Mayor of Surf City Teresa Batts is eager to serve the town she has lived in her whole life.
A humble leader who still follows her parents’ advice to listen before speaking and who works hard to protect the environment where she was born and raised has just been appointed mayor of her hometown. And that is only a small part of the story of Teresa Batts.
“Rooted in the community” is a bit of an understatement when describing Batts. A Surf City native, she continues to live there and has established her business, Teresa Batts Real Estate, in the heart of the small town’s island presence.
Batts now leads the town where she grew up. After having served on the city council for the past six years, she was recently appointed to the position of mayor when the incumbent, Doug Medlin, stepped down from his post.
She has been entrenched in the life and work of Surf City her entire life.
Batts started her career in real estate 24 years ago, working for a small company that, coincidentally, was owned by then-mayor Zander Guy. She refers to Guy as “a true mentor in my life,” saying that she learned a lot when he “took me under his wing when I first got into real estate.” When he retired, he essentially turned his agency over to her, and Teresa Batts Real Estate was launched in 2010.
Batts says of her successful career in real estate, “If you love what you know, it is easy to sell.” She remembers that Surf City was a quaint little village in the 1960s, but even then it was all about location. She explains that people came here because of the beaches just as they do today. Her job as a Realtor, though, is to follow her parents’ advice and listen to her clients and their needs and concerns, “before showing them what’s available.”
Batts’ relationship with clients is critical, she says, and is based on her knowledge of the area. She gives the example of someone looking for a retirement home and thinking they want to live on the water. Given a true understanding of what that is like year-round, including during the winter, they might find “they’d be happier sound side,” she says.
That desire to help others by sharing her in-depth knowledge permeates her work in real estate, in local government and as an individual. Batts is a mother, a grandmother and an active member of the community.
Born into the Batson family, long-time residents of the Surf City area, Batts say she “always felt a need to be involved.” She credits her parents, Larry and Linda Batson, with teaching her “to always listen before I speak, to earn before I spend, to think before I write, to never quit and to live before I die.”
The Batson family goes back at least 100 years in the area, Batts says, to her great grandparents who were also from this area. Grandfather James Franklin Batson was one of the first bridge tenders on the swing bridge that once connected the island to the mainland.
“I learned at a very young age that I lived in a special place,” she says.
Her father shrimped, fished and always had oyster gardens and clam gardens. “Every meal was seafood growing up,” she says. “My entire childhood was local seafood.” That legacy has continued as her oldest son now also fishes, shrimps and holds oyster and clam licenses.
Batts says, “We learned to have extreme respect for our environment. We knew we had to keep our waters clean, our beaches clean.” That respect for where she lives continues with her work in real estate and now as mayor of the town.
She adds that “from the time I was able to walk, I was on a boat.” Even today, “If I am not working, I am on a boat or on the beach.” Her love of nature and her extreme love for the community is integral to her work and her life.
Batts says that as her boys were growing up, they loved nature as much as she does. Those sons include her oldest, Casey, whose wife, Stephanie, works with Batts as a real estate broker. Her younger son, Frank, is a first responder, pursuing a degree in healthcare management. Batts lost Tanner, her middle son, to mental health in 2016. She says that was “a loss for everyone.” She credits the community for stepping up and supporting her during that time.
In fact, family and community are integral to who Batts is throughout all aspects of her very busy life. Family includes Katie Batson and Jordan Lanier, who also work in the real estate office. She tells the women she works with as well as all women who are or who want to be leaders in the community that she is here to help them succeed, to “support them and cheer them on.”
“To be successful you must be confident,” she says. “You must know the facts and you should communicate with kindness. Be tough but fair.”
Her community is basically all of Surf City and the greater Topsail area. Batts is active in supporting organizations such as Kiwanis, the Topsail Island Association of Realtors (TIAR), the Topsail Island Shoreline Protection Commission, the Reel Housewives of Topsail Island, the Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Share the Table, among others.
That community involvement includes her work advocating for residents and visitors as well as for the continued integrity of the land and water that she grew up on and has lived on her entire life. Batts was appointed to a vacancy on the Surf City Town Council in 2016. When that term was up in 2017, she ran for election and won. In 2021 she won her second election. When Mayor Medlin announced that he was stepping down at their December 2022 meeting, Batts had 100 percent support to be appointed to that seat to fill his term, which is up in November 2023.
Batts says she has always served in some form. She was on the town’s Planning Board for six years and served on the Parks and Recreation Committee and other committees for several years. As mayor, as a Realtor and as a person, Batts continues to focus on protecting her environment and “treating others the way I want to be treated.”
Whether it’s getting up at the break of dawn to see the sunrise, enjoying the sunset on the sound side, attending local concerts or spending quality time with family and friends, Batts is invested in her work and in the people who make up her community.
“I love where I live,” she says. “This is where I want to serve.”
Photography by Unique Media and Design