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

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Mayor Mary Kanyha: 1991-1993


The following is the fifth in a series of articles focusing on those who have served Pine Knoll Shores in the role of mayor.

Mary I. Kanyha

First Woman Mayor of Pine Knoll Shores

            This unique community we are honored to be a part of is rooted in a past filled with exceptional people, including our 10 mayors who have been guidingthe ship since 1973 when the town incorporated. By charter, the Board of Commissioners is our governing body, and members are elected by our citizens. In 1973, the first Board of Commissioners chose one of their own members to serve as mayor.

            Fast forward to 1991 and Mary Kanyha, the first woman chosen to be mayor of our town through the same process experienced by the previous male mayors. A member of our History Committee sat down with Ms. Kanyha in 2019 to learn more about her journey to Pine Knoll Shores and her service to the town. The events she shared are in a live video interview that will become part of the History Committee’s archives.

Corrine Geer swears in Mary Kanyha
as Mayor of Pine Knoll Shores, 
December 1991.
Mayor Kanyha already at work in her office at
Town Hall, December 1991.




            In 1969, Ms. Kanyha read in The New York Times (or was it The Wall Street Journal?) that Teddy Roosevelt’s ancestors were starting a place on an island called Bogue Banks in North Carolina for people wanting to enjoy a beach and waterways. The advertisement went on to say it would have a country club, a canal, access to the beach and to everything else anyone would ever dream of having. Ms. Kanyha had begun thinking about when she would retire, but she was way too young. She was still teaching junior and senior high school math and coaching swimming and tennis. Yet, the advertisement was intriguing.

            She decided to go to Bogue Banks, check it out, choose a lot and maybe buy it before anyone else did. Ms. Kanyha said they had considered retiring in Florida. One of their four children lived there, but no island in Florida had a golf course, and Florida was wall-to-wall concrete buildings and had too much congestion; when she reached Pine Knoll Shores, she was met with greenery and trees. She loved that, and isn’t that something we hear all the time from those living here or visiting?

            Ms. Kanyha had a beach house in New Jersey where the beaches were getting crowded and was an avid golfer and tennis player. On weekends, she had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to fight traffic to the mainland to play golf and tennis. Having a country club around the corner would be perfect. Like so many do, she went home to think about it. Upon her return in 1972, she saw more houses had been built and that it was time to choose her property. Being familiar with property at the beach, she knew she had to pick a property that was at least 10 feet above sea level. As we all know, that’s not a problem in Pine Knoll Shores. Since the town was, in her words, wall-to-wall trees, there was no way to see what she was buying. The lot she chose was on Salter Path Road, across the road from the beach and Ocean Park, so when she left to return to New Jersey and her teaching job, she was confident that the lot she had just bought would be perfect.

            Ms. Kanyha returned in 1977 and built her home on that lot and continues to own it to this day. She said at the time she chose her lot she was told there would be a private bridge from the mainland right to town connecting with Pine Knoll Boulevard and in the 160 acres of maritime forest there would be stables where you could keep your horse. With a stable for your horse (she grew up on a farm and had her own horse), a golf course, tennis courts, the beach and a waterway where she could keep her boat in her backyard, it would be heaven. Could things get any better? Although the bridge and horse stables didn’t make it through final planning, the town offered so much more that did please her.

PKS Garden Club's Arbor Day Memorial Planting, March 20, 1992  Shoreline Photo

               In 1981, when Ms. Kanyha retired from teaching after 30 years, she traded her second-home owner status for full-time resident and moved to Pine Knoll Shores. In the early ’80s, as others who read the same advertisement began moving here and no one knew anyone, the country club became the social hub of the town. New transplants made sure there was a party somewhere every night to bring neighbors together. At one point, Ms. Kanyha joined and served as the president of the Women’s Club—what a great way to meet people.

Mayor Kanyha and organizer Lois Jean
O'Keefe lead the celebration of the Town's 20th
Anniversary of Incorporation, April 1973-1993.

            With a B. A. in accounting and masters in both mathematics and computer science, Ms. Kanyha wanted to put her skills to work for the town. She first applied for a position on the Planning Board to no avail. She felt that may have been a signal to learn more about the town so she began familiarizing herself with the town ordinances. Eventually, she did become a member of the Planning Board and served for four years. Her next goal was to serve on the Board of Commissioners. With no prior political experience, it was time to hit the campaign trail. Being proficient on the computer, she used her computer skills to create a flyer to hand out to town residents highlighting her qualifications, identified the town’s voter base and developed a strategy. Since so many property owners are second-home owners and not registered voters here, she met with each of the HOA managers to identify those who were permanent residents. Then, armed with that critical information and her flyer, she started canvassing town on her bike. That personal face-to-face approach, along with her pleasant, happy, determined personality, won her a spot on the Board of Commissioners in 1991.

Mayor Kanyha, conference speaker at the
NC Association of Municipal Clerks, 1993.

            At that time, commissioners were elected by the voters but the mayor was chosen from within the ranks. Ms. Kanyha laughingly said her fellow commissioners, all male, chose her as the mayor because the mayor didn’t have a vote and they didn’t want a woman voting on the issues.

            One of her first crusades was getting the state to add a two-foot bike lane on the new Salter Path Road that had just been installed. That took a trip to Raleigh, and the bike lane you take for granted today was not there prior to the concern Ms. Kanyha had for the safety of our citizens. She did mention during the interview that she was disappointed the town sidewalk system was on the north side of the road, whereas the sidewalks on the rest of Bogue Banks were on the south side.

  Former Mayor Kanyha salutes EMS &  Fire
        Department volunteers at annual Christmas
party, Garner Park, December 2003.

             One could safely say that Ms. Kanyha did not really retire when she moved to Pine Knoll Shores. In addition to serving on the town’s Planning Board, Community Appearance Commission and Board of Commissioners, she served as a block captain for the Civil Preparedness Organization, a reporter for The Shoreline, president of the Bogue Banks Country Club Tennis Association, chairperson for Emergency Housing, and held many positions in her church. She practiced what she preached: “You should go all out every day and not wait until tomorrow to live life.” And in so doing, she contributed immeasurably to our community

            Ms. Kanyha spends more time away from town now with family, but her love for this piece of paradise has not waned over the years. When she returns on visits, she is once again drawn to the beach and Ocean Park. She remembers fondly the daily gatherings at the sittum where you would meet new people and renew old friendships.

Mary Kanyha and Mary Cam Boudreau join fellow 
LGA members for a round of golf in May 2015 at the
Country Club of the Crystal Coast. Photo by Jean Macheca.

            We hear it so often: What makes Pine Knoll Shores so special? Yes, the beautiful maritime forest we are committed to protecting is special, but it’s the people—those like Ms. Kanyha who share their talents as they create a much richer environment for all who are fortunate to call Pine Knoll Shores home.


 Post Author:  Kathy Werle with assistance of Martha Edwards’ oral history interview, August 2019

Published in The Shoreline, July 2020

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Mayor Joan Lamson: 2003-2009

Publisher's Note:  In light of the recent passing of former Mayor Joan Lamson on May 10, 2021, the following article is published out of sequence in the PKS mayor series. Be assured that the series will continue and the "skipped" mayors as well as the future mayors will be featured.

Joan E. Lamson 

First 'elected' Mayor of Pine Knoll Shores

             Becoming the high functioning, well organized Pine Knoll Shores we know and love today is rooted in a past filled with exceptional people. We hear stories of our legendary volunteers, but how much do you know about our elected officials and more specifically, our 10 mayors who have been steering the ship since 1973 when the town incorporated.

            The newly formed town needed structure and a way for residents to discuss town issues with town officials. By charter, the board of commissioners is our governing body and our first mayor, James W. Redfield, was chosen by his peers and served from 1973-1975. Since then, several others have held the honor. You will find their bios and contributions in the mayor articles on this history blogspot.

            In 1991, Mary Kanyha, the first woman mayor, was chosen through the same process experienced by the previous mayors. That method of choosing a mayor continued until 2002 when it was determined the town needed more control over the various issues it was facing. And in a relatively short period of time, we went from a board of commissioners’ chosen mayor to our first elected mayor, Joan Lamson, who served from 2003– 2009.

Joan receives Leadership North Carolina's coveted
Stanley Frank Class Award, a Waterford eagle,
in June 2005 for her commitment to community and
professional leadership. (The Shoreline, July 2005.)

            One of the first questions the History Committee asked Mayor Lamson when they interviewed her recently was “when did you first come to Bogue Banks and what brought you here?”  She enjoys retelling the story. She and her husband, Wade Lamson, lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the time (1982) and annually vacationed in Ocracoke. That particular year, they planned to return home by way of Charlotte where Mr. Lamson was scheduled to attend a conference.  

            Mr. Lamson was adamant about driving along the ocean on their way west.  With all the inlets cutting through our shoreline, ours is not a coastline that can easily be hugged. As they wove their way in, out, over and around the many inlets, bridges and ferries, whenever they could, they would turn left and return to the ocean.  As anyone who has driven that route will attest to, it is a relatively slow, tedious drive and it soon became apparent, they were not going to make it to Charlotte that night. When they eventually arrived in Morehead City, Mr. Lamson promised his wife they would cross just one more bridge, to the island called Bogue Banks and this would be the last left turn as they would then follow the road running the full length of the island, get off at the other end and head straight for Charlotte.

            As they exited the old swing bridge connecting to Atlantic Beach, they were not seeing the same thing. Ms. Lamson saw a bar/t-shirt place, bar/t-shirt place, on and on. But with a huge grin and “orange glow” (her words), Mr. Lamson said this was where they were going to live. To that she responded, “Over my dead body.” But then, as they drove along Salter Path Road, the landscape began to change and they came to something very different, a lush maritime forest. The beauty and uniqueness of Pine Knoll Shores engulfed them. As they drove around the town, Ms. Lamson began writing down the names of realtors before continuing on their way to Charlotte and then to Cleveland. Within 30 days, they had returned and bought their first piece of paradise, a lot on which they built their home ten years later.

            Fast forward, the Lamsons no longer vacationed on Ocracoke but spent their vacations in town, making sure their lot was still here, enjoying the benefits of membership in the country club and eventually overseeing the building of their home that was completed in 1994.

            Upon moving here, the Lamsons were eager to become involved in community activities. At that time, the Pine Knoll Shores emergency rescue squad was staffed by all volunteers. Mr. Lamson became one of the volunteers and enjoyed his contributions to the squad and the town, as did all volunteers. He was also elected to serve as a commissioner and did so until his resignation in 2000.  

Grandchildren visit Grandma Joan aka Mayor Lamson
in her office at Town Hall.  (The Shoreline, October 2005.)

As the town continued to mature, one of the many issues the town was dealing with was pressure from the commissioners to no longer have a volunteer squad. Some of them felt that a paid squad would spend more time at home base, and the town would have more control over the coming and going of the volunteers. The commissioners wanted to throw out the by-laws and rules of the volunteer squad, have them join as employees and pay them a small stipend for their services. But the general feeling of many folks was that they were not being well treated and perhaps saw the stipend as an insult to the rescue workers who had been serving out of pure love for the town and its people. The commissioners would not listen to the leader of the volunteer squad who tried unsuccessfully to represent the grievances of the squad. Fifteen members of the squad quit, and at a time when there was a growing shortage of volunteers, something had to be done. How did Ms. Lamson get involved in this minor insurrection?

            Ms. Lamson had an extensive background in corporate affairs. She had been born and raised in Denver, Colorado, began her education at the University of Denver and had three children while living there. She had relocated to Huntsville, Alabama with her then Aerospace engineering husband and eventually moved to Cleveland. Her background in industrial sales led to her founding a metal finishing company in Cleveland that she owned and operated for 20 years. At the time, she also received her MBA from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

            Knowing of her track record in her past business operations, one of the rescue volunteers called her and asked for her help. Since Ms. Lamson had been a small business owner, she had a background in labor relations and negotiations dealing with such issues, so she was able to secure a meeting with one of the commissioners, to no real success in resolving the issues on the table.

            One of the great things about Pine Knoll Shores is the involvement of its citizens. The town has attracted a vast number of individuals from other areas with varied backgrounds, skills and educational levels who are not shy about asking the why questions and always eager to come up with solutions. It was understandable then that many town people, being aware of the impasse, stepped forward and asked why our commissioners did not have term limits. The answer to that is simply that term limits are not permissible at the municipality level in North Carolina.

            Not to allow this to end the quest for a solution to the matter, the town citizens, searching for a resolution to the emergency rescue squad issue, turned to Ms. Lamson again asking whether the mayor could be an elected official, no more allowing the commissioners to pick one of their own to serve as mayor. When the answer to that was affirmative, the logical follow-up to Ms. Lamson was, “How do we do that?” She was well versed in the process and told them what they would have to do to accomplish their goal. The citizens would have to file a petition, get it on the ballot and have a referendum to change the form of local government to an elected mayor-council form.

And that is how the change came about. During the two years the process took to finalize this significant change in our form of government, many began questioning who they should put up to run on this first ballot. All conversations circled back around to Ms. Lamson. She had so much invested in this great endeavor, she couldn’t refuse the request to run.

             Mayor Lamson was a born leader, and she found a great support team at the League of Municipalities in Raleigh where workshops are offered that are designed to provide municipal leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to govern. It is where mayors and commissioners go to get educated.

Mayor Lamson, former Mayor Mary Kanyha, and
Commissioner Bob Danehy attend the
NC League of Municipalities annual conference in
October 2004. (The Shoreline, December 2004.)

            Upon taking office, Mayor Lamson was faced with the ongoing battle previous mayors had worked very hard on while trying to negotiate the purchase of the company that provided the town with its water. The company was located near Chicago, owned by a company in the Netherlands that had been purchased by a hedge fund in New York. It was not surprising that monthly water bills were rapidly increasing. In anticipation of buying the water company, the town administration had applied for and received a loan from the NC Department of Agriculture for that purpose.

The town had three options: buy the existing water company; build a totally new duplicate system parallel to the existing, with new pipes, wells, towers and all the rest that goes with it; or give up, stop the process and close off the town’s access to the loan. It seemed to Mayor Lamson that it made sense to buy the existing company and price it based on whatever repairs would be required to be made to the aging infrastructure. The town was able to get several appraisals from knowledgeable people and proceeded in their mission.  Mayor Lamson took a commissioner and one town citizen with a background in water systems in another town with her to Chicago and ‘knuckled it out’ with Carolina Water.  

Mayor Lamson knew how to negotiate price. Part of the deal they struck was for us to keep the operator, Sonny Cunningham, who to this day serves the town extremely well. Mayor Lamson is very proud of their success in finalizing the purchase of the water company. It was undeniably quite an accomplishment.

            About that time, it was well noted that the town’s beaches were losing sand. When the county turned down the town’s request for aid to replenish the sand on our beaches, it was decided we would have to go it alone and we did.  As so often happens in Pine Knoll Shores, concerned citizens come together to discuss an issue bringing with them their intellect, past experience and personal power to identify the problem and the solution. In this matter, they created the Pine Knoll Shores Beach Preservation Association. Mayor Lamson believes our success in large part was due to our relationship with the incredibly knowledgeable Rudi Rudolph, whose background has lent itself to a sustainable beach preservation program from a scientific and engineering perspective. The Pine Knoll Shores Beach Preservation Association grew to encompass the entire island, becoming the Bogue Banks Beach Preservation Association which has now become the County Beach Commission. We have been a model to other beach communities and have put in place a 50-year plan that basically guarantees us the ability to nourish our beaches when needed.

            Many significant projects were on the drawing board during Mayor Lamson’s tenure, not the least being her decision, along with the commissioners, to change the town’s form of town government. With the many changes occurring in town and demands upon the town staff continuing to grow, the quickly expanding daily operations had become too much for our commissioners to oversee. It was time to hire a town manager. Mayor Lamson initiated the process of converting the town to a council-manager form of government. When Brian Kramer walked in for his interview, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was the man for the job. The mayor and the commissioners now set policy, and the manager implements their policies including hiring and firing of employees. 

Mayor Lamson, Marlene Anderson, Mary Sue Noe
at the League of Women Voters reception,
August 25, 2004. (Carteret News-Times.)

  (The Shoreline, October 2012.)

            During her time in office, Mayor Lamson made other contributions vital to the smooth functioning of the town.  She was responsible for writing a cash management policy for the town and updated our land use plan and the town’s OSHA files, which had not been done in ten years. She enjoyed her role in maintaining our relationships with the state legislature, county government and the other municipalities on Bogue Banks and continued to serve the community and county in many ways after her time in office.  

            Mayor Lamson was proud to be the face and the voice of Pine Knoll Shores at a time of much change. She shares her significant success with town initiatives with the hard-working commissioners who served with her. 

The town is fortunate that a series of left turns and Mr. Lamson’s insistence to take just one more left turn when they arrived in Morehead City, led the Lamsons and the town’s future first elected mayor to Pine Knoll Shores.


Post Author:  Kathy Werle, with assistance of Ted Lindblad’s oral history interview, July 2019.

Published in The Shoreline, September 2020.