Shoreline, September 2014
To contact the author or the History Committee