The contestants

You’ll want to tune in an hour earlier tonight to meet the applicants for the vacant seat on council and to hear the presentations any of them might make. Council will meet at 6 p.m. in its usual spot – council chambers in Town Hall – and the event will be broadcast on public television.

The field of 11 applicants comprises a wide range of skill sets, some new faces and some familiar – people who have spoken out on issues at council meetings, volunteered for advisory boards and effected change in various ways to improve Chapel Hill. The group represents diversity in age, race, ethnicity, profession and length of time living in Chapel Hill.

What is perhaps most satisfying is that they all seem to be applying voluntarily, unlike the process some years back of filling the seat left vacant after Bill Strom picked up and left for New York in the dead of night. At that time, the candidate slate felt as though someone had to rustle up some minorities and women to keep the slate from being all white men. Not that there was anything wrong with any of those white men. Very accomplished professionally and with the passion to serve, any one of them would have been an asset.

The slate you’ll meet tonight will make you proud. Sometimes an organization that makes an effort to increase its number of minorities or women leaves it to the target group to go out and recruit more of their own kind, rather than, as an organization, valuing diversity and making itself more attractive to diverse members. It’s to the town’s credit that the vacant council seat has attracted so many people so different from one another who want to invest themselves in making the town better.

Much to my dismay, however, the mayor has implied in interviews that he won’t consider voting for anyone other than the known quantity of Sally Greene. In the “life is like a box of chocolates” model, Mayor Kleinschmidt won’t take the risk that he might select the pineapple crème. He says he wants someone who can “hit the ground running.” Take a look at the resumes and well-written statements of the applicants, and you’ll find more than enough brainpower to absorb Robert’s Rules of Order and quickly learn council procedure.

Kleinschmidt’s real concern may be that he can’t guarantee how an unknown will vote. Especially with issues that will be decided by a slim margin, that’s when we want to hear a new viewpoint, someone who will ask questions that provoke council members to think about an issue in a new way. A one-year term presents an excellent opportunity to audition a new voice.

Find out more about all 11 applicants at:
– Nancy Oates

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  1. Andy

     /  January 14, 2013

    Can someone please clarify how this differs from Bill Strom? He left and thus let the council rather than voters decide. How isn’t Penny Rich doing the same?

  2. Nancy

     /  January 14, 2013

    Council will be voting next week to select someone to fill the seat left vacant by Rich, so in that sense, it is the same procedure as when Strom left. Applicants have the chance to make their pitches to council tonight, but they don’t have to. Their written notice of desire to be considered is all they are required to provide.

  3. Andy, a good question in light of how local BOCC elections work.

    When Penny won the Dem Primary she essentially had a lock on that seat. She could have resigned well prior of November’s election. Presumably, those on the Council interested in small-d democracy would then have had time to call for letting local citizens voice their choice during a special vote coinciding with November’s election.

    As too why that didn’t happen, well…

  4. Name Withheld By Request

     /  January 14, 2013

    Nearly as important as filling the open council seat is the selection of the last remaining position on the Central West Steering Committee.

    It’s critical that the council select someone from the affordable housing community since this is such an important issue facing the town’s future – yet the council has made no effort yet to find an appropriate representative. Let’s just hope they wise up and widen the search for an appropriate individual to fill this critical position. Lord knows there are more than enough homeowners already representing their interests.

  5. Bonnie Hauser

     /  January 14, 2013

    a couple of comments – first on the council seat – I’m with Will. If you recall, Bill Strom announced his resignation the day after filing was closed. What’s the objection to using elections to fill vacated seats?.

    On the Central West, why would the residents want to give up one of their seats. There are 17 seats on the committee. Why would the community give up one of its seats to someone who doesn’t represent them.

  6. DOM

     /  January 14, 2013

    “There are 17 seats on the committee. Why would the community give up one of its seats to someone who doesn’t represent them.”

    So you believe that a member who represents the affordable housing community isn’t important to that committee’s makeup? It isn’t just about nearby homeowners – it’s also about the larger Chapel Hill community.

  7. Fred Black

     /  January 14, 2013

    Does anyone remember any recent Councils filling an empty seat when the selectee didn’t appear to be a foregone conclusion?

  8. Terri Buckner

     /  January 14, 2013

    If the mayor is looking for someone who can hit the road running, I think Amy Ryan is an excellent choice. As someone said to me earlier, the issues is Chapel Hill are all about development. Amy served on the Community Design Commission for over 5 years and is now on the Planning Board. She worked on 2020 and has been actively engaged in negotiating a space for all perspectives on Central West to come together for fruitful dialogue and problem solving.

  9. Bonnie

     /  January 15, 2013

    Good point Terri. Amy would be a great choice who understands the sticky land use and development pressures that are facing the town.

  10. Name Withheld By Request

     /  January 15, 2013

    Regarding the selection of the final member of the Central West Steering Committee:

    It’s really unfortunate the town council decided last night to play politics as usual instead of focusing on the important issue of affordable housing. Shame on them. They should have made an honest effort to find someone from the affordable housing community who could have had an active voice in what happens with the Estes/MLK area – which will play a critical role in this town’s future.

  11. Mark Marcoplos

     /  January 15, 2013

    To prevent all this Monday morning quaterbacking and looking for an individual to foist the blame on for not single-handedly creating an election scenario, why doesn’t the Town Council change their policy? Why didn’t they do it years ago? Or after the Strom tempest?

  12. Many

     /  January 15, 2013


    The answer is obvious; because it does not suit them to do so.

  13. Mark Marcoplos

     /  January 15, 2013

    I find that hard to believe. It’s too simplistic. Plus the reps change over time. It doesn’t make sense.

  14. Fred Black

     /  January 16, 2013

    Note that Carrboro leaders see the change they asked the GA for as a mistake and might ask to go back to appointing.

  15. Many

     /  January 16, 2013


    Not suggesting a sinister conspiracy (although I can see how some might read it that way). What I intended was that given the choice a “top down” appointment is more efficient from a government/management perspective than a “bottom up” election.

    This same elect vs. appoint debate is a hot topic when it comes to the judiciary

  16. Mark Marcoplos

     /  January 17, 2013

    Many – OK, yeah. I assumed the “conspiracy” interpretation becasue that’s how most have framed it. Interesting that Carrboro is now thinking it may not have come up with the best solution by holding a special election. It seems quite reasonable that elected officals make an appointment. After all, they were elected and thus have democratic support in that way. The conspiracy people are generally the folks who supported candidates who did not get elected, so they are sort of coming from the sour grapes caucus and not recognizing that democratic principles are being applied by officials who are also balancing cost and other matters of the public good.