Jeff Wenzel, a Freeport High School graduate from the class of 1993, is now the mayor of a small coastal town in North Carolina.
Wenzel left Freeport in 1993 shortly after graduating from high school to enlist in the US Army. While stationed as a paratrooper at Fort Bragg, NC, he met his eventual wife.
“When I got out of the army in 1996, I decided to stay in NC for a couple of reasons. First, the winters are warmer, and I was dating this cute little Southern girl. We’ve been married 22 years, so I guess I made the right decision!”
Wenzel has never been involved in politics, but when an opening for the mayor position became available due to a resignation, he threw his name in the hat. Under NC law, if a vacancy occurs in a town with less than 50k residents, the Town Council chooses someone to serve the remainder of the term. Wenzel now serves as the mayor of Holly Ridge, NC which has around 2,000 residents. Holly Ridge is five minutes away from Topsail Island, a 26-mile barrier island on the coast of North Carolina.
“One of the reasons I was selected as mayor was because the Town Council thought I could ‘sell the town.”
Holly Ridge is a growing community. Many residents are military from nearby Marine base Camp Lejeune. Holly Ridge also has many retirees who have vacationed on Topsail Island in the past, but don’t want to or can’t necessarily afford to live on the island. Wenzel is enjoying his time as mayor, although jumping into politics in the most of COVID-19 has been challenging. “I love telling the story of our small town and how it is growing. Not only are we booming with new home construction, but we are developing a large industrial park which is growing our economy as well.”
Wenzel’s mother, Sherry Wenzel, still resides in Freeport. Wenzel’s father, Duane, passed away a couple years ago. Wenzel has two children (Deacon 10, and Natalie 6). Wenzel is a professional photographer that sells beach landscape artwork from his website www.abovetopsail.com. He also takes portraits in his studio as well as family photos on the beach. His portrait work can be seen on Instagram by following AboveTopsailPhotography or Above Topsail on Facebook.