Orange County

Stevens, Talisman bring different visions for growth to Hillsborough mayoral race

Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and municipal races in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.
Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 19, for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board and municipal races in Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. File photo

Six-term Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens is facing his first election challenge since narrowly defeating former Mayor Joe Phelps in 2005.

Voters will choose between Stevens and travel counselor Cindy Talisman in the Nov. 7 election. Talisman ran previously in the town’s Board of Commissioners race in 2015. Stevens is an artist and consulting business owner with Esquare Leadership LLC.

Two seats on the five-member town board also are on the November ballot. Early voting in Orange County’s municipal and city school board races starts Thursday, Oct. 19.

While both Stevens and Talisman identified growth and development as the town’s biggest challenge, they differed on how to manage it. They also bring a diversity of experience to the table.

Here’s how they answered our questions:

Q. What leadership skills or experience do you think will be most helpful to you if elected?

Tom Stevens: In addition to 12 years as mayor, I have experience as the executive of a family services agency, president on nonprofit boards and have operated a leadership consulting company. Being a professional facilitator has proven to be valuable in chairing the town board meetings, synthesizing different perspectives and arriving at thoughtful decisions. A vital leadership skill is a positive attitude. Problem solving is important, but to foster community, it’s essential to find, encourage, promote and build on the things that are going well in our town.

Cindy Talisman: I have been a wife and am a mother and president of my own business which interacts with the public on a daily basis. I listen to people and fit what they are looking for into the plan they seek. I have been doing this for over 30 years and feel that I already understand what listening to my constituents means. Hillsborough needs more than just residential developments. It should also want to encourage businesses to be established. Businesses will bring progress, revenue and economic prosperity to our unique area. In bringing economic prosperity to our area, taxes could be reduced. Hillsborough has always been known to be in the middle of all aspects of history, and no part of that history should be swept away.

Q. What was a mistake that you learned from and how do you think that lesson will help you if elected?

Tom Stevens: For 12 years, I was the executive of a mental health agency, steering the agency through rough challenges as the entire field experienced immense change. Despite challenges, we added programs, tripled in size and served more people. After I left, the agency declined and, in 10 years, was closed. In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to succession planning and management systems to sustain our successes. It was a hard lesson, so as mayor, I’ve championed performance systems such as our strategy map/balanced scorecard. I’ve worked to build a broad consensus around the town’s strategic direction. Together we can ensure the continuity of solid planning even as the individuals serving on staff, advisory boards or as elected officials change.

Cindy Talisman: Not giving interviews to the media that has already pre-dispositioned itself against my ideas.

Q. What is the town’s biggest challenge and how would you address it?

Tom Stevens: Hillsborough’s perennial challenge is managing growth while preserving the small-town character so many people love. Transportation (and traffic), affordability and sustainability are all related to managing development. Good planning that avoids suburban sprawl into the countryside and encourages “town-like” mixed-use development is the key way to address these inter-related issues. Connectivity and walkable live-work-play neighborhoods reduce traffic, increase economic vitality and are better for the environment. Hillsborough’s strategic growth plan is serving us well as we navigate inevitable growing pains.

Cindy Talisman: Traffic and developments. Moratorium on developments and revisit the bypass. Entice businesses and restaurants to move to Hillsborough, as businesses are revenue and people will always shop and eat.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

Quick answers

Do you think Hillsborough is prepared for the population growth that’s coming?

Tom Stevens: Our strategic growth planning is serving us well in navigating a quick bump in population, recognizing that long term and compared to other Triangle communities, Hillsborough’s projected growth is modest and slow.

Cindy Talisman: No

Do you support economic incentives to attract businesses?

Tom Stevens: Sometimes incentives are inappropriate, however, in certain circumstances incentives can be useful (e.g. when the town approved Landmark status to the two historic mills).

Cindy Talisman: No

Do you support using taxpayer money to buy and preserve the Colonial Inn?

Tom Stevens: Public dollars should not provide the main funding for the renovation, but a small amount of public support might be critical to bridge private investment so preservation is more likely.

Cindy Talisman: No

Early Voting information

One-Stop Early voting in the Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough municipal races and in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board election begins Thursday, Oct. 19. The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Eligible citizens can register and vote during the early voting period with an approved identification, such as a bank statement, drivers license or utility bill, showing their name and current address.

All early voting sites will close at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31. Otherwise, the following polls will be open:

▪ Board of Elections, 208 S. Cameron St., Hillsborough

Thursday-Friday, Oct. 19-20, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.,

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Carrboro Town Hall, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturdays, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Chapel of the Cross, 304 E. Franklin St., Chapel Hill

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, noon to 7 p.m.

Not open Saturday, Oct. 28, because of UNC football game

Saturday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

▪ Seymour Senior Center, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill

Monday-Friday, Oct. 23-27 and Oct. 30-Nov. 3, noon to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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