Southport City Manager Bruce Oakley has resigned effective February 17.

Oakley submitted his formal resignation to the Southport mayor and aldermen Tuesday evening after Carolina Beach Town Council selected him as their town manager in a closed session. He told The State Port Pilot it was a long hiring process that started prior to the municipal election.

Oakley, who has been Southport’s city manager for almost two-and-a-half years, said in a statement, “It’s an exciting opportunity for me professionally and personally. There are a lot of exciting things happening in Carolina Beach.”

Carolina Beach has nearly double the population of Southport, with roughly 6,000 people.

Oakley said he would always be appreciative of the aldermen who hired him, and he wished the current board success.

“The city will do great things in the future under their leadership,” he stated. “The city staff in Southport is the most dedicated and supportive group of public servants I have ever been around. They are a huge asset for this city. I will miss working with them on a daily basis, but I look forward to enjoying our friendships long into the future.”

Mayor Joe Pat Hatem said he was surprised about Oakley’s resignation and happy for him.

“He has a position that he feels like is an advancement for him, but I was looking forward to a long, working relationship with Mr. Oakley,” Hatem said.

Hatem added, “We’re working on a lot of issues as you know that he’s been heavily involved with, like the sewer. So, for him to leave this early with a new mayor, new board, it will be a challenge for us and we’ll miss him.”

Hatem said Oakley expressed to him Tuesday afternoon that he would be available for anything the city needed, even after his last day.

“I will still consult with him, especially on things that he’s already helped the city put in progress,” Hatem said. “I believe in getting a lot of opinions, talking to a lot of people, and he certainly will continue to be a resource for our city.”

During Oakley’s tenure, he guided the city through Hurricanes Florence and Dorian and the revival of the police department, which included his hiring of Todd Coring as police chief. He also recently helped Southport earn a $990,000 grant for sewer infrastructure repairs on Howe Street.

Oakley joined the city in September 2017 after serving the Town of Oak Ridge for 13 years as town administrator and manager.